Several years ago, a colleague and I were discussing the writing of a computer program we planned to use for processing our radio astronomy data. Both of us tried to identify and perfect various algorithms that might do a better job handling the special peculiarities present in our observations. (For those unfamiliar with computer programming, it’s like coming up with a recipe for making a cake from scratch. Some components will be obvious, but others will take some careful thought.) At a certain point in our conversation, my friend made an interesting observation, the gist of which follows.
It’s difficult to write a somewhat complex computer program without making errors in the code (spelling errors, missing definitions or missing variables in the commands used, etc.) But there is a solution to this common programming problem: a wonderful invention called a compiler. A program itself, a compiler takes as input the program under construction and combs through every line of code, checking for correctness, completeness, and consistency within the overall program. Without this tool, implementing a complex program would be extremely difficult, if not impossible.
Now, my friend continued, even though a program passes the scrutiny of the compiler, errors of a more difficult kind often remain. Usually programmers discover these errors by executing the program using as input data for which they know the correct answer. By comparing the program’s output with the expected result, the programmer is able to track down the error and obtain a working program.
Occasionally, however, programmers will run up against a problem area that proves extremely difficult to uncover. Especially frustrating is when, after struggling for weeks, they finally discover the problem is not a coding error, but stems from deficiencies in their basic understanding of how to process the data in the first place. At this point, the whole approach has been proved wrong and the programmer must start from scratch.
How many times in life do we “program” the way we live based on our own particular view of things, and we make not just a mistake in how we carry out that program, but in the very logic of how we designed that “program” in the first place? Some of the teaching and discipline we receive from parents and others will serve as a kind of “complier,” weeding out the obvious errors made as we grow up. But what about those mistakes we make in the very core of our thinking, in our worldview? How are they filtered out? How many times is our approach to life totally wrong, and yet we don’t connect the failures we experience with the wrong ways and priorities we’ve established in our “program?”
This gave both me and my colleague some heavy food for thought. I haven’t forgotten it over the years. I have concluded that we will never discover those errors in our thinking without the revelation and wisdom we receive when we submit to God. Scripture says that it is Christ “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). As far as I know, my friend has not come to that conclusion, but I cannot live without it.
For more on the importance of worldview thinking, see Kenneth Samples’ latest book A World of Difference: Putting Christian Truth-Claims to the Worldview Test.