Doubting Thomas…and Humanity

March 5, 2007 at 5:56 pm (Uncategorized)

In The Agony of Christianity, Miguel de Unamuno argues:

“The way to live, to struggle, to struggle for life and to live on the struggle is to doubt. We [recall] the Gospel passage: “Lord, I believe; help thou mine unbelief” (Mark 9:24). A faith that does not doubt is a dead faith.”

I was having a conversation with a group of friends the other night when the topic of a doubting faith surfaced. I heard a couple of disappointing stories of how the face of doubt is sometimes slapped by the backhand of the clergy and unconditional acceptance. It is maintained that for a person to doubt, it is one step removed from the fires of hell. I argue contrarily: for a person to doubt, it is one step removed from Christ’s bosom. This reminded me of the oft-recited story of Doubting Thomas.

John 20: 24Now Thomas, one of the Twelve, called the Twin, was not with them when Jesus came. 25So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.” 26Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” 29Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

Thomas said that he would not believe in the resurrected Jesus without first seeing his wounds. His response upon seeing his Lord was as expected, joyful and full of hope. Christ’s response was directed towards us. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” I have not seen, yet I believe. There have been times when I have not seen, doubted, and still believed. Belief and doubt are not mutually exclusive opposites when juxtaposed; doubt is in no way the spiteful brother of denial. Peter denied Christ, to the point of cursing people who tried to associate him as a disciple. Thomas doubted Christ. Both ended up believing not long afterwards, however.

Doubting is not the heresy people accuse it of being. It is not a crime that should lead to excommunication or even a stern talking-to of how there is no room for it in the Christian faith. Hebrews 11: 1Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. 2For by it the people of old received their commendation. 3By faith we understand that the universe was created by the word of God, so that what is seen was not made out of things that are visible.

It can be argued that it takes more faith to believe in the midst of doubt. Is the faith of true Christians expressed on their t-shirts or leather-bound bibles? Is true faith turning Christ into a tiny packet of mustard to be thinly coated on our hamburgers o’Christianity? I hate mustard. To admit that there is something that doesn’t make sense about Christianity should not be tantamount to denying Christ. Doubt is not the moniker of rebellion. Has anybody ever read Psalm? David, a man after God’s own heart, says some pretty dreadful things out of anger against God. Doubt can be seen as a common theme throughout the 150 chapter book, but so can faith—faith in the midst of doubts. His love still intact, his heart still crying to God. Tears of sadness, tears of joy: doubt, faith. Almost every Old Testament saint goes through periods of doubt, some to the point of wanting a suicidal end—to life and doubt. Again, believing in the midst of doubt is faith.

A doubt this friend has is why Gandhi is not heaven. This is actually a doubt a couple of friends have had, making me believe some loud-mouthed professor is spouting off half-thought bliggety-bloo. Anyways, Gandhi. He was a much better Christian by Christian standard, but was not a Christian by faith. It is unfair, then, for him to suffer hell (assuming he did die a non-Christian), right? Aside from faith, he resembled Christ’s teachings very well. This serious discussion came about in an atmosphere of fun, which did not allow me the proper opportunity to explain what I believe.

First, is it unethical to kill born (to thwart any question of abortion) babies? I would maintain that it is an unethical, despicable act of arbitrary murder. Ancient cultures disagree with me, however. The pagan society of Carthage went so far as to sacrifice their children. It was encouraged. I use this example to show that Carthage did not go against their moral instincts in their infanticide. It could be said that a killer kills somebody knowing that it is immoral, but Carthaginians did so believing it was fully moral. Infanticide was also acceptable to Pharaoh during the time of the infant Moses. It is still an act that goes on today in societies where overpopulation is a problem and hunger is a reality, India and China.

And what about sociopaths? A sociopath is a person born with what I would call a birth defect: they lack a conscious. The idea of a self-imposed morality is foreign to him or her. They are not idiots, however, knowing that the punishment for murder is incarceration or death; thus they can function well enough in society as a whole, but they can murder somebody and it not be contrary to their morality. They can essentially commit any crime and not feel a sense of empathy. A good example of a sociopath is Hitler. Another one is Angelina Jolie’s character in Girl, Interrupted.

My point is that morality is basically relative. Most people can arrive and common conclusions regarding morality. Most early law codes (Ten Commandments, The Code of Hammurabi) have theft as a crime (8, Protestant Ten Commandments; 22 The Code of Hammurabi) for example, but there are so many little details of morality that are not universal and can never be due to things such as culture.

Government is established and puts in place laws. Laws are an extension of morality, almost any way you look at it. Whether it is the morality of the most people, the morality that keeps society together the best, the morality of the ruler, etc. There are some stupid laws, I admit, but most people follow them in order to avoid punishment. If I murder somebody, I will go to jail. If I rob a bank, I will go to jail. This is not a self-imposed punishment based on my own morality. Before his belief in Sola Fide (faith alone), resulting in his Reformation, Martin Luther used to mortify the flesh, punishing himself for the sins he committed. He did this because he committed acts contrary to his morality. If he believed it was morality acceptable to kill a baby, it would not make sense for him to punish himself afterwards, right? In the same way, our punishment from the government is regardless of our own morality. The government punishes based on the “moral heartbeat” of the government: the laws put in place.

James 4: “12There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy.” We have the perfect “governor” and “government” under Christianity. When somebody says that Christ was perfect, who is that according to? It wasn’t according to the majority of the Jewish community, the Pharisees, or the Roman government. There is reference after reference in the New Testament that talks about the Pharisees’ charges against Jesus as a sinner. A Jew can say that it isn’t fair for Christ to go to heaven because he was a false prophet and a drunkard. According to God, Christ was perfect, however. Now, when somebody says that Gandhi was near perfect who is that according to? It wasn’t according to the British government. His passive resistance caused them to lose their economical assets in India as part of the British Empire, right? Just because one person believes that it is unfair for Gandhi not to enter heaven, doesn’t mean that everybody does. Who made that person God (literally) to decide who does and does not get into heaven? That’s a tad presumptuous for somebody to assume the position of the apogee of morality, the keeper and nuncio of ethics extraordinaire, unless of course they are perfect themselves. According to God, Gandhi was not perfect and (assuming) died without Christian faith. It is according to the objective standard of the Perfect Lawgiver and Judge, not to the imperfect standard of humanity that damns a person.

Besides, everything is for God’s glory, both glorification and damnation. Proverbs 16: 4The LORD has made everything for its purpose, even the wicked for the day of trouble.

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1 Comment

  1. Scott said,

    “By doubting we come to enquire, and by enquiring we reach the truth.” – Peter Abelard

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