A theology of maths?

Here's a challenging guest blog from our friend Sarah-Jane, who questions our theology and thoughts on our subjects... Jesus has something to say about our academic life too right?

When I was at uni my friends and I were more confident in our theology of sex than in the theology of our academic subjects. Yet what had we paid to go to uni for? What did we spend most of our time doing? (Don’t answer that question – there’s another blog on that!) 

We love to talk about sex and as a result we have a pretty developed theology. We know how the Bible shows us God’s intent. We can explain how the Christian approach differs from popular culture. We can express why God’s way is beneficial. We know what it means to be distinctive.

But do we know what it means to be distinctive in our studies? I mean, in a way that is about more than just being diligent, stewarding our talents and getting our essays in on time (though important).

20th-century Dutch theologian and former prime minister (read: legend) Abraham Kuyper once said, "Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

In other words, we shouldn’t box God out of any part of our thinking. If we call Jesus Lord, we should expect him to shake up every area of our lives, including our study. 

We mustn’t limit our Christian understanding of academic thought to a handful of ‘grill a Christian’ topics like evolution and medical ethics. There is a desperate need for thinking Christians in every discipline. 

So what is a Christian take on criminology? Jesus’ view of linguistics? A theology of maths?   

It’s not something you can work out in 5 minutes, I can say that much. I wrestled to see God’s perspective of Art History for three years – to think Christianly about all art, not just the explicitly religious bits. It’s hard work! I got so far on my own, but would have got much further if I had talked to the other Christians in my department.

So this is my challenge to you for the year ahead: Find some Christian course mates and try to work out a theology of your subject. Read around. See how different Christians have thought about it throughout history. Be challenged.

Once you get a full-time job you have nowhere near the same kind of time. It’s harder to work out a theology of education once you have a set of books to mark every night. It’s harder to work out a theology of governance once you’re a busy civil service researcher…so use this precious time!

Some good questions to start with:

  • Why were you drawn to study your subject? 
  • How does your subject bless mankind?
  • Where can you see your subject in the Bible? (try Genesis for a start)
  • What are the secular assumptions that lie behind the way your subject is taught?
  • What might it mean to bring your subject back into God’s way, to ‘redeem’?

Miriam Swanson

Global Student Mission Leader

Miriam helps equip the church for student mission internationally. She's based in the USA and hungry to see young adults follow Jesus with all of who they are. 

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