My father used to tell the story of the virgin in the river. When my father was in his teens, growing up in General Franco’s post-civil war Spain. It would have been in the 40’s and superstition was everywhere.
In 1917, the virgin Mary had supposedly appeared to three children in Portugal, and throughout the following decades there were many supposed appearances of the virgin Mary throughout Spain and Portugal.
One day my father was coming back from working in the fields, he saw a large crowd of people gathered on and around a bridge near the town. He went to see what the fuss was all about and he asked some of the people there.
“It’s the virgin! It’s the virgin! The virgin is appearing in the water!”
So my father worked his way through the crowed to the bridge and looked down into the water. He couldn’t see any sign of the virgin.
But what he could see was that there must have been a boat leaking oil up-river, because there was an oil slick in the water, that made interesting patterns as it swirled in the current. And that was what the people were pointing to.
So, my father began passing the word around the crowd that the virgin Mary wasn’t there at all, but that instead, it was just oil in the water. It took them a while, but the crowd started thinning as the people realised the truth and left to go home.
Sometimes It’s a Bit Foolish to Follow the Crowd
So, what’s the moral of this true story? Well, here it is.
Sometimes, things are not always what they seem. Sometimes it’s a bit foolish to follow the crowd. That’s true in every sphere of life.
I could have used a different story that wasn’t necessarily religious in nature, but I used this one because it’s one that really happened. I just preferred to be factual.
Of course, this is a story about a miracle that wasn’t. In our society, there’s plenty of people who would say, “Well, that’s true of all religion. It’s all based on fanciful, wishful thinking. It just relies on ‘blind faith.’”
So, let’s tackle the issue head-on. The Bible never taught people not to think. In fact, the opposite is true.
In the stories about Jesus, you often find him asking people questions. They aren’t simple questions. They’re the sorts of questions that really make you think.
I frequently communicate with the kind of people who are very anti-God, who think that to “believe” means to suspend your rational thought processes. Yet that is not the God I believe in at all.
God Expects Us to Use Our Brains
God always gives you enough evidence for you to start to believe. We never approach God having 100% of the evidence. However, that is no different than any other human relationships that we are used to. If you have a wife or a husband, you trust them, not because you know absolutely everything about their life or that is in their head, but because you know enough about them that you know you can trust them. They have demonstrated themselves to be trustworthy.
When it comes to God, we are dealing with a being and with concepts that are so far above us as human beings as to ultimately be incomprehensible in an absolute sense. That’s why he is God and we are not, because he fully understands us and we cannot fully understand him.
However, God is a rational being, and as such, he has also created us to be rational beings. He has given us brains so we can think for ourselves. And he also expects us to use our brains.
Skepticism Ceases to be Healthy When You Lose Your Ability to Trust
The God I believe in tells me to reason things through. He appeals to us,
“Come now, and let us reason together,”
Says the Lord,
“Though your sins are like scarlet,
They shall be as white as snow;
Though they are red like crimson,
They shall be as wool (Isa 1:18, NKJV.)
God tells us to reason with him in the context of his forgiving us when we trust him and come to him.
God also tells us, regarding spiritual matters, to:
Test all things; hold fast what is good (1 Thess 5:21.)
As the story of the virgin in the river shows, there’s a lot to be said for “healthy skepticism.” People have made many mistakes throughout history, in all areas of life. Just think of politics and religion.
But skepticism ceases to be healthy when you lose your ability to trust altogether. And that includes trusting in God.
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