‘Doubting Thomas’, a Model for Modern Faith?

Thomas is often infamously remembered as “Doubting Thomas,”  but is this an accurate label?  Indeed Thomas refused to accept Christ’s resurrection without physical evidence, but how does that set him apart from the others mentioned in the Gospel accounts? 

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Doubting Thomas, by Guercino

Mary Magdalene thought that someone had stolen Jesus’ body before she encountered Jesus in person (John 20:2).  When she brought the news to the 11 disciples, they thought she was crazy (Luke 24:11).  Jesus rebuked all of the disciples — not just Thomas — “for their lack of faith and their stubborn refusal to believe” (Mark 16:13–14).  In what might have been Jesus’ last appearance before his ascension there were still “some who doubted” (Matthew 28:17).   Other than the single attention he gets in John 20:24-25, why label Thomas in such a way?

Thomas serves as a wonderful model of modern faith.  Instead, many Christians hold him up as a negative example because of his initial doubts.  He expressed his doubts fully and openly, unlike many Christians today.  When Jesus answered these doubts, he gladly believed.  His doubts were not arrogant, rebellious or self-centered, but rather his doubts had a greater purpose—he wanted to know the truth.

When we struggle with doubt, should we take encouragement from Thomas?  Is it right to ask God to prove Himself to satisfy our doubts?  Or must we take whatever He chooses to offer us and be content with it?  Consider the stories of Gideon’s fleece (Judges 6:36-40), Elijah’s test (1 Kings 18:16-39), and yes — Thomas.

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About Corey Sharpe

Where do we get our beliefs? Three theological perspectives have significantly shaped my Christian identity: Evangelicalism, the early Methodist tradition and liberation theology. From my coming to faith in a Baptist church and throughout my education in a Baptist school and college, I was nurtured by convictions that emphasized a spiritual rebirth, a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and the centrality of the Bible. Even when I disagree with certain aspects of evangelicalism, it has deeply influenced my sense of what it means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. My seminary studies spawned my interest in early Methodism, particularly its approach to spiritual formation. Its leaders were convinced that only a foundation of doctrine and discipline would lead to a meaningful transformation of the heart and mind. In other words, having the mind of Christ enables me to be more like Christ. Life in a suburban culture obscures the increasing gap between the poor and rich, as well as the Bible’s close identification with the poor. My doctoral work in socio-cultural context exposed me to liberation theology, which helps me see redemptive history as a history of oppressed groups, written from the perspective of the powerless, about a God who is actively involved with the poor in their struggles. I am now the pastor at Huntingtown United Methodist Church in Calvert County, Maryland. Together my wife and I are raising 4 young theologians.
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5 Responses to ‘Doubting Thomas’, a Model for Modern Faith?

  1. Janice says:

    Aren’t most of us doubters like Thomas? We don’t believe something until we see it. I can relate to Thomas. Doubt leads to questions and questions lead to answers or the truth. We need to let our doubts deepen our faith as we continue to search for the truth. Jesus wasn’t hard on Thomas for his doubts and He understands our doubts too.

  2. Birdie Cutair says:

    I agree with you, Pastor Corey, about doubting Thomas. St. Thomas has a lot of good qualities about him but what is remembered? his doubts! i’m glad that he expressed them and to me it shows that it is perfectly alright to doubt and even express doubts from time to time. How else can we discuss with others or delve deeper in our own studies to learn more and more about Truth in Jesus.

  3. Zee says:

    Thomas was one of the chosen – he was a believer! This was an amazing story the women had to tell and he wasn’t ready ot accept THEIR word. Perhaps we need to seek our own revelations more, rather than relying on what others tell us on its face value. Just sayin’.

  4. julie says:

    Best help to convince me in the beginning of my faith journey was to try to prove why Christianity couldn’t possibly be true.

    Disbelief manifests itself differently now. Less overt. More subtle. Deeper. It’s no longer disbelief in the existance of God. Now it shows itself in sin. Sin shows lack of trust. It is disbelief.

    I would never deny Christ in so many words. But I know I do in my actions when I worry or am impatient or yell at kids or — just don’t love the way i’m called to love.

  5. Carol Childers says:

    We pray to God to help us in our unbelief. God knows us.
    There are just so many in the world who do not believe that there is such a thing as sin. They reject the very idea of a god/God altogether. Maybe they have questioned and come to a different conclusion than we have.
    That prospect dumbfounds me.

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