Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Scepticism and belief

First some conceptual definitions from wikipedia
Skepticism or scepticism (see spelling differences) is generally any questioning attitude towards knowledge, facts, or opinions/beliefs stated as facts, or doubt regarding claims that are taken for granted elsewhere.

Philosophical skepticism is an overall approach that requires all information to be well supported by evidence.

Classical philosophical skepticism derives from the 'Skeptikoi', a school who "asserted nothing". Adherents of Pyrrhonism, for instance, suspend judgment in investigations. Skeptics may even doubt the reliability of their own senses.

Religious skepticism, on the other hand is "doubt concerning basic religious principles (such as immortality, providence, and revelation)".

Most scientists are empirical skeptics, who admit the possibility of knowledge based on evidence, but hold that new evidence may always overturn these findings.

Doubting Thomases
True faith requires the possibility of doubt otherwise it is similar to knowledge.

Entire Bible is a collection of sacred Scriptures that almost purposely invite doubts and questions. Even the "evidence" for the most crucial event in the New Testament, the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth from death, could hardly stand as "evidence" in court of justice or critical historical scientific research. A bunch of simple uneducated and probably quite superstitious ghost seeing Galileans, among them even some bewildered women, and at the end of a group of some five hundred mostly anonymous people telling that they have seen a dead man walking.

Gospel of John tells that during the momentous events in Easter in Jerusalem even some of those present when the dead man actually appeared had their doubts.

Now Thomas (also known as Didymus[a]), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”

Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!”

Then Jesus told him, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
John 20:24-29 NIV

Scepticism - gangrene of the soul?
There are people who are simply unable to believe even if they want to. Bible has great understanding towards such persons and tells that even those chosen by God for special tasks, such as Moses and Aron, Peter or Paul, had their moments of doubt. Prophetic writings do castigate the people of Israel for their unbelief, lack of faith - but this seems to be something that belongs to the picture, human inability to believe what God says.

If lack of faith belongs to the picture of humanity, if those sceptical Thomases are actually an essential element of true religion that allows for doubt even while condemning it - why does Second letter to Timotheus warn about those two fellows, Hymeneus and Philetus, whose sick words eat Christian souls spreading like gangrene. Are these spreading doubts and causing unbelief among the innocent listeners?
Avoid godless chatter, because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their teaching will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, who have departed from the truth. They say that the resurrection has already taken place, and they destroy the faith of some.
2 Tim 2:16-18 NIVE
The answer is no!

Hymeneus and Philetus were not spreading doubts and asking sceptical questions about the assumed truths in the congregation.

Asking even the hardest questions and confessing lack of faith is allowed in the spiritual reality of the Bible. The Gospels tell us how Jesus of Nazareth realised the presence of disbelief, warned about it, castigated about it, but also helped those who suffered from lack of faith.

Actually, the two fellows warned about in Second Timotheus were believers and not sceptics. They were teaching faith but had departed from truth destroying the faith of some (this can happen).

Beware of believers!
Truth is a surprisingly hard word.

Sceptics are whipping us believers forcing us believers to reconsider the foundations of our faith. We believers are often naive and like to believe with the confidence of a child of God. But is this what we hear and have accepted really true?

A sure sign of a dangerous, gangrenous Hymeneus-like false teacher is the demand to believe. The atmosphere lacks the graceful invitation to ask for more faith from God Himself and is peppered with hidden or direct threats and warnings against all those who even in the secret of their hearts dare to raise critical questions about the message.

Faith in our Heavenly Father is a delicate flower that needs nurturing, water, warmth and care to grow into a healthy strong tree at the banks of the stream of life. Those who have departed from the Truth do not understand that use of spiritual violence is detrimental to these sensitive buds waiting to open into flowers and preventing healthy scepticism and questioning can suffocate and destroy them.

Truth, alethinon, is a surprisingly hard word especially for those who believe.

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