The Arithmetic of Faith

An Essay By Julie // 8/12/2015

Math is simple. 1+1=2, 2x2=4, 3-1=2. 4/2=2
Or at least, it is to begin with.
Find the derivative of the following functions: f(x)= (x +sin x)^23
Nobody jumps right from the former to the later. There are steps, processes, from learning the numbers and the basic principles, to decimals and fractions, with lessons in geometry and basic algebra before tackling the rigors of calculus. You have proofs in geometry, listing the rules that allow one to define congruent and similar angles.
I think Christians could learn a lesson from that. Most American evangelical churches are very good at the elementary level–the basics of ‘Jesus loves me’ and 'sin separates me from God’ are preached in Sunday School and Awana, VBS and camp, children’s church and youth activities. It is in no way a misrepresentation of the gospel: Believe and be baptized. “You are the Christ, the son of the Living God.” Jesus’s death=heaven.
But just as children won’t get far in math if they’re still counting on their fingers, the basic tenants of the faith need to be learned by heart. I believe in God the Father, Almighty Maker of Heaven and Earth, and in Jesus Christ his only begotten Son our Lord.
Of course, some people will try to take shortcuts. The answers are in the back of the book after all. X=2.3 Why go through all that work when you can just ask someone who already knows?
God returns, Jesus wins, heaven for saints and hell for sinners, hallelujah amen!
I’m an English major. I haven’t done any math more complicated than adding up my deposit slips in four years. I could, if handed a calculus textbook, chose a problem, and write down the answer (after I looked in the back of the book). But would I understand what I was saying?
Of course not.
Now, some people are brilliant at math. I could go to my younger brother, show him a math problem, and he’d say “Oh, that’s easy.It’s just a matter of dividing by the coefficient.”
And I would look at him in utter bewilderment. Just because it makes sense to him doesn’t mean he can explain it in a way that makes sense to me.
Or I could go to my mom (also an English major), who would say 'Just trust the answer in the back of the book. It must be right.“
But neither answer would help me 'show my work.’ It wouldn’t tell me where I went wrong or clarify what concept I need to review.
That’s how I feel about my life right now. The basic principals (1+1=2) are undeniable. The 'back of the book’ says God is sovereign. But what I need is someone to sit down with me and go through it. To read my erased scribblings, to stop me from banging my head against the wall, and just acknowledge that math is hard, and it might never 'click’ for me like it does for others.


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