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Creation: Darwin’s Tension and Ours

In the ironically-titled movie Creation we observe the agonizing process of Darwin trying to come to terms with the publication of his book “The Origin of Species.”
Charles Darwin (Paul Bettany) has been writing “Origin of Species” and realizes that his theory would be a bombshell to the faith of his deeply committed Christian wife, Emma (Jennifer Connelly). And if it is a bombshell to her, then it would be a bombshell to the wider Christian believers of his day. The problem is that Charles is a man who wants to follow the evidence wherever it leads him. His wife is more interested in protecting the faith she has. The tension between them leads to mental and physical illness for Charles. The only family member who comes anywhere near understanding what Charles is working on is his daughter, Annie (Martha West).
Charles becomes increasingly desperate as his priest pressures him to abandon his project and his friends pressure him to publish his work. Charles and Emma’s relationship goes from bad to worse to worst. Charles is almost destroyed when his daughter, Annie, dies from what may have been scarlet fever or tuberculosis. The spiral down is unrelenting until Charles and Emma come to a resolution and Charles’s book is published — and the world changed forever.
Creation is a stunning movie and should be seen by everyone — especially Christians who take a simplistic view of Darwin and his theory. The movie is not about the theory of evolution itself. It focuses relentlessly on the relationship of Charles and his wife and the way the tension between her faith and his science almost destroys their marriage.
Connelly and Bettany, who are husband and wife off-screen, are brilliant in portraying Charles and Emma. The story, based on Randal Keynes biography of Darwin, is profoundly moving and is iconic of the endless tension between creationists and evolutionists to this day.
For Emma, Charles has “killed God” in the words of Thomas Huxley, one of Darwin’s staunchest defenders. And for many creationists in our modern world, that is what evolution has done for them. Creation drives home the agony that Darwin experienced as he waited for about 20 years to publish his book for fear that his marriage would be destroyed. Emma says, to Darwin, “Do you not care that you and I may be separated for all eternity?” Because his relationship with his wife was so deep, and because his belief in his theory was so deep, it ironically nearly destroys the relationship he values so deeply.
Creation is deeply involving, deeply moving, and deeply provocative. It provides a brilliant insight into the heart and mind of Charles Darwin. This was not a man who was out to destroy people’s faith. All he was doing was acting on what he saw as the facts which led him to an inescapable conclusion. If he was to live with integrity, he need to share with the world what he had discovered. Not to do so was an assault on his conscience.
Creation deals with these issues with depth and sensitivity and with a brilliant script (one of the most moving scenes being the death of an orangutan that Darwin had been working with). The only deviation from the high quality was an overstated last scene. But this was minor when put in the perspective of the whole movie.
Creation is moving and very, very timely. Don’t miss it!!
Steve Parker reviews movies and books and comments on things of interest to Christians who are thoughtful about their faith on his blog, Thinking Christian, where this review was first published. He writes from Adelaide, Australia.

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