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New Journal Links Faith and Software
December 4, 2007

A Calvin computer science professor has created a professional journal that focuses on the link between Christian faith and software development. 

Dynamic Link: Christian Perspectives on Software Development, which was released by the Calvin computer science (CS) department earlier this month, is written by professional software developers who strive to glorify God through their work.

“Rather than approach it from the purely academic sense, I decided to approach professional software developers who are also professed Christians and ask them if they see the link,” said CS professor Patrick Bailey, the creator of Dynamic Link.

The new journal contains articles exploring an entire universe of faith issues in the field of software development:

Dorothy Graham, a 1966 Calvin graduate and software tester living in the United Kingdom, shares an article about her company’s “ethos,” a thoroughly articulated Christian code of conduct for the workplace;  Independent IT contractor Ken Shafer, makes the case for the software developer as a steward.  

Mike McIntosh, a project manager at Quixtar, advocates the exercise of wisdom (favoring realism over optimism) in software development, and freelance developer James Stewart, another UK resident, advocates for software that enhances creativity and engagement with community.

Remington Steed’s entry—wherein the 2006 Calvin grad shares about his experiences creating better software for the Wycliffe Bible Translators—is also an exhortation to software developers to pursue God’s distinctive calling for their lives: “Whatever the case, expect the call to require obedience, sacrifice and trust,” he says. And Jared Staal, a 2006 grad, writes about faith and the work environment.

Bailey’s contribution to Dynamic Link—besides editing the journal—was an article summarizing the results of his survey of 80 Christian software developers about how their faith influenced their work. It was that survey, in fact, that led to the creation of Dynamic Link.

And it was a student response that led to the survey.

This response came to the following exam question: What is the relationship between software development and Christian faith? The student’s answer was: “Why do you always have to keep asking this question? It has absolutely nothing to do with my faith. I wish professors would stop trying to push it so much.”

“I took that as a challenge,” Bailey said. He and student researchers Staal, Jessica Holtrop (’07) and sophomore Michael Bailey sent the questionnaire containing that and other questions to software developers culled from graduates of Calvin’s computer science department, members of the North American Christian Reformed Church, the membership of the International Conference on Computing and Mission and other professionals.

“These people don’t get much of an opportunity to talk about their faith, and they expressed a desire to write about these issues. I thought it might be interesting to have a journal devoted to that,” said Bailey, who found funding for Dynamic Link from Vocation Venture Fund of Calvin College, part of the Lilly Endowment Program.

Bailey sees biblical basis for software development as kingdom work: “It’s the whole idea of craftsmanship,” he said. “If you look at the whole software industry, so many people write about it as a craft—not an art or science—and if you look in scripture, you see 41 references (in the NIV) to craftsmanship.”

He also sees a common theme in the new journal’s offerings: “They’re saying, ‘Let’s not do it for ourselves. Let’s do it for the glory of God!” That means looking out for other people, Bailey emphasized. “You’re there for the team. There are a lot of pressures on software developers. There are a lot of things happening for money reasons. And doing the right thing is another way of loving your neighbor.”

~written by Calvin staff writer Myrna Anderson

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