Courage to Doubt

Last week I read a Relevant article called 4 Things Jesus Never Said which I enjoyed tremendously and highly recommend that you read. My biggest take-away from this all-around great post was in the second section of the four things Jesus never said under the subtitle “Doubting is Dangerous”.

The author reminds us of our biblical friend “Doubting” Thomas  and the notorious moment where earned that nickname, then neatly follows that up with a reminder that Thomas was not the only disciple to doubt, quoting Luke 24:11 in which all of the disciples “couldn’t believe” that Jesus had been resurrected.

What stood out to me was this bit,

All the disciples doubted, but Thomas was the only one with the courage to admit he needed proof. He said, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). And when Jesus finally encountered Thomas, he did not rebuke him. Rather he gave Thomas what he needed. He invited Thomas to touch his wounds, and only then did Jesus tell him he could stop doubting.

The beauty of this is Thomas had an encounter with Jesus none of the other disciples did. He is the only one who touched the wounds of Jesus, because he had the faith to doubt. Nowhere does Jesus condemn doubt; rather he meets people right where they are in it.

Courage to admit his doubt… faith to doubt… interesting.

Very shortly after reading that article I came across a video of Simon Sinek on the subject of serving those who serve others (which I will post below). I have, for years now, been a fan of how Simon Sinek teaches about leadership and stumbled upon this particular video while looking up things about his new book, Leaders Eat Last. This video is long (and totally worth watching all the way through) but in the first 10 minutes I heard something that reminded me of what I had just read in the previously mentioned Relevant article.

In response to being asked how he knows so much Simon describes how he’s learned to ask questions so that he can simplify complex ideas into something he can understand. He references a story from his own life in which he was challenged to go 48 hours without lying, not even employing “little white lies” to avoid humiliation. He points out that we all lie this way constantly, telling waiters that our food is good when really it wasn’t because we don’t want to create a fuss, or telling a friend that we’ve heard of the film/music/what have you they’re speaking about when we haven’t to avoid looking out of the loop. In the middle of this challenge Simon had an appointment with a speech writer for a politician and as soon as they sat down the speech writer asked how much research he had done before this interview. Under normal circumstances, not being in a no-lying-challenge, his answer would have been something like, “a little” in order to avoid looking unprepared, but instead he answered truthfully that he done no research and the woman went ahead to fill him in on on the details he needed to know.

His point was that, had he lied, he would have missed out on hearing vital information and that we feel so much pressure to have all of the answers all of the time that we miss opportunities to know what’s most important.

After hearing that I thought of Thomas and what if he had, instead of expressing his doubt, shrugged his shoulders and said, “Sure, it could be true.”? Maybe Thomas would have encountered Jesus in the flesh and it would have been enough to convince him. Maybe. But because he wasn’t afraid of looking like a fool or a coward, Jesus reached out to him and said, “Here, touch me and don’t just believe that it’s me, know

I wonder what our faith would be like if we had the courage to stop trying to spiritually save face, to stop pretending that we have the answers, and we could face our fears and our doubts at the feet of a God who has infinite love and mercy for us. I wonder if we could be brave in this way how God might extend his nail scarred hands to us and give us the opportunity to not just believe in him but to know him.

I do deeply desire the kind of faith that follows Christ out onto the surface of the sea, but I also want the kind of faith that looks to the Father as a child and can say, “God I don’t have the answer, I don’t understand what you mean here, I don’t know what I believe, please show me!”

What do you doubt?

What do you not have an answer for?

What do you not have the strength to believe?

Can you, can we, be like Thomas?

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2 thoughts on “Courage to Doubt

  1. Something not to be overlooked about the story of St. Thomas “the twin” (known, sadly, as doubting Thomas, despite the fact that the whole point of the story is that he, in fact, confessed a belief far more profound than most of the other confessions of Christ we find in the gospels) which can be gleaned from that story:

    Faith in Christ is experiential, not intellectual. Thomas didn’t really “doubt”. That’s very much a post-Rational-Enlightenment, post-Scholasticism, Western conception of what’s going on in this story. In the West, faith has become almost exclusively about a dialectical concept that asserts some truth, and the conscious, rational part of our brain consents to accept that assertion, and so we claim to have faith. We call a lack of this kind of “faith” either unbelief or doubt or skepticism or something similar. We read this kind of intention on Thomas’ part into the narrative, but I don’t think that’s actually the intent of the narrative at all.

    There aren’t a lot of stories about Christ post-resurrection. And they’re all very detail oriented, and the details are weird. The disciples go fishing, catch nothing, Jesus says “try over there, and they pull in _exactly_ 153 large fish”. What’s the significance of all that? When they come ashore he is eating broiled fish and bread. Is there significance there? Experts call these things “eye witness details” and the belief is that they are included to give veracity to the testimony of that gospel that it comes from eye witness sources.

    One of the other stories is Thomas.

    And here we see the specific that gives us the general pattern. Christ is a _person_ who must be _experienced_, not an ideology which must be assented to.

    Thomas isn’t saying that his brain will not agree with an asserted reality until he can be given scientific evidence. Thomas is saying that trust in the risen Christ comes from _experiencing_ the risen Christ.

    Which is as true for us today as it is for him.

    But it also provides eye witness details which connect _directly_ to establishing that Christ was fully human and fully divine and that he truly died a fully human death and then fully resurrected (not a ghost, not a spirit, and not a gnostic avatar) which not only ate food, but which bore the scars of death.

    Because while resurrected bodies are perfected, as ours will be in the fullness of time, Christ’s scars are his glory and are perfect in and of themselves.

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