Scribbling On the Back of an Old Envelope

EnvelopeIn the preface to his book, The Demon-Haunted World, Carl Sagan fondly recounts his college years, where he was able to learn from the minds of some of the 20th Century’s greatest minds, including astronomer G. P. Kuiper. He notes:

It was from Kuiper that I first got a feeling for what is called a back-of-the-envelope calculation: A possible explanation to a problem occurs to you, you pull out an old envelope, appeal to your knowledge of fundamental physics, scribble a few approximate equation on the envelope, substitute in likely numerical values, and see if your answer comes anywhere near explaining your problem. If not, you look for a different explanation. It cut through nonsense like a knife through butter.1

Although those thoughts were related to a scientific approach, it seemed to me that they were also completely applicable in the theological realm. Even though some spiritual concepts are "simple" to comprehend (or should be), Christians (especially our scholars) often spend the majority of their time trying to wrap the infinite with finite words. We want to be able to explain exactly how salvation works, how God is both three and one, how Jesus was 100% human and 100% divine—the list goes on ad infinitum. Although there is much that can be elucidated, frequently we seem to be trying to describe the indescribable. Continue reading Scribbling On the Back of an Old Envelope