I read this article entitled "What do Christian fundamentalists have against set theory" and was shocked since I grew up (Grade 1 - 8) in several (what could be described as) fundamentalist/evangelical private schools, and I majored in Computer Science / Discrete Math in college and if the two concepts had some sort of conflict I'd be the person to know. However, I had never heard of a Christian objecting to set theory on religious grounds.

To summarize the article he basically cites this by a christian textbook publisher:

"Unlike the "modern math" theorists, who believe that mathematics is a creation of man and thus arbitrary and relative, A Beka Book teaches that the laws of mathematics are a creation of God and thus absolute....A Beka Book provides attractive, legible, and workable traditional mathematics texts that are not burdened with modern theories such as set theory." — ABeka.com

Then he explains set theory and goes on a rant (which may or may not be derived) against fundamentalists who object to modernism and all things tainted my modernism. Then talks a little tiny bit about how they may be offended by any type of theory that can contain infinities.

If this is actually a valid portrayal of fundamentalist belief, why would they object to set theory?

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    ...my mouth was literally ajar when I read this. I'm sure the answer is most likely no. – El'endia Starman Jan 2 '13 at 23:09
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    Perhaps you mean doctrinal in place of real? – svidgen Jan 2 '13 at 23:12
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    @svidgen, yes I just removed any qualifiers. el'endia probably as shocked as me then :-) – aceinthehole Jan 2 '13 at 23:54
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    I used Beka books when I was in elementary school. It's not that set theory is anti Christian, but rather that it smacks of "New Math" (insert Tom Lehrer here). Beka is all about going back to basics in all things. – Affable Geek Jan 3 '13 at 0:41
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    I was home-schooled and used A Beka curriculum for some subjects--but not for math. Their math curriculum, as I recall, was rather lacking. – Flimzy Jan 3 '13 at 3:02

"Is it anti Christian" is a Truth question. Answering in such a way as to avoid that...

From a doctrinal or even denominational perspective, the answer is "no". Do some Christians think this way? Yes.

The author of the article does, however, quite accurately describe the mindset of certain types of individuals within more conservative, fundemantalist Churches like those that I favor and prefer. I am personally friends who share the type of mindset he describes. In some of the examples, I fit the stereotype he's describing.

One of the relevant statements made in the article is this:

I can tell you from experience that A Beka (and Bob Jones University Press) are stridently against modernism in all its forms. (I'm assuming they're against post-modernism, too, but you have to understand that the opinions and perspectives this sort of Christian fundamentalism has about society and culture were formed between the late 1920s and early 1970s and, because of this, the culture wars that they are fighting often come across as confusingly antiquated.)

He's dead-on there. There is a culture of anti-modernism inherent in Fundamentalist culture and the Fundamentalist mindset.

And there are certainly individuals that I know that would say, "Amen, brother!" to the A Beka statements. But none of them would confuse such a thing as a Doctrinal issue. Another hallmark of Fundamentalism is a strong belief in Sola Scriptura, and a rabid belief in sound doctrine. This isn't to say that they wouldn't argue that such things are true. Certainly, there are, as I said, those who believe such, but they know the difference between such beliefs and doctrine.

Rather they might say that their opposition to modernism is an application of doctrine. They believe x is evil, dangerous, wrong, etc, because of doctrine y.

So they might argue that set theory is anti-Christian, but that is a personal interpretation and application of doctrine, not a doctrinal statement in and of itself.

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    I'd like to also note that taking fringe positions based on reasonable principles isn't necessarily a Christian trait. It's something that seems to be human nature across the board. At another point on the spectrum, belief in evolution can be used to justify the ideas of eugenics, or the idea of a "superior race" like the Aryan race Hitler believed in. Regardless of the underlying principles, there will always be those people that take reasonable ideas and distort them or take them to extremes that the rest of us would find odd. Christianity is just not exempt. – David Stratton Jan 3 '13 at 1:59
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    I guess my disconnect is yes most Christians disagree with modernism most of the time, but I can't see as much as I try why set theory qualifies as modernism?!? – aceinthehole Jan 3 '13 at 3:10
  • Like I said.. Fringe... You'd be surprised at some of the stuff that offends some people in my circle. I sometimes wonder what it's like to truly see the world through their eyes. About some things, I do, and I remember how I thought before, back when I was a hardened atheist and anti-theist, and it amazes me how much a worldview can change. – David Stratton Jan 3 '13 at 4:20
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    This question had been flagged for closure as a truth question. As it's been around for a while, the OP is no longer active on the site as far as I know, and (in my view) a fairly minor edit would serve to keep it on-topic, I took the liberty of doing so - If you'd care to review the situation and possibly apply a minor edit to your answer that would be welcome. – bruised reed Jan 2 '17 at 5:35
  • Bob Jones University are the sort of Fundamentalists that Fundamentalists consider to be dangerous extremists. – DJClayworth Sep 8 '20 at 20:06

Personally, I believe that there is no such thing as infinity in the rational material world. When used as mathematical concepts, they are ok, for Mathematics are a rational science. But I as an (Eastern Orthodox) Christian, admit that many concepts that Maths admit are not possible in real material life.

Also this case is with the number Pi, which is not only irrational, but transcendental. This means that in the material world, it is not possible to construct a perfect circle out of anything. Nevertheless, equations and formulae with Pi which involve perfect circles exist and will continue to exist...

I believe, but I don't hold this is the ultimate truth, that it's ok to imagine that infinity and other ideas related to perfection exist within Mathematics for the good flow of our work, but we should say they are not really possible in the 'worldly' world.

  • It is possible to construct a perfect circle with a pair of compasses. But you can't calculate π from that. Similarly, as you say, even with the most accurate value for π that we have, we cannot construct a perfect circle. There is a disconnect in trying to create perfection in this imperfect world. There's probably some theology in there somewhere. – Andrew Leach Sep 24 '13 at 16:32
  • Forgive me, but it is not possible to construct a circle that is perfect, atom for atom. – Petru Dimitriu Sep 24 '13 at 18:46
  • "There is no such thing as infinity in the rational world". Then tell me the finite number of numbers between zero and one? – DJClayworth Jan 3 '17 at 2:39
  • @DJClayworth: one could argue that you are reinforcing his point. In the real world, no one can count them. :-) – WGroleau Jan 5 '17 at 3:55

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