Math in Process

This semester I get to write a paper on the topic of my choosing. Here is the working title that I have submitted:

“Process Theology as a Departure from Orthodox Christianity and the Implications for the Philosophy of Mathematics”

I thought that was a rather awesome title.

I wanted to write a paper that brought together the two fields which most interest me: theology and mathematics. But not knowing exactly what to write on or exactly what topics might need to be addressed in these two fields, I turned to the Journal for the Association of Christians in the Mathematical Sciences and specifically to the letter from the founding editor. In that letter James Bradley lays out the framework for mathematics to be done Christianly. He also raises 14 areas in which he, as a mathematician and a Christian, believes more work needs to be done. Here are points 1 and 11:

1. What are the implications of the person and work of Jesus Christ for mathematics? If there are none, or if they are not central, what does this tell us about mathematics?

11. Some thinkers (perhaps influenced by process theology) have asserted the idea that God’s creation is not a finished work but that he creates new mathematical objects through mathematicians. Is this idea theologically sound? Is it helpful for our understanding of mathematics?

I believe both of these points can be addressed simultaneously and it is my intention to do so in this paper. Process theology deals quite thoroughly with how God relates to His creation and any discussion that revolves around creation from a Christian perspective cannot ignore the person and work of Jesus Christ. This is true because

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.

John 1:1-3

and

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities– all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.

Colossians 1:15-18

the latter verse being the influence for the subtitle of this blog.

For those of you unfamiliar with Process Theology, here it is in a nutshell: God is viewed as being dynamically involved in and with His creation. This God is bound to the present and relationally to creatures. He is seen through creative occasions through historical moments. He is always changing, hence the name of “Process.” This God is the process that carries forward the memories of the past and gives meaning to the present. This God does not condemn us or force us to do things, rather He sweetly persuades and simply hopes to convince you of the right choice. This is another way of saying that God is pure becoming (against the classical model which emphasizes being).

To read more on Process Theology and Process Thought in general from those who espouse it, you can visit the Center for Process Studies where you’ll find condensed summaries of their beliefs.

Here is what the paper boils down to: Process Theology is a very dangerous line of thought and (as the title suggests) should be viewed as a departure from the God of the Bible and what the church has historically defined as orthodoxy. Process Theology may be founded on good intentions, attempting to reconcile tough issues of faith, but to worship a God that differs from who He actually is and how He has revealed Himself is to commit idolatry.

Therefore any influence this theology has brought into the philosophy of mathematics should be heavily scrutinized, especially if we are attempting to do and think about mathematics Christianly.

I look forward to diving in to this topic and to providing you with some updates along the way.

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