Have you been following Take Two’s list of things we’re thankful for this year? Family, friends, and God’s faithful provision are obvious bringers of gratitude. Our list, however, includes lesser-known objects—meat-loving critters and the big bang, to name a few. Here we add two more to our odd collection of things for which we’re thankful this and every year.
The Magic of Mathematics
Here’s a sentence I never imagined writing: I am thankful for mathematics.
Numbers were the bane of my school years. Of course, I know math permeates everyday life—I just don’t relish being tested on the subject. However, a cartoon recently opened my eyes to the true wonder of mathematics.
Walt Disney’s 1959 short Donald in Mathmagic Land explains, among other concepts, the golden section and demonstrates how it can be found in the golden rectangle and regular pentagrams and pentagons. These shapes, in turn, are visible throughout both the natural world and human achievements (such as architecture and art). And no matter where they’re found, the rules of mathematics never vary. As Donald Duck puts it, “There’s a lot more to mathematics than 2 x 2.”
RTB philosopher Kenneth Samples points out that mathematics and other nonphysical concepts require an adequate explanation for their existence. He writes in 7 Truths That Changed the World,
Since mathematics and logic (the foundations of science) have validity and provide human beings with real knowledge about the world, then these two conceptual realities cannot arise from subjective, manmade notions; they must be concerned with objective realities….The Christian theistic worldview, however, grounds these conceptual realities in the mind of an infinite, eternal, and personal spiritual being. God is the Creator of both the visible and the invisible, the source of both the sensible and the intelligible (Psalm 148:2–5; Colossians 1:16–17).
Even though algebra and geometry were rarely intelligible to this English major, I do appreciate the amazing rationality of creation. Mathematics, an inherently logical and ordered system, is woven so tightly into the very foundations of nature that it’s difficult to believe the cosmos could result from mindlessness and chaos.
Donald in Mathmagic Land closes with these words, attributed to Galileo, “Mathematics is the language with which God has written the universe.” This apt quote will stay with me this Thanksgiving as I reflect on the Creator’s purposeful design of our world.
Created to Create
As I sit and ponder the wonders of creation (a typical habit when writer’s block hits), I can’t help but think of the imago Dei (image of God). Yes, even when creative juices seem to have run dry, it’s helpful to be reminded of our distinctly human characteristics and capacities.
Scripture tells us that humans alone are made in God’s image. With this in mind, it’s reasonable to conclude that we would manifest His inclination toward creating. (A few other traits that separate humans from our animal friends include a spiritual and religious nature, sophisticated communicative abilities, and an awareness of time, reality, and truth.)
Nature’s record affirms humanity’s distinction from animals. According to researchers, a sudden burst of creativity emerged some 40,000 years ago (and perhaps even earlier), coinciding with the appearance and flourishing of modern humans. Biochemist Fazale Rana explains that this cultural big bang “stands in stark contrast with what one would expect from an evolutionary perspective (a gradual change over a long period of time). Yet it strengthens the biblical creation perspective that distinguishes humans from the rest of creation.”
As the crown of creation, humans are intrinsically compelled to create—be it through song, dance, or Star Wars snowflake masterpieces. And when we do, we emulate, intentionally or otherwise, the Creator.
A comment from Mark Ellis’ article about Van Gogh’s unappreciated journey with Christ helps drive home the point.
Van Gogh wanted to continue to serve God with his art, stating “…to try to understand the real significance of what the great artists, the serious masters, tell us in their masterpieces, that leads to God.”
So this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for writer’s block. Because the beautiful truth is that regardless of our talents and spiritual leanings, all of humanity—family, friends, and the guy singing loudly at the bus stop outside my office window—bears the image of God. Moreover, even when a creative drought strikes, the thirst remains and points the struggling artist to the Master.
Last call! If you’d like a free copy of RTB’s 2013 wall calendar, leave a comment below letting us know what you’re grateful for this year and we’ll pick a few of our favorites. You can also receive this calendar in appreciation for your gift to RTB in any amount. Click on the Donations page for details.