- John 20.25
I reckon I should confess that I didn’t prove to be an outstanding representative of this proud religious heritage. To me, doubt didn’t feel dirty from the inside out; that was imposed on me from the outside. For me, doubt was simply a necessity. It was there no matter how hard I tried to walk the walk of a fundamentalist and root it out with piety and stubborn belief. And in the end it was not a bad thing. In fact, it was only when I embraced my doubts and questions that they began to open out to spiritual insight, strength, and growth in the Spirit of which I was incapable before.
I think Thomas, commonly dubbed Doubting Thomas, would understand my plight; I think he experienced something quite similar in his spiritual life; and I think that this passage from John 20 reveals the origins of a spiritual giant that can serve as role model for faith. Faith, that is to say, that develops not in spite of, but through doubt. To be perfectly honest, I think the moral of this story is as simple as it is overlooked – doubt saves the day.
Before his encounter with the risen Lord, Thomas suffered from the same fears that drive many of us. He wanted hard proof of this claim of resurrection before he would be willing to risk anything on it. He didn’t want to christen anything as true unless he could feel it, touch it, probe it, and in so doing clearly define it, limit it, and make it manageable.
Please note, however, that when Jesus invited Thomas to touch, probe, and feel resurrection life… he declined, and exclaimed in near ecstasy, My Master! My God! His fear had vanished, and solid, earthbound evidence had become inadequate, even superfluous. Thomas’ doubt was transformed in the presence of resurrection life into what could be called caution in the presence of mystery. His questions, his reservations, were not barriers to faith. Rather, they reflected his recognition that what he sought was beyond his understanding; it was beyond his control, that he had nothing to give to resurrection life, but had only to receive its fullness.
Like Thomas I say, Give me doubt or, to express it more forcefully, I doubt therefore I believe. Doubt as skepticism that is dubious of the strange, the new… not so much. Doubt as cynicism that is fundamentally distrustful of the motives and goals of others… not so much. Give me doubt that entices me beyond the narrow limits of my truth, my understanding, and my conclusions to something mysterious and wonder-full. Something like resurrection life.