G.K. Chesterton, in his usual witty manner, once remarked, “Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.” I fear that drawing lines has become a lost art. In this age of skepticism there is little room for reasonable dialogue or honest assertions. Particularly in context of the church, there is a host of hostiles towards Christ and his bride. However, the air of skepticism might actually be the blowing wind of unbelief. Several indicators can help in discerning between the two.
1. When skepticism is only manifested as criticism.
Being a little skeptical of the church is understandable because of the multitude of decisions, actions, members, committees, and leaders that have disappointed and wounded. However, when that skepticism only expresses itself as a harsh critical spirit, then there is more at work. The total absence of good will towards Christ’s bride is no mere season of doubt, but rather a symptom of a much deeper issue: unbelief.
2. When skepticism is really masked relativism.
There are certainly areas that are more “gray” than others. There is also a difference between maintaining a “neutral” position until you can discern the truth and refusing to assert any truth because you are individualistic and hostile to absolutes of any kind. Eventually, hesitance to draw a line in the sand ceases to be skepticism and reveals the true heart of relativism. Again, the line must be drawn somewhere.
3. When skepticism is continuously marked by hostility.
Skeptics raise direct, exposing, and helpful questions. Raising questions and mounting attacks are not the same. Skepticism can aid everyone in better engaging and thinking through the issues at hand; however, if those questions are consistently more like interrogative land mines laid carefully for the destruction of those with differing and firm perspectives, then your skepticism could be a covert unbelief.
4. When skepticism is primarily about superiority.
There is something to be said for wrestling through what you believe. In fact, it is wise to ask the hard questions of belief systems that impact every facet of your life. Nonetheless, if the only reason those questions are posed is because you have to be the authority or expert, then you’re actually seeking status instead of truth. What you find in that pursuit is idolatry.
When skepticism is merely about being critical, relativistic, hostile, and superior, then it is likely that the line between it and atheism or agnosticism has been blurred. Of course, I cannot make this judgment for anyone, but the four aforementioned points can help people evaluate their true posture towards Christ, his bride, and his kingdom. If one consistently criticizes without goodwill, refuses to form convictions of any kind, launches constant attacks, and always claims intellectual victory, then the question is not whether or not you are a skeptic, but whether or not you are a Christian.
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I really appreciated this article/blog. It makes some good points for those who are truly being respectful in their skepticism. As a matter of fact, whenever I read that someone is a skeptic, I automatically take it to mean that they really identity with atheism. Unfortunately, in many cases, atheists hijack words, like skepticism and free thinker, to have and hold for themselves to portray to others that these “labels” are strictly for them.
In what book did Chesterton write this quote: ‘Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere.’?”
Well, I am agnostic, and I don’t discuss religion with the religious because it tends to become awkward or even unpleasant. If only they’d extend me the same courtesy! I don’t mind phrases like, “Merry Christmas,” or “God Bless You,” or “May Allah Grant You Peace,” but I do resent persistent proselytizing. If someone within a church is being too analytical or raising uncomfortable questions, perhaps it’s time for them to move. I know I’ve never minded sleeping in on Sunday or not having to tithe.
You present a great point here. First I want to congratulate you on being able to sleep in. Sleeping in for me is getting up a 6:00 in the morning. Second if you do not discuss religion why did you post? Growing up my stepfather was agnostic. I am use to your point. My step-brother is a published Atheist. His book was recently quoted by Daniel Taylor in the Skeptical Believer: telling stories to your inter Atheist. Taylor makes a good point on how we as Christians need to respect peoples opinions and learn a better way to communicate with people without being condemning. You make the same point, thank you. Good luck on your journey.
Thanks for taking the time to read and interact. Your point is well taken; however, I would distinguish between “persistent proselytizing” and “heartfelt outreach.” Indeed, if Christians follow through with their beliefs, then they must share their faith. My point in this post is that if those that are “raising uncomfortable questions” consistently manifest these characteristics, then skepticism may be an understatement of their true status. Thanks again!
Thanks for the penetrating thoughts about skeptics. I think you’re right that we need to be more aware of what could be behind the skepticism. We can’t always judge what’s in someone’s heart, but we can judge their behavior and thoughts expressed. I especially liked your conclusion: “If one consistently criticizes without goodwill, refuses to form convictions of any kind, launches constant attacks, and always claims intellectual victory, then the question is not whether or not you are a skeptic, but whether or not you are a Christian.”
Thanks for interacting. When skepticism is actually unbelief it is important to identify it as such. Certainly, this requires discernment. Thanks again!
You make a great point.
Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.
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