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Side Effects of the Incarnation: Motivation for Good Science

In the days leading up to Christmas I will be posting a series on some of the good works and wonderful blessings to mankind that are a “side effect” of Jesus’ birth. (See the introductory post here.) This series is inspired by “What if Jesus Had Never Been Born” by the late Dr. D. James Kennedy.

“Furthermore, many scholars agree that the scientific revolution that gained great momentum in the seventeenth century was birthed for the most part by Reformed Christianity… If Christ had never been born, we would never have had the scientific revolution that came into being when people began to ‘think God’s thoughts after Him.’” –D. James Kennedy [1]

While it seems doubtful that man would not have had a scientific revolution without Christ’s birth, I think Dr. Kennedy is right on the money when he wrote that without Christ’s birth we wouldn’t have had the scientific revolution. The western scientific revolution was indeed largely inspired by ideas born of the Protestant Reformation (which revitalized a healthy interest in the beauty and importance of God’s works on earth, emphasized the dominion mandate that teaches people are stewards of God’s creation, and postulated the teaching of the priesthood of believers).
It is important to note that a vast number of the more important scientists to advance the scientific revolution were followers of Christ. This is exactly what we should expect. A scientist who is a follower of Christ ought to make an excellent scientist, because the Christian worldview gives a solid base and urgent motivation for good science. Ultimately this is because it’s the right way to see reality – though there are diverse and numerous doctrinal reasons for the motivation to study God’s world as well.

Scientist and author Henry Morris listed what he called “a popular-level introduction” to great scientists who were Christian. His inclusion criteria for listing a scientist in this work was: “1) The scientist was a person of real achievement and significance in the development of science; 2) he was a professing Christian (any denomination) who believed in the divine authority of the Bible; 3) he believed that the universe, life, and man were directly and specially created by the transcendent God of the Bible.” [2] Using these criteria Morris came up with an initial survey of 101 great scientists motivated by Christ who lived from 1571-1979. These all contributed significant discoveries to science during its coming-of-age. Looking at that fact alone, nobody can tell me that Jesus’ birth did not have a profound effect on the development of science.
OK, enough philosophizing… Here are just a few real scientists motivated by Christ.

  • Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), “the father of physical astronomy,” spent two years in seminary before becoming a scientist. He coined the description of science as “thinking God’s thoughts after Him” and wrote admonishing scientists to remember that their work demonstrates the glory of God.
  • Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) developed the barometer, made monumental discoveries in mathematics, founded the fields of hydrodynamics and hydrostatics, and was a profuse writer of Christian works of apologetics and philosophy. “Pascal’s Wager” remains to this day a common feature of philosophical and apologetic discussions (highly shortened: you don’t have anything to lose if you believe there is no God and are right, but have everything to lose if you are wrong).
  • Robert Boyle (1627-1691) is considered “the father of modern chemistry.” Boyle’s Law, relating to the nature of gasses, is named after him. He was a devoted Christian who contributed money to translate Bibles, and founded a series of lectures on Christian apologetics with an endowment from his will.
  • Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727) was a man whose scientific discoveries include the law of gravitation and are, very succinctly, legion. He also produced numerous writings of Biblical studies and defended the faith against atheism. He wrote once, “We account the Scriptures of God to be the most sublime philosophy. I find more sure marks of authenticity in the Bible than in any profane history whatsoever.” [3]
  • Carolus Linnaeus (1701-1778), “the father of modern taxonomy,” wrote that his work was an attempt to sort out God’s creation into the “kinds” described in the book of Genesis.
  • James Parkinson (1755-1824) a major contribution to medical research, for whom Parkinson’s disease is named after, also contributed to the field of geology. He used the Genesis idea of a worldwide flood to postulate the theory (new at the time) that coal came from plants.
  • George Stokes(1820-1899) contributed to several scientific fields of study (most particularly engineering and fluid dynamics). He wrote openly Christian references in his works, and was noted for his godliness and humility.
  • Gregory Mendel(1822-1884) pioneered the field of genetics, was a Christian monk, and an outspoken opponent of Darwinism.
  • Louis Pasteur(1822-1895) postulated the germ theory of disease and invented the vaccine. He was also committed to Christ, and outspokenly (to the point of being openly mocked) opposed Darwinism. He is quoted saying: “The more I know, the more does my faith approach that of the Breton peasant. Could I but know all, I would have the faith of a Breton peasant woman.” [4]
  • Alexander McAlister (1844-1919) made important contributions to zoology and physiology. He once wrote, “I think the widespread impression of the agnosticism of scientific men is largely due to the attitude taken up by a few of the great populizers of science, like Tyndall and Huxley. It has been my experience that the disbelief in the revelation that God has given in the life and work, death and resurrection of our Savior is more prevalent among what I may call the camp followers of science than amongst those to whom scientific work is the business of their lives.” [5]

While these are only a few of many, you get the idea…
And there you have it! A few more reasons you should think of the birth of Christ as tidings of great comfort and joy!

[1] Kennedy, D. James. What if Jesus Had Never Been Born. Thomas Nelson Publishers. Nashville, TN. 1994. Pp. 91-92
[2] Morris, Henry M. Men of Science, Men of God. Master Books. Green Forrest, AR. 1988.
[3] Morris p26
[4] Morris p62
[5] Morris p79
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