Skepticism is a philosophy that questions the validity of knowledge, especially when it comes to religious or spiritual beliefs. Skeptics do not believe any claims without proof, and they are often portrayed as villains in religious texts.
In the Bible, there are several examples of skeptics who question religious claims. One example is Job’s friend Eliphaz, who tells Job that he must have sinned to deserve his misfortune (Job 4:7). The other friends of Job also accuse him of being guilty of some crime (Job 7:20). In this case, their skepticism causes them to make false accusations against Job based on their own fears about God’s punishment for sinning.
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Another example is found in the story of Jesus’ encounter with the Pharisees and Sadducees at Matthew 16:1-4. Both groups are skeptical about Jesus’ claim that he will return from death after three days, so they ask him for proof. He responds by telling them that only those who have been taught by God can see into heaven (verse 13). This illustrates the difference between true faith and false belief—those who trust in God will see heaven when they die; those who do not trust.
Skeptics in the Bible
Skeptics of the Bible say that it is full of contradictions. However, the Bible has many skeptics who are always asking questions and seeking answers.
Jesus preached to the unbelieving.
Jesus preached to people who were skeptical of him. Some of his most famous sermons happened in places where few people followed him and many opposed what he had to say.
- The Samaritans: Jesus went out of his way to preach to a group that others considered “unclean” because they had intermarried with pagans (John 4).
- The Sadducees: These men were so set in their beliefs that they would not accept the idea of a resurrection, even though it was taught by the Scriptures (Matthew 22).
- The Pharisees: Even though this group followed many rules and traditions, Jesus kept going back for more teaching because he knew there was more for them than just following rules (Matthew 23).
- The Centurion: This Roman soldier was so convinced that God would heal his servant that he asked Jesus himself if he could perform the miracle—even though he did not follow Christ at all (Matthew 8).
Jesus cast out demons in a country where the people didn’t believe in him.
For example, we read that Jesus cast out an unclean spirit from a man and that some people thought he was casting out demons through the power of Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24). But Jesus didn’t focus on these people’s unbelief. Instead, he said “Do you think because these Galileans suffered in this way they were worse sinners than all other Galileans? I tell you no!” (verse 28).
Jesus focused on helping others even though they didn’t believe in him. He didn’t give up on them just because they had doubts about him or believed something different than what he taught.
Peter doubted his faith.
Peter was one of the disciples and the leader of the early Church. He wrote two books in the New Testament: 1 Peter and 2 Peter.
Peter had an encounter with Jesus that he could not explain, even though he hoped it might be true. When Jesus came to Peter’s house, Peter went out to meet him with his brother Andrew and then invited him into his home. As they were sitting down together at a fire (probably made from fish), Jesus asked them what they were doing there and told them to follow Him if they wanted to learn more about being fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-22). Andrew left immediately but not before finding out where this new movement was going by asking Jesus about His birthplace (and sharing that information with John later on). However, when Jesus came back again later in Galilee near Caesarea Philippi (Matthew 16:13-20), Peter denied knowing Him three times after making an oath that he did know Him multiple times before this point (Matt 26:31-35; Mark 14:27-31; Luke 22:34-38).
The Pharisees doubted Jesus was the messiah.
You’re probably familiar with the story: Jesus was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and lived a humble life as a carpenter. He spent his days teaching his disciples about God, healing people who were sick and afflicted, and offering wisdom to those who listened. After he died on the cross for the sins of humanity—a moment known as Good Friday—he rose again three days later to save us all.
The Bible teaches that Jesus will return again one day (we know it as Judgment Day). So we shouldn’t worry about whether or not he’ll come back—we should be excited about it! This is what makes Christianity unique among all other religions: We know when our savior will come back.
Thomas didn’t believe that Jesus could be alive again.
Thomas was not present when Jesus was resurrected. He did not see the angels or feel Jesus’s wounds, so he did not believe that Jesus could be alive again. Jesus showed Thomas his wounds and said: “Stop doubting and believe.”
So what does this mean for us today? It means that God accepts us as we are, even if we struggle with doubt. And it also means that God is patient with us during those times when we have doubts or questions about something he has done in our lives.
Jesus still showed patience and love to those who doubted him
Here’s how Jesus responded to the individuals who doubted him:
- He showed patience. When a crowd of people was gathered around him, he waited for them to quiet down and give him their attention before he spoke.
- He showed love. In the same story, when Jesus told the disciples they would see the father working through him and they didn’t believe it either, he said this: “I have loved you just as the Father has loved me.”
- He was still trying to get them to believe in him. Even though many people rejected his message and abandoned him—even denying that they knew who he was—Jesus continued trying his best to reach out with love and understanding
There are lots of skeptics in the Bible: people who doubted and questioned God. Some of these characters are even portrayed as heroes. This can be a helpful reminder to us that skepticism is not always bad or destructive. As long as we do our best to test our doubts and beliefs, skepticism can help us grow closer to God and each other.