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Chapter 9 - God and the Engineers

Welcome Ch 1: Introduction  Ch 2: Engineering Engineering at LeTourneau

Book CoverIntroduction

According to the Bible, God designed and constructed the Universe and continually maintains it. However, we should not think of the Universe as a giant machine or prayer as mechanical. God did not wind up the machine and then abandon it; God maintains His creation:

"He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together."  (Col. 1:17)
“He causes the vapors to ascend from the ends of the earth; He makes lightning for the rain, He brings forth the wind from His treasuries.” (Ps. 135:6-7)
 “While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.”  (Gen. 8:22)

Is God an Engineer?

Yes, in the sense that God designed and built our world. God created the laws of nature and subsequently used them to create all that we see.

No, in the sense that God is God, our Creator, far above any designation of mankind. At times He is an Artist (sunsets, beaches); at times, He is a Storyteller (history of Israel); at times, He is a Counselor; and at times, He is a Designer (giraffes and zebras). However, several of God's actions (Planner, Designer, Maker, Maintainer) match what an engineer does.

God has to be an engineer to have put all this together. Only an engineer would have the logic and creative genius to build the universe and design and fabricate all the plants and animals. God calculated bone stresses under loads, did chemical calculations for digestive systems, kinematics for muscle movement, pipeline hydraulics for blood flow and electric circuits for nervous systems, and used bird nests' architecture. [1]

Believers will affirm that God planned and made the universe and the planet we call home. As such, we may say that God was the first engineer, but God is far more. When we do engineering, we are copying what God did, using what He gave us.

Scripture indicates that God designed the earth and designed mankind so that people would explore, create, build, and develop. From the earliest civilizations, people have been devising shelters of wood, stone, clay, and tools for agriculture. God also built-in from the start; the raw materials and the physical laws for us eventually to make skyscrapers and space shuttles.

Engineers copy what God has done, but with incomplete knowledge. On a small-scale, we copy what God has done. The sense of Scripture is that God began with an idea in mind and turned it into reality (simply by commanding it to exist!)

Like the artist, we start with a blank piece of paper (or canvas or marble) and eventually develop a finished work, in this case, some practical output.


God as an Engineer

We see God as an Engineer in numerous ways:

  • God created the physical laws
  • God created the raw materials
  • God gave (engineering-applicable) talents to people
  • God desires that we use the results to bless people

Scripture indicates that God designed the earth and designed mankind so that people would explore, create, build, and develop. From the earliest civilizations, people have been devising shelters of wood, stone, clay, and tools for agriculture. God also built in from the start the raw materials and the physical laws for us eventually to make skyscrapers and space shuttles.

God can be viewed as an engineer – identifying problems, constructing solutions – wielding His power over creation for the good of Man. In this sense, seeing the engineer in God helps us see the good and proper engineering role.  Essentially, God is the ideal engineer and provides a model for the ideal engineer we strive for. [2]

 My concept of God, as it has developed over the years…is that he is an engineer, not the scientist that I thought he was when I was a young lad aspiring to be a scientist. A scientist attempts to learn the laws of nature. An engineer knows enough of those laws to create. Hence, God is an engineer with all the knowledge of how the universe works and with the creative mind; as well as, the means and desire to put that knowledge into practice.  [3]


God as a Control Engineer

The goal of classical control engineering is to continually provide correction and a set of inputs to bring a system to a given value or maintain it within a narrow range of values.

Control systems operate with these components:

  • A reference or set-point (goal for the variable)
  • A controlled variable (actual output)
  • A forward plant
  • Feedback of some kind (usually summed in negative)

God as Control Engineer

God has a control-oriented goal for every believer: conformity to the image of Christ. Every decision takes us closer to- or, if sinful choices, further from- that goal. Christian living is akin to optimal control theory. Dan Simon explains it like this:

Optimality in control theory is similar to perfection in Christianity. An optimal control system attempts to minimize some objective function. Theoretically, optimality can be achieved. But practically speaking, optimality will never be attained. This is because of modeling errors, incomplete knowledge of noise statistics, sampling and resolution limitations, and other deviations from ideal conditions. Although optimality will never be exactly attained, optimal controllers and estimators are still quite effective in practice. We do not give up on the notion of optimality just because it is not completely attainable. We continue with our efforts toward optimality, thankful for the performance that we can obtain. The optimal controller churns away in its quest for optimality, never quite attaining it, yet continually getting closer and never giving up. In a similar manner, the Christian churns away in his quest for perfection, never quite attaining it, yet continually getting closer and never giving up. [4]


God as a Systems Engineer

Aerospace and military engineering rely heavily on the skills of a systems engineer. The systems engineer deals with complex interdisciplinary projects; he/she prepares for the “big picture” and brings together all of the individual parts of a large design project to work in harmony.

In this sense, God is like a systems engineer.

We have to determine what would constitute something being "designed." It is not just that a system looks complicated or has lots of parts. For something to be designed, it requires several well-matched, collocated, and integrated components in order to work, where it would not work if any one of those parts were removed. Something like that would need a designer with intelligence and forethought to select the right components, size them accordingly, and integrate them so it could function – and ultimately survive and reproduce.

Each system must be designed alongside the other systems so they will function together. If one system changes something, it may have devastating effects on the other systems. It must be a collaborative design effort. A launch vehicle will not function if only one system is in place while the other systems are being built. A successful launch vehicle requires planning, order, and design; it requires intelligence – and many Designers.

The human body [with its integrated circulatory, respiratory, nervous systems] is the epitome of systems engineering design. What does the body sound like? It sounds like that launch vehicle where the propulsion system needs the structural system, the avionics & software system, and the engine before it can ever get off the ground!  [5]

God as a Process Engineer

A process engineer oversees equipment, systems, and methods in a manufacturing or chemical processing facility. He/she works with design, maintenance, and quality inspection to produce the desired product to its specifications. Dominic Halsmer suggests that we might picture God’s work as that of a process engineer:

Some people are opposed to thinking of God as an engineer because they envision him with human limitations, perhaps as a clockmaker who winds up the universe and then steps back without any further interaction. However, neither of these depictions is necessary, nor are they in accord with Scripture. In the Bible, several passages describe God as if he is a "process engineer" refining his people like a precious metal in the furnace of affliction or molding them like a potter molds clay on his potter's wheel. Both of these pictures suggest an engineer who is intimately involved with his creation throughout the entire process. A modern process engineer who works in a refinery, for example, is involved in monitoring the product at various stages and maintaining the appropriate conditions to achieve the desired outcome. Perhaps this is a more helpful picture of our Maker, who not only created us but also sustains us and refines us as he holds all things together by his great power. [6]


God Communicates to Engineers

Engineers understand symbols and are used to working with symbols that represent various physical entities/realities. The Greek letter omega (Ω) stands for ohms, units of electrical resistance. The letter F with an arrow is an applied force. AgCl means silver chloride.

Similarly, numerous symbols make us think of God and God's ways.

  • Wind– the Spirit of God
  • Rocks and mountains– God’s strength
  • Water- washed clean from sin.
  • Fire – God’s refining
  • Light- Christ as the light of the world
  • Rainbow God’s promises kept
  • Snow – made white as snow
  • Meal -Christ nourishes us.
  • Baptism – Buried and risen with Christ
  • Communion – Christ gave His body and blood to save us

Technical metaphors

God describes His actions with metaphors that resonate with engineers-

  • God is making a “building” out of His people, and we become “living stones.”

"Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone, in whom the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together for a habitation of God in the Spirit." (Eph. 2:19-22)

“You also, as living stones, are built up as a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (I Pet. 2:5)

 We are His workmanship (created in Christ for good works) (Eph. 2:10)

In addition to word pictures from farming (seeds which fell on rocky soil), fishing (fishers of men), and business (investing ten talents), the Bible uses imagery from technical areas - particularly construction and metallurgy – to teach spiritual lessons:


  • Build a house on a rock, not sand (Mt. 7:24-27)
  • If the foundations are destroyed, what will the righteous do? (Ps. 113:3)
  • Another builds on the foundation. (I Cor. 3:10)

Plumb lines

  • A plumb line over Jerusalem (Amos 7:7-8)

Measuring line and level

“I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the level; then hail will sweep away the refuge of lies and the waters will overflow the secret place.” (Isa. 28:17)


  • “Do good to Zion, build the walls of Jerusalem.” (Ps. 51:18)


  • “And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, ‘This is my people,’ and they shall say, ‘The Lord is my God.’ “ (Zech. 13:9)

Iron sharpening

  • “As iron sharpens iron; so a man sharpens his friend.” (Prov. 27:17)

God builds up

“Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain. Unless the Lord watches over the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.” (Ps. 17:1)


God tests

“For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried.” (Ps. 66:10)

“The crucible is made for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts.” (Prov. 17:3)


God strengthens

“He gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength.” (Isa. 40:29)

“Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” (Isa. 41:10)

Engineers understand considering things in context – origination, boundary conditions, and time frame. Believing engineers see our lives as part of a larger reality in the context of God’s plan and story.

God as a Designer

Human engineers engage in three primary activities that mirror God's engineering: (1) Design, (2) Problem- solving, and (3) Creativity.  These three aspects of engineering are visible throughout Scripture. (See chapter14) for a detailed discussion of design.)

God’s design projects have included:

  • Creation of the world
  • Creation of humans
  • Preparing to send Christ as Savior
  • Getting the message to the world
  • Preparing a future place for believers


Creation and Design

In the beginning, God planned six specific acts of creation.  God designed, God made, and God evaluated (saw that it was good).

From Genesis 1, we have these concepts-

  • God begins with the end in mind.
  • God begins with a specific plan for His project.
  • God carries out the plan in stages and detail.
  • Unlike human effort, God can create from nothing.
  • God may have considered, but does not need to consider alternative solutions.


Design projects in Scripture

At least four major projects undertaken by humans are described in Scripture:

  1. The ark as built by Noah- blueprint given by God
  2. The tower of Babel-an act of rebellion
  3. The tabernacle (and later Solomon’s temple)-blueprint given by God
  4. The rebuilding of Jerusalem under Nehemiah-several project management details given

While people designed and built cities, chariots, and tools, on at least two occasions, God gave detailed blueprints to men to build- the ark of Noah, the tabernacle, including the Ark of the Covenant.

Exodus 28 and surrounding chapters about the tabernacle and the high priest's clothing tell us some of God's views on design: He cares about attention to details, craftsmanship, and preparedness:

God knew exactly what (Aaron’s priestly garment) would look like in his mind’s eye and was describing precisely what the end result should be like. Furthermore, he doesn’t just want it thrown together by anyone, he specifically asks for the skillful, whom he has filled with a spirit of skill. God has a passion for Excellence and a passion for Design – together…

So, the next project you start work on or planning for, consider design. Give it the prominence and status it deserves among the projects concerns. It’s far more than aesthetics and far more than just structure. Good design can be the difference between success and failure, profit and loss, engagement or rejection. Good design requires time, skill and resources. Don’t skimp on it or think you can throw it together yourself to save on costs. Allow designers in as early as you can on a project and value their input as things take shape, and respect the process. [7]

In addition, in the book of Revelation, we see a detailed design for a renewed earth and a New Jerusalem that are not present for us yet. (Rev. 21)

 “But as it is written, ‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, neither has it entered into the heart of man, the things which God has prepared for those that love him.’ ” (I Cor. 2:9)


God and Problem Solving

Engineers are occasionally hired in non-engineering positions because of their problem-solving abilities. The general steps in problem-solving are these:

  1. Define the situation and problem that needs to be solved.
  2. Clarify the obstacles and conditions of the problem.
  3. Generate multiple candidates approaches and solutions.
  4. Analyze each to select the most promising possibility.
  5. Implement the chosen solution in a logical manner.

At times only one approach may be feasible or may have proven valid in the past. To us, all difficulties look like problems that need solutions.

(Since God knows all possible outcomes and all of the future, He can skip steps 2-4 and immediately implement the "solution.")

In Genesis 1-6 the narrative suggests that God responded to several “problems”:

  1. The earth was formless and void. God created light, separated the waters (gases?), and fashioned the stars and planets.
  2. There was no one to till the ground. God created a man, in part to till the garden.
  3. There was no partner found for the man. God created Eve, the woman.
  4. Adam sinned against God’s specific command. God banished the first couple from Eden, placed a curse on the ground, and provided a covering for them.
  5. The early civilization was full of sin and violence. God rescued Noah and his family.

In addition-

Nehemiah faced the problem of the broken walls of Jerusalem (and broken spirits of the inhabitants.) God inspired a step-by-step solution involving rebuilding and defending, including a great example of project management techniques.

Israel and Judah faced the problem of national sin and idolatry.  God sent prophets to turn them back, sometimes with positive response but often with continued rebellion.

God Himself faced the problem of human sin and separation in the light of His perfect justice. God sent His Son to take our punishment.


God and Creativity

In general, creativity is the (imaginative) development of new, unique, and valuable ideas. It finds expression in art, music, literature, poetry, drama, movies, architecture, and advertising. For engineers, creativity is the key to novel useful products.  

Human creativity flows from God’s Creation, and can be a mix of God’s direction and human wisdom.

God’s creative problem solutions in scripture were very often “outside the box.” 

  • God rescued Egypt from famine by having Joseph sold into slavery in Egypt. (Gen. 37-47)
  • God’s people were spared from the death of all firstborn by putting blood on their doorposts. (Ex. 12)
  • God split apart a sea for the fleeing Israelites to cross over. (Ex. 14)
  • Joshua’s army captured a city by marching around it seven times, then blowing their trumpets. (Josh. 6)
  • God pared an army down to 300 men who blew trumpets and smashed pitchers to rout the enemy. (Judges 7)
  • Judah’s king put musicians and singers doing praise songs at the front of his army to throw the enemy into chaos. (2 Chron. 20)
  • God rescued Paul and Silas from prison with an earthquake (as they were singing praise choruses). (Acts 16)
  • God sent His Son to earth to die in place of sinful humans. (John 19-20, Rom. 5)

Jonathan quotes Russell Shaw:

My belief about our ultimate origin resides in the existence of God. And if it is true – if it is true that He created the heavens and the earth, and at some point created male and female humans, describing us as being in His image – then we exist in the image of a creative Divinity. When we create – be it designs or paintings, lyrics or melodies, scripts or movies, short stories or lectures, campaigns or solutions to social issues, even lesson plans or to-do lists in their own right – we participate in the nature of God. We find a “sweet spot.” Our souls rejoice in the process because we were created to create.”

This sounds wonderful to me. To design, to be creative, is to take part in the way we were made – in the image of a creative God. Doing so brings us joy – it was how we were designed to be – to enjoy our work and be creative. I am reminded of a quote from the writers of the movie Chariots of Fire, where the Olympic runner Eric Liddle talks about his gift of running: “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” [8]

When Daniel and his friends were taken captive to Babylon and ordered to eat "the king's food" (apparently consisting of unclean food for Israelites), the young men respectfully offered to the King a "creative alternative" –Let us try our diet for xx weeks and you can monitor the results.  Such an approach may be what believers need to take when given an instruction we cannot carry out. [9]


God Designed the World for Engineering

Scripture indicates that God designed the earth and designed mankind so that people would explore, create, build, and develop.

When (God) created the world and everything in it, He didn’t mean for us to stop there and say, ‘God, you’ve done it all. There’s nothing left for us to build. He wanted us to take off from there and really build for His greater glory. [10]

For engineers there can be delight in discovery, delight in creating new things, and delight in seeing a project to completion. These are part of the human experience, prepared for us by God.

Possibly – Just as God has revealed Himself progressively and raised up key leaders at appropriate times, perhaps God inspired people to develop what was needed and fitting at key times in history – the printing press, airplanes, radio, computer networks.


Engineering relates to the wisdom of God

Engineering evokes at least two aspects of the wisdom of God. First, the unfolding of God's wisely made creation inspires wonder. The flight of a jetliner is awe-inspiring, and we are moved to echo the words transmitted by Samuel F.B. Morse in an early demonstration of the telegraph: "What hath God wrought!" Not only the intricacy of the mechanism, nor the unlikelihood of its succeeding in its appointed task, but also its ability to serve the needs of man inspired wonder. 

Thus engineering also evokes God's wisdom by providing for the evil day, as the Scripture admonishes:  

"Go to the ant, you sluggard; consider its ways, and be wise! ... it stores its provisions in summer, and gathers its food at harvest" (Proverbs 6:6,8).  

The Hoover Dam impounds water for irrigation and hydroelectric power production and holds back large river flows, providing against the evils of drought, burdensome physical labor, and catastrophic flooding. The Christian is led to contemplate the wisdom of God in providing Christ for our redemption and the wisdom that becomes us in fleeing to him before the evil day (Proverbs 22:3).  [11]


The engineering impulse comes from God.

The engineering impulse comes to man a gift from God. Material enterprise is not to be shunned; it is to be pursed energetically, but with the service of God always kept uppermost in mind. The most worthy work is, or course, the building of tabernacles and temples and the bringing of offerings to the Lord. But technological effort directed toward prosperity for society is also considered worthy, if the prosperous society is to be devoted to virtuous purposes. Moses made it clear to the Israelites that they were being given a land of abundance, “a land wherein thou shalt eat bread without scarceness … a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills thou mayest dig brass,” but only on condition that they continue to worship the Lord and abide by his commandments.  [12]


Theology of Engineering

Although we seldom discuss them, at least five presuppositions (consistent with the Theistic worldview) are held by those who do engineering work:

(1) Matter exists and has a physical reality
(2) Physical laws are valid
(3) Human reason and calculations can be valid
(4) Mathematical models can reasonably represent physical objects
(5) Physical objects can benefit mankind

Joe Carson, an engineer with the Department of Energy, has taken the step of proposing several propositions for a Theology of Engineering.  After stating the nature of God and man, the Great Commission, and the Cultural Commission (Mt. 5:13-16), Carson sets forth fifty statements about engineering. His key propositions lead to these elements of a theology of engineering: [13]

  1. Engineering begins with God’s creation

God's role as Creator of the physical universe is primary to the purpose of the engineering profession.  Absent God's creating a physical universe, with physical laws and physical beings made in His image, there would be nothing to save or judge, no physical beings with whom to have a relationship, and nothing to engineer. [14]

  1. Scientific discoveries and technological advancements have informed our understanding of God.

 (Science and engineering) underscore our Creator’s prodigiously creative and constructive capacity and will to express it.  Additionally, as we better understand our place in the physical universe and increase our technological prowess, our responsibilities and capabilities as stewards of God’s creation on planet earth increases. [15]

God’s Creation makes possible both science and engineering. Science is tied to the act of discovery (and marveling at what God has made), while engineering is tied to application and problem-solving, using science findings. 

Natural sciences are focused on the first and Greatest Commandment - to love God more and better by learning more about the material, inanimate, products of His creative power and mind.  Engineering is focused on improving human health, safety, and welfare, reflecting and advancing the Second Great Commandment - to love one's neighbor as oneself.  [16]

Both science and engineering should continually bring us back to the wisdom of God in Creation.

Believing there is a deeper reality of God permeating the fundamentals of engineering as revealed by the realities of His Mind expressing the mathematical truths of engineering, my understanding of the practice of engineering will be saturated with the truth of God’s word in the very nature of the endeavor itself! All discoveries, theorems, proofs, facts and experimental evidence will serve only to reveal the presence and practice of the Lord in everything: “And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17). I will be an engineer that as a Christian sees the truth of God in his sovereign dominion over even the smallest electrochemical reaction within the neurons of my brain that enables me to think.  [17]

  1. Engineering is an outgrowth of being made in God’s image.

Man’s original purpose was to advance God’s glory by advancing His creation on earth, by using his “image of God” creative and productive capacity and innate need for it to find expression, while enjoying a flourishing relationship with God and his fellow human beings. [18]

  1. Engineering is a subset of the “Cultural Mandate.” (Gen. 1:28)

Mankind’s cultural mandate - to advance God’s glory by advancing using its “image of God” abilities to advance His creation on earth in accordance with His will - is described in the first chapter of Genesis and it applies to everyone. [19]

From the beginning—from creation—God intended for us to develop the world.  That’s the cultural mandate.”  Think of all that stuff in Times Square.  Or just think about the stuff immediately around you.  That’s a lot of engineered stuff.  (The fabric of your clothing, the building you are in, the electricity used to read this blog or charge your laptop’s battery, etc—lots of stuff, all engineered.)  All that stuff started out as just dirt or water or air.  Then the ore was mined from the dirt, refined, and eventually engineered into stuff.  Lots of stuff.  Lots of engineering—and manufacturing and marketing, etc.  Engineering work is not the only aspect of the cultural mandate, but it is one of them.  And because we are sinners, we can’t get the engineering just right.  It is all tainted by our sinfulness. [20]

             Recall that God’s dominion commandment was given before the Fall:

Scripture sees humanity as fallen into bondage to sin and sees faith in Christ as the key step in reversing that fall. Thus, if we are to understand God's purposes in the world, we also need to think about God's pre-fall purposes. In Genesis 1:28, scripture quotes God as saying to Adam and Eve, "Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and over every living creature that moves on the ground.” Many theologians have used this passage and others to develop the concept of the cultural mandate, sometimes also called the creation mandate-the idea that God's pre-fall purpose for human beings included that their population should increase, they should develop science and technology, and they should develop cultures including social networks, means of communication, art, music, literature, and so forth. [21]

  1. The “space-time Fall” has affected all of history, and engineering can impact some results of the Fall.

Engineers understand that the world does not always work properly. Engineering addresses the physical needs of humanity, and parts of engineering are involved with restoration and remediation, physically restoring a broken world.

Engineers do not just solve problems—we are rebuilding a broken world a Christ-centered vision of life that is effective and sensitive to society's needs. Christian engineers have a higher calling to understand the society in which we live and work. Our solutions should not be limited to a single problem: they should contribute to a broader vision of Christian citizenship. [22]

In general, science deals primarily with the effects of Creation, and engineering deals with the effects of the Fall.

  1. Engineering itself is affected by the Fall

As fallen creatures, humans can still learn principles of applied science, design, and manufacturing. The problems arise in our motivations, our dealings with people (making ethical codes necessary), and in our use of technology to manipulate or harm other people.

  • Engineering is not always done to bless people and glorify God. It is also done for greed, pride, and power.
  • Multiple ethical problems arise. There is a clear need for engineering ethics, ideally built on God’s truth. (See chapter 15).

Engineering disasters (like the Space Shuttle Challenger explosion) have occurred due to bad decisions and cover-ups. Engineering failures arise from multiple sources related to a fallen world: sometimes clear negligence, cover-up, simply lack knowledge


  • We misuse what we create. Some designs have been used for evil purposes, deliberately to harm or kill.
  • The profession needs engineers who value God's truth and will influence others for good.
  1. Engineering is a "common-grace" activity.

"We contend that both Christianity and engineering exist for more than Christians and engineers – they exist, in part, for all of humanity." [24]

As generally used, “common grace” describes the regularity of the operation of natural processes on earth and their general applicability to all mankind at all times.  The products of the engineering profession - the built-environment, the infrastructure of power, water, communications, transportation, etc. - the regularity and reliability of which is essential to our individual and collective functioning in modern society, share some similar characteristics with “common grace” natural phenomena as weather, seasons, time and tides. [25]

Engineering does not exist only for engineers, just as Christianity does not exist only for Christians.  It is an improper limitation on the expression of Christian faith, given the cultural mandate and cultural commission, and the collective nature of the engineering profession, for Christian engineers or their profession to a priori determine that faith must be kept private and is not a valid reason, even if only partial, for any engineer to work to uplift the engineering profession and its service to mankind.

(Engineering will become) more important, with more people, they want higher living standards, residing in larger cities, causing more environmental stresses. [26]

  1. Christian engineers will live out their Christian life and carry out the Great Commission (Mt. 28:19) within their work.

As we are "going" (about our lives, including our professions), we should also be making disciples, but the premise is that we should be "going" about our lives with all their various facets.  By tradition, Jesus was a practicing member of a trade for many more years than he had a public ministry, modeling what we suggest was God’s original purpose in creating man - to glorify Him, including through our using our “image of God” capabilities to advance His creation on earth, while enjoying a direct fellowship with Him.  [27]

In conclusion, Carson advocates forming a distinctly Christian engineering organization to advance the profession within Biblical principles.

Carson advances these contentions about engineers and engineering: [28]

  1. Engineering is arguably mankind's largest and most global secular profession - there are about 20 million degreed engineers around the world today.
  2. As a profession, engineering arguably has the most "moral" code of ethics of mankind's professions, with its "paramount" emphasis on public health, safety, and welfare.
  3. Engineers are essential to the design, construction, and operation of mankind's "built" environment, which is, now and for the foreseeable future, crucial to mankind's collective well-being.
  4. As a necessary outworking of their faith, Christian engineers should model and advocate, individually and collectively, the trustworthy - ethical, competent, and accountable - practice of engineering.
  5. Most engineers' most intentional decision was the decision to join the profession and practice engineering for a livelihood - a decision that took years of work and study to implement.
  6. Most Christian engineers have great influence and the great opportunity to exhibit the love of God - through stewardship of His Creation and love of neighbor - in and through their practice of engineering and in their individual and collective actions to uplift and advance the engineering profession, particularly through active membership in one or more existing professional engineering societies.


God's sovereign (engineering) control does not preclude human choice.

The biblical writers affirm two sides of a paradox that cannot be ultimately resolved in our limited minds: God is the sovereign ruler of the universe and God has given human beings free will to act in his world. All bad theologies related to this issue come from letting go of one of these poles and clinging to the other. I believe we have to cling tenaciously to both and learn to live with mystery. This requires humility, but that is also a virtue.

However, in the effort to make God’s greatness the controlling issue, Christians have at times ended up denying any meaningful definition of human free will. They end up with a God who is an engineer. He designs and builds the world and controls everything in it down to the last detail. Everything runs like a machine as he designed it. That would make God great but it might keep him from being good. [29]



God is efficient, but not in the sense of manufacturing efficiency. God is a Craftsman, and each of our lives is shaped by Him. We’re not products of an assembly line, and we’re certainly not carbon copies of each other. God is efficient- in that nothing in our composition or experiences is wasted. God has all the time and resources in the world to make us more like Christ.


From God to God

Olin College of Engineering, a unique institution explicitly founded to produce innovative engineers, had an informal motto for engineering design: “From people…for people.” [30] In other words, all designs begin with a human need and culminate in a finished result that should meet human needs.  All engineering projects begin with determining the needs of real persons (including, ideally, spending extensive time with those who will use or be impacted by a project to determine their actual needs, desires, and concerns) and ultimately end with the deployment of the design by the user. This is a valuable perspective and must inform our practice.

God to God Diagram

While this loop must be part of each design, Christian engineers might consciously and deliberately think in terms of a larger loop (encompassing the user loop). Christian efforts in engineering would see it useful to push the motto further on both ends: “From people …for people” is an important subset of a larger cycle: “From God…for God.” While serving people, including meeting their stated needs, all engineering work originates from our Creator (raw materials and skills) and culminates in results that should give thanks and glory to Him.

God to God, full diagram

Rom. 11:36:  “For from Him, and through Him, and to Him are all things. To God be the glory forever and ever.”

From God-

  • All the raw materials of the earth
  • All physical laws and constants
  • All human ability and creativity
  • The expectation of meaningful work and subduing the earth

Through God-

  • We perform our activities in His strength and in line with His directions.

  To /For God-

  • All the glory
  • Desiring to please Him in our engineering work
  • Loving the people God made


And all things were created for him. All that came into being exists for Christ — that is, it exists to display the greatness of Christ. Nothing — nothing! — in the universe exists for its own sake. Everything from the bottom of the oceans to the top of the mountains, from the smallest particle to the biggest star, from the most boring school subject to the most fascinating science, from the ugliest cockroach to the most beautiful human, from the greatest saint to the most wicked genocidal dictator — everything that exists, exists to make the greatness of Christ more fully known — including you, and the person you have the hardest time liking. [31]


Innovation Theology

   Innovation expert Lanny Vincent coined the notion of “Innovation Theology.”

“Innovation Theology makes the case that God continues to create and continues to invite us, through change, to co-create new value for others (i.e., innovate). Innovation Theology explores where discovery, invention, and value creation intersect (or not) with the intentions of God.” [32]

Noting that God is clearly an Innovator, Vincent urges us to be innovative in a Godly way (Do justly, love mercy, walk in humility with God).

The Biblical saga is filled with God intervening in the affairs of mankind to create new and unexpected results-possibilities that were unimagined and unimaginable before they happened:

  • The birth of Isaac –to a barren ninety-year old mother.
  • A burning bush not consumed in the burning
  • An exile and a return from exile
  • A Messiah whose Messianic character was not what most thought it would be
  • The dramatic conversion of a chief persecutor- Saul becomes Paul

Vincent proposes the following concepts: [33]

  • Change is inevitable since God is engaged in change. We must react to change creatively, rather than to react or to isolate ourselves. How we respond to change reflects our resistance to or alignment with God.
  • Godly innovation produces results of value for others, rather than merely advancing in the market.
  • The quest for meaning must precede the quest for money.
  • God’ Spirit can inspire us to create new and valuable things.

Jesus and Engineers

One of my favorite accounts in the Gospels is the narrative in Mark 2-- where the friends of a lame man are desperately trying to get him into the presence of Jesus. Jesus, meanwhile, is teaching inside a house, surrounded by a crowd.

Like good engineers, they are faced with a real problem (How do we get Matt, stretcher and all, past the crowd?) They briefly confer, come up with a technical solution and begin to implement it: Open up the tile roof and lower the lame man down into the room with ropes around his mat. This is great. Jesus is teaching, and all of a sudden, plaster starts falling, a shaft of light breaks down from the ceiling, and, plop, the lame guy is dropped right in front of Jesus.

The rest of the account is focused brilliantly around the logic of Jesus’ identity:

Jesus: “Your sins are forgiven.”

Pharisees: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Jesus: “Which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven (which cannot be seen), or to say Rise up and walk (which you can see)?”

“So that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins, I say to you rise up and walk.”

Only God can forgive sins and instantly heal a lame man. Jesus just did both.


Will there be Engineering in Heaven?

The Bible talks about the future state, the realized Kingdom, the New Jerusalem.  Will there be engineering or technology in heaven? The answer is unknown. We know that Christ will be there and that there will be no sin, death, or suffering. We will be completed and living in super-bodies. There will be the perfection that was not achievable on earth.

There will be meaningful activities. There will be objects. There will be no need for pacemakers, prosthetic limbs, or medical x-ray machines. There will be no need for refrigeration, heating and air conditioning, sanitation, water purification, or safety measures.

Justin Van der Werff suggests that

This kingdom is not just an ethereal kingdom of a different realm. However, it is a very tangible, physical, earthly kingdom that may very well look a lot more like our present world and life than we expect while at the same time looking far different than we could ever imagine. [34]

Randy Alcorn develops these ideas in his book Heaven-

Will there be technology and machinery (in heaven)? Technology is a God-given aspect of human capability that enables us to fulfill his command to exercise dominion. As we have seen, we will find harps, trumpets, and other man-made objects in the present Heaven. What should we expect to find on the New Earth? Tables, chairs, cabinets, wagons, machines, transportation, sports equipment, and much more. It is a narrow view of both God and humans to imagine that God can be pleased and glorified with a trumpet but not a desk, computer, or baseball bat. Will there be new inventions? Refinements of old inventions? Why not? We will live in resurrected body on a resurrected Earth. The God who gave people creativity surely won't take it back, will he? The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Romans 11:29)." [35]

In Culture Making, Andy Crouch considers culture in the New Creation, based on Isaiah 60:

The city is already a cultural artifact, the work of a master Architect and Artist. The citizens themselves are the redeemed people of the Lamb, drawn from “every tribe and language and people and nation” (Rev 5:9). But God’s handiwork, artifacts and people alike, are not all that is found in the city. Also in the city are “the glory and the honor of the nations” — brought into the city by none other than “the kings of the earth.”…

So it’s a fascinating exercise to ask about any cultural artifact: can we imagine this making it into the New Jerusalem? What cultural goods represent the “glory and honor” of the many cultural traditions we know? We already have biblical assurance that the ships of Tarshish will be there; perhaps they will share a harbor with an Americas’ Cup yacht and a lovingly carved birch bark canoe. [36]

Crouch elegantly puts it like this: "Culture is the furniture of heaven." This is such a freeing way of thinking about creating cultural works - that our motivation for excellence is not simply to shift more CDs, but instead knowing that our cultural works offer a glimpse of what the New Creation will be like, with culture that is fully redeemed by Jesus's work on the cross. How much more should we care about our work, knowing that it is not meaningless, but has eternal significance? This means too that we can do things like appreciate good music for being good music - diverse and exciting and moving and beautiful - knowing that it is part of God's plan for humanity from the beginning. And that is very good. [37]

We don’t know exactly what it will look like, but we have the promise that life with God and without sin and suffering will be wonderful. Almost certainly, after Christ returns, we’ll have explanations for all that God made and possibly an understanding of why God did what He did in human history and in our lifetimes.

Conclusions: Why do we do Engineering?

God has made the world and uniquely made each person.

We are God’s Image-Bearers, lower than the angels but higher than all animals. God has made us creative.

  • We are natural toolmakers and culture makers.
  • We are given a “cultural mandate” (Gen. 1:28).
  • We are recipients of “common grace,” along with all of humanity.
  • God gave us materials and natural laws.
  • God gave us talents and skills.
  • We have both a redemptive and a work-related “calling”. God blesses the world through human vocations.
  • We can glorify God through our work.
  • There are human needs that can be met by the practical application of science and mathematics.
  • We live in a fallen world that needs restoration, some of which can be supplied through engineering.
  • As believers, we are ambassadors of God's kingdom.
  • We are agents of shalom.
  • We have a Biblical view of the environment (stewardship, not worship).
  • The world needs truth.
  • The world needs ethics.
  • The world needs quality workmanship.
  • The world needs compassion.
  • The world needs workers who shine in the darkness.
  • By living this way, the Christian message has the credibility to others.



  1. Webb, B. C., God is an Engineer, chapter 5, 2004.
  2. Frezza, S. T., “Deus Machinator: God the Engineer,” CEEC 2009.
  3. Salisbury, F. B., “The Case for Divine Design,” Cedar Fort, 2006, p.168.
  4. Simon, D., “ Christianity and Control Theory,” 
  5. Buse, C., “God’s Systems Engineer,” 
  6. Halsmer, D., “God as Process Engineer: Creator, Sustainer, Redeemer and Provider,” 
  7. Peckham, “Good design is important to God,” 
  8. Ref- Jonathan –“Design and Theology,” 
  9. “Making an Appeal,” Advanced Seminar Textbook, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1986, p. 303. 
  10. LeTourneau, R.G., quoted in Peel, B., “R.G. LeTourneau’s Call to Business,” 
  11. Gidley, J. S., “Engineering and the Wisdom of God,” New Horizons in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, Vol. 11, No. 2, p. 4, 1990. 
  12. Florman, S. C., The Existential Pleasures of Engineering, St. Martin’s Press, 1976, p. 112. 
  13. Carson, J., “Theology of Engineering,” 2006. 
  14. Ibid.
  15. Ibid.
  16. Ibid.
  17. Reibling, L. A., “Search for Faith Integration in Computer Science,” Azusa Pacific University, 
  18. Carson, op. cit.
  19. Ibid.
  20. De Boer, D., “An engineering approach to every square inch,” 
  21. Howell, R. W. and Bradley, J., Mathematics through the Eyes of Faith, HarperOne, 2011, p. 12.
  22. Calvin College Engineering, 
  23. Ermer, G., “Understanding Technological Failure: Ethics, Evil, and Finitude in Engineering Disasters,” American Society for Engineering Education Annual Conference 2008. 
  24. Carson, op. cit.
  25. Ibid.
  26. Ibid.
  27. Ibid.
  28. Carson, J., Affiliation of Christian Engineers and Scientists 
  29. “Is God engineer or chess-master?” 
  30. Olin College, 
  31. Piper, J., “All things were created through Him and for Him,” 
  32. Innovation Theology book description, 
  33. Vincent, L., Innovation Theology, Wipf and Stock, 2017. 
  34. Vander Werff, J.R., “Integrally Christian Engineering Scholarship: A Case Study,” Christian Engineering Conference, 2017. 
  35. Alcorn, R. C., Heaven, Tyndale House, 2004. 
  36. Crouch, A. Culture Making, IVP, 2013. 
  37. Watkins, C., “Book Review: Culture Making,”