When Newton began working out
the physical laws of nature, he in a sense demolished this form of the
argument, for he gave an explanation of the motion of bodies according to
fundamental mechanical physical laws.
No appeal to direct divine intervention to move things around in space
But in another sense he only
reformulated the argument, for he assumed God was the architect of these
physical laws he had discovered.
Science could explain matter and motion without recourse to supernatural
forces, but these mechanical secondary forces were simply the out working of
structural conditions given by God at the creation.
As the scientific revolution
made many new discoveries, there was in fact more to work with theologically -
from God's book of nature.
But there came to be greater ambivalence about the place of natural
theology. Some scientists were
concerned that appeal to final causes might usurp attention to physical
causes. Science needed to preserve its
integrity and not be a "quarry" mined for theological arguments. And some orthodox theologians, on the other
hand, were concerned that natural theology might usurp revelation (Emerton
1989, p. 133).
Nevertheless most theologians,
philosophers and scientists (people like Francis Bacon, Robert Boyle, Rene
Descartes, and Issac Newton) assumed the legitimacy of natural theology. Francis Bacon, founder of the new scientific
approach, adopted Tertullian's view and wrote (in The Advancement of Learning
1605, 1.6.16), "God's two books are...first the Scriptures, revealing the
will of God, and then the creatures expressing his power; whereof the latter is
a key unto the former" (as quoted in Emerton 1989, p. 133).
Contributed by: Dr. Anna Case-Winters