122 History of Wake Forest College
as supreme and authoritative in its sphere as sense and reason are in theirs.
Thus Professor Poteat convinced himself that science and religion
were not antagonistic, since they occupied different spheres, and
having such views he seemed to think he had a mission to convince
the world that they were correct. With this purpose in the long period
of his active life he wrote a score of articles, made many addresses
and published several books in all of which was the one persistent
theme that science and religion are reconcilable without compromise
by either.1
Possibly in all this he was striving for a formula which would
satisfy himself that he was correct in holding both to his scientific
views and to his ardent religious faith, but his main purpose seems to
have been to give his assurance to other Christians generally, and to
save them in their thinking from obscurantism on the one hand and
skepticism on the other. And this was what he was doing with much
success in his classes in biology at the College. He taught his students
the theory of evolution, and taught them to accept it, but he taught in
such a way that at the end of the course they were not weaker but
stronger Christians.
It was not long, however, before wind of this teaching was abroad
in North Carolina. For the greater number any uneasiness that Poteat
was not sound in the faith was relieved by the manifest Christian
character and services of those who had sat at his feet in his biology
classes. Now and then some former student, sometimes a minister,
with more ardor than wisdom, would introduce what he had learned
about evolution into his sermons or other addresses to congregations
that regarded such expressions as denials of the faith and of the truth
of the Bible, and when taken to task for them would refer to Professor
Poteat as authority for them. The immediate result of this was usually
Many of these articles appeared in the Wake Forest Student. Characteristic are
October, 1884. "The Groundless Quarrel," IV, 35ff.; "Study of Natural History," VI,
159ff.; "Content and Scope of Biology," XX, 237ff.; "Tennyson as an Evolutionist,"
XIII, 335ff. The published volumes in which this theme is dominant each consist of
a series of lectures; among them are: Laboratory and Pulpit, 1901; The New Peace,
1918; Can a Man be a Christian Today? 1925.
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