The seventeenth century saw the rise of new approaches to science. Towering figures such as Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton yielded astonishing insights into the laws and processes of nature. While some of their pursuits might seem unusual today, they provided a foundation for how science should be done.
For some of these figures, the mathematical elegance of the universe gave evidence for God’s existence, goodness, and reason. The Bible speaks of God numbering the stars (Psalm 147:4), measuring the foundations of the earth (Job 38:4–5), and arranging all things by measure and weight (Wisdom 11:20). Some scientists today continue to believe the amazing correspondence between mathematics and nature reflects the mind of this rational creator.
Galileo Galilei, Johannes Kepler, Robert Boyle, and Isaac Newton were at the forefront of a new approach to science that placed new emphasis on experimentation and observation. They were also serious Bible students. Indeed, Boyle and Kepler considered themselves “priests of nature.”
Galileo Galilei is often remembered today for his conflict with religious authorities over his insistent support for Copernicus’s theory, which implied that certain biblical verses about astronomical phenomena needed new interpretations. While he was willing to challenge inherited ideas, he remained a loyal Catholic until his death in 1642.
Johannes Kepler was a pioneering astronomer and mathematician. However, he originally wanted to be a theologian. As he wrote to his former astronomy professor in 1595, “For a long time, I was troubled, but now see how God is also praised as well through my work in astronomy.” Kepler later developed the laws of planetary motion that described the orbits of the planets around the sun.
Robert Boyle was a groundbreaking chemist who wrote extensively on theological and biblical subjects. He marveled at nature’s orderliness, writing in 1688, the “Wise Author of Nature has so excellently Contriv’d the Universe, that the more Clearly and Particularly we Discern [its intricate construction] . . . the more Plainly we Discern the Admirable Wisdom of the Omniscient Author of Things.”
Isaac Newton was perhaps the culminating figure of the Scientific Revolution, developing the basic principles of physics. As he wrote in his great work, Principia Mathematica, published in 1687, the orderliness of the heavens “could only proceed from the counsel and dominion of an intelligent being.”