Tuesday, January 9, 2018

Evidenced-based Thomas

The Apostle Thomas is sometimes called "doubting Thomas" because of the following episode. After the Lord's resurrection, he appeared to a group of believers who had gathered to worship him. "But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came." (John 20:24)

Though the witnesses described what had happened to them, Thomas said "...Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe." (John 20:25)

Soon enough, Thomas got his chance.

26 And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you.
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed. (John 20)

I have heard this story told again and again with the same perspective and conclusion. Thomas had less faith than his companions, and we are more righteous than he is if we believe in God without having seen him.

These ideas are both false and harmful.

If you read this chapter, you will notice something surprising. At the original meeting, something special happened:
19 Then the same day at evening, being the first day of the week, when the doors were shut where the disciples were assembled for fear of the Jews, came Jesus and stood in the midst, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
20 And when he had so said, he shewed unto them his hands and his side. Then were the disciples glad, when they saw the Lord. (John 20:19-20)
Every single person there had the opportunity to touch the Lord's hand and side, just as Thomas would later. When Thomas replied to his companions' account, he was not saying "I require more evidence than you to believe what you believe." He was saying, "I too desire the evidence you have received, so that I may believe as you believe." These are two very different statements. It is likely that many of his companions--if not all--would have said the same thing as Thomas were they in his position.

Now, what about Jesus' comment, "because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed"? Did Jesus say you are more blessed if you believe in God without having seen him? No he did not. He said those who believe but who have not seen are blessed. More blessed? He didn't say that. How are they blessed?

This story does not support the false idea that those who have not seen the Lord have more faith than those who do not. Those who truly believe in God will see him. God appears to those who love him and believe in him. Those who have not seen God do not yet really believe in him. They don't do what he says, and they don't seek him--not completely, not yet.

The gospel is not wish-based. God does not expect you to live your whole life hoping that what you believe is true, awaiting confirmation after you die. Jesus said, "If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself." (John 7:17). He dares anyone to live his teachings and not obtain the promised result.

God does not lie. If you find yourself doing what he said and not obtaining the result, there are only three possibilities. Either you are not actually doing what he said because he did not say what you think he said, you are not actually doing what he said because you have not yet heard (the rest of) what he said, or God does not exist. Those are the only three possibilities, and really there are only two. I can tell you that the third possibility is not right, because I have met Jesus Christ, and he is as real as you or me.

The gospel is evidence-based. If you are not experiencing a life as filled with the same magnitude and quantity of miracles as the scriptures, you should diligently search for what you are doing wrong. You are either willfully disobeying God, or slack in your seeking of his word.