Using Engineering to Understand Christianity

One day in class, the director of our school (the Horizon School of Evangelism) was using the analogy of testing in Engineering to help us understand why our faith needs to be tested, and being a software engineer by profession, it was a comparison that totally made it very concrete to me why we have to go through periods of testing.

Jesus used a lot of parables about farming, because the lay-person in his day was typically a farmer. That’s what they knew well and understood. By drawing upon their understanding of farming, it would make it much clearer to them what Jesus was saying about faith. But what kind of comparisons can you make that make Christianity more concrete to the modern-day engineer?

Testing of Your Faith is Like Engineering Testing

At work one of the phases of development that we do is testing what we make, both the hardware and software components. This testing can help us to understand testing of our faith.

One of the items we make at work is a “control unit” for a training system that is mounted inside a tank. There’s a lot of strange stuff they do in the environmental testing lab to test this hardware before we ship it to the field.

For example, they leave the box in a freezer for an extended period to make sure it can withstand extreme temperatures and still be operable and not crack or the display go blank or something else that would prevent the box from operating in the sort of conditions that it is designe to withstand.

There’s another device that is essentially a shaking table, simulating the roughness and jostling conditions a tank off-roading is likely to encounter. Once again, they turn on the box and test key functionalities of the control unit while it is enduring these conditions.

Why put this piece of hardware through such brutal conditions? Because they want to prove this is reliable hardware capable of withstanding certain types of operating conditions.

Likewise, in the software department, we try to test whatever sort of conditions might make the software break. Testing expected average case values is a practical first step, but reality is, most of the time you run with average values everywhere–those kinds of bugs tend to get squashed out very quickly because they’re easy to find. So what is more interesting to test? Boundary conditions–things on the extreme ends of what is possible. What happens if you pass in a null or 0 value? What happens if you pass in an integer that is the maximum possible value allowed by the data type? What happens if you pass in a negative value?

Likewise, our faith must also be tested. Testing of your faith produces patience [or perserverence or endurance depending on your translation] (James 1:3b NKJV). And keep in mind patience is one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galations 5:22).”By your endurance you will gain your lives.” (Luke 21:19 NASB)

When God puts you through it, think of it as God “debugging” your faith. Its a pretty apt analogy. Often times, bugs are stubborn, and you have to retest several times before you’ve actually gotten it out. Likewise, perhaps that’s why you’ve had to be tested in the same area of your life repeatedly–to see whether you’ve really gotten that desire to sin out of your head yet.

Rom 5:3

“The Shadow Proves the Sunshine”. Sometimes its hard to prove something directly. If it was overcast and not sunny, you would have no shadow. Therefore having a shadow is indicative of there being sunshine (or other bright light). The light of God is contrasted to darkness. When everything is grey, its hard to differentiate. But when things are very bright, the lack of brightness is in stark contrast.