Another user made the comment:

What is undisputed is that the Fathers left no room for evolution.

Now, the Church Fathers for the most part believed that Earth was Created some time between about 3,000 BC and 10,000 BC (and certainly not billions of years ago), which is a serious problem for the idea that chance processes are solely responsible for the extant diversity of life. Elsewhere I also asked Did any Church Fathers specifically reject Common Descent?

However, while there is evidence to suggest that the idea was not unknown (see previously cited question), it is difficult to establish for certain whether it was or was not.

Conversely, the more general notion that chance processes are responsible for Creation — that is, the claim that intelligent design played no role — is much more evident, with one author going so far as to claim:

I was astonished to find how many of the pronounced and basic features of the Darwinian theory were anticipated even as far back as the seventh century B.C. (Henry Fairfield Osborn, From the Greeks to Darwin)

What did the Church Fathers have to say in defense of Providence / Design specifically in the context of refuting claims to the contrary? I'm particularly interested in claims that life was not designed, but will accept arguments against cosmological non-design as well.


2 Answers 2


As noted, the idea that life and the cosmos came into being without design playing a role can be readily traced back at least to Epicurus.

Lactantius (240-320 AD)

Lactantius, mentioning "the crazy Epicurus", wrote:

There is no one so uncivilized, and of such an uncultivated disposition, who, when he raises his eyes to heaven, although he knows not by the providence of what God all this visible universe is governed, does not understand from the very magnitude of the objects, from their motion, arrangement, constancy, usefulness, beauty, and temperament, that there is some providence, and that that which exists with wonderful method must have been prepared by some greater intelligence.

Later, in the same work, he responds to such ideas as follows:

If you had been brought up in a well-built and ornamented house, and had never seen a workshop, would you have supposed that that house was not built by man, because you did not know how it was built? You would assuredly ask the same question about the house which you now ask about the world—by what hands, with what implements, man had contrived such great works; and especially if you should see large stones, immense blocks, vast columns, the whole work lofty and elevated, would not these things appear to you to exceed the measure of human strength, because you would not know that these things were made not so much by strength as by skill and ingenuity?

But if man, in whom nothing is perfect, nevertheless effects more by skill than his feeble strength would permit, what reason is there why it should appear to you incredible, when it is alleged that the world was made by God, in whom, since He is perfect, wisdom can have no limit, and strength no measure?

Dionysius (200-265 AD)

Dionysius gives this description, again mentioning "the opinion of Epicurus and Democritus":

For there are those who, giving the name of atoms to certain imperishable and most minute bodies which are supposed to be infinite in number, and positing also the existence of a certain vacant space of an unlimited vastness, allege that these atoms, as they are borne along casually in the void, and clash all fortuitously against each other in an unregulated whirl, and become commingled one with another in a multitude of forms, enter into combination with each other, and thus gradually form this world and all objects in it; yea, more, that they construct infinite worlds.

What is his opinion of such ideas?

How, shall we bear with these men who assert that all those wise, and consequently also noble, constructions (in the universe) are only the works of common chance? [...] Truly these men do not reflect on the analogies even of small familiar things which might come under their observation at any time, and from which they might learn that no object of any utility, and fitted to be serviceable, is made without design or by mere chance, but is wrought by skill of hand, and is contrived so as to meet its proper use. [...] Again, when a house or a city is built, it does not take on its stones, as if some of them placed themselves spontaneously upon the foundations, and others lifted themselves up on the several layers, but the builder carefully disposes the skillfully prepared stones in their proper positions.

...and later in the same work:

There are others who aimlessly attribute this whole structure of most marvelous beauty to chance and fortuitous coincidence.

Nay, these [...] could not mould even an image of clay, neither could they hew and polish a statue of stone; nor could they cast and finish an idol of silver or gold; but arts and handicrafts calculated for such operations have been discovered by men who fabricate these objects. And if, even in these, representations and models cannot be made without the aid of wisdom, how can the genuine and original patterns of these copies have come into existence spontaneously?

Theophilus (circa 169 AD)

The world is not uncreated nor is there spontaneous production of everything, as Pythagoras and the others have babbled; instead the world is created and is providentially governed by the God who made everything.

Athenagoras of Athens (133-190 AD)

For as is the potter and the clay (matter being the clay, and the artist the potter), so is God, the Framer of the world, and matter, which is subservient to Him for the purposes of His art. But as the clay cannot become vessels of itself without art, so neither did matter, which is capable of taking all forms, receive, apart from God the Framer, distinction and shape and order.

Athanasius (296-373)

Who that sees the circle of heaven and the course of the sun and the moon, and the positions and movements of the other stars, as they take place in opposite and different directions, while yet in their difference all with one accord observe a consistent order, can resist the conclusion that these are not ordered by themselves, but have a maker distinct from themselves who orders them?


Contrary to popular belief, it is clear that the idea that life and matter are capable of self-organization without direction is not "modern", but was well known to philosophers around the time of Christ and to the Church Fathers. It is also clear that many in the early Church were firmly opposed to such ideas, with at least some additionally opposing the idea of infinite worlds (a prefigure of the now-popular "infinite multiverse").



If the question be asked, "Did any Church Fathers and any modern-day scientists specifically reject Darwinian evolution?" the answer would be "Yes, both groups (despite centuries between them) have specifically rejected Darwinian evolution."

In the case of the early Church Fathers, they had never heard of the (still future) Charles Darwin. He died in 1882. So there is hardly any way they could be considered to have specifically rejected his particular evolutionary beliefs except insofar as they rejected the concept of evolution, however it was put back then. The only way to answer the question accurately, is to miss out the word 'Darwinian' and just stick to 'Evolution'.

An excellent answer has already given many quotations from early Church Fathers to prove a massive rejection of atheistic views of life arising without any God supposedly existing. Yet, of course, there were those who denied any God existed, or at least no supposed God capable of creating life and this universe. The numbers of such disbelievers today seem to be massively greater than way back in the mists of time, yet those dim, faint voices arguing for some kind of evolution of life are still to be discerned, as are the written polemics from early Church Fathers against them.

However, it is a misunderstanding to suppose that all ideas about life evolving by chance merit the term "Darwinian Evolution". There could be no such thing until that man formed his ideas about evolution from 1859 till his death in 1882. Though, for precision, it should be said that Charles' grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, actually proposed a theory of evolution in 1770. He was virulently anti-Christian. Charles was strongly influenced by his materialist-minded, scientific grandfather, so a basic kind of Darwinian theory was on the go from the 1770s. This page on Charles (and his grandfather) could disabuse people of many myths about Charles Darwin. I stress this need, because it is an urban myth continuing to do the rounds in the public mind that keeps getting Darwin's name attached to 'Evolution'. https://creation.com/darwinism-it-was-all-in-the-family

The early Church Fathers, however, had to deal with largely pagan ideas about spontaneous life arising and slowly developing that were then current. Darwinian Evolution would not become current until the latter half of the 18th century.

Yet Darwinian evolutionary theory has actually been left behind by modern scientists. It is no longer current because newer explanations have been presented which they feel are more accurate than Darwin’s. Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne commented on a book explaining rape as a Darwinian survival mechanism:

“Unfortunately, evolutionary psychologists routinely confuse theory and speculation. Unlike bones, behaviour does not fossilize, and understanding its evolution often involves concocting stories that sound plausible but are hard to test. Depression, for example, is seen as a trait favored by natural selection to enable us to solve our problems by withdrawing, reflecting, and hence enhancing our future reproduction. Plausible? Maybe. Scientifically testable? Absolutely not. If evolutionary biology is a soft science, then evolutionary psychology is its flabby underbelly.” As quoted in Who Made God? Edgar Andrews, p 221 (EP Books 2009)

Another relevant quote (in Andrews' book) is:

“The problem for explaining the miracle of the origin of life in a purely materialistic way is shown up by the explosion in a printing factory illustration. But when Quantum Mechanics is invoked to get around this, appeal is made to as yet unknown scientific discoveries. And that is a mirror-image of the God of the gaps theory atheists so despise! So probability is invoked; anything imaginable in the physical universe will surely happen by natural causation if you wait long enough, provided only that its mathematical probability is not zero. As a mathematical probability can be worked out in theory for the monkeys, this is hailed as a good argument. Alas, mathematical probabilities bear no necessary relationship to physical possibilities. Before mathematical probabilities can be applied to the real world they have to pass through the twin filters of logic and physical reality.

“This means that the illustration of an explosion in a printing factory producing sensible sentences when the fonts fall down mitigates against life arising spontaneously from chemicals hit with a bolt of lightning. But the illustration of monkeys eventually producing the works of Shakespeare is unreasonable because the mathematical probabilities invoked bear no resemblance to logic and physical reality. No sensible person believes that a dictionary could be produced by chance from an explosion at a printing factory. And no sensible person can expect real life to produce the finished works of Shakespeare via an infinite number of monkeys playing with typewriters for an infinite number of years. Impossibilities arise in the physical universe not from mathematical constraints but from the laws of nature. It’s not mathematics that enables life to arise by chance from lifeless chemicals. It is information embedded in code form into cellular DNA, which can be decoded and acted upon, as an instruction manual, that enables cells to live and duplicate. And information is intelligence.” Ibid., p 253

This quote is included to again illustrate the way the public is so easily manipulated by such illustrations and claims, blinded by mathematics and Quantum Mechanics. The early Church Fathers knew a lot about the former, but nothing of the latter.

Darwin had no idea about information in DNA when he wrote his theory. Such discoveries have meant Darwinism has been left behind, and even though modern scientists speak respectfully of Darwin, they have had to come up with new explanations or ideas to account for the new discoveries that actually mitigate against life arising in the first place, let alone phenomenally developing the way it has done.

The simple answer to the more accurate question, "Did any Church Fathers specifically reject evolution?" is a simple, "Yes, many of them did" (as amply proven in the answer of 8/5/23.) And the answer to the question as to whether modern scientists also reject Darwinian evolution is, “Yes, to a very large degree, but they still believe in the theory of evolution.”

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