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Linné on line arrow The History of Ideas arrow Physicotheology arrow Faith in the Bible and Creation

Faith in the Bible and Creation

Linnaeus was a fervently religious man, but that does not mean that he was orthodox in his beliefs, that is, that he followed the teachings of the church in every detail. He was rather a nature person: he viewed nature as a wonder of God; he saw the glory of the Creator in animals and plants, see Physicotheology, Linnaeus’ view of nature. For a person of his time it was still natural to believe in the story of the Creation in the Bible. That tells how the earth was created and took its shape. Linnaeus saw no reason to doubt this story, but he was eager to complement it.


Adam in Paradise. Copper engraving from J.J. Scheuchzer’s commentated Bible production, the Kupfer Bible
 

If God had created all plants and animals at once, different climate types must have existed at the same time in paradise, both tropical and arctic. He therefore assumed that paradise lay on an island south of the equator and on this island there was a high mountain, thereby offering different climate types at the same time. Eventually the island grew and formed continents, thus making it possible for animals and plants to spread across the earth. When the Flood occurred, this order was interrupted; rock and earth layers changed positions; stones and animals were washed far from their place of origin.

At the same time Linnaeus felt that the Creation narrative did not tell the whole story.

All changes cannot have arisen merely as a result of the Flood. And he wrote in his notes that the earth must have a longer history than is spoken of in the Bible, but these were ideas he was reluctant to put forward in public. He interpreted the Fall of Man itself in a highly symbolic way in sexual terms, but he kept that to himself as well. In his medical lectures Diaeta naturalis (1733) he nevertheless has the forbidden fruit correspond to Adam’s testicles, and the snake stands for his penis, while he interprets the Bible’s phrase that the fruit was sweet to eat as denoting intercourse itself.

Literature:
Tore Frängsmyr, Geologi och skapelsetro (1969)

Elis Malmeström, Carl von Linnés religiösa åskådning (1926)