It can be expressed with these two phrases one might hear from doubters.
Good doubt may sound like this. “I need to know more. I want to understand who God is and why he is trustworthy.”
Bad doubt may sound like this. “Hey, who knows right? Live and let live. We’ll find out who is right or wrong eventually anyhow when we all gather at the big party in the sky.”
For a long time, I’ve felt that Thomas has gotten a bad rap. Remember him? Doubting Thomas? He’s the disciple who was out somewhere when the resurrected Christ appeared to the others.
“Hey, Tom! You really missed it. He’s back—Jesus. And He was here just a few hours ago—Where were you?”
“I was out. Just out. Walking. I’ve got a lot of thinking to do.”
His friends were obviously excited about something. Maybe one of them said, “That empty tomb Peter and John saw on Sunday—this is why. Jesus is really alive! We’ve seen Him!”
Thomas wasn’t one to buy into someone else’s excitement. Still hurting over the loss of one he had committed his life to, he said, “Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.”
That’s pretty strong wording. Thomas said he would have to poke his finger into the holes made by the nails of the crucifixion. Maybe that was hyperbole. But we forget how confused and discouraged all of the disciples were. But Thomas was the realist in the crowd. It was only Thomas who heard what Jesus clearly had told them on their way to the Passover feast, just a week before. Jesus had said to them that he would be betrayed and killed. All the others were expecting Jesus to use this huge gathering to announce his earthly kingdom and to lead a revolt that would push the occupying Roman army out of Israel. Some of them were jockeying for position in this new kingdom. Most of the disciples were not ready for God’s unexpected plan.
But Thomas was. His take on it? He was ready for the worst. Before they came to Jerusalem, he had said, “Let us also go, that we may die with Him.” You’ve got to give him credit for faithfulness. For him, it wasn’t about a place in the inner circle or getting a high office in the kingdom. For Thomas it was about Jesus.
The honesty of doubt, good doubt, in contrast to smoke-screen or bad doubt, is what will build a person up. Lee Strobel wrote of that. A Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and an atheist, Strobel started his investigation of Christianity to disprove it. As the evidence for the validity of faith began to mount, he experienced the natural reaction of trying to avoid God’s claims on his life. He clung to arguments that he knew were weak, just to avoid the consequences of admitting that God is real. He knew that his life would have to change. However, the tough-minded pursuit of truth that made him a good journalist compelled him to confront his intellectual dishonesty, and he became not only a Christian, but also one of the major defenders of Christian belief in our time.
Thomas struggled with that too. Do you see the profound insight of his wording: “I will not believe.” He did not say, “can’t believe”; he said, “won’t believe.” There is an act of the will involved. Honest good doubt seeks truth, not convenience or a way to continue in a given lifestyle. Some people are more interested in saving face than honestly considering faith.
Good or Honest doubt matters. So does the point-of-decision principle. An old story has a college freshman challenging the professor, “How do you know that I exist?” Perhaps the student expected a discussion of a universal life force and the illusory nature of our perception of individual existence and human will. Instead, the prof answered, “Who, may I ask, is speaking?” The evidence of the student’s existence was overwhelming. Yes, you can always come up with some argument, but sooner or later, you must choose. To continue putting off choice is itself a powerful choice, perhaps a deadly choice. For the enquiring mind, there never will be a point when all questions have been answered as simply and clearly as a high school math problem. Faith must take priority.
Some years ago, when I was struggling with a career change, a friend introduced a new phrase to me: “Eventually, you just have to pull the trigger.” Quite a picture: a small action performed with full knowledge that something big and consequential will follow. There comes a time when the weight of evidence demands a verdict. So it is with Christ. Healthy good doubt moves toward a goal; it doesn’t drift. It seeks truth, not excuses.
It is God who says “Come now, let us reason together.” (Isaiah 1:18). God also says, “You will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart” (Jeremiah 29:13). I would encourage you to seek where answers are likely to be found: at a Bible-teaching church. For a safe, friendly place to investigate the claims of God’s word, visit us at First Baptist Church.