How math illumines our infinite God

John Van Sloten

Marta L.
January 7, 2014

I did my undergraduate degree in mathematics, including some rather advanced work in number theory, and one thing that struck me is the gap between someone who understands the rudiments of math well enough to do well on a standardized test and someone who understands just the kind of things you need to really use math to see God.

That's a lot of words, so let me see if I can boil it down. I studied math for years. I studied a particular type of math at an advanced level, to the point that I began to see the beauty of the order of reality, almost mystically. I think this definitely made me a better Christian and a better person. Would I have that same sort of quasi-mystical appreciation if I'd done well enough in Algebra II to score in the 98th percentile on a certain exam? Probably not, or at least not necessarily.

And I'm also not sure it needs to be math we're using here. I can see the glories of God in aesthetics, history, philosophy, literature, linguistics, biology, astrophysics - the list goes on. How these things will help me get an insight into God varies a great deal depending on the subject. What we need more than basic math competency (though we need that too, for a whole host of reasons!) is curiosity and a passion for all kinds of learning. It's worth saying, though, that means more than what comes to us naturally. Barbie was right, math is hard. That doesn't mean it (and so many other hard things) aren't worth the effort, and don't pay huge dividends when it comes to understanding God, ourselves, and this beautiful world we're part of.

John Van Sloten
January 8, 2014

Great comment Marta. I wholeheartedly agree… there is something about the depth of knowledge of any particular created thing that enhances the mystical possibilities. And for the record, I have also preached on "aesthetics, history, philosophy, literature, linguistics, biology, astrophysics - the list goes on." :- )

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