Friday, October 10, 2014

Is Sin a Fractal?

In the upcoming novel, Chronopticus Rising, an imprisoned mathematician asks a peculiar question: "Is sin a fractal?" Although no character ever really answers the question, it is an idea that has come up a few times during the process of writing of this trilogy.

First, let's define a fractal. Webster's defines it as "any of various extremely irregular curves or shapes for which any suitably chosen part is similar in shape to a given larger or smaller part when magnified or reduced to the same size." Wikipedia states, "A fractal is a natural phenomenon or a mathematical set that exhibits a repeating pattern that displays at every scale. If the replication is exactly the same at every scale, it is called a self-similar pattern."

Now, for a definition of sin. Again, from Webster's: sin is "an offense against religious or moral law" or a "transgression of the law of God". So consider this verse from James 2:10 which reads, "For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all." (KJV) In other words, no matter how small the offense against God's Law, it puts one in the category of a lawbreaker. A similar concept is echoed in Romans 3:23, which states, "For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God." (KJV)

Along these lines, James 4:1 makes this curious statement: "From whence come wars and fightings among you? Come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?" (KJV). Or, as the NIV states, "What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you?" In other words, the external battles are often a reflection of what is going on internally. It isn't hard to imagine that if you scale this concept up, nation can turn against nation without a lot of effort.

Maybe an alternative question to ask is this: is the Law a fractal? Take, for example, the Ten Commandments or the Law in general. Jesus said the Law could be summed by two simple statements. Matthew 22:37-40 (KJV) reads, "Jesus said unto him, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."" If you work your way through Leviticus and Deuteronomy and look through the ceremonial, civil, and moral laws listed there, they all seem to reflect what Jesus said...despite their thoroughness.

Now, I don't pretend to have an answer for these questions, but it does make for some challenging fiction. And, as a writer, that's the most interesting kind of fiction to write.

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