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Different Approaches to Doubt

00:00 / 18:22

7 Apr 2024

First Sunday of Easter

John 20:24-29

Doubting Thomas

“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 20:25

Two ways of seeing Thomas’ doubts:

1)    As cynical, a type of unbelief.

2)    As genuine, faith seeking understanding.

Thomas the Cynic

-       Thomas sometimes understood this way: closed to Christ, contemptuous of childish belief of others.

-       Relatable worldly-wise cynicism. Charles Taylor: in Modernity, we tell ourselves that we have grown out of childishness of “religious” past and “faith”.

-       Again, cynics may say faith is wish-fulfilment. But lack of faith may also be desirable: cynicism protects us from looking foolish, frees us to live as we want.

-       Downside: cynicism may cut us off from God.

Thomas the Seeker

-       Thomas’ doubts are genuine. Principled desire to know the truth, currently lacking understanding.

-       Anselm of Canterbury: fides quaerens intellectum – faith seeking understanding. A very positive thing.

-       Many atheists have started in this position. Boon of Richard Dawkins and New Atheists: led many to investigate Christian faith. Example of my friend.

-       Interesting Dawkins himself this week extolled virtues of “cultural Christianity”. Perhaps even he will find the truth.

-       Spiritual law. Repeated in Gospels in many ways. Eg “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and to the one who knocks it will be opened” (Matthew 7:7-8).

What do I do?

-       Take Christ’s advice: ask, seek, knock.

-       In slightly different order:

o   Knock: Be willing to find out the truth. Are you? Would God be too much of an inconvenience? Are you afraid of looking stupid? Example of ‘Risen’. Put these things aside if you would truly know.

o   Ask: Pray. Come to Church. Act as though there might be a God. If he is real, he will surely answer. Like Thomas, he will give you what you need to believe. This may not be in the way you expect.

o   Seek: Look for what you need. Intellectual difficulties: Christianity oldest intellectual tradition in Western World. Great legacy of historic and contemporary apologetics: reasoned defence of the faith. My reading of eg CS Lewis as a teenager.


Cynicism may protect us. But it closest off possibilities in life. The possibility of God being real and the Gospel being true probably greatest possibility of all. Be open. Ask, seek, knock. You may find the door opening for you.

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