A
Review by Andrew Philip

If theology has been called the “Queen of
the Sciences”, then mathematics has often been seen as a separate republic.
Granted, there have been good international relations in areas – for example,
mathematics has been found indispensable in the sciences. Also, discoveries in
the sciences have lead to important developments in mathematics. But always,
there has been that inviolable sanctuary; Pure Mathematics, not subject to the
laws of man, but to those of some higher Platonic reality. Even suggesting to
some pure mathematicians that their work might be of some practical value could
land you in Serious Trouble. Applied mathematics is aimed at solutions to
problems; pure mathematics doesn’t care where it goes, as long as it goes there
rigorously - i.e. developed according to its own inner laws, not allowing the
structure to be tainted by outside ideas. It is clear then why the suggestion
that Christianity may have something to do with mathematics is met on so many
occasions with such blank stares.

Recently, however, there have been some
changes: Christian mathematicians (and other Christian scholars) have been
thinking and writing about the relationship between Christianity and
mathematics. Witness to this fact is the booklet ** Bibliography 0f
Christianity And Mathematics: 1910 - 1983** , compiled by G. Chase
and C. Jongsma, which lists some 300 items on this theme - the majority of
which appeared in the last 20 years. Although by no means of a single voice,
this literature does reveal a growing concern for examining the issue more
closely.

One of the main reasons for this sudden
surge of interest may be the increasing realization of the effect that
philosophical presuppositions or worldviews can have on scientific theorizing.
Mathematics is being seen not merely as a part of the structure of reality
waiting to be discovered, but as a human activity, subject to all of the
prejudices and limits that our presuppositions force us into.

A very useful article, briefly analysing
several approaches to the subject is ** Christianity and Mathematics: an
Analysis of Differing Approaches to Their Interrelationship,** by Dr.
Calvin Jongsma. He lists four approaches, ranging from mathematics and
Christianity being seen as two separate realms with no interconnections, to the
Reformational view that there is only one realm of reality in which
Christianity and mathematics both exist as different but related foci or
dimensions of human life. It is on the details of this last approach that the
rest of the paper concentrates. Jongsma’s view is not that mathematics has
necessarily been tried and found guilty, but that our Christianity should lead
us to an integral view of reality in which all thoughts must be taken captive
and made obedient to Christ. No dimension of life may simply be declared
neutral; it may be that mathematics has in many ways remained untainted by sin,
but that possibility may not be taken as fact. Our perspective must be
broadened to evaluate mathematics as a part of man’s total involvement in reality.
“We are not called to integrate our faith with our mathematical work, but to
work out our faith in our mathematics.’’

What Jongsma is proposing is an activity
motivated by principle, not necessarily by goal. It is to approach existing
mathematics with an attitude of *“critical evaluation and reformation”*,
not with a complete gift-wrapped package of Christian mathematics.

He then proceeds to outline the Biblical
foundations for a Reformational approach to mathematics; that *“a Christian
approach to mathematics results by analysing the meaning of created reality and
mathematical practice in the light of Scriptural themes and directives.“ *The
Reformational worldview is then briefly discussed, followed by some of its
Implications both for the development of a philosophy of mathematics and for
mathematics education.

The intention of the paper is to encourage
ongoing and deeper reflection on the topic, and to provide an alternative
perspective to the dualistic approaches followed by many. It is definitely recommended
to all Christians, not only mathematicians, as it provides insight into the
value and breadth of the Reformational approach: all of reality belongs to
Christ.

Something less introductory is the book ** Time And Again
**by M.D.Stafleu. The scope of this book is broader, as it
undertakes a systematic analysis of the foundations of physics. It should
appeal to anyone with some background in physics who wishes to examine how the
subject is structured, and also to the philosophy student as an alternative
perspective on the philosophy of science.

Stafleu is concerned not merely with the
methodology of physics, as many works in this genre are, but with the structure
of physics. His approach is to present as a working hypothesis the so-called *Philosophy
of the Cosmonomic Idea* developed by H.Dooyeweerd and D.H.Th.Vollenhoven,
which is then tested through the rest of the book. An introductory chapter
outlines a general framework for this Reformational perspective, which is then
used to discuss topics such as number and set theory, relativity,
thermodynamics, probability theory and quantum physics.

One of the strengths of this approach is
that it doesn’t attempt to explain the stricture of physics using one single
principle; the system used employs independent but complementary ideas of
generality and typicality, of mutually autonomous but interrelated modes of
being.

Again, for the general reader, this book
presents an excellent picture of how an integrally Christian perspective on
physics can function. For those who don’t have time to read the whole book, the
first chapter provides a useful introduction to Dooyeweerd’s thought.

**Many to Many** Issue 3 February 1993