Steve Jobs, Eternity, and Compassion

With the death of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs, a number of Christian writers have published tributes on the web today (John Dyer, Greg Thornbury, Mike Anderson, Al Mohler, Justin Taylor, and Joseph Gorra, to name a few). For me, Jared Wilson’s thoughts are particularly sobering:

This morning I tweeted “What does it profit a man to change the world but lose his own soul?” I was taken to task by two (so far) people for lacking compassion. But the opposite is true.

It is a hollow compassion to mourn the loss of a man’s products and creativity and set aside the potential loss of his soul as not as important, even if what we just mean is that it’s not as important at this time. Nobody I have seen is denying Jobs’s incredible impact and artistry. But Jesus’ words in Matthew 16:26 point us in the direction of greater grief, deeper grief.

A grief that mourns the loss of a man’s worldly accomplishments but feels no anxiety for his eternal destiny is upside down. A man’s worth lay not in his achievements or success but in his being made in the image of God. Setting aside for the moment the state of Jobs’s eternal destiny — because none of us can really know for sure — let us just be real about what is at stake in this life. It’s not fame and renown, it’s not the fulfillment of our gifts and talents, it’s not the altruistic good we can do our fellow man — it is eternal life and eternal death. All else is treasure that rusts.

I encourage you to read the whole post here.

5 replies
  1. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    A good post in general, but this comment strikes me as typical of the kind of nonsense you see Christians coming up with these days:

    “Setting aside for the moment the state of Jobs’s eternal destiny — because none of us can really know for sure”

    Really? The Bible doesn’t give us any way to know whether someone is saved? How, then, can you be sure of your own salvation? That sword cuts both ways.

  2. Jason
    Jason says:

    All I think Jared is saying is that we don’t know what Steve Jobs’ final circumstances and thoughts were like. That’s not a denial of Scripture, but a simple affirmation of our own ignorance of the man and his mental and spiritual state. By all accounts Jobs was a Buddhist, but no one – not even a Buddhist is outside the convicting, converting, power of the Gospel. However great our sin and however obdurate our unbelief, God’s grace is greater. Is it wrong to hope that in the end, confronted with the inevitability of death, Jobs finally found and confessed Christ?

  3. Bnonn
    Bnonn says:

    I don’t think it’s wrong to hope—but equally, it does seem wrong to doubt where no reason exists to do so.

    Maybe Hitler prayed the sinner’s prayer before blowing his brains out. Maybe Ghandi did. But such fanciful hypotheticals don’t give us a good reason to doubt which side they’ll be grouped on at the final judgment.

    PS. No invoking Godwin’s Law—Hitler is a valid example in a discussion about salvation.

  4. Stuart
    Stuart says:

    You need only look to the mercy and compassion of God to find some reason to doubt, thus it is not wrong to hope. Even though slim that hope may be in your judgement.

  5. Jason
    Jason says:

    Dominic, in all probability you’re right. Jobs died apart from Christ. But, as far as I can see, that’s the best your conclusion can amount to: a probable one. To have any kind of certainty, we would need access to his interior life – and we don’t have that. Hence the doubt.

    Furthermore, we do know other things that should undermine our confidence in viewing Jobs’ past behaviour as a certain guarantee of his (unknown to us) final thoughts and behaviour. For one, God is able to work in a person’s heart at *any* point in their life. Jobs’ life of rebellion is no more a certain indicator of how he met his end than Paul’s Judaism and persecution of the church were an accurate indicator of his post-conversion behaviour. Anyone looking at Paul’s life prior to the Damascus Road would have written him off as belonging to a certain group. But if God could rescue Paul and others like him, why think He couldn’t rescue Jobs at the final hour? Secondly, I’m sure God has used the prospect of death to bring people to repentance. Why think Jobs past beliefs and behaviour must be immune to change in this situation? The thief on the cross is a concrete example of the fact that change is possible, even at the last moments of one’s life.

    Given these things, and especially given the limitedness of our cognitive position, it hardly seems a violation of our epistemic duties to say that no one of us can know for sure.

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