Math Nerd Theology


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 5; 145, Genesis 2:4-9 (10-15) 16-25, Hebrews 1:1-14, John 1:1-18

First, a short math lesson. When you square any number, positive or negative, the result is always a positive number: 3 x 3 = 9 and -3 x -3 = 9. Fairly straight forward, yes? (If not, don’t worry; there won’t be a quiz). However, some equations can’t be solved without finding the square root of a negative number. Since such a number does not exist, mathematicians invented an imaginary unit named i. Perhaps it’s more correct to say they discovered it; philosophers have debated for centuries whether mathematical concepts are invented or discovered. In either case, the square of i is -1. No one can hold up i fingers or charge $i for a pound of bananas, but i is necessary to calculate the square root of -9, which is 3i. 

End of math lesson. But what was the point?

The Gospel of John tells us that in the beginning, there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In the original Greek, John uses the term logos, which means “word” but also means “reason.” John’s logos is Christ, so John is claiming Christ has been present and co-existent with God from before the beginning of the world. How can this be? Like i, faith in the logos solves an otherwise impossible problem. John has no direct evidence for it, but he invents/discovers it to make sense of God’s relationship with the world expressed through Christ. Some may call it imaginary, but it is also necessary.

Critics of faith often mock it for lacking reason. If your faith comes under fire for being unreasonable, think of i (but not too hard, or your brain may start to itch). Just because something can’t be pointed to or counted doesn’t mean it’s not essential to the fabric of the universe. We don’t call the entire field of mathematics a sham because it relies on an “imaginary” unit. The claim of Hebrews 11:1 that “faith is the evidence of things unseen” is our version of i, the necessary but unknowable solution for morality, eternity, and the soul.

And we thought algebra would never be good for anything.

Comfort: Faith isn’t about seeing, but believing.

Challenge: Call your algebra teacher and apologize for not paying more attention.

Prayer: All powerful Creator, I thank you for being present in the world, though your mystery is beyond my understanding. Amen.

Discussion: Have you ever found a use for something you thought would be useless when you learned it?

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