We all remember the story of Doubting Thomas. He was, of course, the one apostle who refused to believe in Jesus’ resurrection until he saw it for himself. As it says in John 20:24-25 “But Thomas (who was called the Twin), one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples told him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.” While it’s not the only instance of doubting God that occurs in the Bible, it’s probably the best known. It’s definitely one I can relate to. I mean, how often do you hear about someone you know dying and coming back to life? That Thomas raised an eyebrow at the news that a man he’d seen die on a cross a few days earlier was up and walking around is understandable. Even in the light of everything he’d seen up to that point (including the resurrection of Lazarus), I can still see where he was coming from. I mean, the man was dead! You can’t bring yourself back from the dead, can you? In Thomas’ defense, he never said it was impossible, just that he wouldn’t believe it until he saw it. And, to his credit, when he did see it, his response was “My Lord and my God!”. Jesus answered “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have come to believe.” That is the definition of faith, stripped right down to the bone.
So, are doubt and faith diametrically opposed? Or, is doubt a normal, healthy part of our faith? Theologian and philosopher Paul Tillich said ““Doubt is not the opposite of faith; it is one element of faith”. And, blogger John Frye, author of “Jesus, The Radical Pastor” said “Doubters have their place in announcing and practicing the unexpectedly loving reign of God. Old, stale thinking pitted doubt against faith (as Scot McKnight points out). More discerning thinking sees doubt as an ally to faith.
A skewed triumphalist Christianity erased doubt as a legitimate aspect of the Christian journey. In its heated sense of victory, it boiled doubt away as some sort of sin. As a matter of fact, a serious sin: unbelief. This only caused doubters to go underground and live with the agony in their souls. Who wants to be branded a pagan unbeliever in the tight-assed evangelical community? Those who live constipated Christian lives don’t want any uncertainty to be voiced at all…ever. They don’t really trust in the Christ of the cross and resurrection; they trust a system of belief that keeps their tidy little self-centered worlds together.
This is the time for doubters to arise. Take your place in the Great Commission task of the church. Voice your doubts. Ask your questions. Carry your honest inquiries into the communities where you live.
For God’s sake, doubters, upset the apple cart!”
So, yeah, I think Thomas got it right. What about you?