Musing About… Rational Skepticism

Not very long ago, I was in the company of some ranchers from the Midwest. Being from the city, I was mesmerized by their telling of some of the hazards and intricacies of their occupation. While I had never trivialized the job, I had no idea of the deep level of dedication and skill it takes to be a cattle herder. After my brief encounter with real cattle ranchers, I would now consider their trade to be more of a calling than a job.

Although I felt like I was completely outside of my element or realm of understanding, one of my acquaintances stumbled across a point of connection, a place where we both identify. He recounted about a moment when he was helping one of his cows give birth. He described the process and his part in the process in great detail. Admittedly so, this was a bit enlightening to me, because evidently, a rancher does not take his pregnant heifer to the labor and delivery department of their local bovine hospital. But that was not his point, so he continued on with the story. It was while he was doing what ranchers do in this situation that he said he glanced up for just
a moment to espy his young son, about four or five years old at the time, standing wide-eyed by the fence, soaking in the whole event. The man threw back his head in exasperation and thought, “Oh, great…just what I need. Now I’m gonna have the pleasure of having to try and explain the birds and bees to my five-year-old son.” He shook his head as he pondered his options and then decided, “Well, maybe he won’t want to talk about it. I’ll just wait and play it by ear.” After everything was over, the man walked over to his son and decided maybe he should make sure he was all right and not too traumatized by what he just witnessed. So he stooped down to his son’s eye level and inquired, “Well, son, do you have any questions?” His little lad, his gaze still wide and fixed on the newborn calf, simply nodded and replied “Yeah, just one. How fast was that calf going when he hit that cow?” At some point in life, we are each faced with some experience that exceeds any rational explanation.

Here, in the days after Easter, we remember the story of a certain follower of Jesus, named Thomas, who took part in a saga that went beyond any reasonable sense of understanding. Just days prior, he had witnessed his mentor cruelly tortured and put to death. Then he watched as the body was sealed in a tomb. He knew Jesus was dead—just another wasted hope. He had heard of the fantastical stories some women were spreading, and that some of the other followers were foolishly claiming that they had seen Jesus…alive. But there’s no way! Anybody in their right mind should know such a thing is impossible.

The funny thing about Thomas’ healthy dose of skepticism is how it evolves. When Thomas finally encounters the Risen Jesus on a personal basis, Thomas does not inquire, “How can this be?” He does not demand a rational explanation of Jesus’ inexplicable resurrection. None of the logic seemed important to him any longer. The only thing of any consequence for him now was the reality of Jesus’ presence in his life. Instead of questions, he could only mumble out of adoration, “My Lord, and my God!”

A song that is still sung in many churches throughout the world today contains these words:

I stand amazed in the presence of Jesus the Nazarene,
And wonder how He could love me, a sinner, condemned, unclean.
How marvelous! How wonderful! And my song shall ever be:
How marvelous! How wonderful! Is my Savior’s love for me!

Some things don’t need explanations. Some things are just simple acts of unmerited love. So it is with Jesus’ love for me and you.