Julian Caballero

Skepticism

Miner for a Heart of Gold

By
Edgar Julian Caballero
01/27/09

It is typical of Christians today to condemn individuals who show signs of skepticism and label these skeptics as heretical, sinful, or blasphemous. The truth of the matter is quite the opposite, though, because Jesus Christ himself demonstrates and even promotes skepticism — one of patience and perseverance — which can be seen in his interaction with “doubting” Thomas. Furthermore, it is actually the Christians today who, in condemning the skeptic, are sinful.

So what is the skepticism of Christ? Let us begin by agreeing on what it is not. There seems to be a proud tradition of individuals who blindly object and protest to any kind of knowledge which claims to be true. These people seek the darkness and condemn the light. They have no motivation but to condemn everyone and everything for having believed in something, rather than nothing. At times they are brutish and their hearts are revealed to be vicious. At other times they are rather eloquent but their hearts appear as shadows of what they should be. These people should be feared and condemned as evil, and, although they do exhibit a kind of skepticism, they are not displaying the skepticism of Christ.

Therefore what is the Skepticism of Christ? If we take the time to observe and think about the apostle Thomas and how he reacted to the apostles, telling him that Christ has risen from the dead; we can begin to understand the Skepticism of Christ.

The passage from John 20:24-29 reads,
But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples were saying to him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” After eight days His disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors having been shut, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then He said to Thomas, “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side; and do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Because you have seen Me, have you believed? Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.”

In this passage the typical Christian interpretation is that Thomas was being a sinful and rebellious man, and that he needed to believe without being shown any proof. This is supported by the fact that Christ rebukes Thomas for his unbelief when Christ says, “do not be unbelieving, but believing.” Therefore, in the mind of the typical Christian, if Christ says, “do not be unbelieving” then in order to be a good Christian we must always be believing and guard against things that might lead to unbelief. To further support this interpretation we have Christ saying, “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” This is understood to be a further rebuke of Thomas, in that Christ is saying that you don’t need proof in order to believe. Thomas is therefore made to be an example of what not to be. A good Christian is not someone who asks for proof but someone who simply believes.

Unfortunately though this is a disastrous, horrible, and evil interpretation of the text. First of all, Thomas begins by saying “Unless I see” which shows that he had an openness to the possibility of being convinced. He didn’t reject all proof, he just asked for better proof. This doesn’t seem too outlandish considering that all of the people who are saying they saw Jesus alive were the same people who ran away from Him saying that they didn’t know Him and watched Him die a horrible death on a Cross. Besides, it was Thomas who called the disciples to follow Jesus back into Judea after almost being stoned to death by the Jews there, saying “Let us also go, so that we may die with Him.” Thomas was no weak-kneed fool; he understood that the words of men could not be trusted and that the only thing to trust was Christ. The proof that Thomas wanted was more than just the words of men; he wanted something real and unchanging. And Christ, in response to this desire, does not hide but rather reveals himself to Thomas and asks him to believe, saying “Reach here with your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand and put it into My side.” Thus, Christ provides proof for Thomas so that he may believe. Christ does not condemn Thomas as a sinner but then turns his attention to those who cannot receive the blessing of his presence, saying “Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed.” This is not a rebuke of Thomas but a promise to those who are not able to see Christ, a promise saying that those who believe but haven’t seen are blessed. Another word for blessed is privileged.  And why might they be privileged? Because they are given proof, other then the physical presence of Christ, in order to believe. Therefore Skepticism should not be seen as an accursed thing, but rather a very essential human thing that God understands and is willing (within reason) to fulfill.

Let us now turn our attention to the Skepticism of Christ. This can be seen most clearly after Thomas sees and believes, for that is when Christ asks Thomas “Because you have seen Me, have you believed?” This is something Christ has asked other people before in the book of John. Why is it that Christ asks this question? The typical Christian interpretation will most likely claim that it is another rebuke of Thomas for his unbelief; a sort of hyperbole used for discipline. But the truth of Christ’s question can be seen through a simple example. Imagine a parent asking their child what they want for Christmas. The child claims to want a bicycle. The parent then questions the desire of their child saying “Is that what you really want?” Thus, allowing the child to rethink what they really want. This is done in order that the desire of the child might be challenged and thereby strengthened or discarded for yet an even greater desire. Christ is likewise questioning the belief of Thomas in order that Thomas might have his belief strengthened or discarded. This is the Skepticism of Christ. It can also be understood as a Dialectic: a way of investigating and discovering truth through dialogue.

In fine, we must understand and seek neither to claim superficially that we believe, nor must we deny the possibility of discovering truth. Both are not only un-biblical, but also sinful, for they are both the product of a cowardly and fearful heart. Christ provided Thomas with proof because Thomas was truly seeking after truth with a heart Skeptical towards man but open to God. The heart that Thomas had was one of patience and perseverance because he did not simply accept the testimony of man, but patiently waited and persevered eight days for Christ to reveal himself. Life is not easy for anyone, especially for a man dedicated to mining for a heart of Gold.

Works Cited
New American Standard. La Habra: The Lockman Foundation,             1995

  1. “Furthermore, it is actually the Christians today who, in condemning the skeptic, are sinful.”

    Do you think this feels like a conflict for someone who believes yet still condemns?

    • I don’t really understand your question. I think the Christian life or any life is full of conflict.

  2. Absolutely, there is always conflict of feelings in our lives. I guess I wonder if you think these people understand that they are conflicted, and feel doubt about what they believe? Or do they just accept the condemnation of others as part of their belief? Do they realize they are sinful for the condemnation of skeptics?

    • I am sorry Jeff but I still don’t think I understand your comment. You start out saying “…I wonder if you think these people understand that they are conflicted, and feel doubt about what they believe?” And I don’t know what people you are talking about. Are you talking about Skeptics? Because a Skeptic, as I understand it, is someone who feels doubt about what they believe. So if you are a Skeptic then you should feel and know you are conflicted. But of course the Skepticism I am talking about is a Skepticism that is searching for Truth, not just meaningless conversation. Then you said “Or do they just accept the condemnation of others as part of their belief?” Which I think anyone who believes in something at some point is forced to accept the condemnation of others. But then you said “Do they realize they are sinful for the condemnation of Skeptics?” And I don’t know what you are saying at this point. Are you saying “Does the Skeptic realize that he himself is sinful for being a Skeptic?” And I don’t agree with this. I think the Skeptic I am talking about is not condemned for being a Skeptic but rather received by Christ just like Thomas was.

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