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On Mathematics and Biblical Womanhood

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By Andrea Silvera, YWA Ambassador in Charlotte, North Carolina

“It is impossible to be a mathematician without being a poet in soul.”

Sofia Kovalevskaya

In the midst of the seemingly chaotic appearance of equations and solutions in mathematics, something extraordinary emerges: a vibrant choreography of logical sequences that rhyme with life. As a Christian and a young professional who will be pursuing a graduate degree in the applied mathematical sciences, I tend to see a parallel in the transformation of mathematical operations and God’s love story, where in His infinite goodness and mercy, we experience conversion and are made new in Christ as we die to self. This may seem strange to some, but through the language of mathematics, the Holy Spirit has invited me to enter into a deeper relationship with my Creator. Believe it or not, I have been contemplating the ways in which the discipline of mathematics could be characterized as an expression of Biblical womanhood, particularly in its power to create and sustain life.

Far too often, mathematics and faith are treated as separate disciplines that are unrelated to one another. But both are real. Isn’t it interesting that while people of different faiths (or none) generally accept statements like 2 + 2 = 4 as a universal truth, disputes regarding the origin of that truth remain contentious?

From a Christian perspective, God is transcendent in that He “is the original, authoritative source and knower of 2 + 2 = 4” and immanent in that He “makes the truth 2 + 2 = 4 accessible to and known to human beings.”[1] Since we are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), we have the gifts of reason, morality, and language. Mathematicians believe passionately in the rationality of arithmetical laws and in their ability to be expressed with human language. If the laws are rational, then they are also personal,[2] revealing how God is not disconnected from nor limited by His creation.

Using mathematics to describe natural phenomena, we discover new aspects of reality: mathematical research leads to solutions for tangible problems, ranging from wound healing to cybersecurity. It is precisely because of the mathematical foundations in the sciences that engineers, scientists, and medical researchers can innovate.

I see the role women play as a bedrock for civilization as analogous to the function mathematics has as a catalyst to scientific and technological innovation. Science depends on mathematics, just as all of life depends on women as mothers, protectors, providers, and so much more.

In the book of Psalms, women are described as “corner pillars” of a palace, by which they hold all structures together:

“May our sons in their youth be like plants full grown, our daughters like corner pillars cut for the structure of a palace” (Psalm 144:12, ESV).

What a beautiful picture. It speaks of daughters, accentuating for us the enduring principle of womanhood from generation to generation. At the core of Biblical womanhood is enduring strength. Women are the pillars of the palace of civilization constructed with family units. As women have the unique gift of biological (and spiritual) motherhood to ensure societal flourishing, so too mathematics plays a unique role in scientific study and human survival. From this perspective, mathematics is life-giving. Similar to the way that women give birth to and nurture souls, mathematics gives birth to new discoveries and cultivates the growth or development of scientific advancement and solutions.

Femininity in all its glory is not passive, but active, and the same could be said of mathematics, no matter how concealed it may be in our daily lives. Much to continue to ponder about this, but one thing is sure: the infinite domain and range of God’s design are evident to me in both the way I am created as a woman and what I see in the study of mathematics. It all stirs awe and wonder and praise within my soul. I hope it does in yours, too.

[1] Vern S. Poythress, Redeeming Mathematics: A God-Centered Approach. (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway, 2015), 61.

[2] Ibid., 18.