Summary: Examining the "faith spectrum." Where do we find ourselves on this spectrum?
DOUBTING JESUS’ POWER
John 9:1-17; 35-41
We casually talk about belief and doubt and faith and such subjects and we may find that when we hear of certain things that are “out of the ordinary” that we ourselves may be skeptical. There is a spectrum of faith issues that runs the gamut from strongly negative to strongly positive. The position that people have in this spectrum can be described with at least five different designations. Starting with the most negative we find “unbelief” and, while still on the negative side, we can move to “doubt.” At the center or neutral position we might call this “skeptical” which would be the description of someone who is open to ideas but uses critical thinking to determine the validity of the philosophy, proposition or claim. For those who find validity, they will move into the area labeled “acceptance” or simply acknowledging the idea as truth and from there to “commitment” which results in action.
Jesus encountered people all along this faith spectrum. Those on the very negative end of “unbelief” could be described as those who will not believe regardless of the evidence. Such a position is typically taken when a person is “committed” to another competing philosophy or paradigm. This is where most of the Pharisees were with regard to Jesus. Those who fall into the “doubt” category might be said to find it “difficult to believe.” This would be a case of “cannot believe” rather than will not believe. This may be an appropriate descriptor for those who kept asking for a “sign” before they could be counted as believers. Residing for extended periods of time in the “doubt” position may lead to slipping into the “unbelief” category. Some of the Pharisees were in this position of having trouble believing but they were not necessarily adamant or closed minded.
Being skeptical is the likely starting place for people who have a sense of responsibility to know what they believe and why they believe it rather than just adopting what is popular at the moment in the culture in which they find themselves. In several places in the Old Testament we find that God issued a challenge to such people in the form of “Come, let us reason together.”
From skepticism, one could move back toward doubt or toward acceptance which would be in a positive direction on the scale. This would be acknowledging the ideas or claims to be the truth. The next step called “commitment” is evidenced by a person responding to what he or she believes by taking action.
If a person is at the point of skepticism, what might influence the direction he might move along the faith spectrum?
The Impact of Miracles on Faith – 9:1-7
1 As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. 2 And His disciples asked Him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?” 3 Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4 “We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work. 5 “While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.” 6 When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes, 7 and said to him, “Go, wash in the pool of Siloam” (which is translated, Sent). So he went away and washed, and came back seeing. John 9:1-7 (NASB95)
The Jews had just attempted to stone Jesus for claiming to be equal to God. As He was leaving the temple area with His disciples, they saw this man who was a blind beggar in his regular position near the temple. He was apparently well known to those who came to the temple. The disciples asked what we would think was a strange question: “Who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” The disciples were probably not thinking about our Adamic nature that is inherited, but were referring to “acts committed” that are in conflict with God’s laws and principles. We have no concept of prenatal sin; however, they may have been thinking about what some of the pagan religions taught about reincarnation. They may have thought that something the man had done in a previous life had caused this situation. The Word of God does not support such a belief and teaches that we are “appointed once to die and then the judgement.”
It is difficult to imagine that an unborn child would be capable of committing any actions that could be classified as sins. The idea that the sins of the parents can affect the life of their children makes us uncomfortable; however, this is a reality. Kids born to drug-addicted parents or to mothers who drink during their pregnancy certainly are affected by what their parents have done. The disciples were thinking in terms of a general principle that some have called the “law of retribution” which says that if you do good things you will be blessed and if you are sinful and do evil things, then you will suffer consequences. While this outcome is what our sense of fairness would endorse, we must be careful to not think that if a person is successful it is proof of righteousness and if a person is sick or hurting it is proof of sins in a person’s life.