Cool Scepticism

Nine-year-old Danny came bursting out of Sunday school like a wild stallion. His eyes were darting in every direction as he tried to locate either his mum or dad. Finally, after a quick search, he grabbed his daddy by the leg and yelled, “Man, that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was great!” His father looked down, smiled, and asked the boy to tell him all about it.

“Well the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was gettin’ closer and closer. So Moses got on his walkie-talkie and told the Israeli Air Force to bomb the Egyptians. While that was happening, the Israeli navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. They made it!”

By now Danny’s dad was shocked. “Is that the way they taught you the story?”
“Well, no, not exactly,” the boy admitted, “but if I told it to you the way they told it to us, you’d never believe it, Dad.”

With childlike innocence, the little guy put his finger on the pulse of our sophisticated adult world where cool scepticism reigns supreme. It’s becoming increasingly more popular to operate in the black-and-white world of facts . . . and, of course, to leave no space for the miraculous. I mean…no intelligent mind that gets its cues from scientific data or mathematical axioms or natural laws can tolerate those things being altered. Certainly not by some so-called “divine” intervention. Give me a break!

It’s really not a new mentality. Peter mentioned it in one of his letters:

I want to remind you that in the last days there will come scoffers who will . . . laugh at the truth. This will be their line of argument: “So Jesus promised to come back, did he? Then where is he? He’ll never come! Why, as far back as anyone can remember everything has remained exactly as it was since the first day of creation.” (2 Peter 3:3–4 The Living Bible)

Sceptics think like that. If they could choose their favourite hymn, it would certainly include the words, “As it was in the beginning, it is now and ever shall be . . .”

Take gravity. Heavy objects fall toward earth. Always. So a builder can construct a house and never worry about his materials floating away. Count on it. Take chemistry.Mixing certain elements in precise proportions yields the same result. Always. So a doctor can prescribe a medication with predictable confidence. Take astronomy. The sun, the moon, those stars work in perfect harmony. Always. Even the mysterious eclipse comes as no surprise. We’ve got it wired right down to the second. Take anatomy. Whether it’s the pupil of the eye expanding and contracting in response to light or our skin regulating our body temperature or our built-in defence mechanism resisting panic or fighting disease, we operate strictly on the basis of facts. Hard, immutable, stubborn facts. Plain as black print on white pages. Reliable as the sunset. Real as a toothache. Clear as a window pane. Absolute, unbending, undeniable, unchangeable.

People who conduct their lives according to such thinking are called smart. They haven’t a fraction of tolerance for the supernatural. They became sceptical in their tight world of absolutes. To them, it is sloppy to think in terms of the unexplainable, the “miraculous.” If insurance companies choose to leave room for “acts of God,” that’s their business. Not “smart” people. Those are fightin’ words in scientific laboratories and operating rooms and intellectual rap sessions and newspaper editing rooms.

Then what about miracles? Well, just limit them to a child’s world of fiction and fables. And, if necessary, to stained glass sanctuaries where emotion runs high and imagination is needed to make all those stories interesting. After all, what’s a little religion without a pocketful of miracles? And if we started trying to account for all those things in the Bible, think of the time it would take to explain stuff like how the sun stood still or why all those fish suddenly filled the disciples’ nets, or what brought Lazarus back from beyond, or why the dead body of Jesus has never been found, or how the death of Christ keeps on cleaning up lives, or how come the Bible is still around.

“Smart” sceptics don’t have to worry about explaining little things like that. It’s easier simply to embrace a wholesale denial of the miraculous . . . which is fine and dandy, so long as those sceptics are alive and well and able to shrug their way through all those stories. It seems so plausible, so sensible . . . until they themselves get sick, face death, and need miraculous help crossing their final river.

By the way, what does happen on the other side of that river? Hey, if I told you what the Bible really says, you wouldn’t believe it!

Copyright © 2011 by Charles R. Swindoll, Inc.

Posted in Bible, Theology and tagged .

Accuracy, clarity, and practicality all describe the Bible-teaching ministry of Charles R. Swindoll. Chuck is the chairman of the board at Insight for Living and the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary. Chuck also serves as the senior pastor of Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, Texas, where he is able to do what he loves most—teach the Bible to willing hearts. His focus on practical Bible application has been heard on the Insight for Living radio broadcast since 1979.