I like facts, things that can be proven with clear and understandable rationale. When someone makes a claim, I want to see their facts. I am not content with “Someone said…” or “I heard…”–I want verifiable facts that I can examine and study and compare with other facts and figures. One study or one report really isn’t enough for me.
As a result, I tend to be a bit of a skeptic when it comes to a lot of the claims people make. The latest miracle cold remedy? Let me see the results of several double-blind studies conducted by reputable scientists and I might consider taking it. Otherwise, I am going to rely on cough drops and warn ginger ale. I don’t actually have studies on those but they both help me.
In many area of my life, this desire for facts and figures and verifiable studies helps me a lot. I am not likely to take questionable medication just because someone publishes a glowing testimony. I am not inclined to participate in a get rich quick scheme pushed by the latest charismatic financial guru. I probably won’t buy the latest device to reduce gas consumption that has been suppressed by gas companies for years.
On the other hand, I am going to take the cholesterol lowering medication that my doctor prescribed–I have seen the studies, I know my numbers and the promised effects make scientific sense. I am still going to get my numbers checked regularly and watch for the side effects. I also eat a lot of fiber, since that also shows good numbers in a variety of good studies.
But there is one area of my life where this desire and love of verifiable facts and figures tends to get me in trouble. I am a Christian and in fact have spent my working life working for and with Christians–and I have always been amazed by how few Christians share my love of facts, figures, studies and verifiable information.
One story stands out. We were sharing in a Bible study many years ago and the talk turned to miracles. One lady was excited to tell of a miracle she knew about. A friend of hers was talking to someone else whose cousin’s former school classmate read of a miracle that happened to a friend of the writers’ ex-boyfriend’s pen pal. As far as she was concerned, this was just one more example of how God still does miracles.
As she was talking, I was struggling. As the story got more and more involved and as the layers of distant relationships got deeper and deeper, I knew there would be a problem. If I let it stand, my facts and figures side would gripe and complain and whine. But if I questioned the truth of this miracle, I would be guilty of questioning the Holy Spirit, maybe even showing once again that I didn’t really have faith in God.
Well, I questioned–I mostly can’t help that. And, according to the lady, if I can’t believe such a clear report of miracles, maybe I need to re-examine my faith. Now, I didn’t and don’t actually deny that God does miracles–I just like my miracles to be clear miracles, things that can be verified.
But the longer I am part of the faith, the more I realize that too many people think faith needs to be divorced from reality. Any claim that a person makes needs to be treated as the gospel truth. People like me who ask questions about the claims are mostly seen as unfaithful deniers of the truth.
But in the end, I have to be true to who I am. And fortunately for me, God endorses my approach. Jesus said in Matthew 7.15, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” (NIV). The apostle John says in I John 4.1, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (NIV)
So, I am not going to immediately take a cold medicine because someone says it works. I am not going to rush to invest my money because someone says they can give 300% returns. And I am not going to blindly accept a report of God working. I am going to test them all before I commit to something I will regret or which will damage my faith.
May the peace of God be with you.