Are skeptics as skeptical about their skepticism as they are skeptical about everything else?
In John 1:45-49, we meet Nathaniel, a man who happens to be a bit of a skeptic when it comes to news about the Messiah. He doubts that Jesus of Nazareth is the One foretold about in the Law and the Prophets.
Reflecting on Nathaniel’s “skeptical” response to Philip’s announcement, Lesslie Newbigin says:
Intelligent skepticism is not condemned, for it is the necessary balance which preserves the distinction between genuine faith and foolish credulity. It is part of what it means to “walk in the light.” there is always tension and conflict between the radical newness of the gospel and the necessary conservatism by which any human culture maintains its integrity. This is always a central issue in genuine missionary communication. The new is only received if it becomes part of the intellectual and cultural world of those who hear; yet it is not received unless that world is radically questioned. So skepticism is a legitimate starting point. But it cannot have the last word, or nothing new will be learned. Philip’s answer to Nathaniel’s skepticism is an echo of the earlier words of Jesus, “Come and see.” The skeptic must suspend his skepticism if he is to have the opportunity to learn. (The Light Has Come, pp 21-22)
Interestingly, Nathaniel was skeptical about Jesus, but Jesus was not skeptical about Nathaniel. He treated him with respect, took his doubts seriously, and tackled them head on. Why? Because he cared about him.
Jesus shows us that the only thing that can overcome a skeptic’s skepticism is not more empirical data, but a personal encounter with the Word made flesh. Only then can he turn from doubt and trust in Jesus, the One who came full of grace and truth.
Still not convinced?
We invite you to come and see for yourself. Feel free to ask all the questions you want.