Those who reject the claims of Christ and His teachings in the New Testament would like us to believe that their conclusions are based solely on careful examination of the evidence and that motives have nothing to do with the matter. They insist that their assumptions are founded on sound logic and that they are not led in any way by prejudice, feelings, pride, or a desire to conform to the majority. Their goal is simply to discover the truth… or so they say.
Biblical Examples of Those Led by Motives
In contrast, the Bible shows us that the Jews (and others) had ulterior motives for rejecting Jesus and His teachings. Despite having ample evidence that Jesus raised a man from the dead (John 11:38-46), the chief priests and Pharisees said, “What are we doing? For this man is performing many signs. If we let Him go on like this, all men will believe in Him, and the Romans will come and take away both our place and our nation” (John 11:47-48). Other passages reveal that it was because of “envy” that the Jews had handed Jesus over to Pontius Pilate to be crucified (Matthew 27:18; Mark 15:10).
Shortly after this, Pilate decided to send Jesus to his death, not because he was convinced of the evidence against him, but rather because he wanted to quell a possible riot (Matthew 27:24) and “satisfy the crowd” (Mark 15:15). John seems to indicate that Pilate was partly motivated by fear when he decided to crucify Jesus. He didn’t want his subjects to regard Jesus’ possible release as an acknowledgement of his kingship, thus leaving the impression that the governor of Judea opposed the Roman Emperor (John 19:12-16).
Paul mentioned that even some of those who preached the gospel in his day were doing it out of envy and rivalry (Philippians 1:15-17). They were jealous of him and wished to stir up trouble for Paul when he was in prison.
Modern Examples and Their “Reasons” for Unbelief
Likewise, people today have motives for their unbelief.
Dietrich Kerler, a German philosopher, once wrote in a letter to a colleague, “Even if it could be proved by mathematics that God exists, I do not want him to exist, because he would set limits to my greatness.”1
Similarly, Thomas Nagel, Professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, states, “I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and well-informed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.”2
Aldous Huxley, an English writer and atheist, made one of the most revealing and honest personal observations regarding his unbelief when he said, “I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption… The liberation we desired was … from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”3
No One Is Completely Impartial
To argue that human beings can be entirely free of all bias and led exclusively by the pursuit of knowledge, while rejecting God and his word, is naive. People have motives for doing what they do and sometimes logic has nothing to do with it.
(1) De Lubac, Henri. The Drama of Athiest Humanism. Cleveland and New York: Meridian Books, The World Publishing Company, 1944, p. 27.
(2) Nagel, Thomas. The Last Word. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 1997, pp. 130-131.
(3) Huxley, Aldous. Ends and Means. London: Chatto and Windus, 1937, pp. 270 & 273.