Skepticism and the Supernatural
I often find myself discussing supernatural experiences with my friends. Because many people have a hard time talking publicly about the more unusual experiences they have, we’ve created private Facebook groups to discuss the more unusual ones.
The opinions we have and the roles we play in the discussions are somewhat predictable. Based on our unique experiences, we respond differently to testimonies of the supernatural. Some of us share testimonies with regularity while others act as a kind of jury. Some accept the testimonies without question, while others scrutinize them a bit more.
For the friends who don’t accept every testimony at face value, the standard of evidence is a bit 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. One of their major concerns is deception.
Jesus warned His disciples repeatedly not to be deceived. Wisdom demands that we exercise some degree of caution where the supernatural is concerned. But at the same time – 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 and 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. It’s not because 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 got 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 very cautious when evaluating claims of healing. I’ve prayed for her healing a number of times and I’ve seen some things that may help in this discussion.
The first time I prayed for her, it was for healing of Lyme’s disease, which she’d had for many years. Six months later, I sent a private message asking how she’d been feeling since we prayed. Her response was that 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. In her mind, she wasn’t sure if she was healed or not and she didn’t want to claim that she was healed, if she still had the disease. She didn’t want to deceive anyone by giving a false testimony.
I asked how she could still have the disease if she’d been symptom-free for six months. I suggested that she probably was healed. She wasn’t convinced and asked if we could wait another 6 months and see what happened. Six months later, she still had no symptoms of Lyme’s. But she wasn’t absolutely certain 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 numerous other illnesses and injuries, which I’ve prayed for. She’s received prayer from others as well, but our prayers don’t seem to have had any effect on those conditions. I believe my friend’s view of healing has impacted her ability to receive healing for herself.
My friend’s experiences have planted so many doubts in her mind about being deceived or being wrong, that she is unable to believe she was healed. Her negative experiences from the past have caused her to become skeptical toward healing. Since she was never able to accept the fact that she was healed, she’s never been able to show gratitude to God or tell others about it. In a way, she’s rejected her own healing. I believe 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 a skeptic.
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 and love in all things. It recognizes them by their spiritual signature and distinguishes between them and that which contains darkness, deception or death.
Skepticism is a mind that is permanently biased against something. It’s a prevailing attitude of doubt or opposition in one area. Whenever that subject is discussed, the mind begins building opposing arguments based on previous experiences and strongly held beliefs. Skepticism prevents us from objectively evaluating a subject or discerning by the spirit, the presence of light, life and love.
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 the miraculous, 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 being deceived. Having child-like faith may put us at risk for 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)
This message is as much a reminder to myself as anyone. The roots of doubt run deep in my heart. I’ve come a long way in shedding my unbelief, but I have a long way to go before I can say I have child-like faith. What I often have instead is miracle-destroying skepticism.
My skepticism is being replaced by faith, but it’s a process. There’s nothing like witnessing the power of God at work to remove skepticism and create child-like faith. I hope the testimonies and essays you find here are helping your faith to grow.