Protestant Response to Newton

Protestant Response to Newton

“In the century preceding the epoch of Newton, a great religious and political revolution had taken place—the Reformation. Though its effect had not been the securing of complete liberty for thought, it had weakened many of the old ecclesiastical bonds. In the reformed countries there was no power to express a condemnation of Newton’s works, and among the clergy there was no disposition to give themselves any concern about the matter.

At first the attention of the Protestant was engrossed by the movements of his great enemy the Catholic, and when that source of disquietude ceased, and the inevitable partitions of the Reformation arose, that attention was fastened upon the rival and antagonistic Churches. The Lutheran, the Calvinist, the Episcopalian, the Presbyterian, had something more urgent on hand than Newton’s mathematical demonstrations.

So, uncondemned, and indeed unobserved, in this clamor of fighting sects, Newton’s grand theory solidly established itself. Its philosophical significance was infinitely more momentous than the dogmas that these persons were quarreling about. It not only accepted the heliocentric theory and the laws discovered by Kepler, but it proved that, no matter what might be the weight of opposing ecclesiastical authority, the sun MUST be the centre of our system, and that Kepler’s laws are the result of a mathematical necessity. It is impossible that they should be other than they are.”

History of the Conflict Between Religion and Science. By John William Draper. Published 1875 by D. Appleton and company, New York.. Ch. IX.

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