Skeptical Christianity (And Why Thomas is my Favorite Disciple)

My Meyers-Briggs personality type is the ISTJ – also known as “The Investigator.” I would rather use information, not intuition, to make decisions, and I look deeply into issues to make up my mind instead of going with the crowd or just looking at the surface. (Which is why I got in trouble as a child for taking everything apart to see how it worked. I grew up and became a technical consultant, though.) The ISTJ personality is marked by these rigorous investigations, and that is an important part of my faith.

This is how I see myself.

While researching the ISTJ mindset I noticed that it was associated with the Apostle Thomas. Of course, we don’t know enough about his personality to make a claim like that, but I have to admit that I’ve always had a soft spot for Doubting Thomas. I’ll tell you why:

After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to his disciples while they were gathered in a room – everyone but Thomas. After Jesus left they found Thomas and told him what had happened, but he was skeptical. Jesus had come back and was walking around talking to people? Thomas famously said that he would not believe it until he saw this miracle for himself.

Poor Thomas has been harshly criticized for this, but I’m not sure why. The other disciples were no better. They didn’t believe until Jesus appeared to them, even though they already knew the grave was empty. The first person to see the risen Lord was Mary, a friend of the apostles, and she ran to them immediately to say the Jesus was alive. They went to the tomb and saw it was vacant, but none of them seemed to believe He was walking around in the flesh until they saw it with their own eyes. They were just as skeptical as Thomas. (And why not? If you told me Jesus was having coffee next door I’d probably want to see it for myself.)

This skepticism is healthy for a Christian. How can we know what to believe if we don’t question things? Cult leaders gather followers by claiming to be divine even though they have no proof, and those who follow them would be better off if they were more doubtful. The Bible even asks us to be skeptical when people make religious claims so we can use our brains to discern the truth. Being skeptical is how we can be people of faith without being fools who will just believe anything. (If you are in a healthy church, like mine, the leaders are more than happy to hear your questions and concerns, rather than trying to force any beliefs on you.) These questions will take us on journeys, and our faith is strengthened by these journeys.

Back to Thomas. He’s unfortunately remembered as a guy who doubted Jesus, but there’s more to him than that. When Lazarus died, Jesus told His followers he was going to Judea where Lazarus’ sisters were waiting for Him. The disciples reminded Jesus that He had enemies in that town who might try to murder Him, but they couldn’t change His mind. It was Thomas who said,  “Let us go, too, that we may die with Him.” Thomas’ convictions were not paper-thin; he was a noble man who intended to follow through with his beliefs. This is probably why he was so highly revered by the early church.

In our rush to try and feel superior to our predecessors, let’s go easy on Thomas and remember to ask questions as we explore issues of faith.

(More articles at www.ThinkingThroughChristianity.com)

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