I had the most unique conversation with someone last week – and the effects of that talk continued to linger. I was reminded of its occurrence this morning, when a stranger touched on the same theme. Allow me to muse?
The gist of both encounters were two ideas: “If I didn’t see it, it didn’t happen”. and its corollary is “My beliefs are tied into what I’ve seen and how I’ve processed it”. The first is easy to understand. The second? Think of Chicken Little. “I felt something fall on my head, therefore, the sky is falling.” It doesn’t matter how many others (including experts in such esoteric field as skies falling) tell us differently. We believe it. We’ve seen it. It is so.
Worse? We share our beliefs, based on our own experience with others. We do so not as “hey, look what I experienced, have you ever experienced something like this”, but “hey, look! This snowball means there is no such thing as climate change!”.
Observation is the first step in the scientific method. Folks who insist that snow in late March have moved from observation to hypothesis… but they haven’t taken the time to test their hypothesis with experimentation. It’s a done deal! It’s what they’ve experienced, and therefore it is so. Without experimentation, it’s not a conclusion.
Of course, all of this coming from someone who preaches about faith might seem peculiar. After all, isn’t that what faith is? An experience of God that we then move to a conclusion? Well… yes, and no. Faith, by nature cannot be proven, however that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be tested.
Part of the reason I’m a Presbyterian is because although my individual experience is valued and affirmed, I’m also able to hold that experience up against scripture and our confessions as a test. Heck, scripture itself suggests the wisdom of “testing the spirits” (1 John). And, in a few weeks we’ll hear again the story of Thomas who was encouraged by Jesus to touch the wounds in his hand and side. Of course, we’re not the only folks that encourage testing and reason and debate – consider the debate of a minyan, or the passionate discourse that takes place in less-formal religious settings. Regardless, the wisdom is there.
God alone is Lord of the conscience – but unless I have fully vetted my observations and experiences against a larger understanding, I run the risk of making my observations/feelings/thoughts as being Truth.
It’s not all about you and what you’ve seen (or have not seen). Test the spirits. Test your experience. Then, let’s reason together.