The very incidents surrounding his birth seemed to indicate God had some special plan for him--at least that's what Isaac Newton thought. He was born premature and sickly, but, like his Bible namesake Isaac, was almost miraculously delivered. Newton was born on Christmas day, but he never knew his father; he died three months before Isaac's birth. 1642, the year of Newton's birth, was also the year of Galileo's death, and Newton sensed Galileo's mantle had fallen on his shoulders.
Among the greatest scientific geniuses of all times, Isaac Newton made major contributions to mathematics, optics, physics, and astronomy. He discovered the law of gravitation, formulated the basic laws of motion, developed calculus, and analyzed the nature of white light. Behind all his science was the conviction that God made the universe with a mathematical structure and He gifted human beings' minds to understand that structure.
The very orderliness and design of the universe spoke of God's awesome majesty and wisdom. The design of the eye required a perfect understanding of optics, and the design of the ear required a knowledge of sounds. The solar system itself could not have been produced by blind chance or fortuitous causes but only by a cause "very well skilled in mechanics and geometry." Gravity itself was an active principle God used to impose order on the world. Seeking to understand God's methods, Newton developed formulas for specific phenomena such as ocean tides, paths of comets, and the succession of the equinoxes.
Newton spent a tremendous amount of time studying the Bible, especially the prophetic portions of Scripture. He believed history was under the dominion of the Creator, and prophecy showed how the Creator was to establish His earthly kingdom in the end. His Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended used astronomical data to argue that the Bible was the oldest document in the world and that the events of Biblical history preceded all other ancient histories.
Though he probably wrote as much on Biblical subjects as scientific ones, Newton never published any of his Biblical writings. Though he outwardly conformed to the church of England, Newton privately was an Arian Christian. He believed Jesus Christ was the Savior of the world, but he did not believe He was very God. Newton believed the Athanasian creed and the doctrine of the Trinity diminished the sovereign dominion of the Almighty and corrupted the purity of the church for centuries. But Newton largely kept these heretical beliefs to himself.
In spite of his many discoveries and honors, including being the first person knighted for scientific achievements, Newton remained a humble man. He once wrote his nephew: To myself I seem to have been only a boy playing on the seashore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, while the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered before me.
DISTANT DATELINE: Gregory the Great Dies at Age 64 He Inherited a Mess but Gave New Direction
ROME, 604 AD Pope Gregory served as bishop of Rome only 14 years, but his achievements are so momentous he was canonized a saint by public demand immediately after his death here a few days ago.
Gregory (540-604) never wanted to be pope. He had known the life of plenty and power. The son of a senator, he also served as prefect of Rome. But Gregory sold his vast property and gave the proceeds to the poor and for the founding of seven monasteries.
All he wanted then was to serve God as a monk. But Pope Pelagius ordered him out of the monastery to the court at Constantinople. When Gregory became pope in 590 (the first monk ever to become pope), our world was in chaos. Things were so bad Gregory sincerely believed the end of the world was at hand. But he reached a peace accord with the Lombards in 593, administered a great relief program for the poor, helped organize political order in our troubled empire, developed church music and liturgy, wrote an important book on Pastoral Care, and expanded upon Christian doctrine such as his teaching on purgatory.
Ironically, Gregory referred to himself as the "servant of the servants of God," but he also made the role of the papacy stronger than it ever was.
Legend has it that once Gregory the Great (c. 540-604), before he became pope, saw a group of young Anglo-Saxon slaves in the marketplace in Rome. He asked about them, and when told they were Angles his heart went out to them and he longed for their conversion exclaiming: 'non Angli, sed Angeli'--not Angles but angels. Later as pope he sent a missionary team of 30 monks to evangelize their homeland under Augustine of Canterbury.
Editor's Postscript: The "Gregorian Chant" was named after Gregory. He is often cited as the last of the great Latin Doctors of the church and the "Father of the medieval papacy."