Tag Archives: Isaac Newton

Back to the Incarnation

Durer Nativity
The Nativity, by Albrecht Durer (1514)

Christmas has many customs, varying from culture to culture. One of the most annoying of our own culture’s customs is the annual attack of Friendly Fire, in which sincere Christian brothers and sisters exercise their freedom of conscience and expression, informing the rest of us that we are submitting to Satan by celebrating the holiday. They expect to shock us by declaring a) that Jesus wasn’t born on December 25, b) that Christmas is really a heathen holiday, and c) that Christmas really isn’t that important anyway.

These three points are enough to spark hours and days of debate. But I’ll confine myself to the third point just now.

It’s true that Christmas is not the chief festival of the Christian calendar. That honor belongs to Easter, the feast of the resurrection. And our disproportionate cultural emphasis on Christmas over Easter is indeed a sign of wrong priorities. However, that argument means less now that our culture has been pretty thoroughly de-Christianized. The secular, commercialized celebrations of Christmas and Easter aren’t really matters of much theological importance.

But it’s wrong to suggest that Christmas is not an important celebration.

Christmas is the Festival of the Incarnation (that means that God, a Spirit, became flesh, a human being with a heartbeat, blood pressure, and an alimentary system). And the Incarnation (as Ron Burgundy would put it) is “kind of a big deal.” Continue reading Back to the Incarnation

‘Quicksilver,’ by Neal Stephenson

Someone suggested Neal Stephenson’s books to me, so I figured I’d give one a try. I decided on his historical series, The Baroque Cycle. The first novel is Quicksilver.

What shall I say about this book?

What I liked: Very well written. Witty. Good, interesting characters. Excellent historical research on view. A grand artistic vision undergirding all (which seems to be to give us a much-needed introduction to the history of the ideas that eventually produced digital computing).

The central character in Quicksilver is Dr. Daniel Waterhouse, a 17th Century Puritan and scientist. As a boy he watched Charles I being executed. As a young man he roomed with Isaac Newton at Cambridge and was involved with the beginnings of the Royal Society. Through him we observe the actions of the scientists who were inventing modern science, as well as the machinations of the court of Charles II.

Then the story takes a detour, and we follow the adventures of Jack Shaftoe, an English adventurer and mercenary, who rescues a beautiful harem slave, Eliza, at the siege of Vienna. Together with her he sets off on a journey across the German principalities toward the Netherlands, during which they become acquainted with the mathematician Leibniz.

And then back to London and Dr. Waterhouse. Continue reading ‘Quicksilver,’ by Neal Stephenson