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Christianity, not the Enlightenment, started the Scientific Revolution

Although many believe the myth that Christianity and science are enemies, nothing could be further from the truth. Christianity gave birth to science.

Huh? What about the battle between Galileo and the Church? What about the rejection of Darwinism? How could those hillbilly Christians possibly be the friends of science?

This historical revisionism (that Christianity is the enemy of science) can be somewhat attributed to the now disputed writings of John Draper and Andrew Dickson White who attempted to develop a “conflict theory” between science and religion, but this theory is now being challenged by more and more historians.*

The truth is that the Enlightenment, with its emphasis on Deism, was a result, rather than a cause, of the revolution in science which was started by Christians. Deism is dependent on the belief in a First Cause. That there was an original mover was one of Isaac Newton’s arguments, but Newton was a Christian who wanted to discover the mind of God in His creation.

Because I Corinthians 14 claims that “God is a god of order” and Psalms 19 says that “the heavens declare the glory of God,” Newton set out to discover the way that God thought and designed. It was a fascinating quest for Newton! And what he discovered characterized him as one of the greatest minds in the history of the world. Yet all Newton was doing (as a hobby) was trying to understand the way God’s mind worked when he was creating and designing the world.

Johannes Kepler was also fascinated by the pursuit of knowing God through His creation and his discovery of the laws of planetary motion would lead him to rejoice at the intelligent designs of God, seeing “how God, like a human architect, approached the founding of the world according to order and rule and measured everything in such manner.”

The other advancement in science came as a result of Sir Francis Bacon’s development of the empirical method. This was a direct attempt to overthrow the Aristotelian deductive method. Bacon believed that truth could only be discovered by observation and induction from the data, rather than starting from reason or philosophy. (This Aristotelian philosophy had a stronghold in the medieval Catholic Church! It was the emphasis on Greek philosophy that Galileo was arguing against in his Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems. For example, Galileo mocks the Church through his character Simplicio, who is painted as being stupid because he was a follower of Aristotle and Ptolemy.)

But Bacon was a Christian who declared, “There are two books laid before us to study, to prevent our falling into error; first, the volume of Scriptures, which reveal the will of God; then the volume of creatures [his creation], which express his power.”

Robert Boyle, who is considered the father of modern chemistry, was a charter member of the Royal Society of Great Britain (whose motto, “Nullius in Verbia,” which means “nothing in word,” was a direct rejection of the Aristotelian system, revealing instead that they were proponents of the empirical method of experimentation proposed by Bacon) would also emphasize that truth came from observing physical evidence in tandem with the revelation of Scriptures.

He rejected the Aristotelian viewpoint that all things were composed of the four elements of earth, air, fire, and water, saying “I ignore not that only Leucippus, Epicurus, and other atomists of old, but of late some persons, for the most part admirers of Aristotle’s writings, have pretended to be able to explicate the first beginning of things, and the world’s phenomena, without taking in or acknowledging any divine Author of it.”

John Ray, considered by some to be the father of biology, also rejected the Aristotelian concept of spontaneous generation. (Isn’t this Darwinism? I fear saying that it is because somebody out there will write in and say that I’m stupid and obviously don’t understand evolution. Does anybody? The definitions and perimeters are always changing.) Ray said that his “observation is that there is no such thing in nature” and that it was “the atheist’s fictitious and ridiculous account of the first production of mankind and other animals.”

I’d like to set the record straight. Many of the greatest advances in science came as a result of Christians wanting to prove the existence of God. Christianity is not the enemy of science. It founded true science.

*See Ferngren, Gary, “Introduction,” Science and Religion: A Historical Introduction (Baltimore: John Hopkins University Press, 2002), ix.