Steve Jobs on Christianity

On December 25, 2011, in Biography, Culture, Via Negativa, by marc
Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs | 1955-2011

I came very close to buying Walter Isaacson’s biography of Steve Jobs the instant it was released; I’ve long found Jobs to be a fascinating character, and anyone interested in the intersection of technology and everyday life (which in the modern age is pretty much everyone) would want to be a fly on the wall for this man’s journey through life. Who was he? What shaped him? Can we make more of him?

Me being me, I’ve also wondered what sort of religious or spiritual philosophy guided the man in his life. It was pretty clear that he wasn’t a Christian; I suppose if there was ever a life that stood as a shining example of what Abraham Kuyper called common grace, it was Steve Jobs’.

Regardless, it doesn’t take long for Isaacson to delve into the religious history of Steve Jobs. Only 14 pages into the book, we find Jobs simply dismissing Christianity altogether:

Even though they were not fervent about their faith, Jobs’s parents wanted him to have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. That came to an end when he was thirteen. In July 1968 Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra. Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?”

The pastor answered, “Yes, God knows everything.”

Jobs then pulled out the Life cover and asked, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?”

“Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that.”

Jobs announced that he didn’t want to have anything to do with worshipping such a God, and he never went back to church. He did, however, spend years studying and trying to practice the tenets of Zen Buddhism. Reflecting years later on his spiritual feelings, he said that religion was at its best when it emphasized spiritual experiences rather than received dogma. “The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it,” he told me. “I think different religions are different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists, and sometimes I don’t. It’s the great mystery.”

For a guy as smart as Jobs obviously was, it’s disappointing to me to see him dismiss Christianity so flippantly, to simply wave it off as if no one had ever heard of the problem of evil before he discovered it in Life magazine when he was thirteen. And it’s a good cautionary tale to me as a parent as well. I don’t want my kids to have a “religious upbringing.” Taking them to church is not going to be enough. I want them to know God, to really know Jesus, to understand that this relationship is fundamental, and that what they believe isn’t something that happens on Sunday and then goes away for the rest of the week.

As for Jobs: fifteen pages into his biography, and I just feel an achy sadness for a man who missed out on so much because of what appears to be a snap decision at age thirteen.

Tagged with:  

We Have No Excuse

On April 6, 2010, in Culture, Reformed Theology, Religion, Theology, by marc

RC Sproul, writing in his commentary on Romans:

RC Sproul - RomansObviously, Freud was not on the Sea of Galilee when the storm arose and threatened to capsize the boat in which Jesus and his disciples were sitting. The disciples were afraid. Jesus was asleep, and so they went to him and shook him awake, and they said, “‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (Mark 4:38-39). There was not a zephyr in the air. You would think the disciples’ gratitude would have led them to say, “Thank you, Jesus, for removing the cause of our fear.” Instead, they became very much afraid. Their fears were intensified, and they said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (v. 41). They were dealing with something transcendent.

Paul outlines the dreadful consequences that fall on a race of people who live by refusing to acknowledge what they know to be true about the character of God.  The result is a futile mind, a blackened heart, and a life of radical corruption.  People are exposed to God’s displeasure so that their only hope is the gospel of his dear Son.

What we see in the disciples is xenophobia, fear of the stranger.  The holiness of Christ was made manifest in that boat, and suddenly the disciples’ fear escalated.  This is where Freud mised the point.  If people are going to invent religion to protect them from the fear of nature, why would they invent a god who is more terrifying than nature itself?  Why would they invent a holy god?  Fallen creatures, when they make idols, do not make holy idols.  We prefer the unholy, the profane, the secular – a god we can control.

Here in Romans the apostle brings us to the place where we have no excuse, where ignorance cannot be claimed, because God has so manifested himself to every creature that every last one of us knows that God exists and that he deserves our honor and thanks and is not to be traded in or swapped for the creature.

Bible Reading – Why We Fail

On March 26, 2010, in Culture, Religion, Theology, by marc

We fail in our duty to study God’s Word not so much because it is difficult to understand, not so much because it is dull and boring, but because it is work. Our problem is not a lack of intelligence or a lack of passion. Our problem is that we are lazy. — R.C. Sproul

Tagged with: