Numerical Nonsense?

Editorial
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At the stove, waiting for the rice to boil. Just finished Stephen De Wit’s article “When to Stop Being a Christian” (p.18). The rice still isn’t done. Now what? Can’t leave the stove. Eureka! A calculator is within reach. Let’s see what feats of numeric legerdemain can be accomplished before dinner’s on.

De Wit quotes the apostle Paul: “If for this life only we have hoped . . .” Hmm. Subtract the years I can’t remember from those I can, the result is 54. Subtract the years I don’t want to remember, and I get 52. Park that number in Memory Plus. Now calculate the average life span of all my immediate family members: 78. Take the stored number and divide by that average. Tadah! I’ve blown through 0.66666666 percent of my anticipated conscious earthly existence.

Interesting number. The simple division defeats my calculator’s ability to provide an accurate result. It’s a never-ending, repeating number: 0.6666 . . . spiraling off into infinity. Yet “6” is the biblical number for anything but infinity. It’s the number of humanity, that being the day on which Adam was created. Adam comes from adamah, Hebrew for earth—from which Adam was created and to which he returned, as we shall too, if Jesus tarries.

Symbolically, 6 is the number that approaches but never reaches the number of perfection (think Psalm 8). It approaches God’s number, the number 7, the number of a fully complete and hallowed week.

That’s a surprisingly good numerical reminder for me “to count [my] days” (Ps. 90:12).

Our culture thinks it’s morbid to reflect on our death. It cowers beneath tons of feel-good entertainment focusing on the here and now. Yet the “forever young” generation is inexorably moving into the winter of life. We need more reminders—for wisdom’s sake (Eccles. 7:2). See Al Hoksbergen’s article on cremation (p. 20).

The rice has boiled and needs to sit. Now what to calculate? Hmm. Jesus gives us what we cannot hope to achieve ourselves: eternal life. Can he deliver?

He’s the Son of Man, the best man who ever lived. So let’s assign him the highest possible human number, 6.9999  . . . repeated to infinity. The Greek letter chi starts the word Christos, meaning Christ. It’s our letter X. So let’s let X = 6.9999. . . .

Now let’s play with that number. Multiply both sides of the equation by 10 and we get 10X = 69.9999. . . . Now subtract the former equation from the latter and we get 9X = 63 (the repeating 9’s all cancel out). Now we divide 63 by 9 and we get X=7, the number for God! That proves that one number, 6.999 . . . actually equals another: 7. The highest number of man equals God’s number. So it is with Christ. This greatest man is also God, and, therefore, able to defeat death.

Amazing how a bit of meaningless play away from screens and earbuds allows our minds to wander into things eternal.

The rice is done. Christ has risen. Time to tuck into the first of 20,805 meals I can reasonably expect to consume before joining him for dinner.

About the Author

Bob De Moor is a retired Christian Reformed pastor living in Edmonton, Alta.

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