Guest / Limited Access /

Math and theology have had a long and checkered relationship. The Babylonians and Mayans both associated numbers with God. In fact, both societies named their gods with numbers. The Mayans used 13 and the Babylonians used 60. In the Greek world, followers of Pythagoras prayed to the first 4 numbers and thought they were the creator. On the other hand, in the 18th century, the French mathematician Laplace told Napoleon he had no need of God even as a hypothesis, and in 1744, John Wesley confessed: "I am convinced, from many experiments, I could not study either mathematics, arithmetic, or algebra … without being a deist, if not an atheist."

No one knows what Wesley saw in 18th-century mathematics that he feared would lead him away from the God of the Bible, but today, many Christian mathematicians think that numbers point to God. Three numbers in particular suggest evidence for God's existence. They are 1/1010123, 10162, and eπi.

Fine-tuning the universe

The first recent number that points to God is 1 in 10 to the 10 to the 123. This number comes from astronomy. Oxford professor Roger Penrose discusses it in his book The Large, the Small, and the Human Mind. It derives from a formula by Jacob Beckenstein and Stephen Hawking and describes the chances of our universe being created at random. Penrose spoofs this view by picturing God throwing a dart at all the possible space-time continua and hitting the universe we inhabit. The Beckenstein-Hawking formula is too complicated to discuss here, but another approach to the same problem involves the fine-tuning of the universe and the existence of habitable planets.

The fine-tuning of the universe is shown in the precise strengths of four basic forces. Gravity is the best known ...

Subscriber access only You have reached the end of this Article Preview

To continue reading, subscribe now. Subscribers have full digital access.

Support Christian thought journalism. Donate to our nonprofit ministry today.
From Issue:
Read These NextSee Our Latest
Also in this Issue
Subscriber Access Only Honoring Pioneers
The early missionaries to Korea serve as examples to modern-day ones.
RecommendedWhen God Fights Idolatry with Unconventional Weapons
Subscriber Access Only When God Fights Idolatry with Unconventional Weapons
A better way to read the bizarre story of Elisha and the bears.
TrendingWhy Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Why Tim Keller, Max Lucado, and Hundreds of Evangelical Leaders Oppose Trump’s Refugee Ban
Regardless of court fight’s final outcome, fewer persecuted Christians will make it to America under president’s plan.
Editor's PickChallenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Challenging the Narrative: How Race Complicates the Latest LifeWay Debate
Black Southern Baptists weigh in on the issues around removing Sho Baraka’s album.
Christianity Today
God by the Numbers
hide thisMarch March

In the Magazine

March 2006

To continue reading, subscribe now for full print and digital access.