Robert Boyle On God

Sir Robert Boyle (1627-1691), founder of Modern Chemistry

Boyle’s most significant religious works are Some Considerations Touching the Style of the Holy Scriptures (1661), The Excellency of Theology, Compared with Natural Philosophy (1674), and The Christian Virtuoso (1690). In his will Robert Boyle left funds for eight annual lectures (the famous Boyle Lectures, which still continue) “for proving the Christian Religion against notorious Infidels.”

1.  “When with bold telescopes I survey the old and newly discovered stars and planets, when with excellent microscopes I discern the unimitable subtility of nature’s curious workmanship; and when, in a word, by the help of anatomical knives, and the light of chemical furnaces, I study the book of nature, I find myself oftentimes reduced to exclaim with the Psalmist, ‘How manifold are Thy works, O Lord! In wisdom hast Thou made them all!’ ” (Boyle, as cited in Woodall 1997, 32).

2.  In The Excellency of Theology (1674), Boyle stated: “The vastness, beauty, orderliness of heavenly bodies, the excellent structure of animals and plants, and other phenomena of nature justly induce an intelligent, unprejudiced observer to conclude a supreme, powerful, just, and good Author.” (Boyle, as cited in Seeger 1985, 183-184).

3.  Boyle never saw any conflict between the Christian religion and Philosophy. (By the term “Philosophy” seventeenth-century writers mean what we understand by the concept “Science” today; see Woodall 1997). Boyle wrote: “If we lay aside all the irrational opinions, that are unreasonably fathered on the Christian religion, and all erroneous conceits repugnant to Christianity, which have been groundlessly fathered upon Philosophy, the seeming contradictions betwixt Divinity and true Philosophy, will be but few, and the real ones none at all.” (Boyle, as cited in Woodall 1997, 32).