Unbridled skepticism undermines our thinking. It is a revolt against knowing.
The belief that nothing can be known for certain has run amuck in modern western culture. People claim they are absolutely certain that nothing can be known for certain.
Therefore, I refer to it as ‘unbridled’. Why do I say that?
The history of Western thought is for another day. Sufficed to say, during the Renaissance man made himself the center of all existence, completely autonomous and jettisoned meaning. This gave rise to humanism – which has no basis for right or wrong. In the 20th century, Post-modern philosophy claims that there is no objective truth (relativism).
Relativism is the root of unbridled (modern) skepticism. The presupposition of relativism is that objective truth cannot be known. This presupposition self-refutes because its an objective truth claim. In addition, it rejects any basis for knowing truth. Therefore, truth is subjective and relative to the individual (arbitrary). Unbridled skepticism manifests itself in contradiction, hypocrisy and ultimately futility. It undermines itself.
Conversely, I believe healthy skepticism is essentially a search for truth in the matter of things that matter most. In fact, in Greek, skeptomai means ‘to search, to think about or look for…’ The most important endeavor in life is the search for truth. Without it, existence is meaningless and leads to futility like doubting one’s own existence.
Ravi Zacharias says that one must test a truth claim by asking two essential questions:
- Do the facts (claims) correspond to reality?
- Are the corresponding facts (claims) coherent? Or to put it another way, when you pull all of the corresponding facts together, do they make sense logically?
Unbridled skepticism constantly undermines itself because it’s based in relativism. Therefore, it can’t seek truth as healthy skepticism can because what the ‘unbridled’ skeptic is seeking is amorphous.
An anchor thrown into a cloud will not hold a vessel.
Unbridled skepticism rebels against knowing anything for certain.
I find G.K. Chesterton’s following statement interesting when I observe unbridled skepticism.
“All denunciation implies a moral doctrine of some kind and the modern skeptic doubts not only the institution he denounces, but the doctrine by which he denounces it. Thus he writes one book complaining that imperial oppression insults the purity of women, and then writes another book, a novel in which he insults it himself. As a politician he will cry out that war is a waste of life, and then as a philosopher that all of life is a waste of time. A Russian pessimist will denounce a policeman for killing a peasant, and then prove by the highest philosophical principles that the peasant ought to have killed himself. A man denounces marriage as a lie and then denounces aristocratic profligates for treating it as a lie.
The man of this school goes first to a political meeting where he complains that savages are treated as if they were beasts. Then he takes his hat and umbrella and goes on to a scientific meeting where he proves that they practically are beasts. In short, the modern revolutionist, being an infinite skeptic, is forever engaged in undermining his own mines. In his book on politics he attacks men for tramping on morality; in his book on ethics he attacks morality for tramping on men. Therefore the modern man in revolt becomes practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.”
– G. K. Chesterton
You may or may not agree, but it is worth considering.
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There are two kinds of people in this world.
People of Peace and People of Strife.
The question we must ask ourselves is: ‘which one am I?’
Everyday, you have a choice as to which you will be.
Gut check questions:
- Are you fascinated by strife and discord?
- Do you become consumed and inflamed by conflict and violence?
- Do the pattern of your thoughts reflect a thirst for forms of entertainment that portray strife, distrust, envy, violence and conflict?
- Or, do strive and violence make you sick and sad to your core?
FW Boreham says “strife has entered into and permeated every department of life. It affects society in general. On every hand, in a million different forms- we meet rivalry, suspicion and distrust. We see class contending with class: the rich oppressing the poor; the poor breathing maledictions on the rich. Petty jealousy mars the sweetness of every friendship; it stultifies the efficiency of every organization; and, entering our very churches, it disturbs and destroys that abiding unity that should be their most conspicuous charm.” The seventh Beatitude extends an olive branch…. “Blessed are the peace makers, for they shall be called the children of God” One does not need to be a ‘Christian’ to understand Jesus’s teaching here. The peacemaker is a lover of peace and works to preserve peace. “The sounds of strife and discord are an agony to his spirit.” says Boreham. Like a rose exhaling it’s fragrance is an involuntary expression of its nature, the peacemaker exudes a spirit of peace without even realizing.
I challenge you to work to become a peacemaker.
- Work not to offend others.
- Work on not taking offense.
- Work to extend an olive branch of peace to another (this is risky).
In order to change the climate of discourse, we must become people of peace (even when discord is the predominate noise).
Read the headlines from around our nation. What do you see? You see anger, hostility, confusion, selfishness and violence. We are seeing riots and division. What are we not seeing? We are not seeing compassion, caring, or charity.
2800 years ago in ‘the great city’ of Nineveh, we see an evil and cruel people. The entire city was heartless and cold. The lack of love and compassion and a bent toward violence and selfishness is described as sin. Nineveh was within a hair’s breadth of experiencing God’s judgement and destruction. And who could blame Him? If you saw a city full of people filled with rage, hatred, violence and cruelty toward each other, wouldn’t you just want to end it? Why didn’t God go with the ‘nuclear option’ in Nineveh? I would have!
How would you describe the ‘tone’ in our nation today?
Would you describe it as charitable and peaceful or toxic and divisive?
We are a nation divided. The media is helping to drive the division. As a Christ-follower, I must counter this division with a comprehensive worldview anchored the word of God. I am called to think redemptively and pursue reconciliation through God’s love. Why is it so hard?
Here’s the problem. I struggle with my part. When I am constantly called names or told that I am racist, intolerant, etc. or characterized with the latest straw-man fallacy, I grow angry because I am none of those things. If I am honest, I must admit I harbor ill-will toward the people who believe I am those things. That is my sin. I must own up to it.
God was compassionate and Jonah was not!
God called Jonah to go to Nineveh. Jonah hated Nineveh (a sin) and ran from God (a sin). He eventually ended up in Nineveh (a miracle). His mission was to call for the people to repent and turn to God. In doing so, God would relent from destroying the city, a demonstration of His compassion and love for all people. Nineveh was headed for destruction but God showed compassion.
The people of Nineveh turned to God, He relented and the city was saved! Furthermore, the city prospered. When God showed compassion, Jonah was angry because he didn’t see the people how God saw them. Jonah wanted the city judged and destroyed. Essentially, he was no different than the cruel hateful people of Nineveh. I have to claim that sin for myself.
My part as a Christ-follower
2 Chronicles 7:14 says, “if my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” (Note: I understand the context of this passage is related to Israel. Therefore, I am not outlining a prescriptive use but a descriptive framework of how to understand repentance, prayer and seeking God when we sin – pointing to His mercy and grace.)
People’s part: People who claim Christ must humble themselves, pray, seek and turn (repent) from sin.
God’s part: He will hear, forgive and heal.
I believe Christ-followers across the nation have humbled themselves and prayed over the last year (2016). I don’t know if we are actively seeking God’s face or turning from our wicked ways. I hope we have. Have you personally confessed the anger and pride in your heart? Frankly, I am writing this to myself. It is a struggle.
Perhaps, this is my call to the people of God. “Hey church, we bent our knee in humility and prayed. Maybe God is relenting and showing us his compassion. Now, we must be obedient and see this through. We need to seek God’s face and turn from our hatred and divisiveness. We must not boast but reach out in humility and love to a people God loves. And we must act right now! Forget what people say about you, act redemptively and in the spirit of love immediately!”
If we demonstrate God’s love through how we love others, who’s to say how God’s spirit may move upon the people of our nation?
The king of Nineveh said, “Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
“When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil ways, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.”
What is my response? Is it an unrelenting anger, like Jonah?
God is compassionate and we are not!
You see Jonah really struggled with getting on the same page as God. We all do.
The last sentence in the book of Jonah ends with a question, “And should not I (God) pity Nineveh, that great city, in which there are more than 120,000 persons who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much cattle?”
Please allow me a bit of liberty to apply the final verse if I may.
And should not I (God) pity America, that great nation, in which there are more than 320 million people who do not know their right hand from their left, and also much wealth?”
I am convinced that we are being tested and challenged. We have the greatest opportunity in generations to reach our nation with the love of Christ.
Please note, this post is a message to Christ-followers (aka, the Church). I do not expect non-believers believer or understand this. But, a believer should consider it and mediate on what God has to say in this cultural moment.
Reference: 2 Chronicles 7 and the Book of Jonah
When someone says, ‘I’m a Christian’ the first thing I look for is evidence of love. Let’s talk about what we mean when we use the word ‘Love’.
‘Love’ is a blanket term describing a variety of things spanning from sexual love to commitment to pleasure in someone or something. I ‘love’ ice cream and I also ‘love’ my wife… What’s the difference?
In Greek, there are four words used to describe what we call ‘love’. I appreciate the Greek because the words are rich in meaning and contain dimensions our English word ‘love’ simply does not contain.
Love rendered in Greek… simply.
- Storge means the love or affection of family (parent and children)
- Philia means affection between friends or equals. Think brotherly love (Philadelphia is the City of Brotherly Love)
- Eros means sexual or romantic love. This is where we get the word, ‘erotic.’
‘Agape’ love is the highest form of love. Agape love is a sacrificial love and is an act of the will. Meaning, this love is a choice and has a cost. This love delights in its object and is sacrificial in its essence. Let me clarify. Agape love does not mean total acceptance of acceptance of bad behavior or choices. I can love you and absolutely disagree with you at the same time.
So how do we recognize ‘agape’ love?
Look for the sacrifice. Which means humility and an act of the will will be involved. It will be an abiding affection, delight and commitment by the one expressing it. The value I place on the object of my love is directly linked to what I’m willing to sacrifice. The higher the cost, the greater the love. How can I find delight in sacrificing ourselves? Great question!
Here is the hard part of understanding ‘agape’ love. Agape love must come from outside one’s self. Other affections are self-manufactured and may have self-gratification undergirding them. Meaning that other ‘lower’ forms of love can have selfish motivations driving them. Only agape is completely SELFLESS.
The Evidence of abiding faith in Jesus Christ is love ‘in deed and in truth.”
This love is the pinnacle of love expressed as ‘agape’ love – sacrificial love.
With this love there is a cost involved.
With this love there is a choice – an act of the will.
This ‘agape’ love must come from outside ourselves.
“By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down out lives for the brothers.” (1 John 3:16).
“For God so loved the world that he gave his only son…” (John 3:16).
There will be a cost…. there will be a sacrifice with this love.
The true Christian is utterly and totally dependent on the power of the Holy Spirit that indwells us at the moment of Salvation.
Any attempt to manufacture righteousness apart from the Spirit is futile. In the Flesh, there “dwelleth no good thing” (Rom 7:18). As a grape is dependent on the branch which is dependent on the vine, the believer is dependent on the Holy Spirit.
My favorite passage of scripture is John 15:1-11. The theme is total dependency on God through Christ (the True Vine). “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5 I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4-5).
“For we were so utterly burdened beyond our strength that we despaired of life itself. Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death. But that was to make us rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead.” (2 Cor 1:9)
- God has given us the power to overcome the Flesh (our sinful nature). How?
By yielding to the (Holy) Spirit.
- How do we yield to the Spirit?
By abiding in Christ and pursuing God.
- What does that look like?
By studying God’s Word, (prayerfully) seeking His face and believing.
Of course, to the unsaved world this is foolishness because the world is blind and unable to discern that which is Spiritual. They do not have the knowledge of God nor the indwelling Spirit of God. Our job is not to worry about what the world thinks but to trust in Christ (who overcame the world).
“Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.” (2 Cor 1:21-22)
The Holy Spirit testifies to this truth. We are no longer slaves to sin and death. We are set free by the shed blood of Jesus Christ. In Him, we are truly free to ‘walk in the newness of life (Rom 6:4) and eternally secure in Him.
Who are you dependent on today and do you have assurance of Salvation?