The following is a guest blog post by Jeff G. Jeff is a 24-year-old student studying biblical theology at North Park University in Chicago. He hopes to go on to grad school and get a Ph.D. in the field of biblical theology, if that is where God wants him.
It was 7th grade biology class, and we began to learn the theory of evolution. The evidence seemed absolutely clear to me—evolution was an undeniable fact. I picked up my bible and compared what I read to what I learned in my biology class. The accounts seemed clearly contradictory. It didn’t take much time for me to conclude that all of Christianity was a sham. I will come back to this in a bit, but first, do me a favor and let me tell you another story…
In January of 2007, world-renowned violin virtuoso Joshua Bell took his 3.5 million dollar violin to the Washington D.C. metro station to play some songs as a street musician. Dressing modestly in a baseball cap, jeans, and a long-sleeved t-shirt, Bell left his violin case open for tips as he played 6 classical songs, one of which has been called the most difficult song on any instrument—J.S. Bach’s Chaconne. Of this song, the great composer Johannes Brahms said, “if I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.”
With violin virtuoso Joshua Bell’s level of talent, playing this sort of music, you might expect that Bell would draw a rather large crowd. So what happened? After 43 minutes and 1097 passersby there was no crowd, and only seven people stopped during the entire performance, at least for a minute. However, as the Washington Post notes, “Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.”
The experiment was to see if people would recognize genius if it came in a form they were not expecting, or if their prejudgments (in this case, against street musicians) would blind them to the modest looking man playing some of the most difficult music in the world on one of the most expensive instruments in the world. The results were clear, people’s prejudice did blind them to see the genius right in front of them.
Now, what if God were to do a similar thing? Hide all of His pomp and majesty, put on an average person’s clothes, and express His character non-verbally as David says, “The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Psalm 19:1, NIV) Would many people just walk by? It certainly seems that the Joshua Bell experiment shows at least that much is possible.
On a similar thought, is it possible that God could have a purpose for doing such a thing? Well Joshua Bell did. If there was a sign outside of the metro station saying, “Joshua Bell, world Class Violinist plays world-class music on a 3.5 million dollar violin” you can bet that there would be hundreds of people packed in the small area of the metro station that Bell was playing in. Likewise, if God were to write on every molecule “made by God… also don’t forget to read the Gospel of John and believe in Jesus” you can bet that there would be only a few uneducated non-Christians.
However, what did Bell gain by keeping his identity hidden? He got people who would appreciate his music for what it was, and not for his pomp and circumstance. It was only the beauty of the music itself that drew people, and people with other, lesser motivations were filtered out.
It now seems like a good time to come back my story about myself in seventh grade. So, might this answer the question I had in the 7th grade, “why would God make a bible that appears clearly to contradict what science says?” I am quite sure it does. God creating a bible with such apparent contradictions with science could be just like Joshua Bell putting on the clothes of an average person, looking to see who will stop for the music’s sake, and not out of other motives. If God were to make his beautiful nature known, might we still walk by it because it came without all of the pomp it might come with?
I think that is what I did after my 7th grade biology class. I now recognize that God right now is making his character known while in average clothing. God does so by the beauty in the sky, as the Psalmist says, “the heavens declare the glory of the Lord,” and in the beauty of Jesus, who, going father than Joshua Bell, was not just dressed up in average clothes, but was stripped naked and nailed to a cross.
Is it possible that like the 1090 people who walked by Joshua Bell, you would walk by? Or would you be like the little child, who, absent of the false preconceptions of their parents, stops to listen? I walked by, and I am glad that by the grace of God I can now take a seat and enjoy His beauty. I hope everyone reading this will notice the humble man in jeans and a baseball cap, playing the most difficult song (which is now also my favorite song—J.S. Bach’s Chaconne) on a 3.5 million dollar violin. On a less serious note, I was recently thinking about trying my hand at playing classical music as a street musician, and I think this story is a great way to keep me from losing my confidence if it doesn’t work out…