Defending “Doubting Thomas”
Carried the Cross, in his post Reasons I Remained Faithful for so Long, described himself as having felt like a “doubting Thomas” at different points in his life, wondering if some sin was keeping him from being able to accept Christianity as “Truth”.
I think about this myself, as I struggle with my faith and doubts, wondering if God exists and, if God does exist, if the Christian understanding of God has any truth to it. John 20:29 haunts me. “Then Jesus told him, ‘Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.’”
Then I wonder, who are these people Jesus is referring to? According to the gospels, Jesus had told his disciples that he was going to die, then rise again “on the third day” (Mt 17:22-23, Mk 10: 32-34). The disciples had, reportedly, witnessed many miracles, including Jesus raising people from the dead. If the gospel accounts are true, there is no reason for Jesus’ disciples to doubt his claim.
Yet, if the gospel accounts are true, all of the disciples did doubt Jesus was going to rise again. Mary Magdalene went to the tomb on the third day, weeping and grieving. When she saw the empty tomb, she assumed Jesus had been taken away, not that he’d risen as he’d promised. Depending on which gospel you’re reading, others may have gone with her, prepared to mourn. They did not believe Jesus’ promise that he would rise on the third day. When they returned and told the other disciples, no one believed them (Lk 24:11), despite Jesus having warned them all this was going to happen. Peter ran to the tomb to look for himself, but I’m not sure this should count as faith as opposed to seeking evidence. Jesus later appeared to the disciples, and then they believed. Thomas, not having been there, didn’t believe until Jesus appeared to him personally.
This does not single Thomas out in any way, though. All the disciples doubted until Jesus appeared to them. Only then, did they believe.
Perhaps this is evidence against Jesus having predicted his death and resurrection, as the gospels claim. Perhaps this is evidence against the miracles the gospels claim Jesus did perform, including raising people from the dead. Surely, if both had happened, one of Jesus’ followers would have believed Jesus would rise on the third day, without Jesus having to appear to them and prove it. One of them would have waited for him, or at least expected his coming, wouldn’t they?
Perhaps none of you see the bible as an appropriate source for any trustworthy information, and consider this nothing but additional confirmation of your beliefs. However, if I want to believe in Jesus’ resurrection due to scriptural accounts, I also have to believe that not one of the twelve apostles specially chosen to hear all of Jesus’ teachings and accompany him as he performed his miracles believed in the resurrection without proof. Should I further believe that God expects me to display more faith then Jesus’ disciples did and will damn me eternally if I do not?
Thomas was not the only apostle to doubt, nor the only theist who demanded proof, or at least evidence from God. Many of the heroes of the bible who were declared righteous by their faith asked for and received evidence before they followed God’s will for them, if we are to believe what is recorded in the bible. They argued and wrestled with God. I can hold them up as role models, but I consider it unreasonable that I should be expected to surpass them in faith.