Gladstone’s Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science

Author: John Hall Gladstone was a British chemist born in 1827. He was privately educated at home and went on to attend University College, London where he received a gold medal for original research, and publishing a paper on guncotton and xyloidine. In1847 he attended Giessen University, where he studied under Liebig and graduated with a Ph.D. in philosophy. In 1848 he lost his wife along with his eldest daughter and only son, ostensibly only pausing his endeavors in science and social life. From 1850 to 1852 he was lecturer on chemistry at St. Thomas’s Hospital. He served as President of the Physical Society (which he founded) from 1874-76, and then as President of the Chemical Society from 1877-1879. Gladstone published work on bromination of rubber and commenced innovative efforts towards/in optics and spectroscopy. As an advocate and activist of education, he was an innovator in establishing practical and physical direction as well as the education of science to elementary school students. Gladstone was also involved  in Christian efforts, arranging religious meetings and bible classes among educated men and women. He was a member of the Royal Society. He died in 1902.

Context: Published in 1872, Gladstone initially gave this work as a lecture at the request of the Christian Evidence Society in order to defend Christianity and the influence of the bible from the incursion of New Science.

Language: The tone Gladstone uses is informative, he uses reasoning and scientific fact to prove his points. He gives his lecture from an educated point of view.

Audience: Christians and those who had doubts due to the increase of scientific knowledge. (the Christian Evidence Society)

Intent: Gladstone’s intent in this lecture was to convince his audience that science could explain and even verify religious beliefs and Christian sentiments. Gladstone addresses the skeptics view of controversy between science and religion. He also confronts Christian indignation and declaration of the irreligiousness of Darwin’s ideas.

Message: Gladstone’s message in this lecture was that science could support and maintain the historical beliefs of Christianity. He gave examples of earth structure change as well as fossils from beings that did not appear in the modern era, and related this to the Biblical story of Noah and the flood. He addressed the belief that the six days of creation were demonstrative of six different periods in history and concluded that Scripture could be proved by geology to be true and therefore the controversy over Genesis was mute. Gladstone professed interest in Darwin’s work and that although he did not agree with Darwin on the exact point at which evolution began, he respected the ideas Darwin had. Gladstone understood that religious individuals felt Darwin’s ideas attacked their beliefs of God’s active presence in the universe and their ideas on creation stemming from the Bible. He offered a different view of the matter, using textual evidence from the bible to prove that the idea of evolution did not negate the comprehension of the bible’s story of creation.

2 thoughts on “Gladstone’s Points of Supposed Collision Between the Scriptures and Natural Science

  1. Gladstone’s paradoxical upbringing of religion and science was crucial to this text. In an era where the Church was receiving increasing doubt, Gladstone brought validity back to the Bible without hindering scientific development. He helped to advance science because the Church would no longer see science as its enemy.

  2. I thought Gladstone did a very good job of balancing the validity of science and the tradition of the Bible. He recognizes the importance of both without discrediting either’s importance.

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