If you google “Einstein and Christianity” you will discover an unseemly feud between Christians who want to pretend Einstein was a Christian and atheists who want to insist he was an atheist. Everyone wants Einstein and his genius to be on their side to give them credibility. The truth about Einstein is actually much more interesting – and, I submit, significant.
Einstein was a brilliant scientist. He was not, however, a brilliant theologianâ¦ and it may be unfair that people expect him to be. Theology was not his field of study. What is significant is that science pushed Einstein as far as it could towards God. Einstein’s scientific study convinced him of the existence of God. It gave him good reason to believe in a higher being. However, although he is firmly convinced of the historical reality of Jesus Christ, Einstein sometimes describes himself as an agnostic (someone who is unsure of the existence of God.)[i] However, he made it 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 small child entering a huge library filled with books in several languages. The child knows that someone must have written these books. He doesn’t know how. He does not understand the languages ââin which they are written. The child vaguely suspects a mysterious order in the books but does not know what it is. This is, it seems to me, the very attitude of the most intelligent human being towards God..[iii]
In view of such harmony in the cosmos, which I, with my limited human mind, am able to recognize, there are still people who say that there is no God. But what really makes me angry is that they cite me to support such views.[iv]
I want to know how God created this worldâ¦ I want to know his thoughts. The rest are details.[v]
Let us now turn 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, linked to reason and not to feelings, impresses me as having much more weight. This stems from the extreme difficulty or rather the impossibility of conceiving this immense and wonderful universe, including man with his ability to look far back and far into the future, as a result of chance or d ‘a blind necessity. In reflecting thus, I feel compelled to seek a root cause having an intelligent mind to some extent analogous to that of man; and I deserve to be called 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 folly of modern materialist philosophers. The more I study nature, the more I am amazed by the work of the Creator. I pray while I’m busy at my work in the lab.[viii]
Scottish scientist James Clerk Maxwell (1831 – 1879) was responsible for formulating classical electromagnetic theory. He wrote:
Science is incapable of reasoning about the creation of matter itself out of nothing. We reached the extreme limit of our thinking powers when we admitted that because matter cannot be eternal and exist on its own, it must have been created..[ix]
Arno Penzias and his colleague Robert Wilson discovered the cosmic microwave background radiation left behind by the âBig Bangâ. They received a Nobel Prize for their work in 1978. Arno Penzias wrote:
If there is a bunch of fruit trees, it can be said that whoever created these fruit trees wanted apples. In other words, by looking at the order in the world we can deduce a goal and from the goal we begin to have some knowledge of the Creator, the Planner of it all. So that’s how I look at God. I look at God through the works of his hands and these works involve intentions. From these intentions I get an impression of the Almighty.[x]
Werner Heisenberg (1901 – 1976) was a prominent German quantum physicist. He wrote:
Over the course of my life, I have repeatedly been led to reflect on the relationship between these two areas of thought. (sciences and religions), because I could never doubt the reality of what they indicate.[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 history’s greatest minds – and allowing him to point you to God.[i] Alice Calaprice, The ultimate quotable Einstein. Princeton NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010), p.340. Einstein said so in a letter to Mr. Berkowitz on October 25, 1950. [ii] Walter Isaacson, Einstein: his life and his universe. (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2008), 390. [iii] Albert Einstein, “Notes for an autobiography”, pp. 9-12 in Saturday Literature Review, (New York: November 26, 1949), 9. [iv] Alice calaprice The extended quotable Einstein, (Princeton University Press, 2000), 214. [v] Albert Einstein, quoted in Timothy Ferris, Maturity 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 vol [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 deathbed?” The literary digest (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, October 18, 1902), Vol. 25, No. 16, 490. [ix] James Clerk Maxwell “The theory of molecules”, pp. 276-290 in Popular science monthly, January 1874, vol. IV, No. 79, 289. [x] Arno Penzias, pp. 183 – 202 in “The God in whom I believe”, Joshua Haberman (ed.), (New York, Maxwell Macmillan International, 1994) 184. [xi] Werner Heisenberg, Across borders, Peter Heath (tr.), (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1974), p.213. [xii] Freeman Dyson, Disturb the universe (New York: Harper & Row, 1979), 250.
Dr Nick Hawkes is a scientist, pastor, apologist, writer and broadcaster. He also describes himself as a distracted, slightly obsessive, pathetically weak man from cancer and chemo, who has experienced and needs to experience the grace of God every day.
Nick has a book coming out Fly above the storm in which he draws on his cancer experience to encourage anyone who goes through a storm in life to find rest and hope in God. He offers a 40 day retreat to refresh and strengthen and find deep peace in God. It will be available in November.
He blogs and records podcasts on nickhawkes.net
Nick shared his life story at Eternity https://www.eternitynews.com.au/good-news/deadly-storms-heroin-addicts-cancer-and-my-faith/