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A Theology of Everything

  • George V. Coyne S.J. (a1)
Abstract

The rise of natural theology in the seventeenth century did not originate in theology, but in science. It was not started by theologians trying from above to impress a religious perspective on science. On the contrary, the natural theology of the century of the Enlightenment began as a grass-roots movement among believing scientists who were convinced both that God's existence could be proved and some of His attributes described from below, that is, on the basis of the expanding world of scientific knowledge. Essentially they were arguing for the existence of a Deity whose direct intervention would explain the gaps in the scientific discourse. But this manner of reasoning made natural theology extremely vulnerable. It would clearly lose its power at the moment when the scientific discourse itself became sufficiently advanced to close the gaps by its own force.

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The online version of this article is published within an Open Access environment subject to the conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution license .
References
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1.Quoted in C. E. Raven (1953) Natural Religion and Christian Theology (Cambridge) I, 210 where the titles of the eight Bridgewater Treatises are also listed.
2.See Opticks, Query 31, in E. T. Whittaker (ed.) (1931) (London) p. 389.
3. See the fundamental studies by J. E. McGuire (1978) Newton on place, time and God: an unpublished source. British Journal for the History of Science, 11, pp. 114–129; and McGuire, J. E. (1978) Existence, actuality and necessity: Newton on space and time. Annals of Science, 35, pp. 463508.
4.Isaac Newton (1729) Principia, Scholium to the Definitiones, 5. In The Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, trans. A. Motte (London:).
5.Most of Bentley's letters are lost, but four letters from Newton have survived. They were first published as Four Letters from Sir Isaac Newton to Doctor Bentley containing some Arguments in Proof of a Deity (London, 1756). The most recent edition is in H. W. Turnbull (1961) The Correspondence of Isaac Newton (Cambridge) III, pp. 233–256. The first letter is from December 1692. Similarly, Newton later told his relative John Conduitt that he had written the Principia ‘not with a design of bidding defiance to the Creator but to enforce and demonstrate the power and superintendency of the supreme being’ (King's College Keynes MS 130 [6]).
6.H. W. Turnbull (1961) The Correspondence of Isaac Newton (Cambridge) III, p. 234.
7.Turnbull, H. W. (1961) The Correspondence of Isaac Newton (Cambridge) p. 235.
8.Turnbull, H. W. (1961) The Correspondence of Isaac Newton (Cambridge), 234.
9.Ray, J. (1691) The Wisdom of God Manifested in the Works of Creation (London: ▪).
10. (1744) The works of the Honourable Robert Boyle in Five Volumes to which is Prefixed the Life of the Author (London: ▪) IV, p. 579.
11.It was developed in particularly great detail in the Boyle's Lectures given in 1711–1712 by William Derham (1657–1735) and published in W. Derham (1713) Physico-Theology: or, a Demonstration of the Being and Attributes of God, from His Works of Creation, 7th edn, 1727 (London: ▪) Book IV, Ch. II, On Eye.
12.Paley, W. (1802) Natural Theology or the Evidence of the Existence of the Attributes of the Deity (London:). By 1820 the book had gone through 20 editions.
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European Review
  • ISSN: 1062-7987
  • EISSN: 1474-0575
  • URL: /core/journals/european-review
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