Or, Why St Thomas is my kind of guy
I was in church one day and Thomas came up. You know, the guy who insisted on seeing the resurrected Christ with his two eyes before he would believe in the idea of a resurrected anything. The guy who was practically the first to say, “Pics or it didn’t happen.”
And I love him so much for doing that.
Yes, I know he (at least in the circles I grew up in) gets a lot of flak for not being one to “simply believe.” But that’s exactly why I like him: that was basically me growing up. (Okay, fine, it’s still largely me.)
Here’s the account:
Now Thomas, one of the twelve, called the Twin, 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 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.” (John 20:24–25 ESV)
There are, of course, many people of faith who “simply believe.” I spent a lot of my growing up trying to be one of them, but it never quite worked out. Still hasn’t. And over time, I came to accept what I was:
I’m the kind of person who needs things, including faith, to make sense.
You can imagine, however, the difficulty of being that way in church circles such as those of my growing-up years, where faith was often spoken of as something one didn’t — in fact, shouldn’t — try to rationalise. Faith, as I was made to understand it, didn’t make sense, and that was the whole point. I guess that’s why old Tom got all the flak he did (and maybe still does): like me, he clearly didn’t get the memo.
But let’s face it: a resurrection is no small thing to ask someone to believe. It’s not like it happens every other day. (I mean, I’ve personally never seen one myself.)
My point is, Thomas wasn’t being unreasonable. And what’s even cooler is, according to the record, his request was taken seriously.
He was not simply dismissed. Nor will I.
Thomas wanted evidence; he got it. And even though he received something of a rebuke, it was gently given.
…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.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:27–29 ESV)
The part I struggle with, is of course, the evidence part, because in my experience, I haven’t always (or even often) gotten the kind of evidence I desire. But I cannot say I haven’t gotten evidence, objective as well as (necessarily) subjective. And while they may not suffice for others, they have been enough for me to believe.
Which is another reason I’m grateful for Thomas. You see, contrary to the suggestion of the Caravaggio painting above, it’s not actually recorded that Thomas put his hands in like he said he needed to. Maybe he did, of course (one mustn’t argue too much from silence) but I like to think he didn’t. And I like to think so because it fits with my experience…
Sometimes, the proof I need is not necessarily the one insist on.
And that’s why I think of Thomas as the patron saints for sceptical believers, like myself.
What’s your take on Thomas’ scepticism?
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