Skeptic

Skepticism as a Worldview: When Doubt Consumes

By Lisa Quintana

“Doubt your doubts!” some say. Honest questions can be good things, especially when it comes to the Christian worldview, because there are good and reasoned answers to be discovered.

But what of those people who live by doubt? If you spend any amount of time online (and who doesn’t these days?), you’ve probably encountered extreme doubters. No matter what you say, how well you argue, what good evidence or reasoning you bring to the discussion of God’s existence or of Christianity’s being true, these people will question it. They question everything! This isn’t just doubt — this is the worldview of skepticism.

Skepticism has been around a long time. Academic skepticism arose during the third and second centuries BC, and it was often a topic for discussion in Plato’s academy. One church father, St. Augustine, wrote a book criticizing it called Against the Skeptics. Later, this worldview reared its doubting head again during the Renaissance and Reformation periods.

Skeptics will often say something like, “We know that there is nothing we can really know.” Hmmm…do you see the problem with that statement? It’s self-refuting. If you know no one has knowledge, then how do you know that?

Complete Certainty!

“I think; therefore, I am,” stated René Descartes, as the one item of knowledge that he thought could not possibly be doubted. He also accepted a burden of proof (an obligation to prove the assertion) against the skeptic.[1] He saw knowledge as requiring absolute certainty.

But do we need absolute certainty for knowledge? The New Oxford American Dictionary defines knowledge as “facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.” Does that sound like 100% proof of something to you? Knowledge is an understanding of something. It does not require absolute certainty. Even in a court of law, as jurors decide a case, their judgments are not foolproof—they base decisions on sufficient evidence. What is sufficient? It means enough or adequate.

Are not most of life’s decisions based on having enough information? Yes, and the rest is faith. For example, you’ve decided to marry someone based on enough information about that person, and you “have faith” that things will work out. You choose a certain career based on adequate knowledge and “have faith” you will eventually find a job. You sign up for a marathon and train hard because you “have faith” that you will finish the run. None of these decisions are foolproof, and if we waited for absolute certainty about every decision, nothing would ever get done. You don’t need 100% proof for knowledge—you just need enough information to make a reasoned decision.

In essence, this kind of certainty goes into making a decision about Christianity’s veracity. You can investigate its claims and then have sufficient information to infer whether it is true. The rest is faith.

In some ways, that is the opposite of skepticism.

Staunch skeptics respond to every assertion with “How do you know?” They refuse to offer an argument for their point of view. A person who does this isn’t worth the effort of continual discussion, since all they do is repeat questions indefinitely.

This is different from doubt. Doubt is a feeling of uncertainty or lack of conviction. That is something we can work with, but the stubborn skeptic is someone whom we can only pray for, as they need to have a change of heart before they can see their own blind spot—the self-refuting nature of skepticism.

Doubts can be an impetus to search for truth, but we must realize when doubt becomes more than that. It can consume a person’s worldview to be perpetually skeptical about anything and everything.

[1] J.P. Moreland & William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, IVP Academic: Downers Grove, IL, 2003, 93.

Disclaimer: All views expressed by those associated with this ministry or on our platforms do not necessarily represent the opinions of Women in Apologetics, Inc. or its individual team members.

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