Re: Wheel of God

From: george murphy (
Date: Thu Aug 09 2001 - 15:02:41 EDT

  • Next message: iain.strachan2: "Re: Homosexuality"

    "iain.strachan2" wrote:

    > I hope people don't mind if I respond to this in two separate
    > e-mails. The topic of homosexuality is not one I intended to bring up
    > as a separate thread, but it is interesting in its own right, and I
    > shall respond in another e-mail. But I'd like to comment first on
    > George's initial paragraph.
    > I am going to try to turn this discussion to a more
    > profitable topic Iain brings up that is within the "science-
    > -religion" area proper to the asa list & to which the asa
    > could make a real contribution by engaging in some serious
    > study with a minimum of preconceptions. I refer to
    > homosexuality.
    > I apologise if I've misconstrued what you have said here, but it
    > appears that what you are saying is that the study of the "Wheel of
    > God" and other related numerical phenomena associated with the Bible
    > is not a profitable topic of discussion on this list, and is not worth
    > continuing with. Instead, it seems that you have taken an example I
    > gave, and used it as an excuse to steer the topic of conversation onto
    > something you consider more fitting to "science-religion", and that
    > you do not consider the numerics to be as such.
    > Bearing in mind that Richard has expressed appreciation for the
    > feedback received here, this attempt to steer the topic onto something
    > else appears to me to be ungracious, and furthemore belittling of
    > those who have engaged in the study; as if we were not doing "proper
    > science" worthy to be discussed. Bearing in mind that Richard and I
    > both have Physics degrees, and that Vernon was a senior Maths
    > lecturer, I find this brushing aside extremely irritating. I think
    > you should at least give us credit as fellow scientists of knowing a
    > phenomenon when we see one.
    > Concerning the possibility of mathematical relationships underpinning
    > the words of Scripture - yes, it is an amazing phenomenon, and one
    > that seems ridiculous and hard to believe. But I should like to quote
    > from John Polkinghorne's book "The Particle Play". Polkinghorne was a
    > Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge, who later became an
    > Anglican minister. He is equally amazed that mathematics underpins
    > the natural world, and relates it to God's Word as the creative agent:
    > "I am very struck by the fact, ... that mathematics, which essentially
    > is the abstract free creation of the human mind, repeatedly provides
    > the indispensible clue to the understanding of the physical world.
    > This happening is so common a process that most of the time we take it
    > for granted.. At root it creates the _possibility_ of science, of our
    > understanding the workings of the world. It seems to me a remarkable
    > fact. I believe - I cannot prove it - that it is one aspect, perhaps
    > rather a small one really, of the logos doctrine of Christianity.
    > Israel developed an idea of the Word of God who was his agent in the
    > creation of the world. The prologue to John's gospel not only makes
    > the astonishing identification of the Word with Jesus of Nazareth, but
    > also says that the Word is the true light that enlightens every man."
    > Throughout the ages, people have always played with numbers,
    > equations, geometry and so forth - it is almost a recreation, and for
    > some mathematicians, it becomes an obsession. I read the other day
    > how the pure mathematician John H. Conway learned pi to 1000 decimal
    > places, and so did his wife. They would go for walks to Grantchester
    > taking it in turn to recite 20 digits to each other.
    > But Polkinghorne draws attention to the fact that this peculiar
    > obsession that mathematicians have created - in many cases just for
    > their own amusement, is at the heart of the physical world, and is
    > associated with creation ( implying that God is a mathematician).
    > I therefore do not think it is an unfitting topic of conversation to
    > speculate the possibility that these numerical phenomena are yet
    > another aspect of the "logos" Creator that lies behind it all. The
    > word "logos" has, I understand many different meanings; "word",
    > "rational utternace" , "principle", and so forth. I think one should
    > not try and decide which is the "right" translation or meaning; maybe
    > they are all valid - it is common practice for a poet to choose a word
    > for its multiple associations. It is appealing to think of "logos" as
    > "scientific principle", and that leads to the mathematics that
    > underlies the physical world. But maybe also the possibility of a
    > literal reading should not be ignored. "Logos" maybe really does mean
    > "word" - it is by God's literal words that things happen. Is it
    > therefore not unreasonable to suppose that the words themselves may be
    > mathematical objects - deliberately contrived to be so by God's
    > continuing interaction with people's apparently arbitrary choices?
    > George, if I've misconstrued what you intended in this topic, and
    > that all you intended to do was spawn off a different thread, rather
    > than wipe out the existing one, then I apologise. I think both topics
    > are worth of study and objective discussion.
    > Iain.
            The possibilities you speak about may indeed have some value,
    but it seems to me that they need to be approached in a tentative
    fashion without commitment to a once-for-all grand mathematical scheme
    for the whole Bible. Science has generally succeeded by proceeding from
    local to global, not vice versa.
            It is conceivable, of course, that such a grand scheme could be
    correct, but when it is presented as a fait accompli to be defended
    against attack rather than for possible correction, revision, &c, the
    resulting conversation isn't likely to be very profitable. Perhaps that
    wasn't the intention of "The Wheel of God" but that's the way it seemed
    to me to be working out after a couple of exchanges.
            Note that I headed my post simply "Homosexuality" and didn't add
    (Was Re: Wheel of God). Those who wish to continue that thread may -
    as of course they could whatever I would say! I am not a censor for the
            The topic of homosexuality and its relationship with biblical
    authority seems to me to be of considerably greater immediate practical
    importance for the church than is the search for math structures in the
    biblical text. It is, moreover, a subject to which Christians who take
    the Bible seriously and who respect the scientific process could make an
    important contribution


    George L. Murphy

    "The Science-Theology Dialogue"

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