“Good morning class! It’s time for us to study mathematics.” The second-grade students all open their textbooks and pick up their pencils. “Let’s review first. Who can answer this question? What is 2 + 4?”
Seven-year-old Johnny raises his hand and offers an answer. “Six?”
“Very good, Johnny!” responds his government school teacher. “That’s correct.”
Fully expecting to go on to the next question, the teacher looks back at her teacher’s manual. Her thoughts are interrupted by a raised hand out of the corner of her eye. It is Johnny. He is such a precocious and inquisitive young man.
But his question catches her off guard.
“Why what, Johnny?”
“Why does 2+4 = 6? Does it always equal six?”
“Of course it does, Johnny. Why do you ask?”
“Well, can it ever be something different? Like, seven on Monday, and eleven on Christmas, and thirty-nine on my birthday?”
“No, of course not.”
With this question, the teacher has just found herself in a tight spot. Like it or not, she is facing a question that, by state law, she is not permitted to answer honestly. She quickly thinks through her list of options.
Her first inclination is to say, “Johnny, stop asking stupid questions!” But that doesn’t seem like a good answer. Her second is to suggest, “We don’t know why, Johnny; that’s just the way it is. We don’t understand it, but it sure does come in handy that we can expect it to be the same every single time we seek to solve the problem.” But that seems rather lame as well.
Finally, she decides to answer according to the metanarrative (the big overstory) of the government school system. What most teachers spread out over 10,800 hours of K–12 instruction, she decides to truncate into one short soliloquy.
“Fourteen billion years ago,” she begins, “all of the matter and energy in the entire universe was compressed into a tiny dot the size of a period on a page in your math textbook. But one day, for no reason whatsoever, it exploded. As it expanded, the gases began to collapse and create stars and galaxies. In our solar system, about 4.6 billion years ago, our earth was formed from these gases and dust particles. Over time, simple-celled organisms began to evolve into more complex organisms; and eventually, highly structured biological life, like your DNA, was formed.
“So you see, we have gone through a highly intricate process of evolution that went from nonmatter to matter and from nonbiological matter to biological life, and from extremely simple structures like proteins and amino acids to highly complex structures like you, Johnny. Everything that came into being, in the organic and inorganic worlds, came to be from this big bang. All living things, as well as metaphysical realities like math, were created from the same source.
“Plants, animals, humans, water, rocks, etc., were all formed from the big bang. So were the invisible world of things we can’t see: love, joy, altruism, justice, morality, music theory, logic, mathematics, physics, the laws of thermodynamics, the scientific method . . . everything belonging to the world of ideas also came from that accidental explosion. What we see around us is the reverberations of the aftershocks of that explosion of matter and energy. Everything that exists is here for no reason whatsoever. It has all evolved completely through chance processes in a material universe, giving us the illusion of thought and free will and moral choices. But it’s all just an accident. Mathematics, you, me, this school, your grades, college, your future, marriage . . . it is all nothing more than randomness working itself out on a stage of time.”
The Overstory of Government Education
If that perspective sounds over-the-top to you—who would ever teach that?—it’s simply because I didn’t subtly dish it out piecemeal over twelve years. There are really only two perspectives, two competing worldviews or narratives about how mathematics (and everything else) came to be.
If the government school story is correct, then it’s difficult to see why it is even important to study math (and many students never see any purpose in it). Math becomes a useful tool to help us function in life and make a living, but other than pragmatic applications, it has no higher, transcendent purpose.
Who Created Math?
In the publishing world in which I have worked for many years, there is a term for stealing someone else’s intellectual property and claiming it is your own: plagiarism. It is not only illegal, it is immoral. It breaks two of the Ten Commandments: stealing and lying.
If you were to ask a teacher who is committed to the official narrative of government education, “Who is the author of mathematics?”, they would respond that it was evolution, or time plus matter plus chance.
But is that true? Did math just create itself? You must remember that humans did not invent math. Not in the true sense. We simply discovered the laws of math that were already embedded in the very fabric of the universe. We recognized the universal and absolute laws that govern existence, and we systematized, formalized, and harnessed math so that we could make use of it. But the laws of mathematics stand quite apart from our existence. Two plus four will still be six regardless of whether we are here to talk about it or not.
Jesus is the Author of Math
There is another truth claim that we must consider. This is the Christian worldview as it applies to mathematics. Speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul says:
[He] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature: For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:15–17)
The Bible declares Jesus to be the author of everything—the physical world (visible) and the metaphysical world (invisible).
The apostle John concurs:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1–3)
Jesus didn’t merely create everything (including math) from His wisdom (Psalm 104:24, Proverbs 3:19): He holds it together and sustains it with His power. If Jesus were to release His sustaining power, even for a moment, our universe would fly apart in chaos. The only reason math works is that Jesus created it from His mind of order and precision. Randomness and chance never produce predictable constancy and accuracy.
When I was a boy, I was fascinated with those “science experiments in your own backyard” kits you can buy at homeschooling conventions. I fulfilled my moral obligation as a homeschooled boy to blow up a lot of cool stuff. But of all the things I exploded, nothing ever became more structured and ordered because of it. There is no chance in infinity that something as elaborate and intricate as mathematics (in all of the various disciplines it embraces) could have come about from nothing.
Instead of “Evolution” as the author on the front cover of the math textbook, that designation rightfully belongs to the Lord Jesus Christ. Math teaches us about God’s nature and character. It reveals the mind of unity and coherence that exists within the Godhead. When we study mathematics, we get a glimpse of the glory and superior majesty of our loving and infinite Creator God.
Anyone can teach that 2+4 = 6, but only a born-again Christian can accurately teach why. The existence of mathematics is one of the strongest evidences for the existence of God.
When Paul says, “For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse” (Romans 1:20), he isn’t merely speaking of things like trees and flowers. He is talking about mathematics. When scoffers stand before Him on judgment day, they will be without excuse, because God has made His existence clearly seen through the laws of mathematics that He created and revealed.
I hope that you will teach your children to look for the attributes of God in every subject area that He created, including math. May it lead you to a greater awe, admiration, gratitude, and worship.
Israel Wayne is an author and conference speaker. He is a cofounder of Family Renewal (www.FamilyRenewal.org) and is site editor for www.ChristianWorldview.net. He is the author of the books Homeschooling from a Biblical Worldview, Full-Time Parenting: A Guide to Family-Based Discipleship, Questions God Asks, Questions Jesus Asks, and Pitchin’ a Fit: Overcoming Angry and Stressed-Out Parenting. He and his wife Brook are both homeschool graduates, and they are homeschooling their nine children in SW Michigan.