Mathematics and Faith

Just how does an abstract discipline like mathematics find itself mixed up with a notion as difficult to pin down as that of faith. What is this thing called faith anyway? As far as I can see, I never saw faith walking around, nor was I ever able to touch it. As much as I might have wanted a heavy dose of faith as a Christmas present some years, I do not ever remember anyone telling me that they just picked me up a nice piece of faith in the local mall and got a great deal on it.

In the Book of Hebrews of the New Testament of the Bible we read in Chapter 11, Verse 1: “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen.” This has always been one of my favorite Bible verses I guess because of the profound implications of the statement. Faith has to be one of the greatest gifts with which God could have endowed man. Yet faith–in order to grow strong– is something that needs to be put into practice regularly, just like any other muscle in the body. Use it, or lose it, as the saying goes. Faith strengthens with use while it weakens through desuetude. Faith is simply not like some other tangible thing that you can get your finger around. Consequently, to embrace this elusive yet noble grace, man needs some kind of driver to bring faith to the surface of existence, a precursor, so to speak, which causes faith to bubble into one’s life and permits easy access to such.

But what is this so-called faith driver and how do we access it so as to be able to implement faith in our lives? Moreover, how can mathematics show us that faith is something real and consequently that God the Creator, as an extension of our faith, is really out there?

In short, belief is the key driver of faith. For that which we believe in no longer necessitates proof of its existence. Yet everything we believe in has required at some time or another–in some form or another–a giant leap of faith. And here is where mathematics, faith, and God all tie in together. Let me explain.

In 1931, a brilliant Austrian mathematician by the name of Kurt Gödel shocked the mathematical world with his now famous Incompleteness Theorems. Up to this time, mathematicians were working feverishly at formalizing the mathematical disciplines and trying to show that any rigorous mathematical system was consistent within itself provided that the axioms on which such system was built were solid. Kurt Gödel rocked this world with his theorems that showed that within any mathematical system there were necessarily inconsistencies and that there were theorems within the system that could neither be proved nor disproved. His seminal work at one point during his career even produced a proof which mathematically would validate God’s existence.

From the above discussion, we are starting to see–albeit superficially–some connections among mathematics, faith, and God. Gödel’s work helped show that mathematics is one giant leap of faith. Yet we see evidence of this leap of faith all around us. Just think of this the next time you go to start your car and try to ponder the interconnection between mathematics, science, and the process of igniting the engine. Yes, mathematics is all around us. Faith has crystallized into belief.

For me the previous exposition is easy to accept and believe. Having studied mathematics from the basic to the advanced levels, I have firmly come to believe that God speaks to us through mathematics and that His wisdom is strewn throughout the many realms of this field. Although for some it is impossible to conceive of an all-knowing power and creator, a dive into the myriad oceans of mathematics quickly makes one realize that it is no more difficult to conceive of such a One than to ponder the complexities and realities of this extraordinary subject.

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