Epigraph: They are surely disbelievers who say, ‘Allah is the third of three;’ there is no God but the One God. (Al Quran 5:74)
Written and collected by Zia H Shah MD
Alexander Pope‘s couplet: “Nature and nature’s laws lay hid in Night. God said, ‘Let Newton be!’ and all was light!”
The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History is a 1978 book by Michael H. Hart, reprinted in 1992 with revisions. It is a ranking of the 100 people who, according to Hart, most influenced human history.
“The 100” is perhaps one of the greatest books on the analysis of history ever written. He has sold more than 500,000 copies and the book has been translated into 15 languages.
The first person on Hart’s list is the Prophet of Islam Muhammad. Hart asserted that Muhammad was “supremely successful” in both the religious and secular realms. He also believed that Muhammad’s role in the development of Islam was far more influential than Jesus’ collaboration in the development of Christianity. He attributes the development of Christianity to St. Paul, who played a pivotal role in its dissemination.
Another person, who supersedes Jesus, may peace be on him, in influence over the world, is none other than Sir Isaac Newton. If we study the life and religious thought of Muhammad, may peace be on him and Sir Isaac Newton, side be side, we can better understand the pure teachings of Jesus, may peace be on him, who was later hijacked by St. Paul, for his idea of vicarious atonement, a dogma that Jesus died for the sins of humanity, on the cross. In this sense Newton’s importance, cannot be overemphasized, as he is the arbiter between the Living God of Islam and the Triune God of Trinitarian Christianity.
Sir Isaac Newton at 46 in Godfrey Kneller‘s 1689 portrait
Newton found time now to explore other interests, such as religion and theology. In the early 1690s he had sent Locke a copy of a manuscript attempting to prove that Trinitarian passages in the Bible were latter-day corruptions of the original text. When Locke made moves to publish it, Newton withdrew in fear that his anti-Trinitarian views would become known. Reference.
The Trinitarian Christian apologists often want to claim Newton’s scientific achievements, as the Christian foundation for European renaissance and scientific development, without telling naive masses that he was firmly against Trinity. To make my case further, I am borrowing some text from Wikipedia, from the page about Sir Isaac Newton:
He was appointed Lucasian Professor of Mathematics in 1669 on Barrow’s recommendation. In that day, any fellow of Cambridge or Oxford was required to become an ordained Anglican priest. However, the terms of the Lucasian professorship required that the holder not be active in the church (presumably so as to have more time for science). Newton argued that this should exempt him from the ordination requirement, and Charles II, whose permission was needed, accepted this argument. Thus a conflict between Newton’s religious views and Anglican orthodoxy was averted.
According to most scholars, Newton was a monotheist who believed in biblical prophecies but was Antitrinitarian. ‘In Newton’s eyes, worshiping Christ as God was idolatry, to him the fundamental sin’. Historian Stephen D. Snobelen says of Newton, “Isaac Newton was a heretic. But … he never made a public declaration of his private faith—which the orthodox would have deemed extremely radical. He hid his faith so well that scholars are still unravelling his personal beliefs.” Snobelen concludes that Newton was at least a Socinian sympathiser (he owned and had thoroughly read at least eight Socinian books), possibly an Arian and almost certainly an anti-trinitarian. In an age notable for its religious intolerance, there are few public expressions of Newton’s radical views, most notably his refusal to receive holy orders and his refusal, on his death bed, to receive the sacrament when it was offered to him.
In a view disputed by Snobelen, T.C. Pfizenmaier argues that Newton held the Arian view of the Trinity rather than the Western one held by Roman Catholics, Anglicans and most Protestants. Although the laws of motion and universal gravitation became Newton’s best-known discoveries, he warned against using them to view the Universe as a mere machine, as if akin to a great clock. He said, “Gravity explains the motions of the planets, but it cannot explain who set the planets in motion. God governs all things and knows all that is or can be done.”
Now, I will quote from a book, by Hadhrat Mirza Tahir Ahmad, the previous Head of the Worldwide, Ahmadiyya Muslim Community, Revelation, Rationality, Knowledge and Truth. The following is from the chapter of European Philosophy:
Scotus advises that the validity of one’s faith should be examined from time to time according to the dictates of rationality. If the two appear to be conflicting then one must follow reason. Thus reason will always hold an edge over faith.
This attitude is best illustrated in Newton’s (1642–1727) treatment of the Trinity. As long as he did not consciously and scientifically examine his inherited religious views, he continued to remain a devotee of the doctrine. But when at a later stage he decided to put his faith to the test of reason and rationality, he was left with no option but to reject the dogma of Trinity which in his view had failed the test of reason.
Thus he became the all-time greatest victim of the prejudices of the Christian church sacrificed at the altar of the cross. As a tribute to the genius of Newton, he was elected as a Fellow of the “College of the Holy and Undivided Trinity”, University of Cambridge, a post which he held for many years. In 1675 however, he was given the choice to either vacate his seat and keep his convictions, or to compromise his convictions and assert his orthodoxy under oath one last time in ordination.
But the “Holy and Undivided Trinity” itself stood in his way. His stubborn refusal to subscribe to the doctrine of Trinity cost him not only his fellowship, but also the handsome stipend of £60 a year. No small amount indeed, judging by the value of money in those days. He was dispossessed of his fellowship and chair from the university on the charge of heresy. The charge of heresy was levelled against him only because in Newton’s eyes worshipping Christ was idolatry, to him a fundamental sin. R.S. Westfall writes on Newton:
‘He recognized Christ as a divine mediator between God and humankind, who was subordinate to the Father Who created him.’
‘The conviction began to possess him that a massive fraud, which began in the fourth and fifth centuries, had perverted the legacy of the early church. Central to the fraud were the Scriptures, which Newton began to believe had been corrupted to support trinitarianism. It is impossible to say exactly when the conviction fastened upon him. The original notes themselves testify to earlier doubts. Far from silencing the doubts, he let them possess him.’
Hence, his faith in the Unity of God and rejection of the Trinity was based on his unbiased, honest investigation into the validity of Christian beliefs. There is many a note written in his own hand on the margins of his personal Bible:
‘Therefore the Father is God of the Son (when the Son is considered) as God.’
Thus concludes Westfall:
‘… almost the first fruit of Newton’s theological study was doubt about the status of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity.’