Monday, September 02, 2013

Balancing The God Equation

For the past three years I have been working on a math certification for my teaching license.  It was 6 graduate level math courses which often pushed the envelope for this elementary teacher.

One of the classes was called "Algebraic Reasoning".  Since there is a focus presently in education on addressing real world situations, there were lots of story problems and hands-on scenarios, rather than just lists of equations.

Often, the story problems were rather lengthy and convoluted (from my perspective), involving many variables.  It occasionally took 30 minutes to solve one problem, or the knot of numbers seemed so tangled that I would have to set it down and attack it again later.

When a problem had multiple variables, success often depended on getting started with that first variable (A).  From that starting point, I would one by one work through the other variables (B)-(F). Some variables took longer to get than others, and B might sometimes need to be reworked when I discovered what (E) turned out to be.

In any case, when done I would do a last check by plugging all of the variables into the equation and, if done right, the equation should balance.

It was frustrating when the equation didn't balance, and I would have to go back into the problem to find which variable was out of sync.  It was often tempting, due to exasperation, to declare the equation "close enough" and be done with it.  However, my personality is such that I don't like to leave a mystery unsolved.

My first variable (A) was usually the last variable I would review.  It was the linchpin that everything else flowed from, and the reason it was selected was that it was OBVIOUSLY true.  I would often spin back and forth through the other variables multiple times before I would even consider that my first variable (A) might be where the problem was.

It occurred to me recently that this was the pattern I had lived out in my Christianity.  Back when I was a teenager, I committed many books of the bible to memory.  I could not reconcile what was written in its pages and what I saw in the world.  So even as a young man, I realized the bible was not inerrant.  I decided the bible was the testimonies of men who encountered God and was told from their human perspective.  I could not say this aloud because it would not have been acceptable in my circles. However, for the moment it seemed to help balance the equation.

As time moved on, my life and perspective broadened.  New situations and experiences challenged my thinking and I realized the way I had been framing the equation was not taking into account all the variables. One by one I started to address them... first the nature of God and salvation (were the acceptable children really such a small number?), then Hell, then other religions, the history of faith, meaning, eternity, other voices and philosophies.  Though each adjustment brought relief for a time, the variables seemed to multiply with each change.  When I plugged my new results into the God Equation, some variable would be out of sync. It became tempting to just quit fiddling with it and declare "close enough".

Similar to my class math equations, I spent my time readjusting all of the variables after the first, but never touched the first itself.  God was the linchpin, the given, the obvious starting point that had to be correct.

Then came the day when I addressed my first assumption.  What if there is no God?  A lifetime of conditioning fought against the idea, but my need to address the unsolved mystery won out.  I changed my first variable from "God" to "no god"..... and for the first time in my life, all the tumblers fell into place, the variables flowed smoothly together like the pieces of a puzzle, and the equation balanced.

Like the old computer Joshua in the movie Wargames, I played out all of the scenarios, all of the equations, with God as part of the equation - and they all end eventually in human devastation.  Like Joshua, I discovered that religion is a strange game....

and the only winning move is not to play.


Kevin Dudley said...

Yes! Brilliant post. This one must be shared!

Michelle said...


Charles Middleton said...

Andrew when in doubt go back to the beginning! Faith in God is the only solution that has no equals!

Brook said...

Chuck has a good point. it simultaneously addresses and ignores everything you just said...

Alice G said...

I'm just starting this journey myself. I can't say that there is not a God yet, but my faith has certainly been shaken over the last several years.

Jon Eastgate said...

I know quite a few people who feel as you do - that letting go of the idea of God was a relief. All of them (like you I think) grew up in the faith. For myself, I was a convert in my teens and my parents were non-religious. While I'm often perplexed and unsure about it, I don't find my faith a burden and have no desire to leave it. I wonder if there's something in the particular experience of growing up in the church that accounts for that?

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