Kepler: the Heavens Declare God's Glory

Diane Severance, Ph.D.

Kepler: the Heavens Declare God's Glory

About the time that the Reformation was proclaiming Christ rather than the pope as the head of the Church, science was announcing that the sun rather than the earth was the center of our planetary system. A leader in this changing scientific perspective was the German scientist Johann Kepler. Kepler (1571-1630) was the first scientist to accept Copernicus' theories that the earth rotated about the sun, and he was an important forerunner of Isaac Newton in systematizing science.

A devout Lutheran, Kepler was studying theology and planning to become a minister when he was called to teach mathematics in Graz, Austria. Kepler realized he could glorify God through his mathematical and astronomical studies, and his scientific notes were often mixed with prayers and praise to his Lord.

Kepler believed that there was an art and orderliness in God's creation and that the more Christians recognized the greatness of creation, the deeper their worship would be. Didn't God himself encourage the heathen to look carefully at creation so that they might come to know God? God created man in His image, and He wants us to recognize and know His design for the universe: The chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God and which He revealed to us in the language of mathematics. In his astronomical research, Kepler only wanted to, as he put it, "think God's thoughts after Him."

Kepler believed that there was a mathematical precision and orderliness in the universe; the scientist's duty was to discover what mathematical formula God had used. In Kepler's day, scientists believed the orbits of the planets were perfectly circular, but that theory did not fit the empirical data. Kepler persisted in his observation and calculations of the planetary movements until he could show that the planetary orbits were ellipses, with the sun as one of the epicenters. His calculations proved Copernicus' theory to be fact. Through further observation, Kepler established laws for planetary velocity and for the relationship between orbital periods and the distances of planets from the sun. Kepler's three laws for planetary motion are the basis for our understanding of the solar system today.

Throughout his scientific work, Kepler never sought any glory for himself, but always sought to bring glory to God. At the end of his life his prayer was: I give you thanks, Creator and God, that you have given me this joy in thy creation, and I rejoice in the works of your hands. See I have now completed the work to which I was called. In it I have used all the talents you have lent to my spirit.

DISTANT DATELINE: Famous Preacher Exiled, Told, "Walk 'Til You Die!" His Sermons Inflamed Empress

CONSTANTINOPLE, 404 A.D. John Chrysostom as Patriarch of Constantinople is one of the most prominent leaders in the whole Christian church, and he is possibly the greatest preacher since Jesus. They call him Chrysostom which means "golden-tongued." That very gift of preaching has cost him his life and ministry, as Emperor Arcadius at the insistence of his wife, Eudoxia, has forced John into exile and certain death.

In 398 John was appointed church leader here at Constantinople against his will. His inspired preaching against sin and greed infuriated the empress who conspired with other opponents to have him charged with heresy and deposed. But he was soon recalled to leadership.

Then last September a silver statue of Empress Eudoxia was placed near John's cathedral here. The dedication ceremony for the statue turned so wild and licentious that church services were disrupted. John paused in his sermon and in obvious reference to Empress Eudoxia exclaimed: "Again, Herodias is raging, again she is dancing, again she demands the head of John on the platter."

The emperor ordered John's removal from the cathedral. But he refused to leave, insisting God had placed him there. Armed guards were sent in to seize him during the Easter vigil. Female baptismal candidates were undressing for baptism when soldiers ruthlessly forced them into the streets. The carnage mounted as pastors were forced out of the church and friends of John arrested and tortured.

After John's forced removal the cathedral was set on fire. Officials blamed John's supporters.

EDITOR'S POSTSCRIPT: John died in exile in 407. Rome broke communion with Constantinople until John's good name was restored. The name Chrysostom was actually given after his death. John's writings were most highly regarded by many of the Reformation leaders.

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