Throughout the last several years, I have moved increasingly away from the stiff and mathematical, which used to be my predominant life-lens, toward a more holistic ideal. Life is mathematical, yes, but it is also many other things. For a long time I missed this, and I feel that I am still only catching it in pieces.
It used to fascinate me how various ones could take the book of Daniel, for instance, and weave a watertight historic or prophetic theory, working off the almost digital nature of the material. I loved calculations. I loved remembering to account for the leap years. It was all very intoxicating.
Of course, there is value in symbolism, and there is value in the prophetic. I do not intend at all to deny either. But there is also value in perspective.
Sometimes I wonder, supposing there were three Gospels, if we would not all piously squeak: "How exquisite! Just like the Trinity!" But there are not three. There are four. It may help cast our conjectures in the proper light when we consider the might-have-beens that aren't.
Numbers have a power all their own, arising from how they signify absolute ideas. This "absoluteness" can be dangerous; it may, in extreme cases, very well lead to idolatry. Numbers have often served as the impetus behind historical "enlightenment" movements toward rationalism or reductionism, which are Biblically symbolized, unflatteringly, by the Tower of Babel. (A very valuable book in this respect is James Nickel's Mathematics: Is God Silent?)
Most of this is a reaction against my own imbalances: I am questioning these things because I have, in the past, had a strong inclination towards them. As my long-dormant appreciation for the mysterious and paradoxical unfolds, I must inevitably outgrow my juvenile love of sums and squares. Like a lizard shedding a skin, the reality remains, but the old container is no longer adequate. A sort of "reverse enlightenment," I suppose, where two plus three still makes five, but somehow it's not so important.
Image courtesy of math.missouri.edu