Friday, May 22, 2009



By Ben Laake[1]

A Useful Tool

Traditionally, mathematics has been called the language of science. Scientists and engineers use the language of mathematics to describe the world and to understand and predict the behavior of physical systems. For several centuries, mankind has been learning to use ever more complicated systems of equations to increase the accuracy and fidelity existing between the mathematical description of reality and reality itself. This improved and developed understanding has been used to harness the energy of nature for the benefit of man. The scientific and technological wonders we enjoy and depend on today were made possible by the advanced understanding of our world developed by mathematics.

Every human endeavor is part of the integrated whole of life. Scientific understanding of the universe is integral with the overall life of man, not an independent endeavor. As compiled by Charles Spurgeon, The Puritan Catechism asks the question, “What is the chief end of man?” and then answers, “Man’s chief end is to glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31), and to enjoy him for ever (Ps. 73:25-26).”[2] This description of man’s end is not limited to one’s religion, or one’s personal life, or even to one’s family life. It also encompasses how we study and understand nature through mathematics, science, and engineering, and then utilize the universe for our well-being.

Mathematics emerged into scientific prominence during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries through men such as Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), Blaise Pascal (1623-1662), and Galileo Galilei (1564-1642), who employed mathematics to better understand and give description to God’s majestic universe. They believed that God had supernaturally created the universe and continued to providentially preserve it, and through mathematics they were able to describe how through natural laws God governed the universe. The acknowledged progression was natural laws derived from supernatural acts. This understanding that God created and maintains the universe by His sovereign working through supernatural power and natural laws is fundamental to the Christian faith.

Wisdom in Application of Mathematics

As revealed in His Word, belief in the one true God is required in order to give direction to the true study of reality, whether philosophical, mathematical, or scientific. There is no true separation in the human realm; any worldview grows from either the foundation of man’s understanding of and relationship to God, or from the absence of such. A lost (or natural) man’s focus on human achievements puts man at the center of and in charge of his life. Without God, lost man in his sinful nature uses mathematics to develop science that places himself on the intellectual throne.

The non-Christian approach to reality always leads to man-centered conclusions in which ultimate force and authority derive from the physical realm where man has apparent control. Instead of acknowledging the flow of supernatural to natural, non-Christians assume something else. Some assume God supernaturally created the universe and now allows it to run on its own through natural laws—the deist worldview. Others assume that everything derives from natural causes—the atheist or humanistic worldview. Still others assume reality involves more than natural cause-and-effect, but, rejecting the God of the Bible, conclude that the natural gives rise to the supernatural—the New Age worldview. Not only do these various belief systems exist within Christendom, but they are also prevalent among scientists and mathematicians.

The foundation of today’s mathematical understanding was laid by many men who held to a worldview that God created the universe. Galileo, Newton, and other early pioneers of modern mathematics believed that the world around them was made by the Lord God, the Creator of heaven and earth. They worshiped Him and believed that their mathematics described His universe. To these men, mathematics was a language that described God’s handiwork.

Limitations of Mathematical Results

Although many early scientists, seeing the hand of God in their mathematics, were led to honor and worship Him, others imagined that by their calculations a model of the universe could be developed that did not require God. Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace (1749-1827), a great mathematician, astronomer, and friend of Napoleon, published such a treatise on the orbits of Saturn and Jupiter. On hearing of the publication, Napoleon asked “You have written this huge book on the system of the world without once mentioning the author of the universe?” Laplace answered, “No, Sire, I had no need of that hypothesis.”[3] Upon hearing of Laplace’s rejection of the “God hypothesis”, another mathematician and astronomer, Joseph-Louis Lagrange, took exception. “Ah, it is a fine hypothesis; it explains so many things,” he reportedly said.[4]

A forerunner to modern evolutionists, Laplace believed he had no need for the supernatural to describe the world, stating, “All the effects of Nature are only the mathematical consequences of a small number of immutable laws.”[5] The body of mathematical work that he originated is extraordinary. It is foundational for every engineer and scientist to study and understand the system of equations and mathematical formulations derived by and named after Laplace. There is nothing inherently evil in the mathematics.[6] Yet the conclusions that Laplace drew from those equations should serve as a warning to everyone. The chief end of man is to think God’s thoughts after Him and to give Him the glory, not to enthrone the human wisdom of science. But the sinful disposition of heart within man will not allow God to be glorified.

Mathematics today has advanced well beyond what was imagined by eighteenth century mathematicians. Building on their understanding, today’s mathematicians have been able to explore and describe God’s creation in amazing detail. Quantum mechanics, set theory, probabilities, and chaos theory are just some of the theories of mathematics that have led to advances in energy, transportation, agriculture, and communications that define our modern world. Mathematics is still the language of science, and scientists and engineers still use it to describe the universe and help mankind. Chaos theory and high speed computers can now model weather and violent storms such as hurricanes and tornadoes with greater accuracy than ever before. Both Christian and non-Christian alike can gain insight, important data, and new understanding from these analyses. The Christian, however, knows that the sovereign God, not random chaotic chance, controls the universe.

Just as in the eighteenth century, men today who reject God and the Bible use the tools at their disposal to describe their own reality—a reality that excludes God from the formula. Failing to disprove the need for supernatural intervention, they start with observations from the natural world and create a model of reality of their own choosing. High speed computers enable scientists to take the “small number of immutable laws,” as described by Laplace, and construct entire universes inside the electronic memory. By using chaos theory, scientists create fractal images that exhibit infinite complexity; no matter how closely you examine the structure there is always another layer of detail. The colorful images that generate and regenerate themselves appear to come to life with a mind of their own. In technical terminology, the fractal images appear to defy the second law of thermodynamics and bring order out of chaos, thus leading many to conclude that there is no need for what they label the “God hypothesis”. The worlds generated by and in their computers become their reality and god.

Just as Napoleon took interest in the work of Laplace, today’s leaders follow the work of the celebrated scientists of our day. “I find the ideas in the fractals, both as a body of knowledge and as a metaphor, an incredibly important way of looking at the world,” stated Vice President Al Gore.[7] However, the metaphor is flawed in that the results are not giving glory to God; rather, the fractal calculations and computations are being used to explain God away. Unlike Napoleon and his contemporaries, many of today’s leaders, taking their cue from the secular scientists, do not accept that the inclusion of the sovereign God in the equation of reality “explains so many things.”

Maintaining Integrity

For those who trust the Word of God, the anchor still holds. While much of the academic world is adrift in the seemingly infinite sea of the modern body of knowledge, Christian laymen, scientists, and engineers must with integrity hold that the real reality is accounted for through the spoken Word of God. As the Spirit hovered over the waters, “God said . . . and there was” (Genesis 1:3 ff.). By the Lord Jesus Christ “all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).

When the theologian says that “the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever,” this is an all-inclusive statement. Mathematics is but a tool that man can employ to help him understand and describe the physical world. When divorced from God, man becomes divorced from the source of reality; he becomes lost amidst the universe, with his ultimate demise being assured. All men, mathematicians included, who reject God will see their worlds crumble and come at last to nothing. Thus Laplace on his deathbed was forced to admit that in the end, “Man follows only phantoms.”[8] While mathematics aids in describing the universe in which we live, mathematics cannot account for the existence of it. After all, why is there something and not nothing? But those who choose to follow the God of the Bible will find that beyond human calculations there is a solid foundation that will stand for all eternity, the Lord Jesus Christ. Through the study and application of mathematics, the natural revelation of the wonders of God’s creative and sovereign power ought to humble us before His majesty.

I will meditate on the glorious splendor of Your majesty,
And on Your wondrous works.
Men shall speak of the might of Your awesome acts,
And I will declare Your greatness.
(Psalm 145:5-6)

1. About the author: Ben Laake serves as a Deacon at Sovereign Grace Baptist Church in Dale City, Virginia. He was a Technical Staff Member of Los Alamos National Laboratory for twenty-three years and currently works in the Washington, DC area. Ben holds a BS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of Texas, an MS in Mechanical Engineering from the University of New Mexico, an MS in Management from Purdue University, and an MA in Religion from Liberty University.
2. C.H. Spurgeon, A Puritan Catechism, The Spurgeon Archive (
3. “Science Quotes by Pierre Simon, Marquis de Laplace,” Today in Science History (
4. “Pierre-Simon Laplace,” Wikiquote (
5. Science History.
6. Jason Lisle, “Fractals, Hidden Beauty Revealed in Mathematics,” Answers in Genesis, January 1, 2007.
7. New York Times, June 21, 2000.
8. Science History.