Pope Francis, Old Princeton and Evolution

FullSizeRenderPope Francis made some statements affirming the validity of evolution which some no doubt find     controversial, especially those of the conservative protestant stripe. What’s interesting is how much of what he said seems to echo what the 19th century Old Princeton theologians had to say on the matter (whom many evangelicals look to as theological ancestors, especially where the doctrine of inerrancy is concerned).

In a recent review of Bradley J. Gundlach’s Process and Providence: The Evolution Question at Princeton, 1845-1929, the reviewer points out the Gundlach’s research demonstrates that while the Old Princetonians rejected atheistic naturalism, they were quite interested in what some today call forms of theistic evolution:

Gundlach devotes the subsequent two chapters to surveying the relationship between progressionism in evolutionary biology and progressionism in orthodox Calvinist theology among the generation of Princeton scholars who succeeded McCosh and Hodge. Gundlach’s examination of the views of the theologian B. B. Warfield might surprise contemporary readers who assume that Warfield’s commitment to biblical inerrancy inevitably led him to reject evolution. Well-known for co-authoring an 1881 article with A. A. Hodge that articulated the Princetonian understanding of inerrancy, Warfield, like numerous Princetonians before him, criticized atheistic naturalism. Yet Warfield, who embraced evolution even more than McCosh, went so far as to consider the possibility that an immaterial aspect of animal life served as a precursor to the human soul, constituting a second and essentially separate evolution alongside the physical one.

Warfield also stated:

I do not think that there is any general statement in the Bible or any part of the account of creation, either as given in Genesis 1 and 2 or elsewhere alluded to, that need be opposed to evolution.

Maybe some room for ecumenical rapprochement?