Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date

6-1-2001

Abstract

In keeping with the mission of this organization to explore the relationship of faith to our discipline, I would like to take this opportunity to investigate the relationship, if any, between mathematics and worship. There have been throughout history, at least since Pythagoras, connections made between the mathematical and the theological. Many of these such efforts have followed the Pythagorean cult in deifying number, thus making mathematics the object of worship. Othes have effectively situated theology in subservience to mathematical reason. However, these are not the only alternatives.

Once we admit the possibility of a connection between mathematics and theology, which must be an instance of the informing relationship between faith and reason, some important questions arise. First, which informs which: Does our faith constrain the mathematical structures we are willing to posit exist? Or, does our understanding of mathematics illuminate and expand our potential comprehension of the Divine (or even demonstrate God's existence)? Is there a mystical secret nature to numbers that could unlock access to Divine knowledge and power? What is the origin and nature of mathematics? Does it exist in the Mind of God? Is God constrained by the laws of Logic? Is mathematics simply an artifact of the structure of the universe? Is mathematics the product of the pure reason of a disembodied human mind? Is mathematics a socio-historical construction held within the collective consciousness or our culture? Is mathematical knowledge conditioned by the limitations of the physical bodies we inhabit?

While answers to these questions are certainly of interest to us, and I will visit some of them in the course of this investigation, the question of immediate regard here is whether there can be a proper role for mathematics in worship.

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