Steve Jobs & The Juice of Christianity

Like many, I picked up Steve Job’s biography, and one of the things I was interested to see was his thoughts on God and Christianity. His biographer, Walter Isaacson recounts, a particular instance in Jobs young life that was pivotal in the formation of his views about these things:

…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 worshiping 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.” (Steve Jobs, 14-15)

I have no idea whether Jobs concluded his life believing things these, nor do I want to speculate, but from what we can gather, at least at the point in time that his biographer is referencing, Jobs believed that the “juice” behind Christianity is living like Jesus or seeing the world as Jesus saw it. When it comes to religion, according to Jobs, spiritual experience is what ultimately matters, not faith in doctrines and dogmas.

Following the life of Jesus minus the redemptive work of his historical cross and resurrection is not Christianity.

I think many evangelical Christians would share this sentiment. In the minds of many evangelicals, the “juice in Christianity is not faith in what Jesus has done historically at the cross and resurrection for sinners, but in a life of experiencing Jesus and doing what Jesus did. In this line of thinking, the focus is on modeling the way in which Jesus lived his life not trusting in what Jesus has done.

Contrary to Jobs and to this ethos among Christians, this is NOT Christianity. It is not Christianity because the Christian message is not “be like Jesus”. Following the life of Jesus minus the redemptive work of his historical cross and resurrection is not Christianity.

In his own words, Jesus did not come to be served (Mt. 20:28a). Jesus did not primarily come for humanity to be like him, he came to give his life as a ransom for sinners (Mt. 20:28b). To be a Christian is to be one who has been saved by Jesus and placed into his life. Jesus serves sinners and makes them Christians by redeeming them from their sins by his life, death and resurrection. This is the “juice” of Christianity.

An old, deceased Princeton theologian, B.B Warfield, who never saw the beautifully creative technology of Steve Jobs, but who got “the juice”–the essence–of Christianity right, wrote the following:

A Christianity without redemption–redemption in the blood of Jesus Christ as a sacrifice for sin–is nothing less than a contradiction in terms. Precisely what Christianity means is redemption in the blood of Jesus. No one need wonder therefore that, when redemption is no longer sought and found in Jesus, men should begin to ask whether there remains any real necessity for Jesus. We may fairly contend that the germ of Christless Christianity is present wherever a proper doctrine of redemption has fallen away or even has only been permitted to pass out of sight. [“Christless Christianity”, The Works of Benjamin B. Warfield, Volume III: Christology and Criticism, 357-358]

Christians are not in the first place men and women who try to live like Jesus lived and see the world as he saw it, but they are people who hold on to Jesus himself by faith in all that he did for them in living a perfect life, dying a criminal’s death in their place, and rising for their justification. They are not engaging in a religious exercise of modeling Jesus, but are by faith in his finished work, engaged in living life in union with Jesus by the supernatural work of the Spirit.

Susanna Wesley & the Triune God of Grace

Sadly, many find the doctrine of the Trinity far too metaphysical and impractical. Some think the ins and outs of who God is don’t really matter that much. What’s really important, they may say, is what God has done! In fact, some may even find the reality of a Triune God peripheral to the gospel itself–the Trinity being a seemingly secondary matter.

God does not give us grace because he needed to or grace would no longer be grace and even more importantly–God would no longer be God.

John and Charles Wesley’s mom, Susanna, did not. Her thoughts on the Trinity show how gratuitous grace flows from the reality of the mind-boggling self-sufficiency of the three-in-one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit:

He is the great God, ‘the God of the spirits of all flesh,’ ‘the high and lofty One that inhabiteth eternity,’ and created not angels and men because he wanted them, for he is being itself, and as such must necessarily be infinitely happy in the glorious perfections of his nature from everlasting to everlasting; and as he did not create, so neither did he redeem because he needed us; but he loved us because he loved us, he would have mercy because he would have mercy, he would show compassion because he would show compassion. (Quoted in The Deep Things of God, Kindle Edition)

God does not give us grace because he needed to or grace would no longer be grace and even more importantly–God would no longer be God. God by his very nature is utterly free to do whatever he wants without compulsion from any outside source whatsoever. And the gospel–good news–of the Triune God is: He graces because he graces. He loves because he loves. He mercies because he mercies. He does what he does because of who He is.

There is no greater news, and there is no other God.

7 Negative Effects of Porn

This is a rather frank post on porn, so proceed or not with that in mind.

Porn is a problem. It is a personal problem for many and a cultural problem for all. You may think that you have not been effected by porn, but you have because it is embedded in the surrounding culture. The staggering size of the pornography industry, its influence upon the media and the acceleration of technology, paired with the accessibility, anonymity, and affordability of porn all contribute to its increasing impact upon the culture.

Pornography effects you whether you’ve ever viewed it or not, and it is helpful to understand some of its negative effects whether you are a man or women struggling with watching it or simply a mom or dad with a son or daughter. There is a plethora of research on the detrimental effects of pornography (and I do not think that what follows are necessarily the worst of them), but here are seven negative effects of porn upon men and women:

Pornography effects you whether you’ve ever viewed it or not, and it is helpful to understand some of its negative effects whether you are a man or women struggling with watching it or simply a mom or dad with a son or daughter.

1. Porn contributes to social and psychological problems within men. Feminist and anti-pornography activist, Gail Dines, notes that young men who become addicted to porn, “neglect their schoolwork, spend huge amounts of money they don’t have, become isolated from others, and often suffer depression.” (Pornland, 93). Dr. William Struthers, who has a PhD in biopsychology from the University of Illinois at Chicago, confirms some of these and adds more, finding that men who use porn become controlling, highly introverted, have high anxiety, narcissistic, curious, have low self-esteem, depressed, dissociative, distractible (Wired for Intimacy, 64-65). Ironically, while viewing porn creates momentary intensely pleasurable experiences, it ends up leading to several negative lingering psychological experiences.

2. Porn rewires the male brain. Struthers elaborates,

As men fall deeper into the mental habit of fixating on [pornographic images], the exposure to them creates neural pathways.  Like a path is created in the woods with each successive hiker, so do the neural paths set the course for the next time an erotic image is viewed.  Over time these neural paths become wider as they are repeatedly traveled with each exposure to pornography.  They become the automatic pathway through which interactions with woman are routed….They have unknowingly created a neurological circuit that imprisons their ability to see women rightly as created in God’s image (Wired For Intimacy, 85)

In a similar vein regarding porn’s effect upon the brain, Naomi Wolf, a feminist author, writes,

After all, pornography works in the most basic of ways on the brain: It is Pavlovian. An orgasm is one of the biggest reinforcers imaginable. If you associate orgasm with your wife, a kiss, a scent, a body, that is what, over time, will turn you on; if you open your focus to an endless stream of ever-more-transgressive images of cybersex slaves, that is what it will take to turn you on. The ubiquity of sexual images does not free eros but dilutes it. (“The Porn Myth”)

3. Porn turns sex into masturbation. Dines tell the story of how one man’s porn use essentially taught him “how to masturbate into a woman” (Pornland, 92). Sex becomes self-serving. It becomes about your pleasure and not the self-giving, mutually reciprocating intimacy that it was designed for.

4. Porn demeans and objectifies women. This occurs from hard-core to soft-core pornography. Pamela Paul, in her book Pornified, quoting the research of one psychologist who has researched pornography at Texas A&M, writes,

‘softcore pornography has  a very negative effect on men as well. The problem with softcore pornography is that it’s voyeurism teaches men to view women as objects rather than to be in relationships with women as human beings.’ According to Brooks, pornography gives men the false impression that sex and pleasure are entirely divorced from relatoinships. In other words, pornography is inherently self-centered–something a man does by himself, for himself–by using another women as the means to pleasure, as yet another product to consume (80).

Paul references one experiment that revealed a rather shocking further effect of porn: “men and women who were exposed to large amounts of pornography were significantly less likely to want daughters than those who had none. Who would want their own little girl to be treated that way?” (80). Similarly, Dines, states, “While porn is by no means the only socializing agent, thanks to its intense imagery and effect on the body, it is a powerful persuader that erodes men’s ability to see women as equal and as deserving of the same human rights that they themselves take for granted (Pornland, 98).”

Again, it needs to be emphasized, that this is not an effect that only rests upon those who have viewed porn. The massive consumption of porn and the the size of the porn industry has hypersexualized the entire culture. Men and women are born into a pornified culture, and women are the biggest losers. Dines continues,

By inundating girls and women with the message that their most worthy attribute is their sexual hotness and crowding out other messages, pop culture is grooming them just like an individual perpetrator would.  It is slowly chipping away at their self-esteem, stripping them of a sense of themselves as whole human beings, and providing them with an identity that emphasizes sex and de-emphasizes every other human attribute (Pornland, 118).

5. Porn squashes the beauty of a real naked woman. Wolf, in her own blunt way, confirms this,

For most of human history, the erotic images have been reflections of, or celebrations of, or substitutes for, real naked women. For the first time in history, the images’ power and allure have supplanted that of real naked women. Today, real naked women are just bad porn (Quoted in Wired for Intimacy, 38).

6. Porn has a numbing effect upon reality. It makes real sex and even the real world boring in comparison. It particularly anesthetizes the emotional life of a man. Paul comments,

Pornography leaves men desensitivzed to both outrage and to excitement, leading to an overall diminishment of feeling and eventually to dissatisfaction with the emotional tugs of everyday life…Eventually they are left with a confusing mix of supersized expectations about sex and numbed emotions about women…When a man gets bored with pornography, both his fantasy and real worlds become imbued with indifference. The real world often gets really boring…” (Pornified, 90, 91)

7. Porn lies about what it means to be male and female. Dines records how porn tells a false story about men and women. In the story of porn, women are “one-dimensional…who are nothing more than collections of holes (Pornland, xxiv)”–they never say no, never get pregnant, and can’t wait to have sex with any man and please them in whatever way imaginable (or even unimaginable). On the other hand, the story porn tells about men is that they are “soulless, unfeeling, amoral life-support systems for erect penises who are entitled to use women in any way they want. These men demonstrated zero empathy, respect, or love for the women they have sex with…(Pornland, xxiv).”

PT Forsyth & Man’s Chief End

Echoing the preamble of the Westminster Confession, PT Forsyth offers his version of “man’s chief end”:

Man’s chief end is not to make the most of himself, but to glorify a holy God by the holiness which alone can satisfy holiness. And that is what sinful man can do only in the power of the atoning holiness of Christ. [Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind, 218]

The Problem with Reducing Doctrines to the Question: “Is it a Salvation Issue?”

In many conversations that I have had regarding skewed theology, unsound doctrine, and bad interpretations of Scripture and the like, I run into the common refrain “Ya, but its not a salvation issue” or “Well, even if he/she does believe that they won’t go to hell for it.” This has always bothered me because the assumption is the only thing that matters when it comes to belief is only believing what keeps you out of hell. Now, obviously, that matters–big time, but it is not the only thing that matters. Its kind of like saying to your spouse after an disagreement: “Well, it’s not a divorce issue. Your not going to divorce me for it, so its not that big of a deal.” Or its like the classic teenage boy at youth group trying to go as far as he can with his girlfriend without doing-da-deed and actually fornicating. Its just a plain bad way of thinking and bad way to live your life in relationship with other people, which, of course, includes your relationship with Jesus.

Fred Sanders, over at his blog, has some helpful comments on the problem with this way of thinking about Christian doctrine:

Is this a salvation issue?” is often the final court of appeal for evangelicals. First of all, let me point out that even if it were not a salvation issue, it could still be important. Only an evangelical culture in which doctrine and truth are not considered relevant to Christian life could the question “Is this a salvation issue” function as a diagnostic check for every doctrinal discussion, with the implicit presupposition being that we should think very little about anything that does not directly impinge on whether you go to heaven when you die. Some things may not be salvation issues but may still be fundamentally wrong and therefore to be avoided. A Christian can be saved and go to heaven with a great number of wrong ideas in his head. Many believers have had shocking experiences in which we discover some amazing and important theological truth that has somehow escaped us in years of the Christian life. Many evangelical Christians believe, for example, that Jesus got rid of his human body when he ascended to the Father, undid the incarnation, and is no longer a human. That is a false belief, and reading Hebrews would correct it rapidly. Is it a salvation issue? No, but if a whole church began belligerently preaching the non-humanity of the ascended Christ, it would be grounds for warning them sternly that they were deviating.

The goal of Christian believer’s is not to believe as little as they can about God and his Word just to make it into heaven, but to “grow in knowledge and grace” and cultivate “sound doctrine.” Paul, in his second letter to Timothy, says that the time will come when people will “not put up with sound doctrine” (4:3). The poisonous weed of a negative attitude toward–a not putting up with–sound doctrine grows from the soil of an attitude that treats only the most important Christian doctrines as important at all and chucks the rest out as simply filler and relatively unimportant. When you start pulling on the string of important doctrines the most important ones will eventually disintegrate. (*Tip of the hat to Sinclair Ferguson for that last analogy*).

Why Denying the Trinity is Denying the Gospel

Recently a bit of a political tussle has been occurring over the Mormonism of a few of the Republican candidates and whether their religion is a cult or not. Regardless of how you choose your politicians, whether a Mormon should be the President or not is not as important of a  question as to whether the teachings of Mormonism should be classified within the bounds of the Christian gospel.

The President of Fuller Seminary, Dr. Richard Mouw, commenting on the 2012 election brouhaha in an recent article on CNN, does not believe that Mormonism is a cult, yet is not quite ready to say that it is within the bounds of historical orthodox Christianity. He mentions a sermon on the cross of Christ from Jeffrey Holland, an LDS leader of the highest caliber, and states, “Several of my students remarked that if they had not known that he was a Mormon leader they would have guessed that he was an evangelical preacher.” This is all probably very true, and, my concern, is that it reveals not so much a problem with Mormonism but a deeper, gaping problem with evangelicalism.

Being Jesus-centered and cross-centered without being Trinity-centered distorts the Godhead and the how the three-in-one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit saves sinners.

Holland, in an interview with PBS, clearly defines one of the chief differences between Mormons and Christians:

“One is our view of the godhead. We believe that God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son and the Holy Ghost are three separate, distinct individuals. We believe they are united in every other conceivable way: in purpose, in majesty, in duty, in love, in glory, in mercy, in communication, in whatever, … except personal being. They are separate. …

Therefore even if Holland supposedly nailed the death of Jesus for sinners in his sermon, the “Jesus” who died for sins is the “Jesus” who is one of two other separate and distinct Gods. This is a polytheistic crucified “Jesus”, which is far from the strict monotheism of the biblical witness. In other words, this is not the Jesus of the gospel.

The witness of the Old Testament emphatically asserts the reality of one God, and the New Testament witness explicitly ascribes worship to Jesus, his Father, and the Spirit while remaining intensely monothesitic. You are either left with a contradiction or you are left with the saving God who is three-in-one; as the Westminster Confession puts it: “In the unity of the Godhead there be three Persons of one substance, power, and eternity: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.”

Reducing the gospel to Jesus died on the cross for my sins without a mention of the Triune God is a serious problem. The revival of interest in the centrality of Jesus–being Christ-centered–is utterly necessary (especially with the rise of Islam) but don’t raise Jesus high in a way that ignores proclaiming the whole Triune God who saves sinners. Being Jesus-centered and cross-centered without being Trinity-centered distorts the Godhead and the how the three-in-one Father, Son, and Holy Spirit saves sinners. Fred Sanders, in The Deep Things of God, elaborates,

A message about nothing but the cross is not emphatic. It is reductionistic. The rest of the matrix matters: the death of Jesus is salvation partly because of the life he lived before it, and certainly because of the new life he lived after it, and above all because of the eternal background in which he is the eternal Son of the eternal Father.

He continues by showing how the denial of the Trinity is a denial of the gospel itself:

…the doctrine of the Trinity inherently belongs to the gospel itself…

Trinity and gospel are not just bundled together so that you can’t have one without the other. They are internally configured toward each other…the gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel. Christian salvation comes from the Trinity, happens through the Trinity, and brings us home to the Trinity.

A Tenderhearted Man


The week of my 33rd birthday, now just a few weeks past, I felt particularly drawn to this phrase. In fact, I believe this year, I am to pray, in the power of the Spirit, this reality into myself and into my family.

No one becomes tenderhearted without prayer, because being a tenderhearted person is impossible. It is the work of the Holy Spirit. Soft hearts are not made by men, they are born by God through the new birth. And being created by the Spirit they can only be cultivated by the Spirit as well.

We hear from history of lionhearted men, but not often do we hear of tenderhearted men

The Greek Lexicon’s define tenderheartedness as compassionate. In Greek medicine tenderheartedness referred to having healthy bowels, which exposes the utterly personal inner-ness and surety of being externalized background for the word. Ray Ortlund spoke of it in this way: “It seems inescapable that this word describes a certain emotional tone, a softness of disposition, a heart that feels for others.” Tenderheartedness demands emotion, as it is not a cognitive attribute, but lies at the core of one’s heart and visibly overflows to others. In the New Testament the word is used twice demonstrating that a tenderhearted man is a kind, forgiving (Eph. 4:32), and humble man (1 Pe. 3:8).

Defining it is difficult, living it is harder, but it can only be properly defined by being lived. Therefore its easiest to point to a person. We hear from history of lionhearted men, but not often do we hear of tenderhearted men. Yet there was One.

The ultimate man of the tender-heart was Jesus. If King Richard of England had the lionheart, King Jesus had the tenderheart. Compassion was Jesus’ most distinct emotion in his earthly ministry, and forgiveness thundered from the cross louder than the hammered nails that hung him there. Humility characterized everything he did, as he came from the glory of heaven to the sin-cursed earth to serve and save sin-filled humanity. Jesus embodies and models the man of the tenderheart.

Being a hard man is easy. Sometimes the fact that life is hard, work is frustrating, marriage is difficult, and death is coming causes hardness to callous the heart. But this is not as it should be. Life, marriage, family, work, and death when shaped by the Spirit can make soft-light-tender-hearted men.

Using the example of marriage, Jesus himself said that the reason why marriage is hard and divorce exists is because the men that get married are hard-hearted (Mt. 19:8). Therefore marriage is a perfect place to find that you are not naturally tenderhearted, and when redeemed by Jesus is an ideal place to cultivate softheartedness. One of the reason marriage exists is to make men’s hearts soft and tender not hard and harsh.

This is what I strive to be in every area of my life. Being a man is a call to be soft, pliable and tender or to say it differently humble, forgiving, and compassionate. May God raise up more men in the church that when dead have the following listed on their tombstone:

Here lies ____________ the tenderhearted.