Lord Kelvin: Blessed Are the Pure

diane severance, Ph.D.

Lord Kelvin: Blessed Are the Pure

Can you imagine the world today without radios or telephones? Much of the development of telephones, wireless telegraphs and broadcasting are dependent on the work in electric circuitry done by British scientist William Thomson in the mid-19th century.

At 22 William became a professor of natural philosophy at the University of Glasgow, where he remained for fifty-three years. His passionate earnestness in his scientific investigations, his practical ability, and his simplicity of character made him a favorite with his students.

Thomson maintained a strong and simple Christian faith throughout his life. He faithfully studied the Bible, and his Christian faith pervaded all of his work. He always began his college classes with prayer and looked upon his scientific work as a kind of worship. He believed science must be treated with reverence, for a close observation of the phenomena of nature brought one closer to understanding God's works: If you think strongly enough, you will be forced by Science to a belief in God, which is the foundation of all religion. He believed study of the scientific laws was the noblest privilege God granted to man's intelligence.

Thomson strenuously opposed Darwin's evolutionary theories of natural selection and thought them unscientific. An admirer of Paley's Natural Theology, Thomson believed Darwin ignored clear evidences of God's design in creation, and he refused to believe that atoms of dead matter could ever come together to make life.

Thomson was the first scientist to actually study the concept of energy, and he established the science of thermodynamics with his formulation of the first and second laws. His studies led him to establish what we use daily--a scale of absolute temperatures.

Thomson was not just an abstract scientist, but designed and developed many scientific instruments to practically apply his theories. In 1881 he had the first house in Scotland with electric lighting, developing many of the switches, fuses, and equipment himself. He developed the instruments which made the Atlantic cable possible, and in 1858 he supervised its laying. On August 5, 1858, the first message was sent from America to Europe: "Europe and America are united by telegraphic communication. Glory to God in the highest, on earth, peace, good will towards men."

It was for the laying of the Atlantic Cable that Thomson was made a baron and became Lord Kelvin. This is the name we most often know him by today.


NICEA 787 AD After over 50 years of fierce dispute, icons will at last be allowed back into the churches. One of the main conclusions of the 7th ecumenical council concluding its meetings at Nicea this week is that images or icons of the saints, Mary, and Christ are not to be worshiped, but can be honored. Agreeing with John of Damascus, the council of 350 bishops decided images can be used to instruct and assist believers in the worship of Christ.

This goes against a synod of bishops which met at Constantinople back in 754 that described icons as idolatry and a violation of the second commandment. Supporters of icons were excommunicated, mutilated and sent into exile. At that time Emperor Constantine V tried to limit the cult of saint worship by also destroying their relics and condemning prayers to them. If symbols and art were needed in the churches, the Emperor believed pictures of the cross, the Bible and the elements of the Lord's Supper were sufficient.

The debate over images has been both a political and religious debate. Emperor Leo II in 730 issued an edict for the removal or destruction of all religious icons in public places and churches. Gregory II, Bishop of Rome, objected, stating that "Dogmas are not the business of emperors but of pontiffs." Leo's opposition to religious images was in part a response to repeated accusations of idolatry the Jews and Mohammedans were making against the Christians, but his iconoclastic position seemed to cause the Bishop of Rome to move politically closer to the Franks.

This has been a long, painful controversy. Whether the present ruling in favor of icons will heal the growing rift between the eastern and western churches and empire is yet unclear. What is clear, however, is that the people have their images returned to them and the veneration of the saints has been restored.

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