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New math & multiple methods

There is more than one way to live out your faith, to believe, to be a follower of Jesus.

In recent years, I have been interested in watching moms and dads struggle with so-called “new” math. I put that in quotes because for me, it isn’t new. The principles being taught in the classroom today were the shortcuts my dad taught me decades ago. It is the way my brain works, either due to genetics or training.

The new part for many is that although there is one answer, there can be more than one method to find it.


The same is true with your computer.

I recently took an online course in HTML–the language most of the internet uses bring pages like this one into your browser. I expected to learn specific ways of doing things–rules, methods and the like. I remember the old “garbage in, garbage out” maxim from my high school BASIC programming days.

The instructor, however, shared there are often several ways to achieve the same goals, multiple ways to get a page to display in exactly the same way. At one point, she said coding is sometimes an art form.


Even medical science has proven this idea recently. I had no idea there could be more than one way to build a vaccine. Then for COVID19, we ended up with at least 3! All doing the same thing.

Quantum mechanics teaches that light moves in different ways–sometimes as a particle and sometimes as a wave.

Math, computers, and science are disciplines with definitive answers. Yet, we are learning there are multiple ways of arriving at those solutions.


When we reflect on topics as complex as human behavior or as vast as the divine, it should be no surprise that there is more than one understanding.

Yet in the church in the US today, there is a great deal of emphasis on specific tenets that make one true, real, genuine in one’s faith. On many church websites you will find a section about the beliefs of that congregation. There you will find various levels of detail outlining the congregation’s (or is it the pastor’s?) beliefs about God, the Bible, humanity, and more.

Jesus’ comfort

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the time Jesus’ disciples reported that they had stopped someone from doing good work in Jesus’ name because, “he isn’t in our group of followers” (see Luke 9:46-50; Mark 9:38-50).

I suspect the disciples expected a pat on the back for a job well done. Instead, Jesus corrects them, saying,

Don’t stop him, because whoever isn’t against you is for you

Luke 9:50 CEB

Jesus seems far less concerned about the individual’s identity than he is about the work they are doing. If they are doing God’s work, in this case casting out demons, Jesus seems uninterested if he/she is “in our group of followers.”

We want order, categories, and labels to help us make sense out of life: us/them, insider/outsider. Jesus, it appears, was more comfortable with the messiness of what it means to be human.

It’s like new math, HTML, and science. There’s more than one way to follow Jesus, to serve God, to love our neighbors. More than one way to live in the Kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.

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