1 Thessalonians 5: Skeptical to a Point
Welcome to the end of another book of the Bible! 1 Thessalonians 5 brings us a variety of almost Proverbs, and one of them stood out to me as particularly important for our world of radical skepticism.
1Th 5:21 Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.
Skepticism is not a bad thing. We should prove all things. We should explore ideas, and we should be willing to discover what is true. The problem is when that skepticism becomes an absolute commitment. The problem is when we refuse to hold on to anything because we want to maintain our radical skepticism.
Scripture advises implicitly here that there is such a thing as truth. Truth is not simply a concept; there are objective things that are true in the world. For example, when we see someone like Adolf Hitler, there is no doubt that he committed many crimes that were objectively evil. I know that is the obvious and most extreme example, but it is very hard to sustain a belief in moral subjectivity absolutely.
Therefore, if morality is objective, then there are things that are good, and there are things that are not good. That is where this advice from Paul comes into play. When things are good, we are to hold on to them. We do not remain skeptical of them. Why would we? If they turn out to be good, then that is what we are to live by.
As Christians, we certainly don’t need to be afraid of critical thinking. We certainly don’t need to be afraid of hard questions. Our excellent intellectual tradition within Christendom developed out of many people asking many difficult questions. Yes, it might be more comfortable to suppress questions and simply circle the wagons, but that’s not what it seems that we are being encouraged to do. Rather, we need to make sure that we do our homework, prove what is true and hold on to that which is good. If it is good, then it is of God.