Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Squaring the Circle

Our youngest son asked me the other night, “Why do people talk about four corners of the earth? The earth is round. How can it have corners?”

As I answered, I realized I also had the answer to a so-called problem often posed by so-called atheists in their attempts to disprove the existence of God. The problem is, “Can God make a square circle?”

“After all,” they will say, “logic dictates that two discrete sets defined with mutually exclusive definitions have no elements in common; in other words, no ‘square’ could ever be made into a ‘circle.’”

The question intends to discredit God with semantics, an attempt to base His existence on a misunderstanding of His Omnipotence. The intent is to shoot at God while He is seemingly trapped in the corner of basic geometry. What does strength have to do with existence? You exist, though you can’t arm-wrestle yourself . . .

I used to answer this question with something like, “What does this have to do with the fact that you will stand before Him on Judgment Day?” Now I have to change my answer.

As I answered my son, I found I need to adjust my answer to the square-circle question with this:

“You are right. The laws of logic do dictate that ‘two discreet sets defined with mutually exclusive definitions have no elements in common’; however, God did much more than make a square circle. Instead He made a circle square; better yet, He cubed a globe. You are standing on His proof and depend on His geometry every time you get in your car and hit the interstate. Besides, what does that have to do with the fact that you will stand before Him on Judgment Day?”

Can God make a square circle? That’s not a hard question. That’s not even a good question. Give Him something really challenging!

Psalm 19 says, "The heavens are telling of the glory of God; and their expanse is declaring the work of His hands. . . . Their line has gone out through all the earth, and their utterances to the end of the world. . . ."

I realized that God did not merely indulge the question as it stands (about making square circles); rather, it almost seems as if He is mocking those who reject Him as He answers when the objector looks at his compass.

Let's consider something else, and to do so, we will need to go on a journey to Northumberland, England (just one place out of so many). Look out the window. What do you see?

Do you see those cliffs rising above the plain? At what angle would you say those cliffs rise? It does not take a genius to see right angles. You don't see them? You know that they are there even in the tiniest of crevices. This view caused me to remember that a "square" is not merely a polygon of four sides (a rhombus, kite, parallelogram and trapezoid have four sides). In non-euclidean geometry a square is particularly defined by each angle being at right angles . . .
But there are other kinds of geometry:

In spherical geometry, a square is a polygon whose edges are a great circle of arcs of equal distance, which meet at equal angles. Unlike the square of plane geometry, the angles of such a square are larger than a right angle.

In hyperbolic geometry, squares with right angles do not exist. Rather, squares in hyperbolic geometry have angles of less than right angles. Larger squares have smaller angles.

Confused? Me too, but it's only because I do not speak math-eneze. All I know is that when I consider all the crystal structures, cliffs, mountains and whatnot that cover this planet, and when I look at those angles from God's perspective (from space) I see a circle (I can't see all sides at once, but I really know it's a ball) that will cut with it's sharp edges!

"Why are the nations in an uproar and the peoples devising a vain thing? The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers take counsel together against the LORD and against His anointed, saying, 'Let us tear their fetters apart and cast away their cords from us!' He who sits in the heavens laughs, the Lord scoffs at them." (Psalm 2:1-4)

Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?” (1 Corinthians 1:20)

“By wisdom the LORD laid the earth's foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place.” (Proverbs 3:19)

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