Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Faith is like the Square Root of Minus One

Jesus is The Truth, the wellspring and yardstick for all truth and the Creator of all things both visible and invisible.

It follows therefore, that when anyone reaches the very pinnacle of their particular discipline they will find themselves looking into the face of Jesus.
Thus all disciplines, whether Architecture, Medicine, Accounting, Psychology, History and all the rest will ultimately be found to subsume seamlessly under His Lordship.

Theology is indeed the ‘Queen of the Sciences,’ (though not many campuses would acknowledge this in our day) and ‘The fear of God is the beginning of Wisdom.’

This is why Scripture in employing metaphors to illustrate spiritual truths finds them ready to hand in the fields of agriculture, medicine, biology, philosophy, meteorology and many more.

Which leads me to the discipline of Mathematics.
Could one not find illustrations from mathematics which would bring to light spiritual truths.
One could call this synthesis of Theology and Mathematics, “Theomatics.”

Well that rolls off the tongue quite nicely, but it would need to include some real arithmetic anomalies.
For example the Marriage Institution which declares that “—the two shall become one flesh.” Would have to be rendered, 1 + 1 = 1
And the doctrine of the Trinity would need to be, 1 + 1 + 1 = 1

This really doesn’t look like a promising line of theological exploration.

However, The square root of minus one is an intriguing mathematical concept which might just come to our aid in helping us get our heads around some Biblical Brain teasers.

Most people know that if you multiply +1 by itself you will get +1
And if you multiply –1 by itself you will also get +1
So the square root of +1 (√1) could be either +1 or –1
So what then is the square root of –1 (√-1) ?
Clearly it can’t be either +1 or –1

The mind does a back flip in trying to visualise the answer.
For this reason this was sometimes termed an imaginary number until mathematicians objected to this term pointing out that although difficult to conceptualise it was not only real but very useful and effective in certain applications.
Thus the square root of –1 became abbreviated to the symbol  i and it is termed not an imaginary number but a complex number.
It is used extensively in vector arithmetic.
We must explain that unlike a number which has only magnitude, a vector is an entity which has both magnitude and orientation.
Now what is noteworthy, is that if a vector is multiplied by i that is the square root of minus one, it has the effect of swinging that vector through 90 degrees without altering its magnitude.
Thus, if a certain vector of say 1 metre in length and lying in a horizontal plane, was initially oriented to point North, after multiplying it by i it would point East. Multiply it by i again and it will now point South and so on.

How might this help our understanding of ‘Faith’:
Scripture states that, “—God has given to every man a measure of faith.” (Rom. 12. 3)
Thus from this text, faith is a gift from God for which man can claim no merit.
Yet Hebrews 11 verse 6 declares that, “—without faith it is impossible to please Him.”
Here, clearly God is pleased when we exercise faith, for it would make no sense for God to be pleased with a gift He had given with no activity on man’s part.
Also Jesus commends the centurion for his great faith and upbraids the disciples for their ‘little faith’

Ephesians 2.8 reads: For by grace we are saved through faith, not of yourselves it is a gift of God, not of works lest any man should boast.
Herein lies the tension between Calvin and Arminius:
The pure Reformed position would be that both the grace and the faith with which the grace is appropriated are gifts of God, for if faith must be exercised with volition by man then it becomes a work and man may claim merit for it and we know no merit can attach to man in respect of his salvation.
To Arminius, the grace is the gift, but it must be appropriated by the exercise of our faith, but the objection remains that if volition is employed in such exercise, this becomes a meritorious work.

But what if faith is a complex concept, neither work nor gift or perhaps both at the same time, just as the square root of minus one is a complex number whose answer is neither +1 or –1 or perhaps both at the same time.
So complex is the relationship between gift and works in the entity called faith that it defies conceptualization.
Yet difficult as it is to conceive, its effects are abundantly manifest for it can change the orientation of a person.
Thus a person coming to faith in Christ will experience a change of orientation – once hell-bound he is now Heaven-bound, once afar off, he is now brought near by the blood of Christ.

This might help explain Jesus imperative to Nicodemus, “You must be born again,” while shortly afterwards he declares that the wind (that is the Spirit) blows where He wills: quite unpredictable and beyond man’s control.

In future when one encounters a conundrum like this in Scripture, one need simply say, “Ah well, it’s just like the square root of minus one, - incomprehensible but effective.”

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