This month’s WIRED magazine features an article written by Ben Austen on former Apple CEO Steve Jobs that perfectly illustrates Western culture’s completely schizophrenic attitude toward morality.
Is Steve Jobs a great guy or not?
Well that depends on your point of view. The article brings up a bunch of stories from Job’s biography written by Walter Issacson. For example, in 1975 Atari paid Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak to create the iconic game Breakout. Wozniak pulled four all-nighters to get it done, but Jobs took the whole bonus that Atari paid for the game’s efficient design.
So which is it? Is Jobs a great leader and motivator? A guy who can get the most out of others who work under his direction? Or is he a scheming slime who would stab anybody in the back? Just as long as it benefits him. Western culture would tell you that it all depends on your point of view. Austen writes, “to some, the Steve Jobs story reveals the value of sticking to one’s vision. To others it’s a study in cruelty and alienation.”
The problem with individually defined morality becomes clear we consider a morally reprehensible act like we saw last week in Denver. When it comes to James Holmes, accused of killing twelve in a theatre shooting in Aurora last week there isn’t a person alive who would give Holmes a pass. Everyone would agree that what Holmes is evil incarnate. But what moral imperative are we appealing to when we make that statement? If we each define right and wrong for ourselves, and if I have no right to tell you what is right and what is wrong, how can we define anything as evil? Who’s moral authority is the absolute authority?
Moral relativism makes it difficult to explain why this is wrong. Ravi Zacharias does a far superior job of explaining this here , in my opinion 🙂
Philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche is famous for writing, “God is dead,” but he wasn’t just being cheeky. He was making a serious statement: if moral relativism is carried to it’s logical conclusion the results are disastrous.
From Sec. 125 of The Gay Science (1882) translated from German
Have you ever heard of the madman who on a bright morning lighted a lantern and ran to the market-place calling out unceasingly: “I seek God! I seek God!” As there were many people standing about who did not believe in God, he caused a great deal of amusement. Why? is he lost? said one. Has he strayed away like a child? said another. Or does he keep himself hidden? Is he afraid of us? Has he taken a sea voyage? Has he emigrated? – the people cried out laughingly, all in a hubbub.
The insane man jumped into their midst and transfixed them with his glances. “Where is God gone?” he called out. “I will tell you! We have killed him, you and I! We are all his murderers! But how have we done it? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the whole horizon? What did we do when we loosened this earth from its sun? Where does it now move? Where do we move? Away from all suns? Do we not dash on unceasingly? Backwards, sideways, forwards, in all directions? Is there still an up and down? Do we not stray, as through infinite nothingness? Does not empty space breathe upon us? Has it not become colder? Does not night come on continually, darker and darker? Shall we not have to light lanterns in the morning? Do we not hear the noise of the grave-diggers who are burying God? Do we not smell the divine stench of death? …
Here the madman was silent and looked again at his hearers; they also were silent and looked at him in surprise.
At last he threw his lantern on the ground, so that it broke in pieces and was extinguished. “I have come too early,” he then said. “I am not yet at the right time. This prodigious event is still on its way, and is traveling – it has not yet reached men’s ears. Lightning and thunder need time, the light of the stars needs time, deeds need time, even after they are done, to be seen and heard. This deed is as yet further from them than the furthest star – and yet they have done it themselves!”
It’s a mistake for a believer to get all flustered at this point and miss what Nietzsche is saying. Moral relativism, when extended to it’s logical conclusions, “wipes away the horizon.” There is no longer any up or down. We will then need to light lanterns in the morning for there is no sun.
If a follower of Jesus is going to have a coherent response to moral relativism, they need to understand the nature of Christian morality. Christians aren’t right because “God is on their side.” We are all in the wrong, and Jesus is the only one that is good. Our culture says that there are good people and bad people, it just can’t coherently say how you tell the two apart.
On the other hand, the Bible says that everyone is bad (Rom 3:23) and only God is good (1 John 1:5) . A follower of Jesus is a person who believes that Jesus is God’s Son and makes him Lord of their life. They embrace the “Jesus life” for them and receive Jesus’ goodness in exchange for their sin (2 Cor 5:21)
As a result, no follower of Jesus can possibly have moral superiority complex, not without completely contradicting their standing of being saved by grace (Eph 2:8-9). If you can’t be good on your own, and you receive your goodness from Jesus, you can’t look down on somebody else that can’t do it either.
Any follower of Jesus who acts morally superior to someone else has forgotten how they became a follower of Jesus in the first place. So Steve Jobs really isn’t a good person, but neither are you.