By Dr. Gene Edward Veith
Steve Jobs, the head of Apple Computers who died Oct. 5, was by all accounts a brilliant man, a visionary.
In the few days since his death, in obituaries and other places, many have speculated about his formative yearsyes, even about his faith-life. What motivated him? What did he believe? Was he raised in a Christian family? He was reportedly raised as a Lutheran. Later, though, his beliefs were notoriously difficult to pin down. Was he agnostic? Wasnt he a Buddhist? As with his private life, evidence is elusive, and we simply do not know. Yet, he proved to be one of the few individuals who actually changed the world.
Before Steve Jobs and some friends started Apple, computers were mainly business machines, big and bulky and requiring technical expertise just to use them. Jobs, though, developed personal computers. Instead of having to type in code, a user could click an icon using a mouse. Other companies would run with these concepts and sell more computers than Apple ever did, but many of the seminal ideas and technologies of todays Information Age came from Jobs.
He went on to merge technology with art. Computers became not just scientific tools but media for artistic expression. Not only were the new Macintosh computers built with an aesthetic flair, but they also could be used for publishing words and images (revolutionizing the publishing industry, changing the face of journalism, and putting the power of the printing press in the hands of anyone with an Internet connection). Architects, engineers, artists, and designers started doing their work on Apple computers.
Jobs revolutionized the entertainment industry. He pioneered computer animation. He helped develop modeling software that created three-dimensional animated images. One of his companies was Pixar Animation Studios, which made movies such as Toy Story. Such technology made its way into live action films, taking special effects to new levels. Jobs then remade the music industry with the iPod and iTunes.
As if all of this were not enough, he made personal computers even more personal with the iPad and the iPhone.
No one can deny that Steve Jobs was gifted. And gifts imply a Giver. No one can deny that Steve Jobs was good at his jobs. He had a vocation, a calling. And a calling implies a Caller.
In the Catechism that young Steve may or may not have studied, we learn that God has given me…my reason and all my senses, and still takes care of them. Our human faculties are continual gifts of God. The Catechism further teaches that [God] richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life. These days that would surely include computers. And in the Table of Duties we learn that Employers and Supervisors and Workers of All Kinds occupy Holy Orders and Positions.
The Lutheran doctrine of vocation teaches that God works through human beingsin their different stations of life in the workplace, the family, the culture, and the churchto care for His creation. God calls Christians through the Gospel in their baptisms into a life of faith. He then sends them into the world to live out that faith in love and service to their neighbors. Christians know who called them. But God, in His governing of His creation, works even through those who do not know Him and those who have forgotten Him.
Jobs served his neighbors not by simply giving them what they wanted but by giving them things they had not even dreamed about. He impacted the culture not by following its lead but by leading it in new directions.
To be sure, every human creation, like every human being, is tainted with sin. For all of his giftedness, Jobs was a sinner. Similarly, we misuse the new information technology he bequeathed to us, but it remains a gift of God, one that opens up new horizons for both sin and grace.
As Christianity Todays Andy Crouch has pointed out, the original logo of Jobs company combines two biblical images: a bitten apple, the sign of the Fall, colored with a rainbow, the sign of Gods promise of mercy, pointing ahead to a new covenant, to Christ, to baptism. Thus, though probably unintentionally, the Apple logo is an icon of Law and Gospel. Unfortunately, the latest rendition of the logo does away with the rainbow. Like Steve Jobs, we have all taken a bite out of the Apple. Nevertheless, Gods work and His promises remain.
About the Author: Dr. Gene E. Veith Jr. is the Provost and professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, Purcellville, Va.; director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, Fort Wayne, Ind.; a columnist for World Magazine and Table Talk; and the author of 18 books on Christianity and culture.