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Sunday, March 30, 2008

Doubting Versus Asking

The reading today was the story of Jesus' appearance to the disciples except Thomas, and his subsequent appearance to Thomas. Thomas needed convincing, although to be fair to Thomas, no more evidence than the other already had. He said, "Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it." Full Story Here.

Chalice Christian identifies itself as a place where questions mean as much as answers. Like Thomas, we haven't given up on Jesus, but like Thomas we need convincing. Perhaps we should name Thomas as our Patron Saint.


Anonymous said...

Can I add a circular comment? This Thomas story is clearly placed to respond to the issue of Jesus not having returned nor is he tangible now or around 100 CE. And I do think the story is a heavy handed way of complimenting us later Christians for faith w/o observable facts.
However,this story in more common usage is a ponderous argument against questioning in general. That flies in the face of what appears to be Jesus', himself's own sotry telling in parables which always seem to have loose ends...are more starting points than crushing conclusions.
I am especially sensitive to this story of Thomas for reasons you noted. I do not think the intent of the story was to stifle questioning, but rather to support a faith in a paradoxical, extraordinary person who seems to win and lose, to make sense and to contradict our fact sheets, to be attractive and annoying at the same time.
By the way, Augustine loved this story of Thomas...why, because doubt was part of his thinking process and even more important, with God's help, Thomas gets the right answer! Every tradition that looks fondly back to Augustine has this ... "OK doubt is good; as long as you come to the right answer (which happens to agree with tradition or teaching or doctrine or some such)".
Thanks Bill

Christian said...

I think Thomas is the patron saint for many modern-day Christians.

JimII said...

I'm not sure when it was, but some time in the last several years I started noticing that all of the post resurrection encounters with Jesus had some peculiar with them.

With this one, it is the miraculously passing through locked doors. I'm not sure what purpose it serves the story to include the locked door bit. Similarly, Mary doesn't recognize Jesus until he speaks, and the travlers to Emmus don't recognize him until they sit down to have a meal.

It makes me wonder how folks in 100 CE conceptualized resurrection.

Anonymous said...


The resurrection stories are most peculiar, and each one has its own quirks. But . . . they are also powerfully intriguing. There does seem to be a basic structure to all Gospel resurrection appearance stories:
1) somebody is looking for Jesus, expecting nothing but a dead body
2) a supernatural person greets the person/persons and tells them to chill out ("Do not be afraid" -- yeah, right!)
3) the report is that Jesus is not here, but has been "raised" (John 20 has variations on this one)
4) finally, the witness/es is/are told to "go and tell" the news to someone else -- which functions as a commissioning.

The quirky miraculous special effects aside, the basic character of the resurrection encounters is to empower the fearful, regardless of their societal status, to become bearers of a divinely-authorized witness of the inauguration of God's New Era. Not just that one dead guy is alive, or even that we poor mortals will one day live again, but that reality has been Changed Bigtime -- death and its ravenous powers has been suckerpunched, and is even now staggering toward its collapse. I'd say that would have come off as mighty good news to a handful of frightened Jews who had just witnessed in Jesus' crucifixion a vivid display of the Roman occupation's might, allied with religious collaboration.