Hell’s Arithmetic

I never actually want to find out first-hand, but I have a feeling that if we could peer into Hell we’d find that it is filled with mathematicians.

Realize friend—I’m a math guy.  I love math.  It was one of my favorite subjects in school.  I’m not saying “Hell is filled with mathematicians” because of a secret grudge I’m holding against Mr. Steers (junior year pre-calculus), or Mr. Rodgers (10th grade geometry), or Mrs. Kupenbender (7th grade), or any other math teacher from my past.  I got along well with my math teachers.  I enjoyed Russell Crowe in A Beautiful Mind.  People like John Nash intrigue me.  The TV series Numbers, with that actor who played the head elf in all the Tim Allen Christmas movies—I’ll be the first to admit—that’s pretty incredible stuff.  In my opinion, the more complex the cooler it gets.    

You see, Hell’s math isn’t complex.  It’s just the opposite.  When it comes to Hell’s mathematics, it’s a lot simpler than trigonometry, high-level accounting, or college calculus.  In fact, there are really only two functions in Hell’s math: addition and subtraction

You can spot it pretty easy.  The forces of Hell work along with our flesh to try to add or subtract from God’s Word.  Here are a few examples:

Scripture says:
Jesus + Nothing = Everything

Hell’s math says:
Jesus + Tradition = Salvation
Jesus + Religion = Righteousness
Jesus + Our view of how He should be presented = Relevance

Scripture says:
Scripture – Nothing = Truth
Scripture + Nothing = Truth

Hell’s math says:
Scripture – parts that offend me = Profitability for my situation
Scripture – things that force me to die to myself = Application for me
Scripture + interpretation that makes it about ME = “Abundant Life”
Scripture – things that don’t seem to fit my culture = Relevance for today
Scripture + what I feel applies to me = truth

We could go on and on, the equations are really endless.  But what is clear is that the forces of Hell, coupled with our flesh, will always seek to minimize God’s Word and maximize our convenience and comfort. 

We have a choice, every day we live on this earth, to give supremacy and primacy to His Word or to our word.  Choose wisely.


About Pastor Andrew

Follower of Jesus, Husband to Carissa, Daddy to four daughters, Lead Pastor at LifePoint Church in Vancouver, WA.
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2 Responses to Hell’s Arithmetic

  1. Marc Jones says:

    What about First Corinthians 14:33-35 (…women should be silent in the churches…)? I thought that we used the equation “Scripture – things that don’t seem to fit my culture = Relevance for today” to ignore those verses. I am not trying to challenge you or your post, I really don’t know the answer. It just came to mind while I was thinking about your post. I have never heard anyone in the Assemblies of God explain this. I just always assumed it was an equation like this.

    • Great question Marc-

      2 Timothy 3:16 says that “All Scripture is God-breathed and profitable for doctrine, reproof, correction, and instruction…” That means that even verses that give us trouble or seem to be culturally irrelevant are still God-breathed and exist to teach us in some way. If we begin to subtract Scriptures that just don’t seem like they fit our culture–leaving them on the sidelines so to speak–we start down a path of subjectivity that has it’s end in what I’m calling “Hell’s Arithmetic.”

      What does that mean for verses like the one you referred to? Well, it means we have to do some extra digging on what the verse meant in its original historical and biblical context and from there see what principles we can glean from it and how they apply today.

      The verse you quoted is certainly one of the tougher ones in the NT to wrap our heads around. Here’s the larger context:

      1 Corinthians 14:33-40 33 For God is not a God of confusion but of peace. As in all the churches of the saints, 34 the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. 35 If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church. 36 Or was it from you that the word of God came? Or are you the only ones it has reached? 37 If anyone thinks that he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that the things I am writing to you are a command of the Lord. 38 If anyone does not recognize this, he is not recognized. 39 So, my brothers, earnestly desire to prophesy, and do not forbid speaking in tongues. 40 But all things should be done decently and in order.

      Paul is in the middle of explaining “order” in corporate worship. The Corinthians have been appropriately referred to as “Christians gone wild.” They were getting drunk on communion before gathering, they were taking part in “dueling tongues” (similar to dueling guitars only crazier), among other things. So Paul takes what we now know as 4 full chapters (11-14) to really help restore order in their worship. Here is an excerpt from a commentary I trust on this passage:

      c. Control of married women in the congregation (34–36). Whatever this section is teaching, it is not telling women to keep quiet in church. In 11:5, Paul has already referred to women praying and prophesying. The reference to their husbands at home (35) immediately indicates that the apostle is thinking about the behavior of some married women at Corinth, behavior which needed firm control of the kind which had clearly proved necessary in all the churches of the saints (33). Although we cannot uncover the details of what was going on, we can discern some of the attitudes prevalent at Corinth. It seems that the principle of submissiveness was being ignored (they should be subordinate, 34), that a spirit of defiance was uppermost (it is shameful …, 35), and that an isolationist tendency was turning these wives into arbitrators of their own church order and even doctrine (Did the word of God originate with you?, 36). In other words, these married women were the source of some of the arrogance in the Corinthian church which Paul has already had cause to castigate.38…Whatever the detailed explanation, this paragraph looks like a fairly localized example of what could well have been a general tendency amongst Christian wives in the early church. They had discovered a unique freedom in the life of the Christian community, and it is possible that this freedom had gone to their heads, or, more precisely, to their tongues. This lack of self-discipline was causing confusion and disorder in the worship of the church. Because Paul is so insistent on the priority of edification, he writes with some firmness—and not a little sarcasm—about the need for control. [The Message of Corinthians by David Prior]

      All of that being said, there are a number of things we can take from these verses that certainly apply to us today (order in church gatherings, necessity of humility, submission to spiritual authority, etc.). So, at first glance what appears to be something culturally outdated or irrelevant actually carries with it some outstanding teaching points as we dig deeper.

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