Math professor says you can count on faith
- Rob Cullivan
- Gresham Outlook - Features
Author talks about his own Book of Numbers Saturday
Believers in the Christian faith have long experienced God through music, literature, art, history and other pursuits.
Now Marvin L. Bittinger, author of numerous math textbooks used by millions of students in colleges throughout the nation wants people to discover Christ, through mathematics.
Bittinger, a retired professor from Purdue University at Indianapolis, says he grew up a Christian, but only really came to believe after suffering a heart attack in 1998. In the aftermath of the attack, he reassessed his life and came to believe God was calling him to study what the divine will had in mind for him.
'I think God was saying: 'I've given you all these skills. Why don't you give me your passion in writing this book?' '
The result was 'The Faith Equation: One Mathematician's Journey in Christianity.' The book tackles everything from string theory and relativity to probability and paradox in its pages. The author will be in Gresham on Tuesday, Jan. 15, to give a seminar on his topic at Phonics Phactory Christian School.
In a phone interview, Bittinger ardently defends the idea that dedication to unforgiving equations can be reconciled with belief in a forgiving God.
However, math doesn't 'prove' the biblical God so much as allow believers to infer that it's rational to believe in such a being, he says.
'The mathematics is evidence that gets you closer to making a decision about accepting Christ,' he says. 'There's no absolute evidence unless God was standing right in front of your face.'
To illustrate his point, Bittinger points out that the unprejudiced observer should examine how many prophecies from the Hebrew Scriptures, or Old Testament, were eventually fulfilled. For example, he notes that the Book of Micah predicts a prominent ruler of Israel someday will be born in Bethlehem, some 700 years before the birth of Jesus. Odds are 1,000 to one that such a prediction would come true, he says.
He also notes that Jesus is quoted in the gospels of Mark and Matthew predicting that the entire world would eventually hear 'the Good News.' Much of the world has already heard of Jesus, he notes, especially given the advances in various forms of media, including the Internet and film.
'Christianity started in 27-30 A.D. with very few people in an isolated part of the world,' Bittinger writes in 'The Faith Equation.' 'Who would believe then that 2,000 years later, these predictions would come so close to being fulfilled?'
Bittinger is highly critical of intellectuals who believe faith and reason are at odds. In particular, he dismisses Christopher Dawkins, the atheistic evolutionary biologist who made waves with his 2006 book 'The God Delusion,' a stinging polemic against religion.
To illustrate his problem with Dawkins, for example, Bittinger notes that Dawkins selectively used research data in his book to debunk the idea that prayer produces positive effects in those for whom people are praying. However, Bittinger says, dozens of studies say otherwise, and the fact that Dawkins did not challenge his own conclusions by citing such studies should lead readers to question Dawkins.
Bittinger says that he himself is willing to entertain mathematical questions that go against his conclusions. And he adds that Christians were gifted with intelligence in order to come to a faith 'beyond a reasonable doubt.'
'I feel very strongly that God's not afraid to have us question,' he says.
What: Seminar on Mathematics and Christianity
When: 6 to 7:15 p.m. and 7:45 to 9 p.m. Tuesday,
Where: Phonics Phactory Christian School, 3333 N.E. Eighth St.
Who: Featuring Marvin L. Bittinger, Author of 'The Faith Equation'
More information: www.thefaithequation.com