Mar 12

Darwin and St. Patrick on the Power of the Gospel posted by John Sorensen on Mar 12, 2013

Anyone who doubts the power of the Gospel to transform lives and cultures should consult Charles Darwin—yes, that Charles Darwin. And if you’re still not convinced, consider St. Patrick.

Long before he wrote On the Origin of Species, his misbegotten and unfounded theory of the supposed pathway from amoeba to man, Darwin spent five years touring the world on the HMS Beagle. He was in New Zealand in December 1835 and spent Christmas at the home of a missionary, Mr. Williams:

I found there a very large party of children, collected together for Christmas-day, and all sitting round a table at tea. I never saw a nicer or more merry group: and to think, that this was in the centre of the land of cannibalism, murder and all atrocious crimes.”

Had he made landfall 20 years earlier, Darwin might have been on the menu, rather than enjoying the birthday of Christ with a company of cheerful children. Christianity only arrived in New Zealand in 1814 when missionary Samuel Marsden sailed “in his own brig because he could not find a ship captain adventurous enough to take him where the people were savages and cannibals,” according to one report. The first baptism took place in 1825 and by 1842, a Bishop Selwyn declared:

“We see here a whole nation of pagans converted to the faith…. Where will you find throughout the whole Christian world, more signal manifestations of the Spirit, or more living evidences of the kingdom of Christ?”

Well, one place you could look is Ireland. Before Patrick’s arrival as a missionary around 432 a.d., Ireland was a land where human sacrifice was a common and gruesome part of the culture.

Author Thomas Cahill provides some detail:

“They sacrificed prisoners of war to the war gods and newborns to the harvest gods. Believing that the human head was the seat of the soul, they displayed proudly the heads of their enemies in their temples and on their palisades; they even hung them from their belts as ornaments, used them as footballs in victory celebrations, and were fond of employing skull tops as ceremonial drinking bowls.”

All that changed under the influence of the Gospel as Patrick and his co-laborers presented Christ in this dark and wild place. Dr. D. James Kennedy cites a claim in the Encyclopedia Britannica that Patrick himself baptized 120,000 people. “He found the island a completely pagan and savage land and left it mostly Christianized,” Dr. Kennedy said.

And made it safe for seafarers like Charles Darwin, who also wrote, “Should he [a voyager] chance to be at the point of shipwreck on some unknown coast, he will most devoutly pray that the lesson of the missionary may have extended thus far.”

Jesus Christ reshapes human hearts and whole cultures after His image. So when you share Him with others, you can be God’s instrument to transform lives, families, and even a nation. That’s the power of the Gospel.

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