I remember hearing a folk tale from Central Asia, about a well known character called Molla Nasraddin, which went something like this:
One day Molla Nasraddin’s neighbour knocked on his door. “Molla, may I borrow your donkey”, he asked. “I’m sorry, but no”, replied Molla, “my donkey isn’t here.” Just then they both heard a loud “Hee-haw, hee-haw” from Molla’s back yard. “Shame on you, Molla!”, said the neighbour, “You lied to me!” “Shame on you, neighbour”, retorted Molla, “for believing the words of my donkey and not my words!”
I was reminded of this story by a post by David Matthias at The Road to “Elder” Ado, Dudley Outpouring on the BBC, and by the subsequent discussion in the comments. I had already seen this BBC programme (which has probably now disappeared from iPlayer) as my attention had been drawn to it by a comment here at Gentle Wisdom, to which I replied twice.
The issue I take with David’s post, and all the more with the comments on it by Eutychus, is the way that they seem to put more store by the words of the sceptical BBC presenter than by those of the respected Christian leader Trevor Baker. David makes it clear that he believes Trevor’s claims; Eutychus seems to imply the opposite, as I explained in the following comment which I repeat in full here because it has not yet been approved:
Eutychus, sorry if I misrepresented you. I accept that you didn’t exactly suggest that anyone was lying.
But you did criticise the fact that “people automatically assume the reliability of what others tell them”, which implies that you expect people to be sceptical of what others say. That is not a specific accusation of lying, but it does imply that you think that some Christians do lie about such things. The context in which you write suggests that you have Trevor Baker in mind.
Also you DID summarise your position on healing: “it’s become my casual opinion that healing, along with other spiritual gifts, genuinely occurs in christian contexts …”
We can agree on this last point (although not on the continuation of your sentence). So suppose that you, or I, do at some stage witness a notably miraculous healing. We are sure enough of it that we want to tell others of it, to glorify God and bring them to seek him. But we do not have medically verified proof of the healing, or perhaps we do have it but not permission to make it public. Should we keep quiet? If so, why? Only in an attempt to placate scoffers?
So, do we believe the words of a donkey, or of an unbelieving television presenter whose understanding of Christian healing ministry seems about as profound as a donkey’s? After all, as Jesus recognised (Luke 16:31), people like her will not be convinced by any amount of evidence, even if someone rises from the dead in front of their eyes. Or do we believe the words of our Christian brothers and sisters, unless we have good evidence on which to doubt them?
Yes, God can speak through the words of a donkey. He did once, to Balaam, and thereby, in the apostle Peter’s words, “restrained the prophet’s madness” (2 Peter 2:16 TNIV, cf. Numbers 22:28-30). So maybe he will indeed speak to us even through the words of sceptics.
But Peter went on to write that “in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires” (2 Peter 3:3 TNIV). The apostle warns his readers not to listen to their scoffing, and writes that he is writing to them
to stimulate you to wholesome thinking. 2 I want you to recall the words spoken in the past by the holy prophets and the command given by our Lord and Saviour through your apostles.
2 Peter 3:1-2 (TNIV)
The words we should ordinarily listen to are not those of the scoffers, but of the biblical authors and of Jesus himself.