Two plus two equals five is not good theology in a rational universe

Some of us try not to wade into theology as such very much for the same reasons as we try to avoid taking a whack at the tarbaby. Where theology is directly relevant – for example if someone claims that there is an “artistic license to lie” about traditional religious ideas about the universe, well, we don’t have much choice, do we?

Just recently, a troubling statement emerged: A notion of theology that suggests it is somehow counter-real or anti-real. A priest explains, in a post mainly devoted to issues in the Vatican’s media office:

But on the communications front, 2018 demonstrated amply that it is not the supposed “enemies” of the pope who cause the Holy Father the most problems. It is his most enthusiastic friends. In early 2017, Father Antonio Spadaro, the papal amanuensis and consigliere plenipotentiary, tweeted: “Theology is not mathematics. In theology 2 + 2 can equal 5. Because it has to do with God and real life of people….” His intent was to defend Amoris Laetitia [a controversial recent document]. But it had the opposite effect, as the pope’s inner circle gave off a creepy authoritarian vibe. Ever since George Orwell’s 1984, insisting that 2+2 can equal 5, or whatever the party line is, has become shorthand for totalitarianism. Indeed, in 1980s Poland a frequent anti-communist slogan was that, “For Poland to be Poland, 2+2 must always equal 4.” Raymond J. de Souza, “Friendly Fire” at First Things

The people involved are unlikely totalitarians but they could make life easier for such by being as witless as they sometimes seem. Anyway, for the record, it’s not true that the Catholic Church thinks that 2+2 = 5 or that totalitarianism is good government.


See also: Michael Keas: Stephen Hawking Among Worst Offenders ForScience vs. Religion Myths

Bill Nye’s “Christianity vs. The Big Universe” Myth

Neil deGrasse Tyson and “the artistic license to lie”


The progressive war on science takes dead aim at math