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Math as proof of God

April 22, 2018

Yesterday I was at a math conference during which one of the presenters suggested that there is no ultimate mathematical “truth” for humans to discover, but rather that the field of mathematics and its definitions, proofs, and formulas are human inventions. His assertion set my mind to wondering. Is mathematics a human invention? Or could it be that there is indeed ultimate mathematical truth for us to discover and describe?

I pondered this question from a perspective of faith. I definitely believe that there is a higher power, and I’m pretty sure that I believe in the Christian God (I used to harbor a healthy dose of doubt about this, but most of my doubts have been quelled by the book The Reason for God by Timothy Keller, which I highly recommend to anyone who struggles with belief). In any case, whatever kind of higher power exists has created a beautiful, magnificent, and confounding world that humans of all walks of life have been attempting to describe, define, and explain for millennia.

Mathematicians, scientists, sociologists, theologians, laymen, children, etc.—we all endeavor to make sense of our surroundings and to answer questions about what makes the world turn and why we exist. And as we do, we discover phenomenal characteristics about ourselves and about nature that, I believe, only a perfect being could have created and that we, as humans, are in the process of gradually discovering. Take, for example, the fact that the Fibonacci sequence that many of us learn about in middle-school math class actually appears in the spirals of sunflower seeds. In fact, Fibonacci numbers appear in numerous instances in nature.

It is interesting to me that the more I have learned about math and science, the more I have come to believe in God—not less. Despite the intricate complexities of nature, it seems mathematicians and scientists are nonetheless able to discern underlying patterns and structures that bespeak a beautiful and awesome God that has instilled the world with magnificence and wonder in order to engage us in pursuit of His perfection. I truly believe that mathematics is just one of many ways in which we are able to get a glimpse of God.

If only I were able to pose such possibilities to my math students without being fired for proselytizing, perhaps they would begin to see math as an awesome subject rather than a dreaded one! I thought about that this morning in church and smiled to myself as a student of mine sat down just two seats to my right…

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