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Saturday, November 12, 2011

Steve Jobs, Jesus, and the Problem of Evil

In the best-selling biography Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson recounts an event when a thirteen- year-old Steve Jobs is distressed by a photograph in a 1968 Life Magazine of a pair of starving children in Biafra. He then went to his Lutheran pastor, holds up one finger and asks, "Did God know I would hold up this finger before I did?" The Pastor said, "Yes, God knows everything." Then Jobs produced the Life cover photo and asks, "Well, does God know about this and what's going to happen to those children?" The Pastor replied, "Steve, I know you don't understand, but yes, God know about this."

Issacson reports 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." Instead, Jobs pursued Buddhism, gurus, and hallucinogenic drug use instead (pages 14-15). This is yet another tragic encounter with the problem of evil. Jobs later told Issacson that "The juice goes out of Christianity when it becomes too based on faith rather than on living like Jesus of seeing world as Jesus saw it (p. 15).

The most reliable records of Jesus life are the Four Gospels of The New Testament (see chapter 19 of Christian Apologetics). In them, we find Jesus affirming the existence of one, all-powerful God, as well as the existence of all manner of evil. That is how Jesus saw the world. But, unlike the Buddha, Jesus did not counsel his followers to detach from the world of suffering by ceasing to crave satisfaction. He rather said, "Blessed are those who hunger and thirst after righteousness, for they will be satisfied." It is inescapable that those who so hunger will also suffer: "Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted," Jesus also affirmed. (For more on Jesus's teachings, see chapter 20 of Christian Apologetics.)

The evils of this groaning world did not detract Jesus from his mission to "seek and to save the lost" (Luke 19:10). It was this wounded and aching world that sent Jesus to a bloody and horrible death on a Roman Cross, in order that humanity and deity might be reconciled and hope restored to an erring planet. As Pascal said: "The Incarnation shows man the greatness of his wretchedness through the greatness of the remedy required" (Pensees, 352/526).

If God is perfectly good and thoroughly powerful, he will not waste the sufferings of the world. He will bring a greater good out of them not otherwise possible. This may sound theoretical, but God himself put flesh to that reality through the Incarnation: "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). That Word taught only truth, offered only love and justice, and was put to death for no legal reason. On his Cross, he forgave his accusers and finally said, "It is finished." He was buried, dead as dead could be. The universe waited...until he rose from the dead in three days time--never to die again.

At a young age, Steve Jobs faced the severity and seeming absurdity of evil. In so doing, he rejected the only answer to the suffering: Christ Jesus. Let us rather affirm with the Apostle Paul:

55O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?

56The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law.

57But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.--1 Corinthians 15:55-58, King James Version.

(For more on the problem of evil, see chapter 25 of Christian Apologetics.)




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