What's the relationship between numbers and faith? Local pastor Tim Carson explores just that in his new book, “The Square Root of God.” I sat down with Carson to find out more about his book, and the place where faith intersects with math, science and more.
Q: What first inspired you explore the intersection of faith and science?
A: I think that part of the idea of “irrelevancy” of faith has come as we have distanced ourselves from science and think that we have to choose one or the other, creating a false dichotomy. I’ve always sought to create bridges and correlations. Tillich had what’s called a “Correlation Model,” in which you take the theological propositions of the Christian faith and the human condition and you find a question-answer correlation that goes back and forth between the two. The answers are to be found in the intersection of the two.
As a happy coincidence, I started having these conversations with people who love mathematics, and I did not know how much math is embedded in theology. But of course it is, and if you do a multi-religious studies across religions, you find that numerology in the book of Numbers plays a role, for example. I started honing in on some of those concepts and the “Ah ha!” moments started coming to me. I thought of how I could draw together a lively conversation that would be a back-and-forth between these two areas. I came up with a five-fold pattern of One, Circle, Pi, Shape and Infinity. Once I started dealing with each of those, I began to see how they were all interrelated.
Q: How does quantum physics contribute to this conversation about math and theology? You write that most of the time, we move in two dimensions until exceptions of anomalies expose hidden things already at work.
A: Something that is outside of cause-and-effect of Newtonian physics surprises us. Those kinds of incidents happen all the time, we’re just not mindful until they do. Suddenly, we see there is an impact far beyond what meets the eye. That makes us aware that that is there all the time.
When physicists talk about string theory and multiverses, that is such an abstract concept until you start to talk about physics and how an electron, as it is traced, can appear and then seem to go to another place, and then reappear in the field. If the idea that a multiverse is valid, the energy and power that we experience in this time and place is alongside of multiple ones that we don’t see. In the past Christians would speak of the spiritual realm, Heaven, the life beyond and ghosts. Whatever those dimensions are, they coexist with this one.
Experiments of human consciousness and prayer or meditation can apply to whether or not intercessory prayer can help sentient beings or objects from a distance. In a Newtonian universe that does not make any sense. In a Quantum universe, it changes, because “here” is “there,” and “now” and “then” and the future are one. Einstein would say that it is an illusion to think they are all separate. On the quantum level, things are happening molecularly and sub-atomically, and our conscious actually has an effect. For people who thought that they had to either defend their religion against science, a new doorway is opened in which every new scientific discovery reinforces the mystery of God. God just gets bigger. Thinking of it in terms of having our one universe, not two means realizing that we do not have a secular universe and a religious universe.
Q: Explain how the circle is symbolic of interfaith unity.
A: Thinking in terms of concentric circles, different traditions occupy different spaces in terms of their practices, their histories and cultures. So they are on different sociocultural planes but they all share the same center. Once we get to the point of realizing a shared center, we can have a breakthrough. With the unity and infinity of the universe being the center, we are all gathered around that center in different degrees of intensity or richness.
Q: How did writing “The Square Root of God” shape your own faith and work?
A: I think that any time you hone your understanding and push yourself, it causes you to develop clarity about these things so that when issues come up, you have thought through these dimensions to a certain degree so you have a sense of how you might interpret that. After immersing yourself in this area, when anything arises that is similar in nature, you have a sense of what that is like, a frame of reference. I think that if you are an honest author and dare to put yourself out there, you will do that by taking some risks. Those who read the book will gain a truer sense on where I am, and will give people handles to freedom and how to interpret things differently from a new point of view. I hope that the book offers some illumination.
Tim Carson is the pastor of Broadway Christian Church. Find more about the church in our directory. You can find out more about his book in this press release.