Behind the Skeptic is a Disease
Do not be intimidated by the skeptic, even though social media seems to favour cynics. Though abundant, even amongst Christians, their negativity is a losing cause. Still, the presence of this kind of skepticism is surprising. One cannot post a promise without some naysayer making a ‘courageous’ stand in defence of unbelief. They appear oblivious to the obvious fact that skepticism is not compatible with love! Love will always err on the side of optimism rather than cynicism.
To be clear we are not talking about someone voicing doubt as the veracity of a claim. Rather, there exist methodically negative voices, who stand at the gateway of opportunity. These whisperers are quick to dismiss hope in favour of something resembling their own mediocrity. Having shipwrecked themselves, they stand believing only despair awaits those who dream. In addition, the posture of the skeptic is interesting because it hides something else.
The skeptic displays an appearance of wisdom. They enjoy standing aloof at a distance, sophisticatedly detached, unmoved by optimism of any kind. They call it objectivity! While the sceptic prides himself in being often correct, for reasons unrelated to accuracy, he does not share in love’s ability to ‘believe all things’(1 Corinthians 13:7). Now lest you think love is uninformed and naive consider the place of love as the encourager.
Love celebrates when children develop new skills. It is just right to believe and encourage them. Though there was always an element of risk and failure is likely, we are not going to try to predict their demise. Why? I would hope for very obvious reasons, chief among them being decency.
To express disbelief while withholding encouragement would be cruel. Cynicism in this context would be outrageous, and yet at it’s core, this IS the heart of skepticism! Now, to be clear, there are many people who live with unreal expectations and need a dose of reality. But this is not the aim of our critic whose regular posture is disbelief. He does it for self-preservation… for the sake of being right.
Hopefully, when we see the skeptic for who he really is, we will discern this avoidable sinister root.
For starters, lurking in the heart of the critic is a need to justify himself. This is likely in response his own failure. So long as everyone else fails after him, he can rest knowing he did everything right. As such, his cynicism is propelled by an invisible agenda. But there is more to this game.
This cynic leans on an illusion of accuracy to justify his negative outlook. This confidence is misplaced since he is merely playing the odds. It would be like betting on a learning child’s likelihood to stumble, you would be right more often than wrong. But at what cost and for what purpose? And who, besides the critic is keeping score?
If this is what it takes to preserve a ‘winning record’, I will gladly lose and hold to loves optimism. Sadly, this version of accuracy is the basis on which the skeptic operates.
Though a ‘winning record’ of this sort is no reason to boast, it provides wind for his sails. While it is reason enough to be embarrassed, the skeptic quietly tallies wins, while inwardly sneering at the optimism of those who choose to believe. Cynicism secretly mocks, convinced we ought to be ashamed for giving our confidence so freely, though it is their uncharitable stance which deserves condemnation.
The real question is ‘how did it come to this?’ At the heart of the sceptic is a sick heart which has lost the ability to hope. While it manifests in superiority, underneath that thin veneer, is a collapsed dream. ‘Deferred hope’ is at the core of this disease and while we all have faced disappointment, it does not always lead to dark pessimism. Even so, when improperly handled, disappointment can be a gateway to bitterness.
Now, one article is not enough to articulate a cure for bitterness. Rather the point of this writing is to warn off those who have begun to lean into to skepticism as a guard against deferred hope. Skepticism is not a solution but a stage of decay on the path to an increasingly darker place.
The truth is disappointment does not automatically breed skepticism. Yet, this entrenched negativity, has become to many an ingrained posture. Peter called it the ‘gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.’ (Acts 8:23)
Peter, having seen bitterness breed evil, warns us to avoid this path.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” – 2 Peter 3:3-4
Certainly, this is not where we want to be. As such we need to stay off any path leading in that direction. Remember, love is optimistic, it ‘bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things..’. In the face of personal setbacks we always have a choice. For the sake of both ourselves and others we need to choose to continue believing. Choose love!