Faithful Scientists

Galileo remained a sincere Catholic despite the persecution from his own congregation. Likewise, Kepler maintained his fervent Christianity despite the fact that he and his family were banished from the city of Graz for refusing to convert from Protestantism to Catholicism. (Providentially, that banishment was what took him to Prague, where he became Tycho Brahe’s assistant.)

To Kepler and Galileo, science itself was an expression of their love for God, for truth, and for the beauty of creation. In Kepler’s words, “the chief aim of all investigations of the external world should be to discover the rational order and harmony which has been imposed on it by God, and which he revealed to us in the language of mathematics.”Quoted in Morris Kline, Mathematical Thought from Ancient to Modern times (New York: Oxford University Press, 1990), 231. Similarly, Galileo wrote that “the glory and greatness of Almighty God are marvelously discerned in all his works.”Galileo, “Letter to Madame Christina of Lorraine, Grand Duchess of Tuscany,” 1615.

Moreover, these men were not the only Christians who contributed substantially to the development of modern science. During the scientific revolution, a majority of the most influential scientists were Christians, and it wasn’t only during the 16th and 17th centuries that Christian thinkers were at the forefront of scientific discovery. The prevalence of Christian influence in the sciences continued well into the 20th century. Many leading figures in the history of modern science were Christians, including:

Many more names could be added to this list; but already it is clear enough that the Christian faith was hardly an impediment to the early progress of science, contrary to the popular perceptions of faith and science today.

On the other hand, there are some issues on which Christians today may find their faith at odds with mainstream science—particularly the dominant scientific theories concerning the origins of the universe, life, and humankind. Big Bang cosmology and evolutionary biology are widely regarded as contradictory to the biblical account of creation in the book of Genesis. These issues will be discussed in later chapters.