Sir Isaac Newton and Christian Theology

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Sir Isaac Newton is well known for his enormous influence in the fields of science and mathematics and is often seen as a leader of the Age of Reason.  However Newton had other interests that sometimes embarrass the scientific community, including alchemy and the study of the bible.

Despite being considered as a leading light in the fields of science, mathematics and alchemy, for Newton, religion was his most important topic of study. While his thoughts on the subject were often unconventional, his words on the subject, as arguably the most important mind that ever lived, should be of great interest to believers and non-believers alike.  (All quotes from Newton).

“This most beautiful system [The Universe] could only proceed from the dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.”

“Did blind chance know that there was light and what was its refraction and fit the eyes of all creatures after the most curious manner to make use of it? These and such like considerations always have and ever will prevail with man kind to believe that there is a being who made all things and has all things in his power and who is therefore to be feared”

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Newton was a devout believer in God and spent around 30 years of his life applying his meticulous attention to detail into studying the bible; starting with learning the ancient Aramaic and Hebrew languages to a level where he could translate the original texts for himself.

“Yet one thing secures us what ever betide, The scriptures assure us the Lord will provide.”

“The other part of the true religion is our duty to man. We must love our neighbour as our selves, we must be charitable to all men for charity is the greatest of graces, greater then even faith or hope and covers a multitude of sins. We must be righteous and do to all men as we would they should do to us”.

Newton believed in the literal translation of the bible and was particularly interested in the coming of Judgement Day. Many of his theological theories were and are rejected by the church, and some even consider him a heretic.  He predicted from studying the text that Jesus would return some time in the 1990s, bringing with him the end of times via the apocalypse.

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“About the Time of the End, a body of men will be raised up who will turn their attention to the Prophecies, and insist upon their literal interpretation, in the midst of much clamour and opposition”

“Seventy weeks are cut out upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression, etc.  Here, by putting a week for seven years, are reckoned 490 years from the time the dispersed Jews should be re-incorporated into a people and a holy city, until the death and resurrection of Christ; whereby transgression should be finished, and sins ended, iniquity be expiated, and everlasting righteousness brought in and this Vision be accomplished and the Prophet consummated, that Prophet whom the Jews expected; and whereby the most Holy should be anointed, he who is therefore in the next words called the Anointed, that is, the Messiah, or the Christ. For by joining the accomplishment of the vision with the expiation of sins, the 490 years are ended with the death of Christ.”

Much of Newton’s theological work remains unpublished but he is thought to have written around 4 million words on the subject, arguable making him one of the most important lay theologians of his age. Far from seeing his religious work as a separate thing from his scientific endeavours, he saw them as one in the same and never found a contradiction between the two, instead he believed that scientific enquiry was a valuable tool in unravelling the universe as God had made it.

“The system of revealed truth which this Book contains is like that of the universe, concealed from common observation yet…the centuries have established its Divine origin.”

For more on Newton and theology visit:

http://www.isaac-newton.org/

http://www.newtonproject.sussex.ac.uk/view/texts/normalized/THEM00209

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