Thursday, December 9, 2010

Faith in the Impossible

For nothing is impossible with God. Luke 1:37

Read verses 34 to 38 for the story behind this statement. I must admit Mary’s incredulity vanished far quicker than mine would. That Mary would become pregnant without male assistance was impossible enough, but that God the Holy Spirit would make her pregnant seems sacrilegious to say the least.

Of course, as a man, it is highly unlikely that the angel would come to me with that message. But much as I can, I put myself in Mary’s place, and try to imagine my reaction. Perhaps the devil played some cruel hoax, I dreamt in very bad taste, or entered some twilight zone? I probably would have reacted this way.

Note Mary’s reaction. She did not question the reliability of the message; clearly, Gabriel had some guarantee of his credentials that allayed suspicion. Even as a dream, the force of the event would have probably made it authentic. But the intangible twilight zone makes authenticity hard to validate, even counterfeiting Gabriel’s credentials.

Mary simply trusted God, not only for the message, but also for its legitimacy. After all, a year would establish the truth of the message. In addition, Gabriel provided some circumstantial evidence. Her elderly cousin Elizabeth was already six months pregnant; a repetition of the earlier promise of a son to Abraham, conceived beyond Sarah’s childbearing years.

However, my sceptical bent needs evidence; I don’t want to be considered naive. But matters of faith do not produce ultimate evidence or they would not be faith. Both theists and atheists base their positions on faith, so their conflict can never be resolved. Mary just preferred to believe God, perhaps in spite of misgivings.

What if she hadn’t believed Gabriel. Would her lack of faith have prevented the birth of the Saviour? We don’t really know. Rather, I believe God chose Mary because of her willingness to believe. An innocent faith in God is not naive; innocence does not assume ignorance, but trusts in spite of arguments or events ranged against it.

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