More than we know, hidden motives govern surface responses to the Bible.
Years back I had dinner with a student of evolutionary biology. I was a full-time Christian campus worker. He was a devout atheist. We both knew what we were in for. Thankfully, it seemed we had also decided in advance to be kind to one another, so as not to ruin our enjoyment of the ribs and pizza.
He wanted to talk about science, which I was happy enough to do. Since I had been an amateur paleontologist,1 I had over the years read a number of Darwin-friendly texts, so I didn’t feel entirely out of my depth.
He had some fun with me, citing facts, hoping to poke holes in any creationist viewpoint I held. I shot some zingers in return, trying to make points for the gospel. We parted on a good note. Nobody “won” but I think we both mistakenly assumed that alleged science/faith contradictions laid at the heart of our good-natured debate.
And this is the flawed assumption of any dialog where there is opposition to Scripture–that the tip of the iceberg, whatever is showing above the water line, must be the true concern.
However, the real reason for resisting the Word of God doesn’t come from evolutionary science. It doesn’t come from protests over slavery in the Bible, or male heads of households, sexual lifestyles, or gender distinctions. People use these arguments as ammunition, and sometimes passionately so, but none drill down to the core reason for opposing the Bible.
Jesus touched it, though. One night in a house full of opponents, He preached warning words about financial abuse, selfishness, and the unqualified trust in earthly riches.
“The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him” (Lk. 16:14).
We didn’t hear about the content of the ridicule. I’m guessing it was satirical, especially if some present had the wit and intelligence of late night talk show hosts. It probably got a big laugh from the anti-Jesus group gathered there. But none of their jeering and critiques were coming from a place of sincerity, as Jesus pointed out,
“You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God” (Lk. 16:15).
Why had the Pharisees responded with hard-hearted ridicule? It was a visceral response, a knee-jerk defense, a move to self-justify deeply held attitudes. Regardless of the appearance they had tried to portray in front of people, and what they had made each other believe, they were money grubbers. When the word of Christ came to expose it, they had scrambled to annul it with comedy and common sense, disdain and dismissal.
This is why the endless wrangling, arguing, and twisting of the Bible goes on in the open forum today. Rest assured there is always something at stake deeper than the bald issue Scripture addresses. It comes down to a sinner faced with his or her sin.
I’m pretty sure that in the room that night, had there been a Pharisee, who, though smarting from the truth spoken, had faced the problem, pulled Jesus aside, and confessed his bondage to money, would have found a Savior ready to grant release.
1. This was prior to the Jurassic Park franchise. I had been a trail-blazing nerd into fossil collecting before Steven Spielberg made it officially cool.