Newton's theology
Sun, 16 Mar 97 11:43:00 -0500

George Murhpy recently noted that Newton, as an
Arian, ought not be included in the proposed series
on famous Christian scientists.

I have myself written that Newton was an Arian, a view
I still tend toward, but serious questions about this have
recently been raised, on the very good grounds that a
genuinely historical study of his christology has not
been done hitherto. There are late MSS which suggest
strongly that Newton was not an Arian all of his life,
though he may have been one earlier.

This is found in an article by Thomas C. Pfitzenmaier,
"Was Isaac Newton an Arian?", Journal of the History
of Ideas (January 1997), 57-80. He sums up his argument
with the following conclusion: "rather than being an
Arian, Newton resembled more closely the fourth century
position of Eusebius and the Honoiousians who followed
him." (p. 75) Readers may be able to access this article
on line, at the JHI site (search the title of the journal
and it ought to come up.

Even if Newton were an Arian, I would argue that he ought
to be included in the series: lots of Christians prior
to the fourth century weren't Trinitarians (most of them,
probably), strictly speaking, and (I contend) some since
then haven't been, either: John Milton, e.g. The Trinity
isn't found explicitly in scripture, as Newton knew, and
in my opinion precise formulations of such ideas, though
important, are less important than genuine faith in the
saving power of the Lamb -- which Newton seems to have


Ted Davis
Professor of the History of Science
Messiah College
Grantham, PA 17027
717-766-2511, ext 6840