I was not a great mathematician. If you know me well at all I’m sure that surprised you!
Nonetheless, I have decided that math is beautiful, poetic, and mystical. That’s not a typo….
I have not always thought this. I used to resent math. It was that thing you had to do in school, but hated with a deep passion because it was “useless.”
I grant that I do not find myself using big algebraic equations on the daily as a pastor. I do, however, appreciate that those complicated algebraic equations (and the even more complicated ones they said I wasn’t smart enough to work with from higher order math classes) make possible the beauty of everything around me.
Also, math is ridiculously logical. It is more logical than Spock or Sheldon Cooper could have ever imagined. It is absurdly logical. In a great article (which I don’t fully understand) Dr. R. W. Hamming speaks of the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” You would think eventually the math would break down, but it doesn’t!!
I stand before an algebra book in awe of the eloquence of the equations. I stand before a whiteboard shivering in my boots at the vastness that is before me. I feel like the apostle Paul helps put this feeling into words well:
33 O the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord?
Or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him,
to receive a gift in return?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be the glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:33-36 NRSV)
Sometimes only poetry can capture the ecstasy of our experience. Here is a poem I wrote as I have dwelt on some of these ideas. It is called, “The Majesty of Math.” I pray it will bless you!
- Here is the article mentioned by Dr. R. W. Hamming.