- Flying. He can just rise up into the air at will and fly about, so he can walk across water without even getting wet feet.
- Turning things into other things. He can turn water into beer or anything else like wine.
- Curing sick people. He can tell what's wrong with people, even when they don't know they're sick, and can cure them just by touching them. They even get better just by touching his clothes.
- Letting people live for ever. Apparently he said if you believe in him you'll never die.
I thought that sounded interesting, if more than a little far-fetched, so I asked if I could meet this man. Turned out this person had never met the man himself but had just met someone who had heard about him and wanted to live for ever, so he decided he would tell people about him because he sounded like a really special person. No, he didn't know for sure if anyone who told him about this man had actually met him either, but he thought they might have done otherwise how would they know about him? (I didn't bother to point out that it could have been in exactly the same way the he knew about him.)
In fact he had heard that the man had died. Apparently the police had arrested him because they didn't like the crowds he was attracting and didn't want people to live forever (you know what they're like!), and he had died in custody, then his body had mysteriously disappeared. The whole world had gone dark, apparently, though neither of us could recall that actually happening, at least not in our life-time. But by-the-by.
He even had a drawing of him, and he looked quite genuine. So, should I believe this man I met and take his word that this man exists?
I've heard that there is this technique for telling the truth in these situations. It's called 'faith'. This method is said by it's advocates to be the best of all ways to decide if something is true. Apparently, if you believe things like this by 'faith' they become truth and you don't need to keep wondering it they are true or not. Also, no one should disagree with you otherwise they are oppressing you and disrespecting your 'faith', which of course, you're entitled to hold on to.
The trick is to tell yourself that the story must be true and that anything which makes it look like it might not be must be wrong and probably just a test. Good 'faith' must always pass this test, otherwise it's a personal failing on your part for not having enough 'faith' and for which you should be ashamed. And, you can tell yourself that it must be true - otherwise, why would you believe it?
If I have this 'faith' do you think the story told me by the man I met in Oxford will be true? Or should I lack 'faith' and look for some other way to discover if his story is really true? You know, things like evidence from eye-witnesses, people he actually cured, photographs, police records - that sort of thing?
Or should I just ignore this story as so unlikely as to not be worth even considering to be true, and so risk not living for ever?
Such a difficult decision! What would you do?
Oh! I forgot to say, this man is supposed to have lived in Essex about 100 years ago... or was it Palestine about 2000 years ago? I can never remember which, but that shouldn't make any difference, should it?