Dead Men Do Tell Tales

Commentary by Roger Oakland

My wife says that I can be a very confrontational person. When I am confronted with a serious problem or recognize a contradiction in someone’s reasoning, I just cannot let it go.

A few years ago, while I was touring Westminster Abbey, a historic church in London England, a troubling issue came to light. I discovered that Charles Darwin, the famous promoter of evolution, was buried there. As I had read his autobiography, I knew what he believed about the Christian faith. Why was this man buried in a church, which claimed to be Christian, I wondered? This seemed ridiculous. Was there a way to find out?

I asked one of the guards at the door if he had an answer to the question, but he just shook his head and said “no.” However, he directed me to the Westminster Abbey library. I rang the buzzer next to a large wooden locked door. A voice over an intercom asked me what I wanted and then told me I could come in.

As I walked through the door into the room, all I could see were shelves filled with old books. It looked as if no one was around. Finally, a man appeared from a second floor balcony and invited me to come upstairs. When I asked if he could tell me why Charles Darwin was buried in the Abbey, he went to a shelf, picked up a book called The Survival of Charles Darwin by Ronald W. Clark, and turned to page 196.

As I had expected, documentation in this book revealed Darwin had not been buried in Westminster Abbey because of his great love for Jesus Christ. Following his death, which occurred April 19, 1882, his family planned to bury him in the cemetery at Downe where he lived.[1]  But on April 21, twenty members of Parliament, including Henry Campbell Bannerman, the future prime minister of England, wrote the Dean of Westminster, Dr. George Granville Bradley and stated the following: “We hope you will not think we are taking the liberty if we venture to suggest that it would be acceptable to a very large number of our fellow-countrymen of all classes and opinions, that out illustrious countryman, Mr. Darwin, should be buried in Westminster Abbey.” [2]

Of course, the burial was a very controversial event. By the time of his death, every thinking person knew the impact Darwin’s theory had on a belief in God, the fall of man, and the need for a Redeemer. Darwin, himself, would have never consented to being buried in Westminster Abby. He had written in his autobiography that believing in Jesus Christ was a “damnable doctrine.”

Although Charles Darwin may have been considered by the political leaders of his day to be an “illustrious countryman,” by biblical standards, he was certainly no “saint.” While many of the vaults within the Abbey are inscribed with Scripture, the slab over Darwin’s tomb has only his name, date of birth, and date of death. Perhaps it would be appropriate to add an additional statement: “Here lies Charles Darwin. Billions of people have rejected the Creator because of his contribution to society. His God was evolution.

Have you accepted his faith?”

I am Roger Oakland. This has been a biblical perspective to help understand the times.


[1]  Ronald W. Clarke, The Survival of Charles Darwin: A Biography of a Man and an Idea, London, 1985, page 197

[2]  Ibid.