Christian Engineering Books & Articles

This is a short list of books and articles regarding what it means to be a Christian Engineer. If you have additional suggestions for writing that connects Christianity and Engineering, please email Steve VanderLeest.

Table of Contents


Books

Casey, S. M., Set Phasers on Stun: And other true tales of design, technology, and human error, Aegean, 1998.

The author presents 20 case studies of engineering failures. There are familiar (to many engineers) and obscure ones, but all describe what happens when a particular set of conditions lead to a failure. Many have disastrous consequences, encouraging engineers young and experienced alike to consider the possible outcomes of their decisions. These do not read like a dry report; the writing is engaging and effectively draws you in to each event. Any engineer will find it an engaging book, but I particularly recommend it for undergraduate design courses as a prompt for discussion or writing assignments on ethics, design failure, and professional responsibilities

Groothuis, Douglas R., The Soul in Cyberspace, Baker Book House, 1999.

A major point of this book is that much of the information technology we employ now (and back in 1999) disembodies us and decontextualizes information. And, this is bad. Bad for deep understanding and bad for community (among other things). Also, this technology makes information ethereal - easy to create, transmit, remix, and to delete either accidentally or purposefully. Certainly information technologies and the Internet can be used wisely and well, but Groothuis argues that we do not do so. More recent technology doesn't change this book - though it is 11 years old (a few web generations), the insights still hold and may have even better exemplars now. As an engineer, this book has helped me see the consequences of how we have designed information technology without a thoughtful Christian philosophy to guide us.

Monsma, Stephen V., ed. Responsible Technology: A Christian Perspective . Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1986.

Pearcey, Nancy, Saving Leonardo: A Call to Resist the Secular Assault on Mind, Morals, and Meaning, B&H Publishing Group, 2010.

*Saving Leonardo* is Nancy Pearson's magnum opus and furthers the thought she articulated in *Total Truth.* Building on the work of the great theologian, Francis Schaeffer, Nancy continues her analysis of secularism and asks a simple question: Is secularism a positive force in the modern world?

The book is beautifully written and illustrated in 328 pages on heavy gloss paper, and after a brief introduction (Why Americans Hate Politics) it is organized into two main parts comprising nine chapters and an epilogue. Part 1, The Threat of Global Secularism, comprises three chapters: 1.) Are You an Easy Mark? 2.) Truth and Tyranny 3.)Sex, Lies, and Secularism. Part 2, Two Paths to Secularism, comprises the remaining six chapters and an epilogue: 4.) Crash Course on Art and Worldview 5.) Beauty in the Eye of the Machine (The Enlightenment Heritage) 6.) Art Red in Tooth and Claw (The Enlightenment Heritage) 7. Romancing the Canvas (The Romantic Heritage) 8.) Escape from Nihilism (The Romantic Heritage) 9.) Morality at the Movies; and an Epilogue, Bach School of Apologetics. The book is heavily annotated and referenced with acknowledgments, a list of notes, and list of images; but unfortunately this scholarly work has no index.

By surveying art and philosophy from Aristotle, Descartes, and onward, Pearcy weaves together a coherent, cogent, and convincing case that secularism is an abject failure both as a worldview and as a positive force in art, science, and the modern world. To do this, she builds on Schaeffer's fact/value split -- a theme she thoroughly introduced in *Total Truth* and amplifies further via example in *Saving Leonardo.* Basically, the argument is this: secular thought has devolved to the following. When it comes to scientific facts, what's true is true. That is, 1 + 1 = 2 for everyone everywhere every time. However, when it comes to values, i.e., morality in its various expressions (e.g., abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, homosexuality, etc.), what's true for you is true and what's true for me is true -- even if such "truths" are mutually contradictory. Thus, with respect to facts, secularists are modernists but with respect to values, secularists are post-modernists.

This schizophrenia continues in worldview. That is, a worldview should explain the world, not fall apart when the focus shifts. Yet those secularists who genuinely believe that life evolved from a prebiotic soup do not treat their loved ones as if they were mere rearrangements of carbon atoms. They do not behave as if their love is an evolutionary trick foisted upon them by their genes. They genuinely love.

However, the fact/value split has more serious issues than being schizophrenic; it commits suicide. That is, if there is no absolute truth, then any statement affirming such is self-destructive reducing to an absolute truth claim that absolute truth does not exist. If all thought is ultimately the result of evolution, then so is the thought that all thought is the result of evolution, and we have just lost any objective basis to affirm that all thought is a result of evolution.

One may argue that not all seemingly coherent worldviews are true, but one cannot properly argue that an incoherent worldview is true, and secularism offers an incoherent worldview. But that is not all. As Pearcy shows, secularism has had a debilitating effect on art and science. It destroys any basis for science -- if absolute truth does not exist why study it in the particular? It also corrupts art, which Pearcy shows via numerous examples in her text.

Christian theism stands in stark contrast to secularism; it is a coherent worldview: because we were created by a loving God, love is not illusory but genuine. Because God is a truthful moral agent, true morality exists. Because the Christian God is a rational God, a rational world is not only allowed but expected; indeed, historically it was Christianity that motivated science while secularism (in the form of modernism and later post-modernism) among other "isms" (such as fatalism, paganism, animism, and mysticism) militated against it.

But is Christianity true? That is the question worthy of debate and the one that is tacitly dismissed without due consideration by the fact/value split. Christian apologetics have affirmed a rational and emphatic yes to that question that has withstood millennia of destructive criticism. How remarkable that two millennia after its introduction by the most common of folk, and after continued opposition by the greatest world empires, that we continue to name our children Peter and Paul and our dogs Nero and Caesar.

Schuurman, Egbert, Perspectives on Technology and Culture, Sioux Center: Dordt College Press, 1995.

Swearengen, Jack, Beyond Paradise: Technology and the Kingdom of God, Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers, 2007.


Conference Proceedings

Christian Engineering Education Conference (CEEC)

Articles

Adams, Charles C. "Automobiles, Computers, and Assault Rifles: The Value -Ladenness of Technology and the Engineering Curriculum." Pro Rege, March 1991, pp. 1-7.

Schuurman , Derek C., "Forming a Christian View of Computer Technology," Journal of the ACMS, 2007. Abstract and Full Paper

Newberry, Byron, "The Challenge of Vocation in Engineering Education," Christian Scholar’s Review, v35, n1, Fall 2005, pp. 49-62.

Van Poolen, Lambert, “Towards a Christian Theory of Technological Things,” Christian Scholar’s Review, v33, n3, Spring 2004, pp. 367-378.


Suggestions

Here is a list of suggestions from CEEC attendees and CES newsletter readers. Please consider submitting a 1-2 paragraph review/summary of any of these works.
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