Skepticism and the Supernatural
I often find myself discussing supernatural experiences with my friends. Because some have a hard time talking publicly about the more unusual experiences they have, we’ve created private groups to discuss the more unusual stories.
The opinions we have and the roles we play in the discussions are predictable. Based on our experiences, we respond differently to testimonies of the supernatural. Some of us share testimonies with regularity while others act as a sort of jury. Some accept the testimonies without question, while others scrutinize them a bit more.
Some won’t accept every testimony as valid because their standard of evidence is higher. They’re more likely to offer objections or ask others to be cautious when considering these testimonies. They take a more skeptical view of the supernatural, partly because they hate being tricked into believing something that isn’t true. Their major concern is deception.
Jesus warned His disciples not to be deceived. Wisdom demands that we exercise caution where the supernatural is concerned. But if we view the supernatural with too much skepticism, we run the risk of refusing to believe in the things that God is legitimately doing. Worse—we run the risk of attributing the works of God to Satan.
I have a friend who plays the role of the skeptic when we discuss healing miracles. It’s not that she doesn’t believe that God heals. She knows He does. Her skepticism is borne out of negative experiences from her past. When she was young, she was involved with a group of people who claimed to be healing the sick, but their claims turned out to be fraudulent. Being fooled has caused her to be cautious when evaluating claims of healing.
I’ve prayed for her on numerous occasions. The first time was for the healing of Lyme’s disease, which she’d had for many years. Six months after praying for her, I sent a private message asking how she’d been feeling since we prayed. She’d forgotten she even had Lyme’s because her symptoms had completely disappeared.
I was happy to hear the news, which to me, seemed like a testimony of healing. I asked if I could share her story with others who had Lyme’s to encourage them. To my surprise, she said she didn’t want me to tell anyone. She wasn’t sure if she was healed and didn’t want to claim that she was if she still had the disease.
I asked how she could still have the disease if she’d been symptom-free for six months and suggested she probably was healed. She wasn’t convinced and asked if we could wait another six months and see what happened. Six months later, she still had no symptoms but she still wasn’t convinced she was healed, and not wanting to give a false testimony, she asked me not to tell anyone.
In the time since then, she’s had other illnesses and injuries, which I’ve prayed for. She’s received prayer from others as well, but her symptoms haven’t changed. I believe my friend’s view of healing has impacted her ability to receive healing for herself.
Her experiences have planted so many doubts in her mind, that she’s unable to believe she could be healed, regardless of the evidence. Since she was never able to accept the fact that she was healed of Lyme’s, she’s never been able to show gratitude to God or tell others about it. I suspect that she’s been unable to receive any further healing because she hasn’t accepted her first healing yet.
Skepticism is an understandable response when you’ve been deceived repeatedly. No one wants to be tricked into believing false reports. Common sense tells us that if a testimony seems fishy, it should be investigated further. But there’s a subtle difference between using discernment to sort out the true from the false and having the attitude of skepticism.
Discernment is a tool that we pull out when it’s needed. A discerning heart is not one that is always looking for deception or darkness. It is a heart that looks for light, life, love, and truth in all things. It recognizes them by their spiritual signatures and distinguishes between them and darkness, deception, or death.
Skepticism is a mind permanently biased against something. It’s a pervasive attitude of doubt or opposition. Whenever a particular subject is discussed, the mind begins building opposing arguments based on previous experiences and strongly held beliefs. It prevents us from objectively evaluating a subject or discerning by the Spirit, the presence of light, life, love, or truth.
When you reserve the right to call yourself a skeptic, you pay a high price for the privilege. The upside to skepticism is not being fooled. The downside is rejecting that which is truly of God. The skeptic may be fooled less often than their gullible friends, but just as often, they’re the ones who cannot bring themselves to believe the miraculous thing God has done.
You can either be a skeptic or you can witness miracles, but you cannot do both. Skepticism is the very thing that prevents the power of God from manifesting in our lives. The kingdom of God is given to those who manage to hold onto their child-like faith, despite having been deceived. Having child-like faith may put us at risk of being fooled, but that is the price we pay for seeing the power of God manifest.
“Faith is being absolutely sure of what you hope for and unconditionally certain of what you don’t see.” (Hebrews 11:1)