Around many tourist attractions, there are little museums called Ripley’s Believe It or Not! People pay an entrance fee to go inside and see numerous oddities. I have never paid the entrance fee, but I have seen the advertisements outside which entice people to come in and see what is inside. These oddities of nature include things like a two headed turtle, pictures of the tallest man who ever lived, or a cow with six legs. The museum also will have displays of wonderful engineering feats, such as the highest bridge in the world.
The very name of the museum gives the purpose of all the displays. In each case, do you believe what is being said? It is safe to say that most people who go through the museum believe in some of the displays, but not in others.
One claim by Ripley’s is that they have the remains of a real mermaid. They might even have an illustration of it on the outside of the museum. I have seen such pictures and the “creature” appears to be half human and half fish. The display will say something like the half human and half fish thing in the plastic box was found off the coast of Japan or China many years ago.
The implication of all of this is clear. We have all heard fairy tales about mermaids, like in the movie The Little Mermaid. From the waist up, they look like people. They can swim like fish in the ocean and breathe under water. Ripley is saying that the subject of these fairy tales might actually exist.
But now, we have to ask the very motto that made the name Ripley famous. Do you “believe it or not”? Do you believe that mermaids actually exist?
Even though I have never gone inside one of their museums, I can tell you that I do not believe Ripley has the remains of a real-life mermaid. I am 100% sure that would not change even if I paid the 20 dollars and saw what was in the display.
It would not matter what I saw in the museum. They could show me the “body.” They could show me a video of the fisherman who found it, along with his testimony. They could show me a video of that fisherman reeling in the catch with his rod and reel. They could even throw in the words of an esteemed medical coroner who says that he did an autopsy and that the creature is one that was able to breathe under water and that he now believes in mermaids.
How can I be so sure I would not believe? Because of the evidence. Nobody I have ever known has seen a mermaid. I cannot conceive of a creature that has the upper body of a human living permanently underwater. Mermaids can breathe underwater and above water. Nothing like that exists.
I also know that tourist attractions are in the business of making money. They are known for bending the truth. It would be easy for somebody to manufacture something that looked half human and half fish. The world is full of charlatans. Whatever I saw in the museum concerning this mermaid would not convince me that it was a real mermaid. I would believe that they were just scamming people to get them to pay the entrance fee.
Another important point to consider is that I could not decide to believe in mermaids. The evidence either convinces me that they do exist or that they do not. It is not a decision that I make. I would never look at their mermaid and sleep on it in order to make a decision. That is the very basis of Ripley’s business. In theory, they show you the evidence for everything in their museum. They are not asking you to decide to believe. Their motto is not Ripley’s Make a Decision! Instead, they show you their evidence, and it is a simple thing you are called to do—Believe it or not.
Often, when we hear the gospel of eternal life given, we hear the speaker exhort the hearer to make a decision for Christ. This terminology is never used in the NT, and for good reason. A person does not decide to believe in Jesus. A person believes when he is convinced that Jesus is able to give him eternal life.
I believed in Jesus for eternal life because of the evidence. I heard His words in the NT and believed that He spoke the truth. I read about Him in the NT and saw His life was one that indicated He could do what He said. The testimony of His closest friends said He rose from the dead, and I was convinced He would do the same for me. If I did not believe these things were true, I could not decide to believe them. Just as now, I cannot decide to believe in mermaids.
Ripley is lying to us about mermaids. But their motto can rightly be applied to the claims of Christ. He says He is the Christ who gives eternal life to all who believe in Him for it. Believe it or not!