If you Google ‘Einstein and Christianity’ you will discover an unseemly squabble between Christians wanting to claim Einstein was a Christian, and atheists who want to insist he was an atheist. Each wants Einstein, and his brilliance, to be on their side to lend them credibility. The truth concerning Einstein is actually much more interesting – and, I submit, significant.
Einstein was a brilliant scientist. He was not, however, a brilliant theologian…and it is perhaps unfair for people to expect him to be one. Theology was not his area of study. What is significant is that science took Einstein as far as it could toward God. Einstein’s scientific study convinced him of God’s existence. It gave him good reasons to believe in a higher being. However, although he was firmly convinced of the historical reality of Jesus Christ, Einstein sometimes described himself as an agnostic (someone who isn’t sure about God’s existence.)[i] However, he made it quite clear that he was not, and never had been, an atheist (someone who is convinced that there is no God.)[ii] Here are some of his quotes:
I’m not an atheist, and I don’t think I can call myself a pantheist. We are in the position of a little child entering a huge library filled with books in many languages. The child knows someone must have written those books. It does not know how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child dimly suspects a mysterious order in the books but doesn’t know what it is. That, it seems to me, is the attitude of even the most intelligent human being toward God.[iii]
In view of such harmony in the cosmos, which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are yet people who say there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they quote me for the support of such views.[iv]
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I want to know how God created this world …I want to know His thoughts. The rest are details.[v]
Let’s turn now to other distinguished scientists.
Charles Darwin (1809 – 1882) was an English naturalist who gave scientific evidence for biological evolution. He wrote:
I have never been an atheist in the sense of denying the existence of God.[vi]
Another source of conviction in the existence of God, connected with the reason and not with the feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This follows from the extreme difficulty or rather impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his capacity of looking far backward and far into futurity, as the result of blind chance or necessity. When thus reflecting I feel compelled to look to a First Cause having an intelligent mind in some degree analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called a Theist.[vii]
The French biochemist, Louis Pasteur (1822 – 1882) was one of the fathers of modern medicine. He wrote:
Posterity will one day laugh at the foolishness of modern materialistic philosophers. The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. I pray while I am engaged at my work in the laboratory.[viii]
The Scottish scientist, James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879) was responsible for formulating the classical electromagnetic theory. He wrote:
Science is incompetent to reason upon the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We have reached the utmost limit of our thinking faculties when we have admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and self-existent, it must have been created.[ix]
Arno Penzias and his colleague Robert Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation left over from the ‘Big Bang.’ They were awarded a Nobel Prize for their work in 1978. Arno Penzias wrote:
If there are a bunch of fruit trees, one can say that whoever created these fruit trees wanted some apples. In other words, by looking at the order in the world, we can infer purpose and from purpose we begin to get some knowledge of the Creator, the Planner of all this. This is, then, how I look at God. I look at God through the works of God’s hands and from those works imply intentions. From these intentions, I receive an impression of the Almighty.[x]
Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976) was an eminent German quantum physicist. He wrote:
In the course of my life I have repeatedly been compelled to ponder on the relationship of these two regions of thought (science and religion), for I have never been able to doubt the reality of that to which they point.[xi]
Freeman Dyson (1923 – 2020, theoretical physicist and mathematician) wrote:
The more I examine the universe and study the details of its architecture, the more evidence I find that the universe in some sense knew we were coming.[xii]
I hope you enjoyed reading the wisdom of some of the finest minds in history – and have allowed it to point you to God.
[i] Alice Calaprice, The Ultimate Quotable Einstein. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), p.340. Einstein said this in a letter to M. Berkowitz, 25th October, 1950.
[ii] Walter Isaacson, Einstein: His Life and Universe. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008), 390.
[iii] Albert Einstein, “Notes for an Autobiography,” pp.9-12 in Saturday Review of Literature, (New York: November 26, 1949), 9.
[iv] Alice Calaprice The Expanded Quotable Einstein, (Princeton University Press, 2000), 214.
[v] Albert Einstein, quoted in Timothy Ferris, Coming of Age in the Milky Way (New York: Morrow, 1988), 177.
[vi] Charles Darwin in a letter first published in 1887 by his son Francis Darwin (F. Darwin [ed.], The Life and Letters of Charles Darwin, 2 vols [London, 1887, Vol 1], 304).
[vii] Charles Darwin, On the Origin of Species By Means of Natural Selection, J. Carroll (ed.), (New York: Broadview Texts, 2003), 443.
[viii] Louis Pasteur, quoted in an article entitled “Is Darwinism On Its Death-bed?” The Literary Digest (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, 18 October 1902,) Vol. 25, No 16, 490.
[ix] James Clerk Maxwell “The Theory of Molecules,” pp.276-290 in The Popular Science Monthly, January, 1874, Vol. IV, No 79, 289.
[x] Arno Penzias, pp.183 – 202 in ‘The God I Believe In,’ Joshua Haberman (ed.), (New York, Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994) 184.
[xi] Werner Heisenberg, Across the Frontiers, Peter Heath (tr.), (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1974), p.213.
[xii] Freeman Dyson, Disturbing the Universe (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 250.
Dr Nick Hawkes is a scientist, pastor, apologist, writer and broadcaster. He also describes himself as an absent-minded, slightly obsessive man who is pathetically weak due to cancer and chemo, who has experienced, and needs to experience, the grace of God each day.
Nick has written a book Soar above the Storm in which he draws on his experience of cancer to encourage anyone walking through a storm in life to find rest and hope in God. It offers a 40-day retreat to be refreshed and strengthened and find deep peace in God. Order it at Koorong.
He blogs and records podcasts at nickhawkes.net
Nick told his life story to Eternity https://www.eternitynews.com.au/good-news/deadly-storms-heroin-addicts-cancer-and-my-faith/