Skepticism can be a valuable trait in a world full of con artists and exaggerators of all types. Healthy skepticism can save one from a variety of dangers. In late 20th century politics, healthy skepticism was summed up in the expression “Trust but verify.”
In the spiritual life, some people may think that there is no such thing as healthy skepticism. Aren’t we supposed to be always trusting?
Trusting in God, yes. But it is not always easy to tell what is truly of God and what is not. That is why the New Testament often speaks of “discernment of spirits.” Not every spirit is of God. We must practice a healthy skepticism.
What distinguishes healthy from unhealthy skepticism? Healthy skepticism is being proportionately diligent in discerning the truth of something before giving assent to it or taking action based on it. Skepticism can be unhealthy if it is disproportionate: blocking or delaying inordinately decisions and actions that should be accomplished. Skepticism becomes deadly as it becomes absolute: the incurable skeptic never trusts anything, not even God’s gift of salvation.
The Apostle in today’s Gospel moves from skepticism to belief instantaneously (almost comically so), but this sudden profession of faith in Christ (as our Lord Himself says of Peter’s profession) results from a special blessing from God.
We must be careful; we should be a bit skeptical; we must pray for the gift of discernment; and then we must trust and step forward in the way of the Lord.