What is really behind all the skepticism?
guest blog by Eric Chabot
When it comes to investigating the existence of God, it is fairly apparent that skepticism seems to be perceived as the more rational approach. After all, in the midst of a theologically illiterate culture, “faith” is seen as blind, irrational, and completely subjective. Of course, part of the problem with this issue is a failure to understand the nature of biblical faith and the limitations of science. I won’t address that issue in this post. I am only going to address the skepticism issue with reference to the existence of God.
If we are skeptical towards the existence of God, then can it be viewed as a form of doubt? Perhaps someone says, “I really doubt the existence of God.” Maybe they want to take the time to investigate such a weighty issue. Let’s look at a more technical definition of doubt. Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary says the following about doubt:
“It is possible to have questions (or doubts) about persons, propositions, or objects. Doubt has been deemed a valuable element in honest, rational inquiry. It prevents us from reaching hasty conclusions or making commitments to unreliable and untrustworthy sources. A suspension of judgment until sufficient inquiry is made and adequate evidence is presented is judged to be admirable. In this light, doubt is not an enemy of faith. This seems to be the attitude of the Bereans in Acts 17:11. Questioning or doubting motivates us to search further and deeper in an understanding of faith. However, doubt in Scripture can be seen to be characteristic of both believers and unbelievers. In believers it is usually a weakness of faith, a wavering in the face of God’s promises. In the unbeliever doubt is virtually synonymous with unbelief. Scripture, as would be expected, does not look at doubt philosophically or epistemologically. Doubt is viewed practically and spiritually as it relates to our trust in the Lord. For this reason, doubt is not deemed as valuable or commendable.”
In this sense, there is absolutely nothing wrong with honest, rational, inquiry. It makes sense to withhold judgment until careful investigation. I also agree that there needs to be some skepticism towards revelatory claims. After all, most of the revelatory claims are contradictory in nature.
I know people who took this approach who were once skeptics. They embarked on an honest, rational inquiry about Christianity and became Christians.
I have also seen those who have remained skeptics for a number of years. I always ask if they really care if Christianity happens to be true. I always try to get behind their skepticism. If they present to me some sort of intellectual obstacle, I generally ask if I can answer the objection, would they be truly interested in becoming a Christian. In SOME cases it is clear that their skepticism simply serves as a way to live their life in complete autonomy from God. They like the freedom and could care less about evidence.
It is interesting that in his text, Logic: An Introduction, Lionel Ruby says the following: “Every person who is interested in logical thinking accepts what we shall call the “law of rationality,” which may be stated as follows: We ought to justify our conclusions by adequate evidence…. By “adequate evidence” we mean evidence which is good and sufficient in terms of the kind of proof which is required. There are occasions when we require conclusive proof, as in mathematics, and there are occasions when it is sufficient to establish the probability of a given conclusion, as in weather prediction. But in all cases the evidence must be adequate to its purpose.” (1960, p. 131, emp. added).
I have been told by some skeptics that they just want sufficient evidence. But they just can’t get there. But in reality, this really translates as what Ruby just stated as “conclusive proof” as in mathematics and logic. So it seems that as the skeptic waits for the “conclusive proof,” they are allowed to live a life in complete autonomy from God.
It also seems the more fixated the skeptic is on evidence, the more elusive it becomes. This is because the object of faith is not evidence. If the object of my faith was evidence, than evidence would be an idol. Instead, the object of my faith is God or Jesus Himself. So while reason and evidence can support the Christian faith, it is never to be take the place of God Himself.
So I conclude by saying that many skeptics may think they are being more intellectual or rational by being skeptical. But I think skeptics need to ask themselves whether they are using their skepticism as a vehicle to cover up what is really at stake: the desire to live a life apart from God.
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