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Isaac Newton (4 January 1643 – 31 March 1727)was considered an insightful and erudite theologian by his contemporaries. He wrote many works that would now be classified as occult studies and religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible.
Newton's conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world. Newton saw a monotheistic God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.Although born into an Anglican family, and a devout but unorthodox Christian, by his thirties Newton held a Christian faith that, had it been made public, would not have been considered orthodox by mainstream Christians; Scholars now consider him a Nontrinitarian Arian. In 2019, John Rogers stated, "Heretics both, John Milton and Isaac Newton were, as most scholars now agree, Arians."
Newton was born into an Anglican family three months after the death of his father, a prosperous farmer also named Isaac Newton. When Newton was three, his mother married the rector of the neighbouring parish of North Witham and went to live with her new husband, the Reverend Barnabus Smith, leaving her son in the care of his maternal grandmother, Margery Ayscough.Isaac apparently hated his step-father, and had nothing to do with Smith during his childhood. His maternal uncle, the rector serving the parish of Burton Coggles, was involved to some extent in the care of Isaac.
In 1667 Newton became a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge,making necessary his commitment to taking Holy Orders within seven years of completing his MA, which he did the following year. He was also required to take a vow of celibacy and recognize the Thirty-Nine Articles of the Church of England. Newton considered ceasing his studies prior to completion in order to avoid the ordination made necessary by law of King Charles II. He was eventually successful in avoiding the statute, assisted in this by the efforts of Isaac Barrow, as in 1676 the then Secretary of State for the Northern Department, Joseph Williamson, changed the relevant statute of Trinity College to provide dispensation from this duty. After taking advantage of that, Newton embarked on an investigative study of the early history of the Church, which developed, during the 1680s, into inquiries about the origins of religion. At around the same time, he developed a scientific view on motion and matter. Of Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica he stated:
When I wrote my treatise about our Systeme I had an eye upon such Principles as might work with considering men for the beliefe of a Deity and nothing can rejoyce me more than to find it useful for that purpose.
According to most scholars, Newton was Arian, not holding to Trinitarianism.As well as being antitrinitarian, Newton allegedly rejected the orthodox doctrines of the immortal soul, a personal devil and literal demons. Although he was not a Socinian he shared many similar beliefs with them. A manuscript he sent to John Locke in which he disputed the existence of the Trinity was never published. In a minority view, T.C. Pfizenmaier argued Newton was neither "orthodox" nor an Arian, but that, rather, Newton believed both of these groups had wandered into metaphysical speculation. Pfizenmaier also argued that Newton held closer to the Semi-Arian view of the Trinity that Jesus Christ was of a "similar substance" (homoiousios) from the Father rather than the orthodox view that Jesus Christ is of the "same substance" of the Father (homoousios) as endorsed by modern Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics and Protestants. S. D. Snobelen has also argued against this from manuscripts produced late in Newton's life which demonstrate Newton rejected the Eastern view of the Trinity.
Newton refused Viaticum before his death.
Newton saw God as the masterful creator whose existence could not be denied in the face of the grandeur of all creation.Nevertheless, he rejected Leibniz's thesis that God would necessarily make a perfect world which requires no intervention from the creator. In Query 31 of the Opticks, Newton simultaneously made an argument from design and for the necessity of intervention:
For while comets move in very eccentric orbs in all manner of positions, blind fate could never make all the planets move one and the same way in orbs concentric, some inconsiderable irregularities excepted which may have arisen from the mutual actions of comets and planets on one another, and which will be apt to increase, till this system wants a reformation.
This passage prompted an attack by Leibniz in a letter to his friend Caroline of Ansbach:
Sir Isaac Newton and his followers have also a very odd opinion concerning the work of God. According to their doctrine, God Almighty wants to wind up his watch from time to time: otherwise it would cease to move. He had not, it seems, sufficient foresight to make it a perpetual motion.
Leibniz's letter initiated the Leibniz-Clarke correspondence, ostensibly with Newton's friend and disciple Samuel Clarke, although as Caroline wrote, Clarke's letters "are not written without the advice of the Chev. Newton".Clarke complained that Leibniz's concept of God as a "supra-mundane intelligence" who set up a "pre-established harmony" was only a step from atheism: "And as those men, who pretend that in an earthly government things may go on perfectly well without the king himself ordering or disposing of any thing, may reasonably be suspected that they would like very well to set the king aside: so, whosoever contends, that the beings of the world can go on without the continual direction of God...his doctrine does in effect tend to exclude God out of the world".
In addition to stepping in to re-form the solar system, Newton invoked God's active intervention to prevent the stars falling in on each other, and perhaps in preventing the amount of motion in the universe from decaying due to viscosity and friction.In private correspondence Newton sometimes hinted that the force of Gravity was due to an immaterial influence:
Tis inconceivable that inanimate brute matter should (without the mediation of something else which is not material) operate upon & affect other matter without mutual contact.
Leibniz jibed that such an immaterial influence would be a continual miracle; this was another strand of his debate with Clarke.
Newton's view has been considered to be close to deism and several biographers and scholars labelled him as a deist who is strongly influenced by Christianity.However, he differed from strict adherents of deism in that he invoked God as a special physical cause to keep the planets in orbits. He warned against using the law of gravity to view the universe as a mere machine, like a great clock. He said:
This most beautiful system of the sun, planets, and comets, could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent Being. [...] This Being governs all things, not as the soul of the world, but as Lord over all; and on account of his dominion he is wont to be called "Lord God" παντοκρατωρ [pantokratōr], or "Universal Ruler". [...] The Supreme God is a Being eternal, infinite, [and] absolutely perfect.
Opposition to godliness is atheism in profession and idolatry in practice. Atheism is so senseless and odious to mankind that it never had many professors.
On the other hand, latitudinarian and Newtonian ideas taken too far resulted in the millenarians, a religious faction dedicated to the concept of a mechanical universe, but finding in it the same enthusiasm and mysticism that the Enlightenment had fought so hard to extinguish.Newton himself may have had some interest in millenarianism as he wrote about both the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation in his Observations Upon the Prophecies.
Newton's conception of the physical world provided a stable model of the natural world that would reinforce stability and harmony in the civic world.
Newton spent a great deal of time trying to discover hidden messages within the Bible. After 1690, Newton wrote a number of religious tracts dealing with the literal interpretation of the Bible. In a manuscript Newton wrote in 1704 he describes his attempts to extract scientific information from the Bible. He estimated that the world would end no earlier than 2060. In predicting this he said "This I mention not to assert when the time of the end shall be, but to put a stop to the rash conjectures of fanciful men who are frequently predicting the time of the end, and by doing so bring the sacred prophesies into discredit as often as their predictions fail."
Newton's work of New Testament textual criticism, An Historical Account of Two Notable Corruptions of Scripture was sent in a letter to John Locke on 14 November 1690.
The Library of Trinity College, Cambridge, holds in its collections Newton's personal copy of the King James Version, which exhibits numerous marginal notes in his hand as well as about 500 reader's marks pointing to passages of particular interest to him. A note is attached to the Bible indicating that it "was given by Sir Isaac Newton in his last illness to the woman who nursed him". The book was eventually bequeathed to the Library in 1878. The places Newton marked or annotated in his Bible bear witness to his investigations into theology, chronology, alchemy, and natural philosophy; and some of these actually relate to passages of the General Scholium to the second edition of the Principia. Some other passages he marked offer glimpses of his devotional practices and reveal distinct tensions in his personality. Newton's Bible appears to have been first and foremost a customized reference tool in the hands of a biblical scholar and critic.
Newton relied upon the existing Scripture for prophecy, believing his interpretations would set the record straight in the face of what he considered to be, "so little understood".Though he would never write a cohesive body of work on Prophecy, Newton's beliefs would lead him to write several treatises on the subject, including an unpublished guide for prophetic interpretation titled Rules for interpreting the words & language in Scripture. In this manuscript he details the necessary requirements for what he considered to be the proper interpretation of the Bible.
In his posthumously-published Observations upon the Prophecies of Daniel, and the Apocalypse of St. John , Newton expressed his belief that Bible prophecy would not be understood "until the time of the end", and that even then "none of the wicked shall understand". Referring to that as a future time ("the last age, the age of opening these things, be now approaching"), Newton also anticipated "the general preaching of the Gospel be approaching" and "the Gospel must first be preached in all nations before the great tribulation, and end of the world".
Over the years, a large amount of media attention and public interest has circulated regarding largely unknown and unpublished documents, evidently written by Isaac Newton, that indicate he believed the world could end in 2060. While Newton also had many other possible dates (e.g. 2034),he did not believe that the end of the world would take place specifically in 2060.
Like most Protestant theologians of his time, Newton believed that the Papal Office and not any one particular Pope was the fulfillment of the Biblical predictions about Antichrist, whose rule was predicted to last for 1,260 years. They applied the day-year principle (in which a day represents a year in prophecy) to certain key verses in the books of Danieland Revelation (also known as the Apocalypse), and looked for significant dates in the Papacy's rise to power to begin this timeline. Newton's calculation ending in 2060 is based on the 1,260-year timeline commencing in 800 AD when Charlemagne became the first Holy Roman Emperor and reconfirmed the earlier (756 AD) Donation of Pepin to the Papacy.
Between the time he wrote his 2060 prediction (about 1704) until his death in 1727 Newton conversed, both first hand and by correspondence, with other famous theologians of his time. Those contemporaries who knew him during the remaining 23 years of his life appear to be in agreement that Newton, and the "best interpreters" including Jonathan Edwards, Robert Fleming, Moses Lowman, Phillip Doddridge, and Bishop Thomas Newton, were eventually "pretty well agreed" that the 1,260-year timeline should be calculated from the year 756 AD.
F. A. Cox also confirmed that this was the view of Newton and others, including himself:
The author adopts the hypothesis of Fleming, Sir Isaac Newton, and Lowman, that the 1260 years commenced in A.d. 756; and consequently that the millennium will not begin till the year 2016.
Thomas Williams stated that this timeline had become the predominant view among the leading Protestant theologians of his time:
Mr. Lowman, though an earlier commentator, is (we believe) far more generally followed; and he commences the 1260 days from about 756, when, by aid of Pepin, King of France, the Pope obtained considerable temporalities. This carries on the reign of Popery to 2016, or sixteen years into the commencement of the Millennium, as it is generally reckoned.
In April of 756 AD, Pepin, King of France, accompanied by Pope Stephen II entered northern Italy, forcing the Lombard King Aistulf to lift his siege of Rome, and return to Pavia. Following Aistulf's capitulation, Pepin gave the newly conquered territories to the Papacy by means of the Donation of Pepin, thereby elevating the Pope from being a subject of the Byzantine Empire to head of state, with temporal power over the newly constituted Papal States.
The end of the timeline is based on Daniel 8:25 which reads "he shall be broken without hand" and is understood to mean that the end of the Papacy will not be caused by any human action.Volcanic activity is described as the means by which Rome will be overthrown.
Antichrist will retain some part of his dominion over the nations till about the year 2016. And when the 1260 years are expired, Rome itself, with all its magnificence, will be absorbed in a lake of fire, sink into the sea, and rise no more at all for ever.
In 1870 the newly formed Kingdom of Italy annexed the remaining Papal States, depriving the Popes of any temporal rule for the next 59 years. Unaware that Papal rule would be restored, (albeit on a greatly diminished scale) in 1929 as head of the Vatican City state, the historicist view that the Papacy is the Antichrist and the associated timelines delineating his rule rapidly declined in popularity as one of the defining characteristics of the Antichrist (i.e. that he would also be a political temporal power at the time of the return of Jesus) were no longer met.
Eventually, the prediction was largely forgotten and no major Protestant denomination currently subscribes to this timeline.
Despite the dramatic nature of a prediction of the end of the world, Newton may not have been referring to the 2060 date as a destructive act resulting in the annihilation of the earth and its inhabitants, but rather one in which he believed the world was to be replaced with a new one based upon a transition to an era of divinely inspired peace. In Christian theology, this concept is often referred to as The Second Coming of Jesus Christ and the establishment of Paradise by The Kingdom of God on Earth.
Henry More's belief in the universe and rejection of Cartesian dualism may have influenced Newton's religious ideas. Later works—The Chronology of Ancient Kingdoms Amended (1728) and Observations Upon the Prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse of St. John (1733)—were published after his death.
Newton and Boyle's mechanical philosophy was promoted by rationalist pamphleteers as a viable alternative to the pantheists and enthusiasts, and was accepted hesitantly by orthodox clergy as well as dissident preachers like the latitudinarians.The clarity and simplicity of science was seen as a way in which to combat the emotional and mystical superlatives of superstitious enthusiasm, as well as the threat of atheism.
The attacks made against pre-Enlightenment magical thinking, and the mystical elements of Christianity, were given their foundation with Boyle's mechanical conception of the universe. Newton gave Boyle's ideas their completion through mathematical proofs, and more importantly was very successful in popularizing them.Newton refashioned the world governed by an interventionist God into a world crafted by a God that designs along rational and universal principles. These principles were available for all people to discover, allowed man to pursue his own aims fruitfully in this life, not the next, and to perfect himself with his own rational powers.
His first writing on the subject of religion was Introductio. Continens Apocalypseos rationem generalem (Introduction. Containing an explanation of the Apocalypse), which has an unnumbered leaf between folios 1 and 2 with the subheading De prophetia prima,written in Latin some time prior to 1670. Written subsequently in English was Notes on early Church history and the moral superiority of the 'barbarians' to the Romans. His last writing, published in 1737 with the miscellaneous works of John Greaves, was entitled A Dissertation upon the Sacred Cubit of the Jews and the Cubits of the several Nations. Newton did not publish any of his works of biblical study during his lifetime. All of Newton's writings on corruption in biblical scripture and the church took place after the late 1670s and prior to the middle of 1690.
Deism is the philosophical position that rejects revelation as a source of religious knowledge and asserts that reason and observation of the natural world are sufficient to establish the existence of a Supreme Being or creator of the universe.
Sir Isaac Newton was an English mathematician, physicist, astronomer, theologian, and author who is widely recognised as one of the greatest mathematicians and most influential scientists of all time. A key figure in the scientific revolution, his book Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica, first published in 1687, established classical mechanics. Newton also made seminal contributions to optics, and shares credit with German mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz for developing the infinitesimal calculus.
Unitarianism is a Christian theological movement that believes that the God in Christianity is one entity, as opposed to a Trinity. Most other branches of Christianity define God as one being in three persons: the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Unitarian Christians, therefore, believe that Jesus was inspired by God in his moral teachings, and he is a savior, but he was not a deity or God incarnate.
Samuel Clarke was an English philosopher and Anglican cleric. He is considered the major British figure in philosophy between John Locke and George Berkeley.
William Whiston was an English theologian, historian, and mathematician, a leading figure in the popularisation of the ideas of Isaac Newton. He is now probably best known for helping to instigate the Longitude Act in 1714 and his important translations of the Antiquities of the Jews and other works by Josephus. He was a prominent exponent of Arianism and wrote A New Theory of the Earth.
English physicist and mathematician Isaac Newton produced many works that would now be classified as occult studies. These works explored chronology, alchemy, and biblical interpretation. Newton's scientific work may have been of lesser personal importance to him, as he placed emphasis on rediscovering the occult wisdom of the ancients. In this sense, some historians, including economist John Maynard Keynes, believe that any reference to a "Newtonian Worldview" as being purely mechanical in nature is somewhat inaccurate. Historical research on Newton's occult studies in relation to his science have also been used to challenge the disenchantment narrative within critical theory.
The Boyle Lectures are named after Robert Boyle, a prominent natural philosopher of the 17th century and son of Richard Boyle, 1st Earl of Cork. Under the terms of his Will, Robert Boyle endowed a series of lectures or sermons which were to consider the relationship between Christianity and the new natural philosophy then emerging in European society.
Apocalypticism is the religious belief that there will be an apocalypse, a term which originally referred to a revelation, but now it usually refers to the belief that the end of the world is imminent, even within one's own lifetime. This belief is usually accompanied by the idea that civilization will soon come to a tumultuous end due to some sort of catastrophic global event. The religious versions of these views and movements often focus on cryptic revelations about a sudden, dramatic, and cataclysmic intervention of God in history; the judgment of humanity; the salvation of the faithful elect; and the eventual rule of the elect with God in a renewed heaven and earth. Arising initially in Zoroastrianism, apocalypticism was developed more fully in Judaic, Christian, and Islamic eschatological speculation.
In Christian eschatology, Historicism is a method of interpretation of biblical prophecies which associates symbols with historical persons, nations or events. The main primary texts of interest to Christian historicists include apocalyptic literature, such as the Book of Daniel and the Book of Revelation. It sees the prophecies of Daniel as being fulfilled throughout history, extending from the past through the present to the future. It is sometimes called the continuous historical view. Commentators have also applied historicist methods to ancient Jewish history, to the Roman Empire, to Islam, to the Papacy, to the Modern era, and to the end time.
Stephen Snobelen, originally from British Columbia, is a professor of the history of science and technology at the University of King's College in Halifax, Nova Scotia. His current teaching and research interests are History of science ; Science and religion; Isaac Newton; The popularization of science; Radical theology in the Early Modern period; and Millenarianism.
Manuel De Lacunza, S.J. was a Jesuit priest who used the pseudonym Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra in his main work on the interpretation of the prophecies of the Bible, which was entitled The Coming of the Messiah in Majesty and Glory.
The day-year principle, year-day principle or year-for-a-day principle is a method of interpretation of Bible prophecy in which the word day in prophecy is considered to be symbolic of a year of actual time. It was the method used by most of the Reformers, and is used principally by the historicist school of prophetic interpretation. It is held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Jehovah's Witnesses, and the Christadelphians. The day-year principle is also used by the Baháʼí Faith, as well as in astrological prediction techniques, otherwise known as "primary directions."
Francisco Ribera (1537–1591) was a Spanish Jesuit theologian, identified with the Futurist Christian eschatological view.
In Christian eschatology, the Antichrist, or anti-Christ, refers to people prophesied by the Bible to oppose Christ and substitute themselves in Christ's place before the Second Coming. The term Antichrist is found five times in the New Testament, solely in the First and Second Epistle of John. The Antichrist is announced as the one "who denies the Father and the Son."
The continental prophecies is a group of illuminated books by William Blake that have been subject of numerous studies due to their recurrent and unorthodox use of political, literary and sexual metaphors. They consist of America, Europe and The Song of Los.
A nicodemite is a person suspected of publicly misrepresenting their religious faith to conceal their true beliefs.
Deism, the religious attitude typical of the Enlightenment, especially in France and England, holds that the only way the existence of God can be proven is to combine the application of reason with observation of the world. A Deist is defined as "One who believes in the existence of a God or Supreme Being but denies revealed religion, basing his belief on the light of nature and reason." Deism was often synonymous with so-called natural religion because its principles are drawn from nature and human reasoning. In contrast to Deism there are many cultural religions or revealed religions, such as Judaism, Trinitarian Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and others, which believe in supernatural intervention of God in the world; while Deism denies any supernatural intervention and emphasizes that the world is operated by natural laws of the Supreme Being.
The Second Coming is a Christian concept regarding the return of Jesus to Earth after his "first coming" and his believed ascension to heaven about two thousand years ago. The belief is based on messianic prophecies found in the canonical gospels and is part of most Christian eschatologies. Views about the nature of Jesus' Second Coming vary among Christian denominations and among individual Christians.
Historicism, a method of interpretation in Christian eschatology which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events and identifies symbolic beings with historical persons or societies, has been applied to the Book of Revelation by many writers. The Historicist view follows a straight line of continuous fulfillment of prophecy which starts in Daniel's time and goes through John's writing of the Book of Revelation all the way to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
Historicism, a method of interpretation in Christian eschatology which associates biblical prophecies with actual historical events and identifies symbolic beings with historical persons or societies, has been applied to the Book of Daniel by many writers. The Historicist view follows a straight line of continuous fulfillment of prophecy which starts in Daniel's time and goes through John's writing of the Book of Revelation all the way to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.
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Newton has often been identified as a deist. ...In the 19th century, William Blake seems to have put Newton into the deistic camp. Scholars in the 20th-century have often continued to view Newton as a deist. Gerald R. Cragg views Newton as a kind of proto-deist and, as evidence, points to Newton's belief in a true, original, monotheistic religion first discovered in ancient times by natural reason. This position, in Cragg's view, leads to the elimination of the Christian revelation as neither necessary nor sufficient for human knowledge of God. This agenda is indeed the key point, as Leland describes above, of the deistic program which seeks to "set aside" revelatory religious texts. Cragg writes that, "In effect, Newton ignored the claims of revelation and pointed in a direction which many eighteenth-century thinkers would willingly follow." John Redwood has also recently linked anti-Trinitarian theology with both "Newtonianism" and "deism."
Newton seems to have been closer to the deists in his conception of God and had no time for the doctrine of the Trinity. The deists did not recognize the divine nature of Christ. According to Fierz, Newton's conception of God permeated his entire scientific work: God's universality and eternity express themselves in the dominion of the laws of nature. Time and space are regarded as the 'organs' of God. All is contained and moves in God but without having any effect on God himself. Thus space and time become metaphysical entities, superordinate existences that are not associated with any interaction, activity or observation on man's part.
Newton (1642–1727), as a seventeenth century nonChristian Deist, would have been susceptible to an accusation of heresy by either the Anglican Church or the Puritans.
Newton expressed the same conception of the nature of atoms in his deistic view of the Universe.
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