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.

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