Sir Isaac Newton: Rank Heretic

Well, with a title like that, you just had to click didn’t you?

What follows isn’t a longform takedown on Isaac Newton. However, I was incredibly surprised to read about Isaac Newton’s theological beliefs in a recent book that I reviewed, “Athanasius and His Legacy” by Thomas Weinandy and Daniel A. Keating, and I thought I would share what I learned. In that book, Weinandy and Keating considered modern challenges to Athanasius’s Trinitarian doctrine. That is where this rollercoaster ride began for me.

Isaac Newton is well known for his work in science and mathematics, as well as his philosophy. Most notably, he “discovered” the law of gravity. If you don’t know the story…well, I’m not going to recount it here. It involves an apple. Google is your friend. Alright. Back to the heresy.

According to Weinandy and Keating, Newton became engrossed in theology while a fellow of Trinity College in Cambridge. During his lengthy theological study, wherein he applied scientific methods of his day to the Scripture, Newton became highly skeptical about the status of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. He ultimately was convinced, “that the traditional Christian teaching on the full divinity of Christ and the Trinitarian understanding of God was “deeply flawed” (89). From here, he began to read heavily in the patristics and comes to an interesting conclusion: Athanasius was wrong and Arius was right.

According to the authors (and their work is heavily footnoted; please get a copy if you’re interested), Newton was convinced that Athanasius’s doctrine was a novel invention and the Pope aided and abetted Athanasius’s corruption. [Aside: No word on his 17 years in exile.] He goes so far as to say that the fundamental error of worshipping Christ as God is idolatry.

It doesn’t end there. Newton involved himself in a movement that came to be called the British Arians, and set out 12 points of his newfound Arianism. These are true Arians, not Unitarians or Socinians. They believe Christ to be a mediator, but he is not the monad God and is a created being. However, while his views are Arian, there’s no proof he was pro-Arius. It was more of an avowed anti-Athanasian view with a commitment to Arian belief. Because of Newton, the chair of mathematics was given a permanent exemption from holding to Christian orthodoxy.

This is where it gets extreme. Newton became obsessed with biblical prophecy, writing 4 commentaries on Daniel and Revelation. He became convinced that the “beast” in Revelation was the Roman Catholic Church (not uncommon in his time) and that the Nicene Creed of 381 represented the seventh seal of judgment. In his reading, the Whore of Babylon is the doctrine of the Trinity. Isaac Newton made Left Behind look like Calvin’s Institutes. Newton believed he was part of a faithful remnant standing against the perversion of Athanasius, Rome, and Trinitarianism.

So how did Newton get away with such views in an era dominated by the Church of England? Simple: he didn’t publish his views. Though Newton would mentor two of the most prominent proponents of British Arianism, he did not put his own views on the record for examination. Many of his fellow citizens who did publish such views lost their posts. While he shared his views in private, “Newton hid his theological views to preserve his place in society” (93). Additionally, he seemed to belief the doctrine was losing it’s hold anyway. Why risk it?

Frankly, I was stunned reading this. I certainly did not learn it in any history, science, or philosophy course. And now you know, too.

Isaac Newton was a heretic.

Best Yelp! Review Ever

Sometimes I use the review service Yelp! to find a good place to eat or fun things to do with friends. Today I found what will likely be my favorite review ever. The review is of Ford’s Theatre in Washington D.C.

Ford's Theater Yelp


Totally normal, right?

Until I saw the review.



Welp. That pretty much settles it, don’t you think?

After all, he is Honest Abe.

A reading plan for the Apostolic Fathers of the early church.

Originally written in 2014, this post has been updated to include the following information. You can now buy a Greek Reader for the Apostolic Fathers, so that you can practice your Greek and read the Fathers at the same time. I am proud to have contributed to this volume for Ignatius’s Letter to the Romans.

Ignatius. Clement. The Didache. The Shepherd of Hermas. Polycarp.

These may be names that you’ve heard.

In today’s church, it’s nearly guaranteed that these are men whose writings you haven’t read. The men were the noble leaders of the early church. Some of them were martyrs. Some, like The Didache, we teaching accepted by all, though not Canonical. The Shepherd of Hermas was the Pilgrim’s Progress of its time, though it likely carried even more weight than Bunyan’s great work. Those who wrote these works were persecuted. They were holy. They were imperfect.



I’ve often found myself wishing I knew the early church fathers writings better. When you ask who the ‘Fathers’ of the church are, often you will hear Augustine of Hippo, Athanasius, Gregory of Nyssa etc. Of course, these were fathers of the church. They were not, however, the Apostolic Fathers. The Apostolic Fathers were those who came only 1 or 2 generations away from the apostles themselves. It is widely believed that Polycarp was a disciple of the Apostle John himself!

Reading the works of such men is incredibly beneficial. It’s easy to get so narrow in my thinking as a 21st century post-Reformation Southern Baptist. It’s easy to get bogged down in logic. The fathers don’t think like I do. They don’t put emphases were I would put them. I find myself regularly rebuked as I read them. For example, their focus on the resurrection and ascension shames me when I so regularly forget to speak of these, opting instead of a cross-alone theology. The cross is our salvation, but so is the resurrection. Reading the fathers teaches me such things.

At the same time that I began to desire to know the early church writings better, I was told by one of my professors that practicing my Greek in a text I’m not familiar with would be helpful. Over a short period of time, I developed a 22 week reading plan for reading the church fathers a little at a time.

In this reading plan there are:

  • 3 short readings per week. No more than 10-20 minutes of reading at a time.
  • An optional 4-10 verses of Greek to translate.
  • No dates  given. Take it at your own pace!

The book that you should get if you want to do the plan is The Apostolic Fathers: Greek Texts and English Translations by Michael Holmes. This book has all of the letters compiled together with the Greek on the left page and the English on the right page.

You may be thinking, “I don’t need the Greek. I don’t read Greek. That’s a waste of my time!” I’d still advise getting that book in the hardback, but you can get the same English translations without the Greek in paperback by the same author here. [Note: if you get this version, my page numbers won’t match up. No worries. I included chapter/verse numbers.]

This is a great way to learn more about the Christian faith. Reading these would be a great activity for a small group or a reading club. I don’t agree with all they wrote. Not all of their interpretations are correct (nor are mine!). I do believe that, with a spirit of humility, I have a lot to learn from these men. You do, too.

Happy reading!