Cool Skepticism

Cool Skepticism

Exodus 14; Luke 9:10–17; 2 Peter 3

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 mom 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 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 old dad was shocked. “Is that the way they taught you the story?”

“Well, no, not exactly,” Danny 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 skepticism 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.

It’s really not a new mentality. Peter mentions 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 TLB).

Skeptics think like that. If they could choose their favorite 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. 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 defense mechanism fighting disease, we operate strictly on the basis of facts. Hard, immutable, stubborn facts. Reliable as the sunset. Real as a toothache. Clear as an X-ray. Absolute, unbending, undeniable.

People who conduct their lives according to such thinking are called smart. They haven’t a fraction of tolerance for the supernatural. 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 . . . but those are fightin’ words in laboratories and operating rooms and scientific rap sessions and among newspaper editors.

Then what about miracles? Well, let’s 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 filled the disciples’ nets, or what brought Lazarus back from beyond, or why Jesus’s body has never been found, or how the death of Christ cleans up lives year after year, or how come the Bible is still around.

Smart, keen-thinking skeptics don’t have to worry about explaining little things like that. It’s easier to simply embrace a wholesale denial of the miraculous . . . which is fine and dandy . . . until the skeptics themselves get sick, face death, and need miraculous help crossing that final river.

What happens then? Hey, if I told you what the Bible really says, you’d never believe it.

– See more at insight.org