(Update, Aug. 6, 2007: Hey, this post appears in the 51st Philosophers’ Carnival. And I didn’t even submit it. How cool is that?)
I didn’t think it was possible to write a Christian math textbook. I mean, math is math, right? But this comment at Pharyngula pointed to an article in Harpers that purports to give excerpts from just such a book, Precalculus for Christian Schools, published by Bob Jones University Press.
I don’t normally read Harpers, so I don’t know whether they publish humor. And the excerpts they quoted seemed just too wacky to be true. Or would be, if it weren’t for Poe’s Law.
So I decided to be a good skeptic and check it out. One Amazon reviewer quoted the Harpers excerpts, which most likely meant he was copying from them. Then I found that BJU Press has a sample chapter online.
Nothing extraordinary. Just a typical High School math textbook. I was about to conclude that Harpers had made the whole thing up when I stumbled upon this, on pp. 24-25:
Because SSA does not always determine a unique triangle, it is called the ambiguous case. Ambiguous means open to multiple interpretations. Some people say that you can interpret the Bible in any way that you want. However, there is no ambiguity in the Bible. “No prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost” (II Pet. 1:20-21). Studying the context and comparing Scripture with Scripture, submitted to the Holy Spirit, enables you to determine God’s intended meaning and avoids any private interpretations. That is why you must study and search the Scriptures daily. There is certainly no ambiguity in how to be saved from sin: “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation.
p. 34, section 1.7: “Applications”:
A line can be described either by its slope (a ratio) or by its inclination (an angle). These terms describe the deviation from the horizontal, but the word inclination has a nonmathematical meaning also. Without Christ, man is inclined to sin. Thus it reflects our desires and attitudes toward something. There are many things that influence our attitudes about life, but for the Christian, the Bible must be the prime influence on attitudes. Psalm 119:105 says, “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” Proverbs 6:23 states, “For the commandment is a lamp; and the law is light; and reproofs of instruction are the way of life.” From these verses you can see that the Word of God should shape our attitudes (inclinations).
Wow. It’s like a fundie Eliza, one that notices a word in its vocabulary and spits out a canned script that has nothing to do with the subject at hand.
pp. 40-41 have a section called “Math and Scripture”. I see the scripture part, but the math is a bit of a stretch:
God commanded Moses to count the people so that moses could see God’s blessing. Moses used this math skill to glorify God. God prohibited David from counting the people because David wanted to glory over the size of his own kingdom. Find these two passages.
I would’ve flunked Christian math. I can’t even solve this simple exercise from p. 43:
Explain the mathematical significance of Psalm 8:6.
Unfortunately, they missed some other Bible-related math problems, such as:
Matthew 4:8 says, “Again, the devil taketh him [Jesus] up into an exceeding high mountain, and sheweth him all the kingdoms of the world”. Assume that the earth is a sphere 40,000 km in circumference, and that kingdoms exist on all continents except Antarctica. Calculate the height of the mountain.
Or how about figuring out the amount of water it would take to flood the Earth? Or draw the triangle formed by the Earth, sun, and moon, when the sun stood still above Gibeon and the moon above the valley of Ajalon.
Someone, remind me again: why exactly am I supposed to treat religious ideas with respect?