Computer Science: Discovering God’s Glory in Ones and Zeros
Jonathan R. Stoddard
Presbyterian and Reformed
In this 24-page booklet Jonathan Stoddard, an associate pastor with computer science degree, attempts to understand how God is the Lord over computer science. He takes a Van Tilian approach:
‘First, God is the foundation for computer science. Second, there is an analogical relationship between God and computer science.’
He views computing as being possible because of God: God created the foundations for computing. It is not the accident of evolution but a reflection of ‘the God who has spoken in our world’ and he has ‘established the laws needed to make computer science possible’.
Stoddard explores several analogical relationships. The way a computer scientists writes his code and the computer executes that code is analogical to the way God creates by his word: ‘there is a relation between the act of God’s creative speech and the creative speech of the programmer’.
His approach, like Van Til’s (and Poythress, who wrote the preface), gets rather close at times to a Christian theo-ontological view, where the attributes of God provide the basis for the sciences. This perhaps comes to the fore when he writes ‘When we program computers, we are still thinking God’s thoughts after him’.
This booklet, then is something of a curate’s egg. It is great to see a work - albeit brief - exploring what the lordship of Christ over computing might look like, but is marred by his reliance on Van Til’s analogical thinking. There is no discussion of how worldviews impact on computing or on how computer science can be viewed through the Christian approach of creation, fall and redemption. But then a booklet of more than 24 pages would be required to do justice to that. Stoddard is right that God is the foundation for computer science, but I would disagree that that foundation is to be found in an analogical relationship.