Robert Boyle Speaks to Modern Christians

| By Ted Davis on Reading the Book of Nature

Delight in Creation book coverA few years ago, Calvin Theological Seminary undertook a major project, The Ministry Theorem, “committed to helping churches engage the wonders of science in the life of the church.” The resources they prepared are uniformly excellent, including a lovely little book, Delight in Creation, edited by Deb Haarsma (before she became president of BioLogos) and theologian Scott Hoezee. I gave a copy to my own pastor, who has read it with appreciation, and I urge readers to consider doing the same thing.

The book contains fifteen chapters, mostly written by scientists, engineers, and mathematicians about ideas and developments in their own fields. One exception is Andy Crouch’s chapter, “The Life of a Scientist.” Crouch is a writer, not a scientist, but his wife Catherine is a physicist at Swarthmore College, giving Andy much insight into his topic. The other exception is my essay, “Science and Faith of Robert Boyle,” in which I pretend to be Robert Boyle, presenting his own life and work to Christians today. As I tell readers at the start, I borrowed heavily and without attribution from Boyle’s writings, especially from two books I’ve already told you about, The Christian Virtuoso and A Free Enquiry into the Vulgarly Received Notion of Nature (here and here). This is my pastiche of Boyle, not Boyle himself. You will encounter many phrases lifted directly from his works, but also many passages that he did not actually write. Caveat lector: Anyone who quotes this work and passes it off as Boyle’s, is engaging in a fool’s errand!

Instead of telling you more about the essay, why not read it for yourself, here on our own site? We invite comments below.

Looking Ahead

Last year, I introduced readers some key ideas from one of the leading voices about Christianity and science, John Polkinghorne. I also helped BioLogos bring in another leading voice, Robert Russell. My next series will introduce readers to a third prominent Christian thinker, Lutheran theologian Ted Peters, a prolific and very thoughtful writer about many topics related to science and Christianity who serves as co-editor of the journal, Theology and Science. I’ll present edited excerpts from his classic essay, “On Creating the Cosmos,” about the doctrine of creation from nothing (creatio ex nihilo). Although originally published 26 years ago in a book from the Vatican Observatory, it remains timely and important. Be sure to join us for the conversation!


About the Author

Ted Davis

Ted Davis is Fellow of the History of Science for the BioLogos Foundation and Professor of the History of Science at Messiah College. A former high school science teacher, Ted studied history and philosophy of science at Indiana University, where his mentor was the late Richard S. Westfall, author of the definitive biography of Isaac Newton. With the English historian Michael Hunter, Ted edited The Works of Robert Boyle, 14 vols. (London: Pickering & Chatto, 1999-2000), but his interests include the whole 2000-year interaction of Christianity and science. Author of dozens of scholarly articles and essays, Ted is one of few historians who have written extensively about both the Scientific Revolution and modern America. He and his wife Kathy enjoy theater, music, and traveling to new places.