Chris Ransford: A Call for a New Theology for the Modern Age

A Call for a New Theology for the Modern Age

Mathematical analysis shows that transcendence cannot be an attribute of God but that immanence is

As the world moves ever closer to a fully interdependent future, the religious strife we once assumed would soon become relegated to the distant past keeps flaring up. Must we really envision a future where religious strife is still the norm, where humankind was never able to rid itself of its burdensome and seemingly intractable legacy?

There is little certainty in life: scientific observations give rise to different and incompatible interpretations, different religions take widely different views of the nature of reality. In almost any discipline, different schools of thought have hung out their shingles, and we are at a loss telling the wheat from the chaff. There exists, however, one rock-bottom certainty: the vocabulary definition of numbers. We define 1 as being called 1, and 1 plus 1 as 2, and so forth. This in turn yields up a whole ménagerie of numbers, whose legitimacy ultimately rests on neutral labels rather than opinions or interpretations. Isn’t it time we used numbers to analyze, to the extent that we can, the purported attributes and essence of Godhood?

Struggle for a dominant religion

Historically, religion-driven conflicts have been addressed in either one of two ways, both equally catastrophic. One approach has been to try to impose one’s religion at the expense of the other person’s, which has only ever further fanned the fires. Even today, many still dream of finally imposing a single religion worldwide. The second approach, typically championed by scientists, consists in the wholesale rejection of any spiritual component to life, and the embrace of mechanistic materialism a la Richard Dawkins.

Besides being scientifically dubious, hard materialism has long since been debunked, both by the hard proof that matter is ultimately nothing but vacuum vibrations and also by a vast body of evidence that there still exist facts beyond current scientific explanations, which would have to be wilfully ignored to make the approach stick. As this approach can never convince the surprisingly vast numbers of people who have experienced–at some point in their lives–something they could not explain and which seemed to point to the existence of some hidden reality beyond everyday life.

Even atheists, such as Tanya Luhrman and others, or former atheists, such as Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, have written of inexplicable experiences that hint at the possibility of another unexplained reality beyond everyday life.

The wontedly swift and blithe dismissal of ordinary people’s experiences by many scientists only nudges many back into the only structures that attempt, however imperfectly, to make sense of such experiences and to provide rudiments of explanation: organised religion. As the novelist David Mitchell aptly puts it in The Bone Clocks, ‘The paranormal is persuasive: why else does religion persist?’

And boom, just like that, we are back to square one.

These two approaches have not progressed us a whit. Instead, they left us caught in a vicious spiral that seems to guarantee that we’ll keep on carrying the burdensome fellow-traveller of arbitrary, dogmatic say-so religions far into our future.

But is this the future we want for our children?

Science enters theological discussions

A more modern approach to theology can only involve a measure of science, because science has proven itself as the most effective tool in history. But it has also proven unable to formulate truths and to reconcile different spiritual views. Any survey of literature linking spirituality with non‑mathematical sciences shows that attempts to involve any sciences other than straightforward mathematics and its immediate derivatives into the spirituality debate routinely fail.

The key reasons why may have to do with the twin facts that such sciences do not delve deep enough into the ultimate nature of reality, and that they thereby leave enough wiggle room for subconscious biases to express themselves. Scientists such as Richard Dawkins, Richard M. Gale, Michael Martin, Richard Swinburne, Peter Russell, and so many others routinely embrace contradictory views of spirituality―from their reputedly wholly objective pulpits.

But there can be only one theological truth. The most objective tool we have at our disposal has never been tried in this context; it is called non-axiomatic mathematics–meaning mathematics based on definitions, such as 1+1 is called 2, rather than axioms. This also assumes not considering the ‘ontological arguments’, which are at their core instances of circular reasoning.

It so happens that the attributes of Godhood, as promulgated by different theologies, are directly amenable to mathematical analysis. In this context, a reputed attribute which ineluctably lead to a contradiction down the road of mathematical analysis must be discarded in the new, emerging theology.

Leap of faith

Mathematics can also, in so many ways, force a measure of reason and hence consensus on humankind’s continuing quest for spirituality. For instance, Tarski’s undefinability theorem says, in essence, that the reality of a statement cannot possibly be proven from within the language that makes this statement: external corroboration is required to establish such reality. To be fair, scripture-based theologies realise that, and they often address it by mandating leaps of faith.

The leaps of faith themselves, however, become then susceptible to mathematical analysis. To take an everyday example, math says that a lottery player who buys a ticket because she thinks she might win makes a legitimate ‘leap of faith’ that she’ll win: despite long odds, she just might.

The leap of faith, however, that God is transcendent rather than immanent―meaning present only at specific locations within space-time–including in possibly higher dimensional realm–rather than everywhere, is mathematically not legitimate: mathematical analysis shows that transcendence cannot be an attribute of God, but that immanence is.

We cannot go into the future carrying with us the fellow traveller of ancient religions. The time has come for a new, math-compliant theology.

Chris Ransford

Chris holds an engineering degree from the Institut National Polytechnique de Grenoble (INPG Phelma) in France, received a DEA in a joint research project with the Karlsruhe Institut für Technologie in Germany and INPG. Chris is currently authoring a three-book series on the nature of reality. His first book looked at the mysteries of Time (The Far Horizons of Time). The second book in the series is God and the Mathematics of Infinity and the third and final book in the series, Two Universes, should be published at the end of 2018. Chris currently lives in Melbourne, Australia, and still travels worldwide.

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2 thoughts on “A Call for a New Theology for the Modern Age”

  1. It would not be the first time that “numbers ” were used in a religious contexts and can be shown to have some relevance to the understanding of god.How ever our concept of “numbers” is as yet still not fully formed,I agree that fundamentally and simplistically like most humans,that 1+1=2.But what is the value of 0,does it represent the absence of everything or the potential to contain everything??
    E=mc2 is probably the most well known (not understood) equation in the human psyche,we are told that it is precise and a constant and works with our current thires so must be right.Take just one component though…..c…..the speed of light and you will find not one or two values for the speed of light but many.This is due ,we are told ,to the interpretations of the know data and leeds me to conclude the this would necessitate a new religious order or schism (The Holy Mathematician) to explain the mysteries of not only god but of number as well.
    We consider ourselves to be unique individuals,but can agree that 1+1=2 and with no proof or statistical data, I can also be confident that my concept of god is also unique and very different to others.

    Footnote: I do not mean that this is in any way invalid,anything that brings knowledge or understanding should be investigated.Im am intrigued how this could tells us anything about the concept of love (not greatly removed from god).

  2. Your piece seems to be fighting a straw god here–one who is “transcendent rather than immanent”. Classical theology presents God as both. It also seems to struggle against a straw theology. Classical theology contains the apophatic and the kataphatic; in theological language every analogous similarity admits of an even greater dissimilarity (declared the 4th Lateran Church council). We can make true claims, but not comprehensively or full-orbed truth claims, about God.

    The idea that we can make better progress by throwing away the persistent and enduring inherited thought and experience-reports on math, or on religions, seems illusory. Just as humans are thinking, political-cultural, word-symbol using animals, so are we inveterately worshiping and self-donating animals. We sense the presence-absence of real Being which summons us yet always leads and IS beyond us– where every where is here, and every when is now .