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Why is there no creationist Isaac Newton?


[This is an essay I wrote originally for a creationist audience which I cross posted at Insight and Inspiration from CEU (where comments are shut off, but comments are invited here at UD however). I post it here at UD unchanged because the ID community might be able to glean some useful information from it even though it was originally written for a creationist audience. ]

When I watched the Ken Ham vs. Bill Nye debate, I lamented, “Why Lord do we not have an Isaac Newton of today defending your creation?” In years gone by, Christians were at the forefront of intellectual advancement in science, technology, medicine, literature, art, music, etc. I lamented, “dear Lord, why has this happened? Why do you defend your Word and the testimony of your creation this way? Wouldn’t the world be inclined to believe if you raised up someone like Newton to defend creation in the present day?”

Some of the greatest scientists who have ever lived ­ including Newton, who may have been the greatest of all ­ believed in God. But it was hard to be an atheist before Darwin: the illusion [sic] of living design is so overwhelming.

Richard Dawkins
You ask the questions

But then I recalled these verses that have given me peace on the matter.

Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, so that no one may boast before him.

1 Cor 1 :26-28

Maybe God wants the most intellectual and educated in the world to be the ones that will be fooled by their own folly. I lament that there are no Isaac Newtons in Christendom today, but it seems God delights in choosing the least qualified by worldly standards to shatter the gates of hell.

I realized I’d only be continually frustrated by looking at the earthly qualifications of the people God has chosen to advance his kingdom. I came to peace over it when I realized it could be by design that Christendom and creation science do not have an Isaac Newton today.

On the one hand, there could be other reasons for the state of affairs. I sometimes wonder if the church isn’t squandering the gifts and talents that God sends its way.

I nearly lost my Christian faith many years ago because the churches I attended provided few answers to basic questions. “Why should I believe in God? Why should I believe the Bible? Why is there evil in the world? Why does the invisible God seem so invisible in every day life? Why did Jesus say ‘suffer the little children to come unto me’, but then God of the Old Testament who is one with Jesus had Amalikite women and children and infants killed?”

Sunday sermons were repetitive, “you need to go out there and witness.” The sermons demanded faith, and rarely did they inspire faith — and inspiring faith would mean answering my questions.

When I nearly left the faith, in desperation, I started studying intelligent design, creation science, archaeology and apologetics on my own since local churches would not give me the answers I was seeking. In my darkest hour, by God’s grace, I was able to find the evidence I needed to restore me back to faith.

Naturally I was eager to share my new found convictions. But to my utter disappointment, the first time I approached a campus Christian leader and offered to share apologetics with his students, he said, “that’s too advanced for them.”

And then at one Intervarsity Christian Fellowship (IVCF) group, the campus director said he was totally uninterested in the creation evolution controversy, even after I told him that one of the members of his group got recently converted to Christianity because I talked about the evidence of creation. He basically showed me the door.

Then I was invited to speak at another IVCF group. I shared with the students my utter delight that science confirmed that man was created through a miraculous process rather than Darwinian evolution. To my horror, after I gave the talk the leadership pulled me aside and sternly warned me never to criticize Darwin again! They said “you can believe in Christianity and Darwinian evolution”. Indeed you can, but what about those who disbelieve Christianity because they believe Darwinian evolution? Did they ever consider that? Apparently not. I approached yet another IVCF group, and the director just gave me uncomfortable looks and changed the subject. I still sent him a donation because he was one of the few voices for Jesus at the campus of one of the world’s most prestigious schools.

How many sermons in the last 10 years have I heard from Evangelical pastors defending creation? Two. How about Noah’s flood? None. Thank God for the one pastor that devoted an entire sermon to berating Darwinian evolution based on evidence. For the first time ever, I saw a pastor getting an ovation after a sermon. The congregation was so hungry to hear the truth!

But the problem goes beyond the church’s avoidance of creation. There is the general problem of anti-intellectualism especially in Evangelical circles. Unfortunately, some of the most articulate spokesmen for academic advancement by Christians are also anti-IDists and anti-creationists themselves. Mark Noll is an example. As an Evangelical himself and historian teaching at Wheaton, he traces the decline of Christians in the sciences and arts in his book The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind. Noll laments, “there is no Evangelical mind.”

And so on the one hand, some churches avoid tough intellectual questions and discourage academic advancement, and on the other, those Christians that do promote academic advancement and engagement of tough intellectual questions are often against the teaching of creation over evolution. And on top of this, some campus Christian organizations have shown an unwillingness to even discuss creation, and even some forbid criticizing the name of Darwin.

It is a miracle I am still a Christian today. The resistance to teaching God’s miraculous creation of life, the unwillingness or inability to answer difficult questions adequately, and the anti-intellectual climate in some churches is resulting in churches being atheist factories for those scientifically and academically inclined.

And thus to answer the question posed, “Why is there no creationist Isaac Netwon today?”, it could be by design, but on the other hand, the church bears some responsibility. But there is always one comfort that I take refuge in, and that is that God will work all things for the good of those that love him, and he can even use the foibles of his people today for his greater glory.

I will never forget in 2005, one of the world’s top origin of life researchers, Dr. Robert Hazen, at my undergraduate alma mater George Mason University, angrily protested at an intelligent design lecture I organized for Jonathan Wells.

Dr. Hazen stood up and accused Dr. Wells of promoting religion. Dr. Wells calmly smiled and responded by posing the following observation to Dr. Hazen in front of the students and faculty (an observation which he has often repeated to others):

If we place a small amount of sterile salt solution in a test tube at just the right temperature and acidity, add a living cell, and then poke a hole in that cell with a sterile needle, the contents will leak out. We will have in our test tube all of the molecules needed for life, in just the right proportions (relative to each other) and already assembled into complex specified DNAs, RNAs, proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. But we will not be able to make a living cell out of them. We cannot put Humpty Dumpty back together again.

Dr. Hazen just stood there speechless, turning red before he stormed out of the room. God doesn’t need an Isaac Newton to defend his creation because the least of his creatures, a humble cell, can vanquish the most brilliant scientist.


To his credit, 5 weeks later Dr. Hazen seemed have a bit softer heart and spoke well of Dr. Wells and even took time to say a few kind words about Jonathan Wells’ book, Icons of Evolution, at another student meeting (with CBS evening news reporters and cameras present — but the story never aired). Dr. Hazen is deeply mistaken, but it would be wrong of me to portray him as a villain because he has treated me with kindness and respect. I hope one day Dr. Hazen will see the truth. Dr. Hazen has written his own version of origins, in book entitled Genesis by Robert Hazen. Maybe one day he will acknowledge the true book of Genesis written by God.

Thank you all for your comments and criticisms. I just released version 2 that incorporates changes in response to reader comments. Version 2 is now a better essay that students in the future can refer to. http://www.creationevolutionuniversity.com/insight/?p=12 It was good enough that it got featured at the RAE website! http://www.rae.org/Essays.html :-) scordova
Let's not forget that Newton had other great Creationists to follow- Galileo, Copernicus and Kepler, to name a few. Joe
Ken Ham is a great thinker on science issues. Thats why he was in the great debate that reached 10 million i understand. He had the confidence of YEC and good guys everywhere and did a greaaaat job. All YEC now need is specialist debates for mopping up resistance. Isaac newton only know physics and alchemy. he was one of few who put their mind to these things. He was just of the new and rising English dominance in intellectual matters. He was the tip of the ice beg in scholarship of complicated things. He wasn't all that. Minor stuff i say. Inventions are the superior intellectual thing as they deal with wisdom and not mere understanding to use biblical terms. ID thinkers probably in the future will be seen as the great science thinkers of our times on these subjects. this because they are overthrowing a establishment or rather making a revolution. if iD wins it will mean intellectual credibility. If ID fails it will mean a story of intellectual failure. Revolutions change things or get you hung on the closest tree. the stakes are high. Robert Byers
Religion was an integral part of the life of early man. So it is understandable that scientific knowledge did not develop apart from religious beliefs and ideas. This can particularly be seen in the realm of medical science. “Ancient documents illustrating Egyptian society and medicine during the Old Kingdom,” says The New Encyclopædia Britannica, “show that magic and religion were integrally associated with empiricorational medical practice and that the chief magician of the pharaoh’s court also frequently served as the nation’s chief physician.” During the third Egyptian dynasty, a noted architect named Imhotep gained prominence as a physician of no small skill. Less than a century after his death, he was worshiped as Egypt’s god of medicine. By the end of the sixth century B.C.E., he had been elevated to the position of a major deity. The Britannica says that temples dedicated to him were “often crowded with sufferers who prayed and slept there with the conviction that the god would reveal remedies to them in their dreams.” In time, during the fourth and fifth centuries B.C.E., a Greek physician named Hippocrates challenged this view. He is particularly well-known because of the Hippocratic oath, still generally viewed as embodying the medical code of conduct. The book Moments of Discovery—The Origins of Science notes that Hippocrates was also “among the first to compete with the priests in finding explanation of man’s sicknesses.” Practicing medicine in the spirit of science, he sought natural causes for diseases. Reason and experience began to take the place of religious superstition and guesswork. The book Mankind's Search for God details the schism between science and religion: The expansion of scientific knowledge called into question many of the church’s teachings that were based on erroneous interpretation of Bible passages. For example, astronomical discoveries by men like Copernicus and Galileo posed a direct challenge to the church’s geocentric doctrine, that the earth is the center of the universe. Furthermore, understanding of the natural laws that govern the operations of the physical world made it no longer necessary to attribute hitherto mysterious phenomena, such as thunder and lightning or even the appearance of certain stars and comets, to the hand of God or Providence. “Miracles” and “divine intervention” in human affairs also came under suspicion. All of a sudden, God and religion seemed outdated to many, and some of those who considered themselves up-to-date quickly turned their back on God and flocked to the worship of the sacred cow of science. The severest blow to religion, no doubt, was the theory of evolution. In 1859 the English naturalist Charles Darwin (1809-82) published his Origin of Species and presented a direct challenge to the Bible’s teaching of creation by God. What was the response of the churches? At first the clergy in England and elsewhere denounced the theory. But opposition soon faded. It seemed that Darwin’s speculations were just the excuse sought by many clergymen who were entertaining doubts in secret. Thus, within Darwin’s lifetime, “most thoughtful and articulate clergy had worked their way to the conclusion that evolution was wholly compatible with an enlightened understanding of scripture,” says The Encyclopedia of Religion. Rather than come to the defense of the Bible, Christendom yielded to the pressure of scientific opinion and played along with what was popular. In so doing, it undermined faith in God.—2 Timothy 4:3, 4. As the 19th century wore on, critics of religion became bolder in their attack. Not content with just pointing out the failings of the churches, they began to question the very foundation of religion. They raised questions such as: What is God? Why is there a need for God? How has belief in God affected human society? Men like Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Sigmund Freud, and Friedrich Nietzsche offered their arguments in philosophical, psychological, and sociological terms. Theories such as ‘God is nothing more than the projection of man’s imagination,’ ‘Religion is the opium of the people,’ and ‘God is dead’ all sounded so new and exciting compared with the dull and unintelligible dogmas and traditions of the churches. It seemed that finally many people had found an articulate way of expressing the doubts and suspicions that had been lurking in the back of their minds. They quickly and willingly embraced these ideas as the new gospel truth. Barb
Well Sal, the good part is that there isn't any materialists that are on Newton's level. Hawking? LoL! He admitted his is a position of improbable coincidences, ie unscientific. Put lipstick on that pig and call in science is all they have. Joe
Question: “Why are the top scientists no longer Christians?” Newton, as I understand his life, was an avid scholar of the Bible. For example, he wrote extensively on the Daniel 70 week prophecy. Had he the same insight as Sir Robert Anderson he might now be more famous for pointing out how accurate the Bible is in fulfilled prophecy than he is for his achievements in scientice. Why didn't God give him insight for prophecy as He had for gravity? Only God knows. Why are the top scientists no longer Christians? Only God knows. But I would have to guess it has more to do with top scientists no longer being great Biblical scholars than anything. If I had to vote on the current top scientist most like Newton, I would vote for Russell Humphries. awstar
To me, there are so many pieces of evidence for GOD it's almost embarrassing anyone would choose atheism. Life from non-living matter, morality, altruism, genetic information etc all point to GOD. Blue_Savannah
Thank you all for the comments and criticisms, and I intend to make some tweeks to the original article at the CEU website since the CEU website will be the repository of the final product. The three major points: My goal is to give a quality article for the Body of Christ. No article of this sort will be completely liked by everyone. The major points: 1. my citation of 1 Cor 26-28 2. my personal experiences in the church (that is quite real --as recent as last year, IVCF staff leaders on one campus seemed completely uninterested in the topic 3. my account of Dr. Hazen -- personally that was very powerful because I was recently in the ID movement , and someone of his stature just speechless in the face of a simple question. I have an autographed copy of his book, it is valiant, but cannot come close to the OOL problem. That was 2005, he said he thought the OOL problem would be solved by 2025. The thesis of the essay really was: "Why are the top scientists no longer Christians?" the original title was a figure of speech, and I can make that clarification rather than changing the title, because, really that's the picture that crossed my mind, and in a symbolic way it represents what I sort of wish were the case -- the top scientists in the world being creationists, and Bill Nye being a dissenter. That is what I lament, and I can improve the way I said it. I can make mention of the persecutions, but that doesn't not let the church on the whole off the hook when they are in a position to encourage and use the gifts of creationists that are often freely offered. I freely offered to IVCF on 3 campuses, and though IVC published "Darwin on Trial", the local chapters seem uninterested, and in 2 cases hostile. From what I hear, my experience isn't unique.... What I wrote, I think the body of Christ needs to here. and they are summarized by the 3 points above. I'm interested in communicating those points as effectively as possible. Rather than a rushed re-write, I'll wait for comments and then I'll make a few amendments. Because these issues affect the creationist community it will also affect the ID community. scordova
Also, on Noll - You point to Noll to point out the "scandal of the evangelical mind". I disagree heavily with Noll's contention, as one of his standard candles for "mind" is whether or not you have capitulated to materialism. He classifies the whole of creation science as being a part of the scandal. He does make room for Intelligent Design, but probably only because it was in its infancy at the time of its writing and had not garnered the ire of the establishment by that time. I share some sympathy with Noll's position, but find myself leaning more heavily to Plantinga, who is much more of a rebel than Noll. Noll wants us to engage with the rest of establishment academia. Plantinga says, basically, "that's fun, but remember as a Christian academic, your service is to the body of the Church, no matter what secular academia may think of you." I think the biggest issue regarding the life of the mind is that Christians have been using the knowledge of God as the end of wisdom rather than the beginning of it. That was my biggest frustration with Ham's presentation - he wanted to stop the conversation at what the Bible says. For me, that's where I want to start. It's the difference between using your faith as a crutch and using it as a jet-pack. johnnyb
I think there are a few minor flaws in the way the article presents. I actually think we may have more Newtons than in Newton's day. The problem isn't with the number of Newtons, it is with our treatment of them. Newton, in building physics, actually broke the rules of physics. Under the physics of Democritus, all motion had to be explained by objects bumping into each other. Newton, however, did away with that, and proposed that objects act on each other at a distance. This was considered by his detractors to be counter to the rules of science, since only spiritual phenomena could operate at a distance. This is very similar to the criticism that ID is receiving. The difference is that the materialist critics of Newton were not loud enough to shout down Newton. Newton's violation of the "rules of science" was thought to be a breakthrough rather than problematic. Today, the problem is that mainstream academia is run by people who are more interested in the secularist status quo rather than real advancement (this is also largely true of the religious institutions as well). When people propose to radically reform science, to expand it to include causes and phenomena previously unanalyzable, rather than a hero's welcome, they receive a sound condemnation. johnnyb
It is fitting in God's wisdom that the world should believe in lies, even Christians. But this generation shall witness the coming of Elijah, who shall restore all things. Elijah is greater than Isaac Newton. Mapou
SC: Sir Isaac was in fact a creationist. Perhaps, no modern figure of his stature? KF kairosfocus
Furthermore, "But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him" (Heb. 11:6 NKJV). But, what if a person is unconvinced in their mind that He actually exists? fossil
Then I saw another angel flying in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach to those who dwell on the earth-- to every nation, tribe, tongue, and people-- 7 saying with a loud voice, "Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment has come; and worship Him who made heaven and earth, the sea and springs of water." 8 And another angel followed, saying, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen, that great city, because she has made all nations drink of the wine of the wrath of her fornication." 9 Then a third angel followed them, saying with a loud voice, "If anyone worships the beast and his image, and receives his mark on his forehead or on his hand, 10 "he himself shall also drink of the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out full strength into the cup of His indignation. He shall be tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels and in the presence of the Lamb. 11 "And the smoke of their torment ascends forever and ever; and they have no rest day or night, who worship the beast and his image, and whoever receives the mark of his name." (Rev. 14:6-11 NKJ) fossil
This is not an easy question to answer, nor it is an easy one to asked. But can think of several reasons. One could be fired from their jobs. Those who believe Darwinain evolution tend to downsize creationist, no matter how much proof he/she demonstrate for creationism, it's truly discouraging. And Apart from Adam & Eve, christian doctrine doesn't really depend on the creation narrative, Paul said
that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. Romans 10:9.
I think there is a good reason why there are no Isaac Newton today. Science has changed since Isaac Newton as most science requires a large group. Anyone who tries to keep up with the cra/evo debate will realize how much material has been written in the last few years. It's very hard and very time consuming for a layman to keep up with it all. My pastor admits he doesn't have to time to keep up with the latest science debate (He used to decades ago). I totally agree with him and Tours that science (creation/evolution debate) won't win many people to the Lord yet my pastor realize there is a need for some to "know" the science. He believe there are some people he couldn't reach but I could. The Bible states " The fool hath saith in his heart (not his mind) There is no God. Notice this verse refers to man as a whole and not just those who claim to be atheist. Pastors need to spend his time in dealing with people as it's a heart problem than a head problem. I may know more science than my pastor but my pastor knows how to deal with people. I wished I was more like him. Atheist like to claim the more educated someone becomes the more likely they will become atheist. I think it more likely the more educate someone becomes and sees the evidence before them the more it reveal their true self... as written in Psalm 14. There is good reason why being wise is not far from being a fool. I don't think you are alone when it comes of having your faith challenged as even John the Baptist faith was challenge and Jesus said they were no better man than John. My faith has been challenged many times through the years and had nothing to do with cre/evo debate. Yet I'm not counting on my faith to get me to heaven even through it's an instrument that God uses. It's Jesus Christ and Him alone. I'm total bankrupt and totally depending on Him. I may lose my faith but Jesus won't lose me. Smidlee
Hey Sal thanks for posting this. I too find it amazing that there is not more intellectual interest amongst the general population or church leadership with the science creation (in its' widest meaning) issue. I think it is that there is no clear consensus and that although ID sought to provide this agreed centre, it is trusted by neither YECs nor TEs. Leaders fear conflict and often seek unity at all costs. The particulars of how and when God created are to many of them not clear. Once during a talk on this subject to Christian medical students and doctors, an older rather reserved senior doctor became very irate when I simply said that Mind came before Matter. On another note, last night I watched the PBS documentary "Newton's Dark Secrets" which was excellent and highly recommended. There are no people today like Isaac Newton. He was unique. There are however some great voices who defend the truth of the Christian Story. Dr John Lennox is outstanding as a thinker and communicator. He often quotes Newton. Although knowing God through the Scriptures and the work of the Holy Spirit, Newton himself seems to have been rather conflicted in his relationship with the established church and with some established orthodoxy which he found contained apparent contradictions he could not hold with certitude. idnet.com.au

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