In May 2008, a letter written by Albert Einstein to philosopher Eric Gutkind was sold at auction in London. The letter contained some of the clearest statements on record of Einstein’s opinions on religious matters, i.e. his thoughts on God, the Bible, and the unique history of the Jewish people. The letter brought greater clarity in the debate that has raged among some concerning Einstein’s faith in the Creator God of the Bible or lack thereof. This debate has revealed a serious flaw in approach among some evangelicals in regards to their penchant for appealing to famous and influential people to validate various particular ideas or even the faith as a whole. Let me explore this with you briefly using a recent piece of electronic correspondence we received at ABR.
In response to an article entitled, Einstein and Intelligent Design, written by ABR staff member Stephen Caesar, a gentleman wrote to us the following [the statement is quoted without corrections to grammar and punctuation]:
It never ceases to amaze me how the religious try to enlist famous figures to try and give their superstition validity. I think this quote best expresses Einsteins view on god: ‘The word God is for me nothing more than the expression and product of human weaknesses, the Bible a collection of honourable, but still primitive legends which are nevertheless pretty childish. No interpretation no matter how subtle can (for me) change this.’
This is a direct quote from Einstein’s letter to Mr. Gutkind noted above, and is used effectively by the writer who is taking Mr. Caesar and ABR to task. In defense of Mr. Caesar’s article, however, it is important to note that the article is simply articulating that Einstein recognized that intelligent design was plainly seen in the cosmos, not random causation. Einstein did not believe in a personal God, but in "Spinoza's God, who reveals himself in the lawful harmony of all that exists, but not in a God who concerns himself with the fate and the doings of mankind" (Isaacson 2007).
In spite of this opinion, Einstein had a high view of Jesus Christ as expressed in his comments to interviewer, George Sylvester Viereck: "I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene.” You accept the historical existence of Jesus? “Unquestionably! No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life" (Isaacson 2007). Wow…that is quite a statement! But does it matter? In fact, is our complaintant actually correct in calling Christians to task for relying on statements of famous intellectuals to bring validity to our faith?
I am glad that Albert Einstein was honest about what he understood about the cosmos, that it was designed, and in his thoughts about Jesus Christ…which appear to be quite noble, though lacking true faith. But ultimately it matters little about his opinion on these concerns, since his opinions should never be the basis of any person’s belief in God or in Jesus Christ. Sometimes we hear presented the history of great scientists from the enlightenment to the present day as a kind of support to our faith in God, in the Bible, and in Christ. But what if NONE of these scientists believed in the historicity of the Bible, or that God is the Creator of the heavens and the earth? Would that matter to you? Should that matter to you?
Jesus asks each one of us, “Who do you say that I am?” And the Creator declares to us that He “looks down from heaven on the sons of men to see if there are any who understand, any who seek” after Him (Psalm 53:2). The Creator is looking for those who will come to Him to find the ultimate answers of our existence. Jesus is looking for those who are spiritually hungry, and who desire to know who He is. Indeed, we are told in Paul’s letter to the Colossians that in Christ “are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:3). Our friend who wrote us to complain of our appeal to Einstein to validate our faith fails to recognize that One much greater than Einstein is here….and that is Jesus Christ. The issue is not “who is Einstein and what did he say?”, but “who is Jesus Christ and what has He taught?” The writer’s own superstition in trusting in the opinions and philosophies of men will ultimately lead to spiritual death. But those who seek after God will find Him; those who call out to Jesus Christ will find the treasures of knowledge and understanding that only God can provide.
So we reason and we quote famous people, but we never should put our faith in the opinions of men. They will always fail. But God and His word in the Bible will never fail. And let us pray for those who mock us for our faith, that they would have the intellectual courage to “come reason together” and to seek after the personal, Creator God who designed us to be in a relationship with Him.
Isaacson, W. 2007. "Einstein and Faith." Time Online, 5 April.
Scripture quotations are taken from The New International Version of the Bible.
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