Thursday, July 22, 2010

Brilliant but wrong

Many scientists consider Sir Isaac Newton to be the most brilliant scientist of all time. It is not widely known that he wrote more about religion than he did about science.
To me, his life and religious views illustrate a few things:
  • Great intellects take the Bible seriously.
  • You can be a genius and be correct on some matters, but badly wrong on others.
  • The dangers of mis-interpreting apocalyptic literature.
  • Governments should not legislate theological orthodoxy
The Wikipedia entry on his religious views is worth reading in full. It notes:
He devoted more time to the study of Scripture than to science, and he said, "I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired. I study the Bible daily."[8] He spent a great deal of time trying to discover hidden messages within the Bible.

Newton did not believe in the Trinity or the divinity of Christ, but did not make these views public during his lifetime, presumably because they were illegal and could have led to loss of employment.
To get the flavour of Newton's views it is worth skimming some of his Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (published posthumously). He was quite confident scripture predicted the world would not end before 2060.

1 comment:

  1. I've always been intrigued by Newton and his effect on Christianity's history and development. I wonder if his more radical views result from consistency with his scientific explorations. I think many of the great system builders are consistent to the point of their detriment.