Concordia Sententiae

 

    The universe which we live in has order. From the microscopic to macroscopic levels, every measure of existence displays

 incredible and unequivocal wonder. On an intergalactic level, the heavens dance to a celestial beat; at Planck scale, the

components of matter arrange themselves to a probabilistic rhythm. From complex subatomic interplay comes everything that we

know and cherish in life. Without order, matter and energy would devolve into absolute chaos. There would be nothing, there

would have always been nothing, and there would forever be nothing. The existence we know would have never arose. However,

we are. We exist. We live out our lives in an ordered universe completely hospitable to life.

 

    Throughout the ages, there have been two explanations put forth for the miraculous attribute of order, both with wide

ranging interpretations. The first is that all of creation was the product of supernatural force. The second is that mathematical

 laws deep in the fabric of reality govern all of existence. As a human, I have chosen both of these views. I believe that a

being outside of space/time crafted the universe as He desired, forging into its pillars mathematical principles and laws. I

believe He governs and maintains those laws, directly involved with His creation. I profess faith in Jesus Christ, and I find His

principles to have elegance and compassion beyond compare. His presence, in the depths of the universe and the chambers of my

heart, has defined my life. I am a Christian, and I find mathematics to be the workmanship of God.

 

    To many, mathematics and its inherent logic define reason, whereas faith of any sort implies irrationality. In fact,

Richard Dawkins, a prominent Atheist evangelist, even went so far to say, when speaking of religion, that "Faith is the great

cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of,

the lack of evidence" (Dawkins). These thoughts, though popular in the public eye, lack reasonable merit. As will be shown, both

math and Christianity call upon the need to think and evaluate evidence.

 

    As a studious math major, I have been and currently am being trained to think logically. I must find how to set out from point

A and arrive at point B without taking any "mathemagical" shortcuts along the way.  I cannot state that there are an infinite number

 of prime numbers-- I must prove that the set of prime numbers is infinite. Similarly, I cannot accept the statement that "all

numbers which are not prime can be expressed as a product of prime numbers" without being shown mathematical proof. I must adhere to

the principles and laws of order and logic that I have come to understand.  From basic axioms, such as X = X, I have honed my

understanding of mathematics through thinking and evaluating the evidence at hand.

 

    As a practicing Christian, I have been and currently am being trained to think like Christ. I must find how to set out from point

A and arrive at point B without straying from the path of faith. I cannot make blind statements about what God wants out of my life

without backing them up through prayer and Biblical knowledge. Similarly, I cannot accept such statements from others unless they are

Biblically sound. I must adhere to the principles and laws of faith and order that God has helped me to understand.  From basic

Christian knowledge, such that Christ died for my sins (1 Peter 3:18), I have honed my understanding of  what it means to follow

Christ by thinking and evaluating evidence.

 

    In both math and my faith, I must think and evaluate evidence. I cannot accept a claim unless it proves true based on the

fundamental assumptions of either field. Unless I exercise reason and logic at all times, I will not find success in my endeavors.

To claim, as is popularly ascribed to Mark Twain, that "Faith is believing something you know ain't so," or like Richard Dawkins that

"The meme for blind faith secures its own perpetuation by the simple unconscious expedient of discouraging rational inquiry" (Dawkins),

is to propose a belief without a strong, reasoned foundation.

 

    Reason is not, as Richard Dawkins seems to think, a shining objective testament to truth. Reason is the ability to negotiate

information while staying true to the underlying assumptions of a given field. Rationality is an attribute that arises from consistency

of reason, refusing to believe what you know is false. Claiming that faith violates these principles entails redefining the words

themselves, and, fundamentally, projecting personal beliefs.

 

    Through my own "rational inquiry," I find mathematics and the Christian faith to both require extensive degrees of reason in order

to exercise agency.  No statements will be accepted in mathematics unless they can be backed up with mathematical facts and logical

reasoning. No statements should be accepted in the Christian community unless they can be backed up through biblical knowledge and

logical reasoning. Unless I am educated in the underlying basics of both fields, my ability to exercise agency drops to nil. Any and all

rhetorical success requires reason and consistency.

 

    Success, though, is quite different in these two fields. In math, success is not so much defined as "getting the right answer" as it

is "getting the right answer in a logical way." Students with little taste for mathematics dread the term, "show your work," and would

rather just write down the correct answer and be on their way. The teacher, the primary audience, has nothing to grade; for all they know

the answer was just copied down from the back of the book. As a result, effective agency has not been produced, and a lower than desired

grade has been produced. Without demonstrating the process by which the answer was derived, there has been no success at all.

 

    In Christianity, success cannot even be measured. There is no specified end goal to reach, thus there is no process to show how one

got there. The idea is to do what God calls you to do, and to go where He asks you to go. What could be utter failure in the eyes of the

individual might be a resounding success for God. Likewise, what could be considered a great success for the individual might be counted

as loss in God's eyes. As a Christian, I must act by faith, in faith and for faith. I must do what is biblically sound while maintaining

an active relationship with God. Aiming for success, then, is shooting for a reasoned and rational interaction with the world while walking

with Christ at all times, and taking on His agency.

 

    Agency is often pushed as a personal tool for individuals to take control of their situation and affect change in their circumstance.

In this case, agency arises from within and reflects personal feelings and desires. This agency is then used in an attempt alter one's

surroundings. In mathematics, however, there are no changes to be made, only connections to be discovered. In Christianity, the personal

desire to affect change must diminish in order to take on the greater will of God.

 

    Within mathematics, individuals exercise agency in respect to proposing a path from point A to point B. Traveling that path, however,

requires that the individual take on an agency greater than themselves. The path does not come from internal efforts, it forms from the

external existence of mathematical law. Though I exercise agency when I choose where I begin and end, I must traverse the agency of an

outside source and record its workings in order to present my case in an acceptable form to my mathematical community. If I claimed that

personal agency was exercised at all times, I would be claiming, with great arrogance, that I constructed the laws by which I worked, and,

ultimately, constructed the connection I found as opposed to discovering it.

 

    In Christianity, the entire goal is to forsake personal agency and take on the will and purposes of God. Agency is exercised in choosing

to follow Christ and stay on the path He has planned out. Where that path goes and just how it's traveled is entirely dependent on Him, an

outside source. Only by following Christ can I present acceptable statements and actions to my Christian community. If I were to claim that

any success or work of God was by my own doing, I would be in fatal conflict with my own beliefs. Only by God, an external source, can

effective agency be produced.

 

    The outside sources in math and Christianity are extraordinarily compatible. Christianity presupposes the existence of an omnipotent,

omniscient, and omnipresent being known as God. Based on that presupposition, Christianity makes statements and claims about God by way of

divine inspiration of scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). The first and foremost of which is that God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1),

and that He created them to His specifications (Genesis 1). In short, God designed and ordered the universe. Math is based on axioms such as

the law of identity, that an object is what it is and will remain so, and that sets, collections of those objects, interact in stable ways. In

other words, math is based on the universe being ordered and understandable. Math, considered on its own, is unable to justify the truth value

of its axioms. Considering mathematics in light of Christianity, however, allows it to take on the foundation of God's design and His willful

ordering of the cosmos. Christianity implies a method of ordering and foundation of laws; math is a description of a particular aspect of those

laws.  

 

    Perhaps the greatest similarity between mathematics and Christianity is that of prayer. In Christianity, prayer is used to connect with God,

something far greater than one's self. With prayer, one intends to communicate with God. To reach out to Him and maintain the relationship

that is such an integral component of the Christian existence. In mathematics, there is also an intent to communicate with a higher power.

When a proof is written or sought, when a fundamental connection between two objects is desired, one must call on the greater power of mathematical

law. The yearned for connection exists independently of mankind, and the process by which it's sought is much akin to prayer. This idea is not to

be confused with the prayers students murmur in classrooms when faced with an insurmountable problem-- This is the kind of prayer that a

mathematician weaves into his work. Prayer unites these two fields as they both yearn to understand and communicate with deeper truths.

 

    Some, like Richard Dawkins, might say that all this talk about similarities is well and good, but it all breaks down because there is one

critical flaw in the reasoning: Mathematics is based on solid facts whereas Christianity is based on wishful thinking and unverified stories.

Mathematics, after all, can make a truth claim and back it up with a factual explanation. Christianity just makes claim after claim without any

rational justification. Such a counterargument, while persuasive on the surface, is fundamentally flawed.

 

    The argument bases itself in another world view: That there is an objective existence apart from mathematics and Christianity that can judge

and compare both. The counterargument imposes another belief system upon Christianity and says that, according to its measurements, Christianity

does not measure up in the same way that mathematics does. In logic, this type of argument is known as assuming what you are trying to prove. This

skeptical worldview sets itself apart from the Christian worldview, basing itself on a different set of fundamental assumptions, and proceeds to

find Christianity false. The claims that Christianity makes, however, are fully justified within the Christian worldview. They are derived from

scripture, which is inspired by God. God has justified the claims, He has proven the propositions. The only way to claim that that Christianity’s

foundation is unjustified is to assume its falsity. Math, when followed back to its fundamental foundation, would have to be found unjustified and

a matter of wishful thinking as well. Math is "factual" because of the belief system that makes it factual. There is no argument that justifies

why math is true. An argument asserting that math and Christianity cannot be compared would require an absolute understanding of the entirety of

reality, something we don't, and probably can't, have.

 

    Of course, the little straw man I've made out of Dr. Dawkins might go further and say that there are direct contradictions between science and

biblical truths. He could point to evolution, or the disorder of cells and defects of the human body, or even to the age of the earth. Perhaps, in

Dawkins' mind, he's right: The Bible really is a defunct piece of ancient religious tradition; just one more failed attempt for humanity to make

sense of the world. Therefore, any comparisons made between math and Christianity are flawed. The Bible, however, is not a science book. The Bible

chronicles God's interaction with humankind and demonstrates the kind of life He hopes that we will choose to lead. It is a story of a loving

creator that brought the world hope and salvation out of unconditional love (John 3:16). There are no contradictions. There is nothing that

conflicts with or stands in the way of the comparisons made.

 

    As a math student, I do my best to understand mathematical theory and seek the connections I am asked to find. Sometimes they are elusive;

more often than not they stare me right in the face and I am unable to see them. The way may be obscured, but I know the path is there and I do

my best to see its telltale signs. As a Christian, I try to forsake personal agency and seek the will of God. I do my best to understand my faith

and live it out in a way that serves others and points the way to Christ. Like math, the way is often hard to find, but I know it's there and I do

my best to find it. Both paths are intangible, but both may be found

through careful consideration.

 

    All of this is only possible because of order. The universe remains stable, beautiful, and boundless. Within order, I have found deeper order.

Symbols and mathematical scripture that shine light on every facet of existence, as well as a firm and magnificent foundation to base my

understanding. In both my passions, mathematics and Christianity, I reach for something greater than myself and I am not left wanting. They are

both so interwoven with the essence of existence that they appear to only be different perspectives of the same infinite masterpiece. Perhaps they

are simply two waves resonating in perfect harmony, complementing one another and crying out to the infinite glory of God.

 

 

Works Cited

 

Dawkins, Richard. "Quotes." RichardDawkins.net. 11 Jun 2008        

<http://richarddawkins.net/quotes>.

 

The Bible. King James Version.