I read an essay about math (of all things!) in the New Yorker a few months ago that made me all the more grateful for what happened at Christmas. Let me explain.
So there’s the moment Christians call the incarnation. The moment that God becomes a baby. Here’s what mathematics has to do with that moment. So, Alec Wilkinson writes about the way mathematics has changed his view of the cosmos and pointed him towards the possibility of a divine being.
“Among certain mathematicians, some of the great ones historically and presently, there is the belief that, at its highest ranges, mathematics seems to converge toward a unity and that this unity is God. The German mathematician Georg Cantor . . . wrote that what surpasses all, the infinite set, was “the single, completely individual unity in which everything is included, which includes ‘the Absolute,’ incomprehensible to the human understanding. This is the ‘Actus Purissimus,’ which by many is called ‘God.’”
Wilkinson goes on:
“Human beings have only finite means for approaching God, and, since God is unknowable and absolute, it made sense to Cantor that any finite system would collapse into paradox as one comes near to the divine.”
What it made me think about is that we have finite means for approaching God, but God has infinite means for approaching us. The miracle of Christmas centers around the idea not that we recognized God but that God recognized us. Not that we climbed our way, searched our way, earned our way to an understanding of God’s character, but that God revealed God to us.
In the conception of Jesus, the infinite became finite. The eternal became temporal. The ephemeral became knowable. The inconceivable became vulnerable. God became a baby. Because God didn’t want to be inaccessible, invincible, unapproachable. God wanted to be God with us, Emmanuel.
essay in The New Yorker: How Mathematics Changed Me
More with Amy Julia:
- What Math Can Teach Us About the Divine
- S6 E5 | The Healing Work of Rest with Ruth Haley Barton
- Am I Willing to Be Interrupted by God’s Work of Love in the World?
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