An Encounter on a Plane

Years ago, when I was a college student in Arkansas, I used to love air travel. It was the easiest way to get back and forth from home to school, and it was relatively cheap. A redeye flight (which they no longer offer) was about $50 or so. You left late at night and arrived in the wee hours of the morning (also known as dark-thirty). Security was less stringent, and to a kid who’d never been away from home much, it was rather exciting.

It was on one such a flight I had an experience I can still remember. I was on the plane, waiting for takeoff. I happened to be reading my Bible. The stewardess, who was an attractive blonde with an interesting European accent (hey, I was 20, single, and noticed those things) tapped on the book and said, “It’s a good book, but shouldn’t be taken too seriously”. At the time I was too surprised, not to mention self-conscious and shy (!?) to say anything, but in the years since, I’ve thought a lot about that and know what I would have answered.

What she’d done is simply given voice to the world’s view of the Bible. It was seen as a book with some good ideas about how to get along with your fellow human beings, but that was it. It was fine to be a Christian if you chose, but you shouldn’t pester everyone else with all the rest about holiness, purity and the like. Everyone had the right to live their life and have a good time, as long as it didn’t hurt anybody else. Flash forward to 2022, and I daresay the encounter might have been very different. We live in an age where anyone can define their own reality, choose to be whatever they wish: male, female, animal, vegetable, or mineral, and no one else has the right to question it. The only part of the Bible that anyone ever seems to quote is: 1) God is love, He loves everyone just as they are, and He wants us to do the same (an incredibly folded, spindled, and mutilated interpretation), and 2) Judge not, that ye be not judged. The rest is dismissed as patriarchal, misogynistic, racist, and homophobic, or someone’s (usually the apostle Paul) opinion, and is to be rejected, cancelled, and condemned.

My answer back then, and still today, would be either you take it seriously, or you must reject it completely. Those are the only choices the Bible itself will allow. In spite of all of mankind’s attempts to bend, warp, and stretch Scripture to match contemporary humanistic philosophy and place claim on Divine sanction for whatever “reality” we choose for ourselves, the Bible must be addressed head-on and taken in totality. Cherry-picked verses may make us feel justified, but it sets up a contradiction. What we’ve done is make the Bible contradict itself, and decided that we’re wiser than God, because we claim to know what He “really” meant. It’s a continuation of the original sin of the Garden of Eden: we make ourselves into our own gods.

Solomon had it right: there is nothing new under the sun. All of our so-called advancements are nothing more than window dressing for the same essential problem. We are still under the curse of sin. We continue to struggle with the lie that we can be our own gods. We can make ourselves better, humanity is basically good and with enough of the “right” kind of thinking we can shape our own utopia, save the earth, and live happily together ever after. It takes only a quick perusal of the news to see how that’s working out.

The world has changed, but our basic nature has not. We still fight, murder, and hate. We still demonstrate selfishness, desire power and riches. We fight wars and allow millions to starve, suffer and die while we hoard our riches and mindlessly indulge every sensual desire. The chapters of the Old Testament books could easily be today’s headlines. If our basic natures haven’t changed, then the answers of the Bible remain just as pertinent today as they did hundreds and thousands of years ago.

No matter how far we think we “progress”, how much we reject absolute truth and substitute our own ‘reality’, if we claim a belief in God but violate his commands, we stand condemned. We can make the argument that “God made me this way”, but in the end we must confront what the Bible says, not what we think it says. Scripture tells us we will all stand before God in a final judgment, and the words of Scripture will be the basis on which we are judged worthy of Heaven or Hell. If that be the case, and I believe it is, then it behooves us to take the Bible VERY seriously. Our lives depend on it.

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