God is evident

"....that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them...." Romans 1:19 NASB®

Biblical examples of honest skepticism's relationship to the Christian faith

by Tom Crawford

revised 6/23/2008

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Did you know that the Bible is full of examples of honest skepticism?  I wrote about Doubting Thomas (or Skeptical Thomas) a couple of blogs ago (see here).  Here are some further examples:

Example 1 – Testing a so called prophet!  Do you know someone who says things like “God told me this” or “God said that to me”?  Or maybe you are someone who has done that yourself.  Whole religions have been started because someone claimed to have had a vision from God.  We have a right to be skeptical of these types of claims.
God told His people, the Israelites, that they needed to be skeptical of people who declared, “Thus says the LORD!”  God provided them with three tests, all of which needed to be met, before someone could truly claim to speak for God, to be a true prophet of the LORD.

  • Test 1 – Doctrinal Test.  Their teaching had to conform to what God had already revealed about Himself (Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
  • Test 2 – 100% Fulfillment of Prophecies.  Not only did their teaching need to conform to true doctrine, but their prophecies needed to be 100% true (Deuteronomy 18:14-22).  (Not 60% or even 99.999%!  Note – Well known psychics like Nostradamus or Jean Dixon all fail on both this test as well as on the Doctrinal Test.)
  • Test 3 – Godly Character Test.  Someone who claims to speak for God must be a person of Godly character (Jeremiah 23:9-22). If the motive of a "prophet" is fame and fortune instead of love for God, he is at least close to flunking this test.

Example 2 – King Nebuchadnezzar.  Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon (what is now present day Iraq), was not a righteous king, but he was wise in that he was skeptical of the magicians and conjurers when he wanted an interpretation of a dream he had.  He decided that not only was he going to require an interpretation of his dream, but he was going to make the magicians and conjurers declare to him what his dream had been.  God gave Daniel (of Daniel in the Lion’s Den fame, and at this time a teenage boy) both the dream and its interpretation (see Daniel 2).  This along with two subsequent events in the life of Nebuchadnezzar appear to have turned him from an unrighteous and idolatrous king, into a man who submitted to and followed God (see Daniel 2, 3, 4).

Example 3 – Dr. Luke.   The medical doctor, Luke, the author of the Gospel of Luke, was skeptical and researched the facts thoroughly before he wrote his Gospel.  He tells us at the beginning of his Gospel:

Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word have handed them down to us, it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; so that you might know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.  Luke 1:1-4 NASB® (bold print added by me for emphasis)

Note that Dr. Luke has been proven over and over again by archeologists to be an accurate historian.  Josh McDowell, in his book, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, talks of Dr. Luke’s historical accuracy:

The Incredible Accuracy of Luke – Luke’s reliability as an historian is unquestionable.  Unger tells us that archaeology has authenticated the Gospel accounts, especially Luke.  In Unger’s words, “The Acts of the Apostles is now generally agreed in scholarly circles to be the work of Luke, to belong to the first century and to involve the labors of a careful historian who was substantially accurate in his use of sources.” (Unger, ANT, 24).
Concerning Luke’s ability as a historian, Sir William Ramsay concluded after thirty years of study that “Luke is a historian of the first rank; not merely are his statements of fact trustworthy … this author should be placed along with the very greatest of historians.”  (Ramsay, SPTRC, 81).

Ramsay adds:

Luke’s history is unsurpassed in respect of its trustworthiness.”  (Ramsay, SPTRC, 81). …
Note – Concerning the acronyms used above in McDowell’s documentation:  ANT = Archaeology and the New Testament by Merrill Unger, and SPTRC =  Saint Paul the Traveler and the Roman Citizen by Sir William Ramsay.

It is obvious that Dr. Luke approached his research for his Gospel in a skeptical manner, investigating everything carefully before putting it into writing.  His purpose was to teach the exact truth, not some touchy feely feel good thing.

Example 4 – Berean Jews.  The Jews in Berea that Dr. Luke talks about in the Book of Acts were commended for their honest skepticism:

And the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea and when they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily, to see whether these things were so.  Acts 17:10-11 NASB®

Before accepting or rejecting the new religious teaching about Christ, the Bereans examined the Scriptures (the Jewish Bible (Tanakh) or the Christian Old Testament) to determine whether Paul and Silas were teaching the truth or not.

Example 5 – The Apostle Paul’s Teaching.  Apostle Paul actually condemns the Galatian Christians because they were too gullible.  They did not question teaching from others that did not conform to what Scripture and the Apostles taught:

I am amazed that you are so quickly deserting Him who called you by the grace of Christ, for a different gospel; which is really not another; only there are some who are disturbing you, and want to distort the gospel of Christ.  But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to that which we have preached to you, let him be accursed.  As we have said before, so I say again now, if any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to that which you received, let him be accursed.  Galatians 1:6-9 NASB®

Paul even tells them that they should be skeptical, even if an “angel from heaven” brought them a different teaching than what they had received from him and the Apostles (note – first test of a Prophet that I outline above).  Note that he implies that there could be spiritual entities that try to deceive you into believing a lie.

In another letter which the Apostle Paul wrote to the Ephesian Christians, he tells them that:

…we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming… Ephesians 4:14 NASB®

Again, be skeptical.  Don’t accept something new, just because it sounds good.

Example 6 – The Apostle John’s Teaching.  Apostle John in a letter he wrote to seven churches in an area now known as Turkey commends one church for its skepticism of false teachers, and he condemns another church for their lack of skepticism of similar false teachers:

To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: “The One who holds the seven stars in His right hand, the One who walks among the seven golden lampstands, says this: ‘I know your deeds and your toil and perseverance, and that you cannot endure evil men, and you put to the test those who call themselves apostles, and they are not, and you found them to be false…’”  Revelation 2:1-2 NASB®
And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write: “The Son of God, who has eyes like a flame of fire, and His feet are like burnished bronze, says this: ‘….But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray, so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols…’”  Revelation 2:18,20 NASB®

In another letter that the Apostle John wrote, just as Paul warns the Galatians, John warns his readers that they should be skeptical, even of spiritual entities.  John expands on the first principle of testing a prophet above when he writes:

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.  By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; and this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world…. 1 John 4:1-3 NASB®

Example 7 – The teaching of Christ Jesus.  Jesus Himself warns of false prophets and false teachers trying to deceive us.  In his teaching concerning the “end times,” Jesus warns:

See to it that you be not misled; for many will come in My name, saying, “I am He,” and, “The time is at hand”; do not go after them.  Luke 21:8 NASB®

So even Jesus Himself tells us to be skeptical of people claiming to come in His name!

So what do we learn from all of this?  Religious skepticism is imperative!  Watch out who you are listening to.  Use Scripture (God’s written revelation about Himself) to judge whether someone’s teaching and prophecy is valid.  Be careful yourself if you tend to claim that you speak for God; do you meet the tests of a prophet?

AND ONE MORE THING!  Be skeptical of what I say too!  I am just as fallible as anyone else.  Trust God and His word.  My writing is not inspired.

Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishing) pp 63.


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