Frequently Assaulted Quotes
Creation and Evolution
For a growing collection of quotes on what Westcott and Hort really believed about creation and evolution, see the Fully Accurate Quotes: Creation and Evolution page
Quote #1: "Have you read Darwin? How I should like to talk with you about it! In spite of difficulties, I am inclined to think it unanswerable. In any case, it is a treat to read such a book." (Life and Letters of Hort, Vol. I, pg. 414).
Quote #2: "But the book which has most engaged me is Darwin. Whatever may be thought of it, it is a book that one is proud to be contemporary with. I must work out and examine the argument more in detail, but at present my feeling is strong that the theory is unanswerable." (Life and Letters of Hort, Vol. I, pg. 416).
These two quotes should be addressed together because they are generally the same idea, are only two pages apart. In those quotes, Hort expresses some positive comments about Darwin's book (which was published only one year earlier than this quote, and no formal Christian responses had yet been put forth), but you should take careful note that Hort does NOT assert acceptance of Darwin's theories, only that they were very interesting and an engaging read. The point is: one can admit a book is a very interesting and engaging read, even hard to answer, without agreeing with it or letting it affect one's doctrine. For example, I have read "A Brief History of Time" by Stephen Hawking. This book, although focused on science (time, space and quantum physics), does touch quite a bit on the subject of God, and questions the need of a creator, etc. Despite this, I found the book to be extremely interesting, and enjoyed reading it very much. However, I completely unable to put together a rebuttal to it, and it did not cause me to waver on my belief in the existence of God and his role in creating the universe.
The quotes above come from Life and Letters of Hort, Vol. I, page 414 and 416, but if you ever dig those quotes out for yourself, you'll see that nestled in between these quotes (on page 415, as well as on page 424) he writes to MacMillan (Westcott and Hort's publisher) that he desires to write and publish a formal critical response to Darwin's book, in both scientific and theological form (which he never did, due to other projects and time restraints). Hort saw some interesting possibilites in Darwin's theories, but that "it is a ticklish matter, and one wants months and months to think and read about it (pg. 415) and that "I do see immense difficulties in his theory" (pg. 431). Hort also said "I shall also be glad to hear what Sedgwick, and indeed Cambridge in general, says to Darwin." (pg. 416) Sedgwick was a professor of geology at Cambridge, and although friends with Darwin, disagreed strongly with Darwin's theories.
Quote #3: "No one now, I suppose, holds that the first three chapters of Genesis, for example, give a literal history - I could never understand how anyone reading them with open eyes could think they did" (Life and Letters of Hort, Vol. II, pg. 69)
This quote comes from a letter Westcott wrote to the Archbishop of Canterbury, on March 4, 1890. The surrounding context from the letter is below (underlining added):
" The picture which you draw is sad, but I too, in my way, know that this is true. We want - and I know that I want, which is something - a living faith. When we are quite sure that God is speaking today - and He is speaking - we shall not grow wild in discussing how He once spoke.
Westcott believed it was not literal prose, but poetical, and that "Poetry is, I think, a thousand times more true than History" - Westcott believed that it was true, just in poetical form instead of simply literal historical prose. He affirmed that the O.T. is the Divine record, given by God. He affirmed that the first three chapters of Genesis, although he did not take them literally as a record of six 24-hour periods, disclose a Gospel (he even wrote an essay, "The Gospel of Creation"). He affirmed the reality of Adam, the Fall, etc. (see this link for some quotes). He affirmed that God speaks in the language and style of the people he is speaking to - and the ancient Hebrews had a strong fondess for different styles, including poetic, apocalyptic, etc. Although his view on the first three chapters of Genesis is not the same as many modern Evangelicals, it was typical of the church of his day, and many in the church both before and after him, including most other Anglicans (which would most probably include Burgon, the KJV translators, etc.). To hold this quote as heretical is to hold the vast majority of the historical church as likewise heretical.