“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1).
“Let's consider your age to begin with - how old are you?”
“I'm seven and a half exactly.”
“You needn't say ‘exactly’,” the queen remarked: “I can believe it without that. Now I'll give you something to believe. I'm just one hundred and one, five months and a day.”
“I can't believe that!” said Alice.
“Can't you?” the queen said in a pitying tone. “Try again: draw a long breath, and shut your eyes.”
Alice laughed. “There's no use trying,” she said: “one can't believe impossible things.”
“I daresay you haven't had much practice,” said the queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Lewis Carroll is commenting in that passage from Through the Looking Glass on the enigma of faith. Why is it that some people manage to believe things that others find utterly incredible? As far as the Queen is concerned it's all a matter of effort. Just hold your breath and shut your eyes. You can believe anything if you try hard enough. But we, like Alice, realize that it isn't that simple. There's a big difference between faith and mere wishful thinking. To fail to understand that is to confuse reality with fantasy. If you have to make yourself believe it then there's probably something wrong.
Yet having said that, many people do believe the impossible. Certainly we Christians appear to, don't we? That God would become a human being and walk on earth. That He would be conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin. That He healed the sick, raised the dead and did other miraculous signs. That He would be killed but then come back to life in a body that could be touched and yet at the same time walk through walls.
Alice would be excused for laughing at such an idea wouldn't she? Yet most Christians would argue that they're not forcing themselves to believe. They're not suspending their rational faculties in order to believe all this. No, rather, we believe because of a deep inner conviction that the Christian message is the truth.
Now why is that? It can't just be that we're all gullible. I’m sure that there are plenty of gullible people and probably even gullible Christians around. But there are also plenty of intelligent, reasonable, rational Christians around as well. So why is it that some people believe, while others don't?
Well that's the question that Jesus addresses in the conversations we find in John 6. Stay tuned for the next few days as we examine why some do not believe and why others do believe.