Behold the Man Upon the Cross

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Behold the Man upon a cross,
My sin upon His shoulders
Ashamed I hear my mocking voice,
Call out among the scoffers

It was my sin that held Him there
Until it was accomplished
His dying breath has brought me life
I know that it is finished

I will not boast in anything
No gifts, no power, no wisdom
But I will boast in Jesus Christ
His death and resurrection

Why should I gain from His reward?
I cannot give an answer
But this I know with all my heart
His wounds have paid my ransom

How deep the Father’s love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory

Shadows of Things to Come

Therefore no one is to act as your judge in regard to food or drink or in respect to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath day– things which are a mere shadow of what is to come; but the substance (literally body) belongs to Christ.

Colossians 2:16-17

For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form (literally image) of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.

Hebrews 10:1

I love the Biblical imagery of a “shadow.” The Greek word translated as “shadow” (σκιά, pronounced skia) shows up three times in the New Testament in a metaphorical sense. Two of the three verses are listed above and we will get to the third (and perhaps most interesting use for the purposes of this blog) shortly.  The word σκιά can be translated as “shadow” or “foreshadow” or even “reflection.” There are several examples outside of the Bible of the word being used to refer to an image as seen in water – in which case the translation of “reflection” might be more apt. In all metaphorical cases, including the three instances in the New Testament, σκιά can generally be taken to mean: “a mere representation of something real” (BDAG).

One thing about shadows, they need a body to make them (Col. 2:17). Reflections need an original, or true, image (Heb. 10:1). In both passages listed above, Paul and the author of Hebrews are not claiming that the Mosaic Law was bad. The Law was in fact very good, but incomplete. In as much as a person’s shadow is not a complete description of who they are since it only provides an outline of their form, the Law was not a perfect description of how humanity is to relate to God, but it did give an outline, an idea. The Law was meant to point toward Christ. It provided only a boundary of holiness in which Israel was to operate in order to be a distinct and set-apart people of God. The Law was the shadow. Christ is the body. The Scriptures above demonstrate that since Christ has been revealed we no longer live in a shadow of unreachable standards, but instead we are to be intimately related with God in person: Jesus Christ.

So what does this have to do with math?

This brings me to the third passage in which σκιά is used metaphorically:

For every high priest is appointed to offer both gifts and sacrifices; so it is necessary that this high priest (Christ) also have something to offer. Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.”

Hebrews 8:5

This passage references Exodus 25 – an entire chapter (plus) devoted to instructions for constructing the Tabernacle. Whereas the two passages we began with seemed to describe the Law as a shadow of Christ, Hebrews 8:5 seems to take that imagery a step further and claim that the physical Tabernacle is a shadow of the heavenly place of worship in the presence of God. What I find interesting is that the construction of Tabernacle is at its root a mathematical process. Exodus 25 is filled with detailed dimensions and lists for construction. When God wanted to teach Israel what He was like and How He was to be worshiped, the language of mathematics played a vital role in communicating that message.

Maybe there is something in this imagery of “shadow” that can help us understand the place of mathematics in this world – both its importance and its limitations. Is the language of mathematics simply a “shadow” of our divine understanding to come? While my thoughts are just beginning on this issue, initially my answer would be yes.

From Stewart Shapiro, Thinking About Mathematics, p. 54

In pursuing this further, it is comforting to know that I am not the only one who believes mathematics can be best understood with this “shadow” imagery. The following is taken from the book Thinking About Mathematics, by Stewart Shapiro:

“At the end of Book 6 of the Republic Plato gives a metaphor of a divided line (see Fig. 3.1). The world of Becoming is on the bottom and the world of Being on the top (with the Form of Good on top of everything). Each part of the line is again divided. The world of becoming is divided into the realm of physical objects on top and reflections of those (e.g. in water) on the bottom. The world of Being is divided into the Forms on top and the objects of mathematics on the bottom. This suggests that physical objects are ‘reflections’ of mathematical objects which, in turn, are ‘reflections’ of Forms” (p. 53-54).

In some sense Plato saw mathematics as reflecting the Forms, or the true world of knowledge.

Plato described Forms such as the Good, the Beautiful, the True, the Just. Today we as Christians can understand these Forms as being attributes and expressions of the divine nature. God’s nature defines goodness, beauty, truth, justice. As we pursue study of the divine nature, in some way mathematics provides a “shadow” (an outline) that guides us.

What exactly that means, I’m not yet certain. I just found this imagery very interesting in light of Scripture and I will be pursuing this line of thinking further in the future. For now I leave it to you to do with this what you will. I would love to hear your comments. As we wrestle with this topic we can be comforted that while we may not understand the shadow completely, there is a true body to whom we relate and who we will one day see.

For now we see (a reflection) in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully…

1 Corinthians 13:12 (object added)

And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Math in Process: Critiquing the Process (Person and Work of Christ)

Disclaimer: the author of this post does not in any way support the views of process theology or believe that its views can legitimately be considered thinking Christianly. The purpose of this post is to summarize these views in order to critique them.

Previous entries in this series:

Math in Process

Math in Process: An Introduction

Math in Process: Process Theology 101

Math in Process: The Influence of Mathematics on Process Theology

Math in Process: Critiquing the Process (Revelation and the Trinity)

UPDATE: My paper, “Integrating Faith and Mathematics: What we can learn from Process Theology,” has just been accepted for the ACMS conference this June. Any comments on this series of blog posts would be greatly appreciated as I work to refine my thoughts on this subject. Thank you.

The Person and Work of Christ

It follows from the process misunderstanding of the Trinity, that we find a misguided approach to understanding the pre-existence of the second person of the Trinity: God the Son, Jesus Christ.

In the beginning was the Word (Logos), and the Word (Logos) was with God, and the Word (Logos) was God. He was in the beginning with God….And the Word(Logos) became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

– John 1:1-2, 14

Pre-existence: Process theology regards the Logos as an impersonal principle. It is what gives the appearance of stability in a world that remains in constant state of flux, or constant state of becoming. Logos is defined as the totality of the divine aims. Since this Whiteheadian Logos is not a discrete person within the Godhead, it hardly can be reconciled with the historic Christian explication of the eternal pre-existence of the second person of the Trinity (Isa 9:6; John 1:1-2; Rev 21:6).[1]

Incarnation: The process understanding of the incarnation is also unacceptable. Process theology views the Logos being immanent as the Christ in the whole of creation. The incarnation connotes that the impersonal Logos (also defined as the power for creative transformation – what that means exactly I am not entirely sure) was simply maximally immanent (not uniquely immanent) and operative in the man Jesus of Nazareth. This denies that the incarnation involves the eternal second person of the Godhead entering space and time and becoming man for us and for our salvation (John 1:1, 14; 2 Cor 8:9; Phil 2:6-8; 1 Tim 3:16).

The process model compromises the decisiveness and singularity of the incarnation by affirming that the Logos is immanent in all entities.[2] John makes the results of this view clear when he states:

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, people who do not confess Jesus as Christ coming in the flesh. This person is the deceiver and the antichrist!”

– 2 John 7

Two Natures: The process claim that two natures cannot relate except by displacement prompts Whiteheadians to insist that the orthodox belief in Jesus’ deity necessarily vitiates his authentic humanity.[3] Orthodox Christians cannot accept such a heretical, docetic Christology (that is the belief that Jesus only appeared to be human). The full humanity of Christ must be maintained (Matt 13:55; John 1:14, 19:5; 1 Tim 2:5; Heb 2:14).

The process belief that Jesus was simply the supreme example of responding to God’s calling moves in the other direction and seems to deny his complete deity. At best the process view can be considered on par with the heresies of Adoptionism (the spirit or christ comes upon the human Jesus and adopts him as a carrier vessel) and Arianism (Jesus the Son was the first thing created).

Jesus is both fully man and fully God (John 1:1, 18; 10:30-33; 20:28; Rom 1:3-4; 9:5; 1 Cor 15:45-49; Phil 2:6-8; Titus 2:13; Peter 1:1). Scripture accords Jesus the same attributes as deity. Jesus is omnipotent (Isa 9:6; Matt 28:18; John 10:18), omnipresent (Matt 18:20; Eph 1:23), omniscient (Matt 9:4; John 4:16-19; 16:30; 21:17), and eternal (Isa 9:6; John 1:1; 8:58; Col 1:17; Heb 1:10-12; Rev 1:8). Belief in the divinity of Christ is a prerequisite of salvation (Rom 10:9; 2 Peter 1:3).

If Jesus is not God, then he does not have the power to fully reveal the Father, and he does not have the power to save sinners. Soteriology demands that he be both true god and true man in order to redeem (1 Tim 2:5). He must be man to represent us (Heb 4:15) and he must be God to save us (Heb 7:24-25).

Ultimately, we as Christians must confess the mystery of the hypostatic union (1 Tim 3:16). We as Christians are also called to do one thing that process theology does not allow for, and that is the worship of Jesus Christ (Matt 2:2, 11; 14:33; Phil 2:10-11; Heb 1:6). Whiteheadians commonly depreciate the unique character of Jesus’ person and accomplishments by upholding a form of degree Christology: Jesus was a special man who may well be surpassed by another religious figure in the evolutionary future.[4] However, the Bible makes it clear that Christ is the consummation of all previous revelations in history (Heb 1:1-2) and is the final and unique agent of salvation (1 Cor 3:11; John 14:6).

Sin and the Cross: As discussed previously, Process theology has what we can label as a Pelagian rejection of human sinfulness and rebellion (in other words a denial of original sin). Process theology therefore sees the cross as the ultimate negative moment. This diverges from the Biblical claim that in the cross there is victory (Col 2:14-15). Contrary to the self-salvation of process theology in which a person responds to the loving lures of God, Scripture shows that it is God’s provision that saves. On the cross in Christ, God bore the just penalty for the world’s sin, satisfied His justice, and thus made a way for reconciliation (Isa 53:4-12; John 3:15-17; Rom 3:21-26; 5:6-11; Heb 2:14-17).

Resurrection: The process view does not adequately asses the profound depths of human perversity and therefore it follows that the full meaning of the cross and resurrection as events which deal with sin and death is not grasped.[5] Process theology summarily rejects the personal and bodily resurrection of Jesus and believes in favor of the thesis that resurrection connotes God taking up into his own memory the experiences of our Lord and his followers.[6] Again,as with many process viewpoints, I am not entirely certain what this means. I can once again direct you to the Center for Process Studies if you would like to do some research of your own. In any case, however you interpret this process doctrine of resurrection, it radically departs from the biblical description of this event.

The Biblical account clearly ties the Christian faith to the hope of the resurrection (Job 19:25; Isa 25:8; Matt 16:21; 20:19; 26:32; John 2:19; 11:25). Resurrection was the focus of the church’s missionary preaching, teaching, and worship (Acts 2:24, 31-32; 3:15; 4:10; 5:30-32; Rom 1:4; 6:4; 8:34; 1 Cor 15:4, 20).[7] Denying the resurrection leads to denying the remission of sins (1 Cor 15:17), the possibility of attaining salvation (Rom 10:9; 1 Cor 15:19), and ending all hope (1 Cor 15:32).

Summary: Process theology thus denies, as biblically and historically understood, Christ’s eternal pre-existence, incarnation, virgin birth, sinlessness, deity, atoning death, resurrection, ascension, and second coming, as well as the Trinity of God. Process theology then does simply fall into a certain heretical category in its doctrine of Scripture, God, or Christ, rather it samples from many heretical beliefs.

The claims of process theology cannot be entertained by the faithful Christian community. The philosophical assumption of process thinking is that reason working on the data of lived experience is judged competent to lead the mind into all truth. This by definition is the very root of sin (Gen 3:6; Rom 1:18-32) and Christians cannot proceed with this underlying presupposition. Rather, we are called to submit to the authority of God and his revelation.

It is because of this that I have attempted to give the preceding analysis with an emphasis on the voice of the Scriptures, even though process theologians might not accept biblical authority. The purpose here is not to argue process thinkers out of their position, but rather to demonstrate the approach we must take in analyzing any subject (even mathematics) if our presuppositions are to be labeled as “Christian.”

Next Up:

Developing a Distinctly Christian Perspective of Mathematics: What We Learn from the Mistakes of Process Theology

[1] Bruce Demarest, “The Process Reduction of Jesus and the Trinity,” In Process Theology, ed. Ronald H. Nash (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1987), 78.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Ibid., 79.

[4] Ibid., 80.

[5] Ibid., 81.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.