Wednesday, January 6, 2016

4: Mathematics and Eternity

I hope Mathematics and Creation begun to paint the picture of how mathematics draws us back to our beginnings, reminding us of our role as image bearers of a good Creator. This is consistent with the proverb of Solomon, “It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search it out, the glory of kings.” The contemporary rendering of the proverb found in The Message replaces the word kings with scientists. I'm inclined to translate it as mathematicians. There's a deep sense in which we were created for mathematical and scientific exploration.

Perhaps the bolder claim of the doctrine of creation is that we were created to participate in the glorifying activity for eternity. Genesis pictures death as an enemy precisely because it cuts short what was meant to be never ending. Solomon teaches that eternity has been placed on the human heart (Ecclesiastes 3:11). In studying, learning, searching out those things concealed by God, and being exposed to fields of never ending discovery and development, the desire for eternity is awakened in the human heart. Mathematics, in particular, seems to endear one to the hope of eternity not only because of its study of the infinite, but also because of the way in which a few observations can quickly develop into a new field that would require eternity to exhaust.

Image from The Story of Mathematics
The New Testament closes with the vision of Christ restoring creation in a new heavens and new earth. Here it is recorded that the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the city where Christ dwells with His people (Revelation 21:23-26). I find it significant that one of the few other references to the glory of kings in Scripture is found in Solomon’s proverb recorded above. It seems we have here a vision of an eternity of God-glorifying study, discovery, and creative pursuits of humanity. Ultimately, heaven isn't about sitting on clouds or aimlessly walking streets of gold. As Ellen White reminds us, “We may be ever searching, ever inquiring, ever learning, and yet there is an infinity beyond.” This never-ending learning she offers as a vision of the world-to-come:
Heaven is a school; its field of study, the universe; its teacher, the Infinite One. A branch of this school was established in Eden; and, the plan of redemption accomplished, education will again be taken up in the Eden school.

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