Tuesday, August 10, 2010


My desire is to be a healthy skeptic. In fact, I believe God calls all of us to a healthy skepticism. Jesus said, "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits..." (Matthew 7:15-20) Especially when it comes to hearing someone say "God told me and He wants me to tell you." Being careful about accepting something as truth and NOT receiving it just because the name of God is invoked is very wise indeed.

All around us are voices that claim God told them something and they are to tell us of it's truth. People who are not healthily skeptical can wind up being told what to believe, what to do, how to vote, how to spend their money, how to raise their children and how their marriage relationship should be all because God told someone [they claim] the right way and they're passing it on to us.

I'm not talking about people who try to draw you away from scripture. Quite the opposite. I'm talking about people who are busy showing you from the bible why you should believe what God told them about a particular subject and how if you want to be biblical you need to accept what they are saying about it. After all.."God told them."

Some one I read said that, in his opinion, the bible is a dangerous book. Perhaps the most dangerous book in the world since Christians believe it to be the infallible, authoritative voice of God to men. What he's saying is quite correct from my perspective. This, because it is, in fact, His inspired word to us about His Son and I believe that message can radically change your life.

But that's the good danger. The other kind of danger is because throughout history people have twisted and perverted the meaning of the text of scripture to fit their agendas in order to, I suppose, get what they believe would be the authority of God behind their agendas. They wind up saying if you disagree with their words you are disagreeing with God Himself. So you can see I believe in the infallibility of the scriptures but not the infallibility of those who try to teach it's meaning. So a healthy skepticism would be in order I would think.

So how do you tell the difference between the true meaning of scripture and false teaching that can come from men about it?

One way is to compare their teaching to the rest of the Bible. Does it agree with the rest of the scriptures. No single verse is to be seen as truly standing alone but in the immediate context as to who is being addressed and why and the larger context of the whole of scripture. To miss this would be what is called "proof-texting" and with a single verse, unrelated to all others, ANY thing can be proven by scripture.

That’s a good test for what anyone says the bible is saying. Any book, any preacher, any idea, any philosophy, or any message supposedly from God should be challenged with this test. Apply it to me. Apply it to everyone you hear. That’s why it’s important to know what the Bible says and means and know how to study it and understand it under the leadership of the Holy Spirit in your own life. The idea of being "Berean Christians" is still a good one.

But there’s also something else you can use to evaluate a teaching. Jesus says we should evaluate what is being taught by what it produces in the life of the teacher. Luke 15:1–7.. "And the Pharisees and scribes complained, saying, “This Man receives sinners and eats with them.” It was obvious the Pharisees wouldn't and what they lived denied the truth of God. Jesus also chided the Pharisees for going out of their way to make a convert but refusing to love those in the way.

If a communicator's life is one of manipulation, judgmentalism, control, anger and negativism instead of respect, grace, and love of people, rest assured the teaching they do will produce the same in their life and in the life of those who follow them. That is an outcome you can be sure about. It's called reaping what is sown. What will happen in the lives of the people who follow this teacher, not just as an immediate outcome, but in the long-run, is a valid question to ask before you accept any word as if "God said it through them." God may not be in it at all. A healthy skepticism will discern which is true of the teacher.

While I'm in the neighborhood of this thought about a life of respect I might as well say it. It seems to me that ANY argument or debate in ANY area of life be it religious, political, sports or otherwise, that is carried on in a disrespectful, condemning, shaming, and sarcastic manner has lost the privilege of being heard. And in this era of communication that unfortunately characterizes much of what is being said in all areas of communication with others.

Being heard, however, is not a right. The right of free speech is a constitutional guarantee in this country it is true. But being given a hearing is a privilege, even a gift. When trampled on with disrespect from EITHER side of ANY argument or differing viewpoint about ANY issue, an audience can be lost. It will be if that audience has any real discernment at all.

So while the point of this post is that a healthy skepticism is needed toward those who would fraudulently say they are speaking for God, that same skepticism is well placed when it takes in anyone who shows disrespect toward others in their communication.


Maybe that's why I like blogs so much. Here at my house [blog] I can require that respect be shown or no comments be posted as I've indicated in the comment section. At someone else's house [blog] I can choose to visit or not and the presence/nonpresence of an atmosphere of respect will help me determine that visit or lack thereof. No demands on them to do differently than they're doing!! Just healthy skepticism on whether I'm to be in the audience or not. Which, by the way, won't matter to them I'm sure but it matters to me.

Paul B.


Christiane said...

Thank you for this post, Paul.

It is sometimes hard for Christian people to respect the 'others'who are 'different' with a patient knowledge that they also are on a journey,
and may not be 'where we think they ought to be right now'.
But, for some reason perhaps ordained by Our LOrd, we meet them 'on the way' and for a time, two journeys merge.

I think of one of my favorite quotes by Jean Vanier about how Christians are called to care for those they encounter 'along the journey':

" Love not just those of your own tribe, your own class, family or people,
but those who are different, those who are strangers, who are strange to your ways,
who come from different cultural and religious traditions, who seem odd,
those you do not understand.
Love as the Samaritan loved the man he found beaten up by robbers,
somewhere on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho." J. Vanier

Aussie John said...


Thank you for these extremely important and wise words.

The first church in which I served as "pastor" I soon learned that by far the majority of folk heard my every word as being from God. I began a practice which stayed with me until I retired: "If anyone hears my words, and believes everything I say, without examining it for yourself, you are absolute fools".

Forgive me if I've previously mentioned this: I attended a conference in the USA, and, in speaking with the congregation about different issues, both Biblical and secular, the common answer was, "The pastor says.....".That was the end of the matter.

Importantly,(I hope not controversially) your words, "Being heard, however, is not a right........... But being given a hearing is a privilege, even a gift", apply to evangelism, as well. Far too many of those naming the Name of Christ, think they have the right to force feed the Gospel into the ears of unwilling recipients.

Chris Ryan said...


Like Aussie, I was stirred by your statement that "being given a hearing is a privilege, even a gift." From the perspectives of pulpit, evangelism, or any relationship that is an important thing to keep in mind. Last summer I watched a lot of "Malcolm in the Middle." He constantly talked but never really noticed how often nobody listened. Constant criticism and negativity often loses one the opportunity to be heard. I guess that is why much that is good about Fundamentalism (which may be little enough to begin with) gets ignored: they are so busy being negative that nobody wants to listen any more. But I think that is something of a rabbit trail I followed off your post.

I agree that a healthy skepticism is wise. I also think we are wise to separate "healthy" skepticism from "enduring" skepticism. At some point, we have to say "yes" to something. Whether it is because of the fruits we have seen in the teacher or because of the consistency of the teaching, we have to believe something or else we lose out on what it is to be human: beings contingent to time and place who see in part and know in part. "In part" works both ways: we don't know everything but we can know something. What is the object of true knowledge and how tentatively we may have to hold to our understandings are matters for debate, but to forsake all knowing is as existentially dangerous an extreme as Fundamentalist surety.

Paul Burleson said...


I love this quote... "Love as the Samaritan loved the man he found beaten up by robbers,
somewhere on the road between Jerusalem and Jericho." J. Vanier Thanks.

Aussie J,

The last sentence of your comment deserves a post I believe.


I certainly agree with everything you've written in your comment. I'm assuming a "healthy" skepticism [The sense that the truth may not be in all someone says.] is far different from and "unhealthy" skepticism. [A doubt that any certain knowledge can be had.] In fact, the unhealthy brand may be more a twin to cynicism about life than to anything.

Aussie John said...


Thank you for the suggestion.

Blogging on another issue at the moment, but will remember your suggestion.

Rex Ray said...

Your topic to be skeptic on what someone said because God told them etc. was discussed at our prayer meeting this week.

It seems the topic did not apply to an older member as he said he believed a certain mater because he had prayed about it.

I thought that would be an example of your post.

An old friend was on his way to visit the graves of his parents, but didn’t know when he got there he had already joined them as his funeral was today.