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Monday, September 12, 2011

Guest Post: Two Plus Two and Universal Truth

By Bill Huffhine

Donna could predict with bored certainty all that she would experience every single day of her advanced algebra class. But at precisely 8:04 yesterday morning she was proved wrong.

The complexities of the mind-numbing web of formulas and calculations that very few actually ever understand were briefly set aside. Instead, Mr. Hayworth stood with his checkered tweed clad back to the class and wrote in broad sweeping strokes upon the white board:

2 + 2 = 4

He then turned, and with an expression far too serious for the moment said with
unquestionable authority, "Two plus two equals four. Would anyone like to argue with this fact?" The room was quiet. Of course nobody could argue. And everyone wondered which of his desk drawers hid the flask he'd apparently been sipping from. Mr. Hayworth, the highly respected, published, mathematical authority, nodded slightly, without a smile, and then sat quietly behind his desk.

A couple of odd, awkward moments of silence passed before the door opened. It was Miss Umba Mingawa, the curator of the local art gallery located at the corner of Mayfair & Poplar. She smiled as she strode, or more accurately stumbled, through the door wheeling in a stone sculpture which she placed in front of Mr. Hayworth's desk, facing the class. It was a beautiful granite structure about two feet across and slightly taller than it's width. Carved into the face of the stone were three human figures. The first holding two fingers in the air. The second, with the opposite hand also holding two fingers in the air. And the third, head turned as if looking at the other two companions, held four fingers slightly outward, about chest high. With her broken english, flavored with a subtle Kenyan Bantu dialect, she said pleasantly to the class, with a sweeping of her right arm across the face of the structure, "Two plus two equals four."

As oddly as she entered, she turned, pushed the sculpture out the door, and waved goodbye.

A couple more minutes passed before another gentleman entered the room with a rather large wooden box. This was Sir Michael Bennett, a famous British historian visiting America as part of a traveling exhibit on British naval warfare. He pulled from the box two model ships, named them, and explained a bit about their structure and function. These were the first two ships to arrive offshore of the Isle of DeBrolay, weakening her defenses with their cannon fire. He then pulled two more models from the case, read their names, and continued the tale of these two ships joining the first pair some twenty-three hours after the assault began. They had been delayed by bad weather and a minor skirmish with a Spanish privateer, nearly costing the empire the battle over this small, but strategically significant island. The arrival of these two final ships turned the tide. And according to Mr. Bennett, the Battle of DeBrolay was won by four of the king's finest vessels.

 In the course of just under an hour the absolute truth of the mathematical calculation 2 + 2 was demonstrated by three different individuals, from three different cultures, educated in three different disciplines. The speakers, vastly differed in style, background, and personality. The medium of communication consisting of white boards, dry erase ink, stone structures, and model ships, all communicated the same universally understood truth.

From where does the mathematical truth of two plus two equalling four originate? From the mathematician? From the artist? From the historian? Neither. It simply...is. Wouldn't it be absurd for the mathematician to spend his life trying to convince the artist and historian that two plus two only equals four when it is found written on a white board with a black dry erase marker or is taught within the context of an advanced algebra class? How silly it would be for the artist to argue that unless it is portrayed artfully, preferably in granite sculptures on wheels, this simple mathematical formula breaks down and is brought into question.

 Truth is truth, wherever it may be found and however it may be communicated. Join me at www.christiandropout.com in the coming days as we further unpack this little parable and explore the ways in which it applies to followers of Jesus and how we look upon and interact with others throughout the world.


  1. Really enjoyed reading this, sometimes the simple truth are the most profound


  2. Thanks for stopping by Jim. So true. And I've found most times we complicate things greatly in the pursuit of truth...oftentimes it lies within simplicity.

  3. Simple honest truth that IT just is! Thank you for a great read...

  4. It just is, that all. Thank you!

  5. Excellent post Jessica! Truth is truth...what how powerful is that!

  6. Simply great article! This can be mankinds problem, to make everything complicated, when it is so simple.

  7. Truth by any name is still Truth.

  8. No matter how much smoke and mirrors with which we distort it, truth is truth, and it will abide.

  9. entertaining, but this is NOT truth. As someone who majored in mathematics in college, I was astounded when a professor posed the question to a class of seniors, "what is a number?" we all tried our best at answering. I don't remember what my exact response was, something along the lines of "a tool for counting" or something of that sort. To our dismay we were all wrong. It turns out that it wasn't until the 19th century that a satisfactory answer to "what is a number" was provided. To try using math (2+2=4) as a example of universal truth is a misrepresentation of mathematics and a misrepresentation of truth. To know a universal truth is to view from the vantage point of absolute objectivity. To be human is to be subjective. People are incapable of discerning absolute truth. To say otherwise is to be a charlatan.