August 19, 2004 | David F. Coppedge

Newton Believed in Absolute Truth

One would think by now everything written by or about Isaac Newton has been printed.  Not so; Nature1 reports August 19 that a commentary on the Apocalypse (Revelation) by Newton was published for the first time just last month by The Newton Project online.  Newton’s commentary holds “radical” views that the Pope was the personification of the Antichrist, and other statements probably unpopular in his day.  The article confirms that “Newton’s religious writings constitute more than half of his entire written work.”  More interesting, the article delves into his unified belief in science and the Bible:

In the past, many thought that Newton pursued religion only in his spare time, or that the majority of his religious work had been copied from others.  But [Robert] Iliffe [science historian at Oxford] claims that these writings show his theological work was carefully planned and often related to his work in mathematics and physics.  For example, he sets up his text on the Apocalypse with mathematical formalism, outlining rules, definitions and a proof of his beliefs.
    Ultimately, Newton’s religion and science may have been tied together by belief in absolute truth.  Newton used testable hypotheses to find truth in nature, and believed that his religious writings revealed the truth about God, says Iliffe.

1Geoff Brumfiel, “Newton’s religious screeds get online airing,” Nature 430, 819 (19 August 2004); doi:10.1038/430819a.

Newton was not always the most exemplary Christian, and some of his theological beliefs bordered on the fringes of orthodoxy.  Nevertheless, no one can question that his worldview treated science and theology as highest priorities in the search for truth.  Unlike a majority of moderns, Newton believed in the existence of absolutes.  Specifically, he believed that the true and living God revealed Himself in the holy Scriptures even more clearly than in His works in nature, and therefore the Scriptures are more worthy of serious and systematic investigation than anything in nature.  This is clear from the volume of systematic study he gave the Bible compared to science, as this article affirms (contrary to previous speculations that tried to minimize the emphasis this eminent scientist and thinker gave to his religious writings.)  Can anyone claim that such a worldview is “scary stuff” in its implications for science (see yesterday’s headline), when you have the greatest scientist in history steadfastly affirming his belief in the Biblical account of creation?

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Categories: Bible and Theology

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