Making a Biblical Circle

Posted by By at 14 November, at 07 : 11 AM Print

“Then he made a molten sea; it was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measure its circumference.”  – 2 Chronicles 4:2 and 1 Kings 7:23

“Scripture in the original manuscripts does not affirm anything that is contrary to fact.”-  Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: an introduction to biblical doctrine.

“The number π or pi is the ratio of a circle’s circumference divided by its diameter. The constant, is approximately equal to 3.14159.” – What every kid learns in school.

Here are some questions.

What happens when Professor Grudem’s systematic theology meets pi?

What happens when biblical literalism meets what any middle high kid knows isn’t true?

What happens when firmly held doctrines, even those held by the mighty and the many, conflict with empirical evidence?

And what happens, when you try to make a biblical circle, even in the Year of the Bible, proclaimed by both the Republican legislature and governor of Pennsylvania?

Here are some answers.

What happens is Karl Rove on election night questioning the mathematicians in the Fox New room because they forecast correctly that Romney would lose Ohio.

What happens is a Republican Party believing only the pollsters that told them they would win.

What happens is Mitt Romney believing he was going to win the Presidency to such a degree that he hadn’t even written a concession speech.

What happens is a stricken Republican Party, totally unaware that the Southern Strategy, cooked up by Nixon to pander to Southern white male voters in order to win elections, has run its course in national politics.

What happens is a bewildered, angry, and confused Fox News Company, Rush Limbaugh, and Ted Nugent.

What happens is all four state referendums for a broader definition of marriage pass and fundamentalist Christians have no idea why.

What happens is women continue to be seen as incapable of making decisions about their bodies.

What happens is people deny evolution, climate change, and science to their own detriment.

What happens is the gap between the 1% and the 99% continues to widen.

What happens is we try to make a biblical circle. If the molten sea was round, then it couldn’t be 10 cubits in diameter and 30 cubits in circumference. If the molten sea was 30 cubits in circumference and 10 cubits in diameter, then it wasn’t round.  A biblical tire that is 30 cubits in circumference and 10 cubits in diameter would make a rider, even Noah, seasick because π is not exactly 3, but always a little more than 3, approximately 0.14159 more than 3.  Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself. Computer scientists have calculated its value to over 10 trillion digits. In all those digits, its decimal representation never terminates and never repeats, and won’t for the next 10 trillion digits or the next 10 trillion, trillion digits because π has been proved to be both irrational and transcendental.

We need to learn to live in a world where π is 3.14159, not 3. I pray we can adjust.

Photo by pauladamsmith


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- who has written 29 posts for Rock The Capital
The Rev. Timothy Dewald was Assistant Professor of Mathematics at Lebanon Valley College joining the faculty in 1989. He retired in May 2010. In 1993 he won the College's Evelyn J. Knisley award for Inspirational Teaching. In addition to teaching mathematics, Rev. Dewald served the College in 1992 as acting chaplain, taught courses in East Asian religions, a First-Year Seminar on Darwin and evolution, Einstein’s general relativity, and the New Testament, as well as a mathematics and statistics courses. He also served as a parish minister for 23 years. Rev. Dewald graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in political science and religion. He earned a master of divinity degree from Andover Newton Theological School in Boston, Massachusetts. In 1987, he received certification in mathematics from the Pennsylvania State University. - Email Timothy Dewald

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