I recently took a sprightly, 98-year-old friend of mine for an afternoon drive. He wanted to visit the village of Longworth, about twelve miles from Oxford. In the mid 1930s, he had known the widow of a former Rector of Longworth, a notable theologian called John Illingworth, and hoped to find some trace of him. Sure enough, in the churchyard we found the graves of Dr and Mrs Illingworth – he had died in 1915, having served as rector of the parish since 1883, and his wife died in 1938. Illingworth, it turned out, had been a Fellow of Jesus and one of the first college tutors at the newly founded Keble College in the early 1870s. Standing in that graveyard at Longworth, I felt the decades, and even the whole twentieth century, drop away.
In 1889, Illingworth contributed two essays to the immensely influential collection, Lux Mundi, whose purpose among other things was to bring Christian thought face to face with the modern world. One of Illingworth’s essays addressed the question of evolution. Writing thirty years after Darwin’s Origin of Species, he treated evolution