Scripture and Skepticism

By Jeff Laird

There's a common misconception that religion requires "belief" without thinking, and without skepticism. Biblical Christianity is unique in the way it actively encourages questioning. Other faiths...well, they'll have to fend for themselves. In reality, the Bible directly commands us to examine, investigate, and test what we are told about God. We also need to be careful about assuming that those who claim no religion "question everything," especially if making a comparison to religious belief.

According to the Bible, we are obligated to apply a form of cautious skepticism. This is not only a unique aspect of the Christian faith, it's powerful evidence that Christianity is actually true. Acts 17:11 describes people as "noble" because they attempted to verify the claims of the apostle Paul, rather than believing them out-of-hand. Second Corinthians 13:5 commands us to examine our own thoughts and actions, to see if they align with what we claim to believe. First John 4:1 says not every "spirit" we hear from is legitimate, so we need to "test" them — in this case, meaning to scrutinize and question those claims.

Proverbs 18:13 points out that only fools respond before they have heard all the facts. The Gospel of Luke specifically says its author sought to "investigate" all of the details being laid out (Luke 1:1-4). Colossians 2:8 reminds us to be wary of deceptive thinking, and instead to use sound reason.

In fact, the only time the Bible gives a command not to discuss or investigate is when the subject is obviously trivial, or simply an excuse to argue (2 Timothy 2:23; Titus 3:9). This, too, is part of legitimate skepticism: not wasting time on something that's clearly just an invitation to bickering.

In John chapter 5, Jesus is challenged by His critics. Rather than saying, "Just believe me because I said so," Jesus offers three separate forms of evidence (John 5:3038). These include His own actions, the testimony of others, and the words of Scripture. Unfortunately, the men he was speaking to already had access to that evidence. They chose not to follow it to a logical conclusion. They asked the question, but didn't sincerely pursue the answer (John 5:39-47).

This is why the claim that religion means "blind faith," while anti-religious skepticism means "reason" is badly flawed. It's unfair, and incorrect, to assume that the non-religious are objective and unbiased while the religious are gullible and prejudiced. Both perspectives are held by human beings, meaning both are subject to human error. Those who profess no trust in God are just as biased, flawed, and imperfect as any other person. It's just as common, in practice, for the non-theist to claim certain conclusions, not on the basis of hard evidence, but because they have a personal preference they want to protect (Romans 1:18-22).

Regardless of popular myth, questioning matters of faith is not only biblical, it's something Christians are actively commanded to do. Scripture says, in black-and-white terms, that our trust in God is not meant to be a blind faith. Rather, we are expected to follow the evidence God gives us (Romans 1:1820; Psalm 19:1) to the truth that evidence supports (Matthew 7:7-8).

Image Credit: PublicDomainPictures; untitled; Creative Commons

TagsBiblical-Truth Christian-Life  | Controversial-Issues

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Published 2-6-17