Saturday, 05 December 2009

Fractal Bible

My fifteen word bible got me thinking about the nature of the bible. It's something I contemplate from time to time, like many Christians, I suppose. Recently, I've been thinking that the bible is like a fractal, and trying to boil it down to fifteen words only emphasised that. The analogy is flawed, of course, like any human attempt at understanding God must be, but I think it's still worth exploring.

Fractals are very beautiful in and of themselves, although they can represent very complex ideas. I don't nearly understand the maths (chaos theory) behind fractals. Even when very learned men and women express the concepts mathematically, they lose something of their intuitive and natural beauty. The bible can be like that. I certainly acknowledge that commentaries and theological dissertations are meaningful and important, but the bible itself is the really beautiful, intrinsic, important thing.

The other important thing about fractals is that they're endlessly repetitive. There's a pattern behind the fractal that is extended indefinitely, becoming smaller and smaller. You can see the basic pattern, but it forms a different overall pattern too. I think that the basic pattern of the bible is God's nature, but perhaps the overall pattern is Christianity.

For me, that understanding gives me some idea of what seems like the repetitive nature of the bible, and particularly the Old Testament. Looking at the broad sweep of the pattern, we see repeated rejections of God and returns to him. As we look deeper, we see particular causes for these moves. Zooming in again, we can pick out individual responses. Every layer is important in making up the whole, but I struggle to conceive of them all simultaneously. My fractal model helps me to hold the pieces together.

I dare say that rigorous theological analysis would turn it out as dubious at best, but it helps me to understand. It's another rung in my ladder. I think that's what counts.


  1. Mmm, not sure about that one, Thomas. I don't think I'm nearly consistent enough to be a fractal. Do fractals have mood swings? I'm sure God doesn't!