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Is Apple’s logo blasphemy?

Dr. Jim Denison is a cultural apologist who helps people respond biblically and redemptively to the vital issues of our day. He is also the co-founder and Chief Vision Officer of the Denison Forum, a Dallas-based nonprofit that comments on current issues through a biblical lens.

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The iMac 2012 sitting on a desk in a softly lit office, with a closeup of the Apple logo (Credit: Manny R via Flickr)

Apple is back in the headlines this morning with its announcement of the iPad Mini.  This 7.9-inch tablet computer is intended to compete with similarly-sized products by Google and Amazon.

One group probably not placing advance orders is Russian Orthodox priests.  They are replacing the company’s iconic bitten-apple logo with the sign of the cross, claiming that the former symbolizes the original sin of Adam and Eve and is thus anti-Christian.    As Russia considers laws intended “to defend citizens’ religious feelings and national and spiritual values from blasphemy and insult,” the priests’ anger with Apple may be bad news for the company’s bottom line.  Their worst case scenario would be a ban on Apple products in Russia.

Where did the logo come from?  Steve Jobs said that he called his company Apple Computers because he couldn’t come up with a better name and it got them in the phone book ahead of Atari, his former employer.  Rob Janoff, the man who designed the Apple logo, says he included the bite for scale so a small Apple logo looks like an apple and not a cherry.

In the years since, numerous explanations have grown up around the logo: the “bite” is connected to the “byte,” a unit of digital information; it is related to Sir Isaac Newton; it represents knowledge, as in the biblical story of Adam and Eve; or it is a tribute to Alan Turing, a computing pioneer who committed suicide by biting into an apple he laced with cyanide.  All such connections are urban legends, according to Janoff.

As an Apple user, it never occurred to me that I might be promoting original sin every time I open my computer.  Nor has it to anyone else—the Russian priests are apparently the first since the logo was unveiled in 1976 to make such a connection.  However, I must say I admire them for the courage of their convictions.  They have little to gain from their protest—none are planning a technological competitor to Apple, so far as I know.  But they are arguing that Christian convictions matter in the secular marketplace.  Whether their complaint causes Apple to revise its logo or Russia to ban Apple products remains to be seen, but at least their stance has provoked a global discussion of the issue.

If it is true that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Genesis 1:1), there is no part of creation that is absent from its Creator.  If we make this Maker our King, we consent to the proposition that every dimension of existence is part of his realm.  In such a universe, faith is relevant to everything that exists, from computer logos to presidential elections to your next decision.

C. S. Lewis claimed, “All that is not eternal is eternally out of date.”  Do you agree?