Anecdotal evidence is the fancy term some people use to categorize stories of people’s experiences whether that be an eyewitness testimony or something that happened to a friend of my cousin’s wife’s friend. Obviously, an eyewitness account is taken seriously, at least in a court of law, unless it can be disproven or the character of that eyewitness is viewed as suspect. In many other areas of life anecdotal evidence is considered merely a story unless it can be proven to be true based on scientific or rational evidence.
When I was a teenager I was sitting with a couple of friends in the living room of our family home on a hot summer’s day during a storm. My mother always insisted that all windows should be closed when it was thundering and lightning, but she wasn’t home. To our amazement, a ball of light came into the room, hovered a moment and then proceeded to navigate its way through our living room, dining room, kitchen and bathroom where it attacked our hot water heater before exiting through a window. Its path was no straight line. In all, it made four turns.
My mom was upset because I hadn’t closed all the windows in the house. Of course, she wasn’t too happy about the hot water tank either. But, she did believe our story.
Even though a lot of anecdotal evidence existed beginning in the Middle Ages, scientist dismissed those claims as nonsense at least until 1963 a group of their own saw it for themselves. That is when total disbelief changed to “perhaps” and actual research began. Ball lightning has been found to be charged particles (microwaves) trapped in a plasma bubble which can range in size from very small to very large.
Of course, water spouts didn’t exist either until someone caught them on film!
So, what is all this about? Am I suggesting that we should embrace every cockamamie tale as if it were true? What about big foot or the Loch Ness monster or being visited by beings from another planet? There is a long list of anecdotal evidences for these and many other, perhaps even stranger things. No. What I am suggesting is that just because something cannot be proven, at least, at this point in time and in a way that makes some sort of sense to us, doesn’t necessarily mean there isn’t something real and possibly even larger behind the stories.
Just because, from a merely human perspective, the Bible can be classified as a collection of anecdotal evidences for the existence of God, doesn’t mean that God is a ridiculous idea or that the stories cannot possibly be accurate as they stand.
Just because we have been led to believe by unquestioned traditions that human beings are singularly God’s greatest creation and have inferred from that to mean that we are the only intelligent life in the universe doesn’t necessarily make it so. What it does mean is that what we think we know may not include everything there is to know. What would happen to our faith in God should aliens land? Will our faith be destroyed or will it grow? Will we start acting like jealous lovers and “species” bigots or like people who even more reasons to love God and more opportunities to demonstrate our love of God?
No, I am not suggesting we should fully embrace everything that comes our way as anecdotal evidence. But, I am suggesting that perhaps we should not completely close our minds to the possibility that they might be more than absurd stories.
I have known many people that have what I call a “brittle faith.” Brittle faith actually rests upon a set of rules, so to speak, rather than in the goodness and person of God. These rules say that God can’t do this or must do that. Some of these people have held to a very traditional understanding of God while others held to a theology that was anything but traditional. Some of these people held notions that were neither. What they all had in common was that because these rules arranged themselves like a house of cards, all that was necessary for the total destruction of that person’s faith was for one rule to be seriously called into question.
Every time we are faced with a serious injury, illness or the death of someone we care about or ourselves, for that matter, every time our lives are disrupted and we are forced into changes that seem overwhelming or we simply grow weary of the same old, same old, our faith is tested. It is often then, we discover what forms the foundation of our faith. Is that foundation the goodness and person of God or is it made up of all the things God can’t do or must do to deserve our trust?
I want to encourage you to get to know God anew – not the “rules” about either God or about us but the Person of God. Find a place where distractions are very few and where you are comfortable being yourself, being honest. Ask God to help. Tell God you want to get to know God better. Ask God to show you God’s heart, to see through God’s eyes and then, wait and watch. Continue to wait and watch even after leaving that place. Take that place with you for however long it takes for you to bear your soul to God and for God to bear God’s soul to you. I am confident you’ll discover that it is hard to carry a faith that is brittle when your trust is no longer rooted and established “must do’s and can’t do’s” but rather in a Friend.
The Psalmist said it best, “Be still, and know that I am God!”