Post Author: Bill Pratt
We’re back to the recurring question of the role of faith, the will, and evidence. Those who believe in miracles frequently will point to evidence of specific miracles and say, “This is why I believe.” Those who disbelieve miracles will claim that there is no evidence and that they won’t believe until they see irrefutable proof.
Fyodor Dostoyevsky, in his classic The Brothers Karamazov, questions both of these claims. The narrator in the book argues that for most people, their mind is made up about miracles long before they ever see the evidence. It is their beliefs and their desires which win out, not a sober look at the evidence. Here is the passage:
The genuine realist, if he is an unbeliever, will always find strength and ability to disbelieve in the miraculous, and if he is confronted with a miracle as an irrefutable fact he would rather disbelieve his own senses than admit the fact. Even if he admits it, he admits it as a fact of nature till then unrecognized by him.
Faith does not, in the realist, spring from the miracle but the miracle from faith. If the realist once believes, then he is bound by his very realism to admit the miraculous also. The Apostle Thomas said that he would not believe till he saw, but when he did see he said, “My Lord and my God!” Was it the miracle forced him to believe? Most likely not, but he believed solely because he desired to believe and possibly he fully believed in his secret heart even when he said, “I do not believe till I see.”
There is no doubt that our will, our desire to believe or not believe plays a very strong role in our assessment of the supernatural. This sword cuts both ways, for neither the believer nor the non-believer can claim a dispassionate and unbiased approach. As much as we’d like to believe that only the facts should sway our decisions, we are unable to do so. Our challenge is to be aware of the bias and to minimize it the best we can. Easier said than done.