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Was Isaac Newton a Christian?

Centuries since his death, scholars are still debating what to think about Isaac Newton's scientific discoveries and his unconventional religious ideas. Here's what you should know about him.

Was Isaac Newton a Christian?

If you were asked to give a short biography on the life, works, and faith of Isaac Newton, what would you say? Would you remember his work on calculus? The three Laws of Motion? The four Rules of Scientific Reasoning? What about his tenure with the Royal Mint? Regarding his faith, was he a Bible-believing Christian?

Here is where you can start.

When Was Isaac Newton Born?

Isaac Newton was born on January 4, 1643, to Hannah Ayscough. and Isaac Newton, Sr. His father, Isaac Newton, Sr., a farmer, had died three months before his birth. Born prematurely, doctors didn’t expect him to live. His formative years were difficult, especially after his mother remarried. Eventually, he was sent to live with his maternal grandmother.

In 1661, he enrolled at the University of Cambridge, Trinity College. However, his education was delayed when the Great Plague occurred in 1665. He had to return to the family farm. It is said that while he was working on the farm, he saw an apple fall from the tree. According to legend, this simple act of nature inspired his work regarding gravity.

Top 5 Events In Isaac Newton’s Life

1. After earning his Master of Arts degree, Newton became Cambridge’s Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669.

2. A group of scholars signed the charter to found the Royal Society on July 15, 1662. After the demonstration of Newton’s telescope, the members elected him to membership in 1672. Later, he served as the president of the society.

3. When Queen Anne of England visited the Trinity of College in Cambridge on April 17, 1705, she gave Newton a knighthood. Before receiving this honor, Newton had served two terms as a member of parliament. His involvement in politics and his association with King William III and philosopher John Locke aided his receiving the knighthood.  

4. Newton became Warden of the Royal Mint in 1696. This required a move to London, where he oversaw the production of England’s coin currency. Newton’s additional duties included bringing counterfeiters to justice. He also developed new English coins by recalling all the old coins, melting them down, and remaking them into high-quality coins. Today, when you hold a quarter in your hand, feel the milled edges and realize it was Newton who introduced this technique to prevent clipping.

5. Never marrying, Newton stayed with a niece at Cranbury Park near Winchester, England, in his final years. He was 74 years old when he died on March 31, 1727. 

What Were Isaac Newton’s Most Important Discoveries?    

Newton reportedly said, “If I have ever made any valuable discoveries, it has been owing more to patient attention, than to any other talent.” His patient attention brought forth many discoveries, including:

1. The Laws of Motion

2. The Law of Gravitation 

3. The Nature of Light 

4. The Law of Cooling 

5. The Binomial Theorem 

6. The Reflecting Telescope 

What Did Isaac Newton Write about Christianity?

Newton is quoted as saying “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by men who were inspired. I study the Bible daily.” Researchers have found that Newton wrote and researched the subject of theology more than all his works related to science and math. He wrote about biblical prophecy the most, particularly the book of Daniel and the book of Revelation.

In  “The Misplaced Faith of Isaac Newton,” Dr. Danny R. Faulker, former physics and astronomy professor at the University of South Carolina Lancaster, addresses Newton’s faith. He highlights how several groups (naturalists, creationists, atheists, and deists) claim Newton. Faulker recommends readers to use The Newton Project, “a comprehensive edition of Newton’s nonscientific papers.”

People who have studied Newton’s religious writings state that he believed that Jesus was the Messiah and would return, yet Newton rejected the Trinity. When you study his religious writings, be like the Bereans: “they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so” (Acts 17:11 NKJV).

Isaac Newton wrote many articles in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew. The following are available in English at the Newton Project:

1. “Exposition of 2 Kings 17:15-16”

2. “Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John”

3. “Treatise on Revelation”

4. “Drafts on the History of the Church”

The Newton Project also provides a wealth of information and a history timeline of milestones in Newton’s life.

10 Quotes by Isaac Newton

1. “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who sets the planets in motion.”

2. “This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent and powerful Being.” 

3. “In the absence of any other proof, the thumb alone would convince me of God’s existence.” 

4. “We build too many walls and not enough bridges.” 

5. “As a blind man has no idea of colors, so have we no idea of the manner by which the all-wise God perceives and understands all things.” 

6. “To me there has never been a higher source of earthly honor or distinction than that connected with advances in science.” 

7. “To every action there is always opposed an equal reaction.” 

8. “To me there has never been a higher source of earthly honor or distinction than that connected with advances in science.”

9. “I have a fundamental belief in the Bible as the Word of God, written by those who were inspired.” 

10. “Tact is the art of making a point without making an enemy.”

Sources for Quotes: Goodreads, BrainyQuote 

Books by Isaac Newton

Here are Newton’s written works, along with some collections or analyses of his work. 

1. Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica (English: Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), published in 1687

2. A Treatise of the System of the World, published in 1687 

3. Opticks: Or A Treatise of the Reflections, Refractions, Inflections, and Colors of Light, published in 1704 

3. Arithmetica Universalis (English: Universal Arithmetic), published in 1707

5. The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended, published in 1728 

6. Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John, published in 1733.

7. Method of Fluxions: A Mathematical Treatise, published in 1736

8. An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture, published in 1754 

9. Newton’s Philosophy of Nature: Selections from His Writings, edited by H.S. Thayer, published in 2010.

10 Books about Isaac Newton

These 10 books included some scholarly studies of his life and some introductions for everyday readers.

1. Never at Rest: A Biography of Isaac Newton by Richard S. Westfall, published in 1981.

2. The Newton Papers: The Strange and True Odyssey of Isaac Newton’s Manuscripts by Sarah Dry, published in 2014.

3. Isaac Newton by James Gleick, published in 2007.

4. The Clockwork Universe: Isaac Newton, the Royal Society, and the Birth of the Modern World by Edward Dolnick, published by 2011.

5. Newton and the Origins of Civilization by Jed Z. Buchwald & Mordechai Feingold, published in 2011.

6. Isaac Newton and Natural Philosophy by Niccolò Guicciardini, published in 2018.

7. A Portrait Of Isaac Newton by Frank E. Manuel, published in 1990.

8. Isaac Newton by Michael Stokes, published in 2010.

9. Magnificent Principia: Exploring Isaac Newton’s Masterpiece by Colin Prost, published in 2019.

10. Priest of Nature: The Religious Worlds of Isaac Newton by Rob Iliffe, published in 2017.

Further Reading:

What You Should Know about Isaac Newton

Isaac Newton Before the Ocean of Truth

Scientists of Faith Found the Royal Society

Photo Credit: Public domain 1689 portrait by Godfrey Kneller, via Wikimedia Commons/Public Domain

Laura Lee Leathers is a writer and speaker. She loves living on a farm, enjoys studying and teaching the Bible, tea parties, and gardening. She has contributed to several books, and writes for several newspapers and magazines. Please connect with her at http://lauraleeleathers.com, Facebook, and Instagram.