by Al Cornell

As with dimensions, the number three does not exhaust the supply of external witnesses. However, allow me to grapple with words to try to scratch the surface of why these three contain apologetic potency.

They differ in the vastness of their audiences. Mathematics appeals to a rather select audience, yet the logic of numbers undergirds the concept of a rational universe for many. The vibe of cosmic splendor is universal, reaching mankind everywhere. The Bible’s impact depends on translation and distribution. At best, it works only nominally in the lives of those who lack direct access to either reading or hearing it.

Subtitle 1

There is something about mathematics that goes beyond burning the midnight oil in an attempt to wrap brain cells around multiplication, trigonometry, or differential equations. Why are great physicists all excellent mathematicians? Why could they not be linguists or humanists or politicians? Of course, it is because there is something mathematical about the universe.

Nearly 2,400 years ago, Plato said, “God ever geometrizes.” And in 1960, Noble Laureate Eugene Wigner wrote of the “unreasonable effectiveness of mathematics.” In his article, Wigner explained, “The miracle of appropriateness of the language of mathematics for the formulation of the laws of physics is a wonderful gift for which we neither understand nor deserve.”

Here is an example of that effectiveness from Is God a Mathematician? by Mario Livio: “Newton observed a falling apple, the Moon, and tides on the beaches (I’m not even sure he ever saw those!), not mathematical equations. Yet he was somehow able to extract from all of these natural phenomena, clear, concise, and unbelievably accurate mathematical laws of nature.” Later Livio wrote, “Concepts and relations explored by mathematicians only for pure reasons — with absolutely no application in mind — turn out decades (or sometimes centuries) later to be unexpected solutions to problems grounded in physical reality.”

The point of the unexpected usefulness of mathematics in the physical universe is echoed by Ian Stewart in Why Beauty is Truth: A History of Symmetry, “The astonishing thing is that the best mathematics usually leads somewhere unexpected, and a lot of it turns out to be vital for science and technology, even though it was originally invented for some different purpose.”

Stewart also quotes from a letter by Werner Heisenberg to Einstein, “… I frankly admit that I am strongly attracted by the simplicity and beauty of the mathematical schemes which nature presents us.”

While some mathematicians and philosophers try to explain away this amazing relationship between physical reality and mathematics by claiming that mathematics is a human invention, seven pebbles in a crater on the moon possess that mathematical reality whether anyone has ever seen them or not. A pure materialist can never admit that mathematics exists and is discovered because it, like information, has a non-material existence.

Near the end of his book, Livio wrote, “What is it that guarantees a mathematical theory should exist at all? … There are no guarantees!”

Seldom do we think about whether there could be an alternative to the rational world in which we live. But the order, the symmetry, and the beauty all demand an adequate explanation. Take another look at that math book and think about the Author beyond the author.

Subtitle 2

From my narrow valley, I only view the sunset when warm colors blush across a major portion of the sky. Paul’s list of “whatever things” that are worth pondering, if they contain virtue and praiseworthiness, includes those that are lovely (Philippians 4:8). That must cover aurora borealis, rainbows, and sunrises. It also reaches to snowflakes and cardinals, violets and gentle rains, columbine and hummingbirds, asters and maple leaves. Might it also include a child’s hug, a mother’s touch and a grandpa’s time? I suppose those things are part of an internal witness.

When the iron curtain divided Eurasia, I remember the glowing report from a missionary who had traveled behind it. His story was of grainfields and cattle, of trees and brooks, of sunsets and green valleys. Even when a government tried to coerce citizens with the atheistic concept, God did not leave Himself without witness. A Psalmist captured the universal nature of this witness with these words: “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands. Day after day they pour forth speech; night after night they display knowledge. There is no speech or language where their voice is not heard. Their voice goes out into all the earth, their words to the ends of the world” (Psalm 19:1– 4, NIV). From the Congo to the Arctic, from ocean islands to mountain ranges, from thatched huts to marble walkways, this witness is pervasive and imposing.

Ironically, our best grasp of cosmic splendor comes from light striking receptor cells that transmit a message to the brain that, in turn, sees an image. But light is unfathomable. In his book that I previously quoted, Stewart says, “… we seldom think about how weird it is … . What is light? Electromagnetic waves. Waves in what? The space-time continuum, which is a fancy way of saying, ‘we don’t know.’” Modern physics has divulged to us an unimaginable universe in which we still grapple in the dark to understand what it really is. The enigma of light adds to the darkness. Yet, out of that darkness we perceive a Creator uninhibited by our limited ability to comprehend. And so it is, from the primitive tribesman to the Cambridge scholar, cosmic splendor can be an awesome witness.

Subtitle 3

Non-biblical perceptions of salvation always portray man as reaching up to fix the problem that exists between himself and deity. The Bible portrays God as reaching down to overcome the problem. Did man simply get tired of reaching up and invent a new theology or did God reveal it? Along with the rest of the Bible, this resonates.

It takes a determinate simplicity to read Genesis 3:15 in its context and not perceive something bigger than snake heads and human heels in a turf war. Here we encounter a serpent being rebuked for having deceived, and we are told that it will harbor enmity. This serpent is clearly identified near the end of the other bookend of the Bible. The ancient serpent is Satan (Revelation 20:2). The four parties involved in the verse are the woman, the serpent, seed of woman and seed of the serpent. But the battle described is neither between the woman and the serpent nor the seed of both, but between the seed of woman and the serpent. This unfolds in a prophetic manner tied to the purpose of the incarnation, and this marks the inception of the consistent Messianic expectation of the Old Testament.

The time-tested book of human values and conduct guidance has withstood a plethora of skeptical nit-picking. Yet, to this day, it inspires and motivates the greatest activities of compassion and benevolence found on earth.

The Gospels reach even beyond believers with the unique character of Jesus Christ. The agnostic, Loren Eiseley, in The Star Thrower wrote: “… — love, compassion, call it what one will — which however discounted in our time, moved the dying Christ on Golgotha with a power that has reached across two thousand weary years.”

Notice also that those who gave the original testimony to the character of Jesus proclaimed His resurrection from the grave. Can anyone take that claim seriously? When former atheist Anthony Flew wrote There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed His Mind, some critics from among believers responded with, “He’s just a Deist, and does not believe in a personal and active God.” Yet if they would have read his book, they would have found that he had N. T. Wright use the last 17 pages to present a case for the resurrection of Christ, and that Flew himself said, “I would say the claim concerning the resurrection is more impressive than any by the religious competition.”

Subtitle 4

These three witnesses bring evidence to bear on the same point. Their individual influences mesh, casting a formidable matrix for faith in the existence of God. There is a reason mathematics is an integral part of the physical universe. At this moment, I see an amazing beauty of nature as I look out my window into the dim morning light and observe the hoar frost on the trees. For the one who has arrived at an early stage of faith, there can be a lifetime of returning to the pages of the Bible and finding renewed solace and comfort.

All three witnesses leave us with some incomplete answers. Why are there mathematical equations that can never be solved? Why can pi be determined to a billion decimal places without ever reaching an exact number? Why is there ugliness in the natural world? Why are there calamities? Why does evil exist? Why does the book of Job just give clues to Job’s problem and never yields the all inclusive answer?

Perhaps the inconclusiveness all relates to one important aspect of our relationship to the Creator. Is it that we must remain free moral agents and respond in faith to a benevolent God who in love provided these clues and many more? I believe there exists a harmonious reality that leads to a better and more fulfilled life and I believe that life embodies our ultimate hope.


Back to Contents Does God Exist?, JulAug10.