Wednesday, September 28, 2016

The Trap of the Dishonest Skeptic


It was a spring day in Savannah Ga probably over 10 years ago.  I was preaching in the park to a scattering of mostly college-age kids  enjoying the lovely weather and the aftermath of the St. Patrick's Day Festival.  They were seated on benches and some on blankets in the grass, lounging around, talking amongst themselves and generally behaving as if I wasn't there.  One of their number, however, decided that he had endured quite enough of me. He rose to his feet and   presented himself between the crowd and myself.  With a loud voice and appropriately dramatic hand gestures he told the crowd "This man's god would burn me for all eternity  simply because I don't believe in him. What kind of god does that?"  He went on to accuse the God of the Bible of being a petty tyrant who would rather destroy his creation than be ignored by it. By this man's reckoning, "God" was the worst sort of monster; an entity who presents man with either  the option of absolute obedience to His every trivial whim, or  unending torment.
  While its true that a good heckler is worth his weight in gold, sometimes a judgment call must be made. Do you engage, or do you ignore?  For reasons long forgotten to me, I opted to ignore him.
  I use that man as an example of what I call 'the trap of the dishonest skeptic'.   There is an honest skepticism that causes one to carefully evaluate the claims of others and not throw your hat in until you have all the facts.  That's not what I'm talking about.  Most people who call themselves skeptics actually deploy a dishonest kind of skepticism; a suspicion or incredulity towards things they already don't like.  A dishonest skeptic will spend a lot of time being a smart-aleck railer involving things he has a prejudice against while telling himself and all his like-minded cronies that he is more intelligent or more logical or more enlightened than his ideological adversaries.  The internet is full of this sort of thing, and  truth be told, all of us do this to some degree, and to whatever degree we indulge this part of our flawed nature, we blind ourselves to the truth.
  Returning to our heckler in the park, his basic premise was that the God of the Bible was somehow unfair or unjust for instituting eternal consequences for unbelief.  Now while it's true that unbelief is a sin, this man in the park took his limited understanding of his predicament, filtered it through the darkness of his own heart, and missed the point.  Let me explain.
  First of all, we must address unbelief. The Bible says "The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork. Day unto day uttereth speech, and night unto night sheweth knowledge. There is no speech nor language, where their voice is not heard."  According to scripture, creation is self-evident across every kindred and tribe and tongue.  A man who rejects creation rejects the evidence of his own eyes.  The Bible goes on to say in the book of Hebrews "...he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him".  Somebody made everything you see, and He can be found, if He is sought on His terms.  It stands to reason then that if a man doesn't find Him, it must be because he didn't look properly. Why would a man not look? The Bible addresses that too, saying in John 3 "light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil.". Men don't seek the God of the Bible because they somehow instinctively understand that His very existence is a reproach to their sin, and they love their sin. They would rather walk "...in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness."  Job says men drink "iniquity like water" and love it.   Unbelief is a sin because of why the unbelief exists; as a cloak for your sin.  A man who rejects God as he has revealed Himself is a man who has chosen to disregard reality itself and instead embrace the  warm comfort of his own self-centered filthiness.  Unbelief is not just an insult to God, it's a crime against yourself.
  The reasons for unbelief carry a penalty as well. The Bible says "the wages of sin is death". Your lies, your adultery, your pride, your self-centeredness drove you to unbelief, and that same unbelief cuts you off from the solution.  While you pat yourself on the back for what an open-minded skeptic you are, you have closed your mind off to He who is truth itself.  You congratulate yourself on how free you are from the trappings of belief even as you bind yourself up with the cords of your own iniquity and stubbornly refuse the only One who can help you. You carry on, making  little internet memes that poke fun at God and mock Jesus, never realizing that you are destroying yourself.  In fact, according to the scriptures, "... after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds"  
  The God of the Bible looked down at you in  your pathetic, filthy, unrepentant, self-deluded, self-destructive state and took pity on you.  He  took on the "likeness of sinful flesh" and became "as a servant". He went to the cross and bore your sin and your shame  in his own body, and took the punishment for your sins on Himself. He rose from the dead, and has secured your justification and your reconciliation  with the only condition being "repentance towards God, and faith in the Lord Jesus Christ."  With that sort of unfathomable grace staring you in the face, would you really rather stand in a park and bellow out about how unfair he is?
 You see, the real issue with a  dishonest skeptic is that he's dishonest. The motivations he presents , perhaps even to himself, are so intertwined in his own self-love that he is literally willing to commit intellectual suicide and  earn eternal damnation rather than forsake it. Why should you take a good hard look at the God of the Bible, Mr. Skeptic? Because He's the only hope you have.
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