Friday, November 10, 2006

On God & math

At 12:41 AM, November 09, 2006, Bruce said...

Are you implying that religious belief is as solid as fundamental mathematical concepts? They are not even close. You are comparing apples and oranges. Your analogy doesn't work...Yeah, I'm being a smart ass tonight. But seriously, to imply that the existence of God is as certain as 2 + 2 = 4 is an insult to mathematicians everywhere.

Human intuition. 

As paradoxical as it may sound, even our most rigorous reasoning rests at bottom upon human intuitions.  Formal reasoning (mathematics, formal logic, etc.) cannot proceed without at least some basic axioms, derivation procedures, formation and transformation rules, and other inferential resources.  Those in their turn can be justified only as basic givens which have the property of just seeming right (or necessarily true, self-evident, incorrigible, etc.), or which when employed in ways sanctioned by the system itself generate results which exhibit some required virtue (consistency, etc.). But either way, there will be an ultimate dependence upon some human capacity for registering or recognizing the special character involved.  That capacity might be some judgment concerning consistency or coherence, or concerning the rational unacceptability of contradictions.  Or it might be an unshakable sense that the foundational logic operations that seem absolutely right to us, really are absolutely right - that our inability to even imagine how denials of such intuitions could even be thinkable, testify to their absolute legitimacy.  Or it might be something else entirely.[29] 

Mathematician Keith Devlin notes (more or less apologetically) that:
"if you push me to say how I know [that Hilbert's proofs are correct], I will end up mumbling that his arguments convince me and have convinced all the other mathematicians I know."[30]


  1. I wonder if knowledge of God can rightly be considered an axion. Usually, a qualifying feature of an axiom (from what I can tell) is that it has to be irreducible in nature, like the senses I guess.

    But since knowledge of God requires reading the Scriptures and gaining an understanding of them, there can be quite a few steps between A (no knowledge of God) and B (sufficient knowledge of God). On the other hand, a lot of things that are considered axioms (like the senses) are more complex than they appear.

  2. Paul would argue quite the opposite, that within every human breast lies the certain and irreducible knowledge of God (Romans 1:18ff).

    The apostle is upheld by the phenomena of religious belief in every society known to history, from the most highly organized empires to the most isolated and fractured clans. We all know God exists. We know there is at work a divine power from whom the world sprang into existence, and in whom resides the power to change our destinies for good or ill.

    From there, we've spawned all manner of interesting notions. But the basic knowledge is there; the only question before us is whether to pursue or suppress it.

  3. "From there, we've spawned all manner of interesting notions. But the basic knowledge is there; the only question before us is whether to pursue or suppress it."

    Yes, but that's all up to God's eternal decree. (Rom. 9, Eph. 1)etc. So if man is blind and supressing the truth, it's God who decreed this to happen before the foundations of the world.

    The problem is, why would God decree that people would be eternally damned? So he can be glorified? Hum? makes you wonder how God could be gloried by doing that, especially since He could have decreed that none of us would sin in the first place, kind of like what heavens suppose to be like, yeah, that's it.