Thursday, March 08, 2012

Loving St Thomas the Doubter -- yet again.

There are truths/revelations the Bible tells us to believe and we Believe them because it says so. There are truths/revelations the Bible tells us and theologians/ministers/priests/older folks have different interpretations of what the Bible is saying so we choose which of those interpretations we will believe. There are truth/revelations in the Bible that we believe because we have had clear revelations in our life that that particular truth is in fact very true and active in our lives. The last of these is the one we tend to trust in. They have become a rhema (personal truth) from the logos (totality of revealed truth) and we are convinced because we have seen this revelation in our lives. I kinda wish I would grow more in personal knowledge of these Biblical revelation. But I definitely feel that many Christians have been given so much personal light on certain passages that we should remember to walk in joy of that light we have received.

One of the deepest ongoing revelations I have ever received in my life is this. It's from the Psalms (revealed truth) but I've known it to be true in my own life: "My times are in God's hands." I'm totally convinced that God is a great choreographer. I wish I could tell you the many, many, many times God has shown me that he knows when I sit and when I stand and that he's aware of all the thoughts in my head. All those "Godwinks." So many times he shows me he's been with me.

I think all Christians have these experiences and a good personal revelation of a Biblical truth can last a whole lifetime. Many Christian old folks talk about some of the experiences that made them know something about God's love, grace, kindness, healing power, etc.

How, then, do we end up with struggling against unbelief? So here is the St Thomas thing again.

So many Christian pastors are tough on Thomas. They say, "what a fool! He would only believe Jesus had risen if he saw him in flesh and blood!" But he was no worse than the other disciples. They also didn't believe until they saw. Even though the women had told them they saw Jesus. But
I'm thinking yet again of that lovely Victorian sermon I read by the 19th centrury theologian A B Bruce on St Thomas. Wow! what a sermon!

Basically he says that Thomas' lack of faith had little to do with being a rationalist. It was not an unbelief of the mind but an unbelief of the heart. He basically states that Thomas tended to despair. When jesus said they would go to lazarus, Thomas said, "Let us go that we may die with him." This is a disciple prone to great pessimism and who is readier to believe sad news than happy news because his spirit is so linked to despair and pessimism of great causes.
He starts it by saying "Jesus came to the disciples but Thomas wasn't there."

Now, why wasn't Thgomas there? A B Bruce says he was indulging that melancholy which goes off by itself and leaves its friends to despair in isolation. I actually believe that.

Thomas' nickname was "the Twin" and we really don't know why they called him that. I've seen some flaky stuff in Christian theology like: "Thomas looked like Jesus and that's why they called him the twin." I kinda doubt that. But Thomas does seem to have been a guy who was capable of great faith and great unbelief at the same time. He believed in miracles and in Jesus and he was the only one recorded in the gospel who said, "let's go to Jerusalem so we can die with Jesus." So, he was always saying something that showed him to be a man who was more full of faith than most and yet.....

The disciples believed Jesus when they saw him. And Jesus told Thomas, "Blessed are those who believe and yet have not seen." It's a challenge to all doubters but it's a challenge to Thomas to consciously change a mind prone to unbelieving in the good. Thomas needed to be transformed by the renewing of his mind -- to choose joyful belief over pessimism. He had to will his mind to have a confident expectation of good and not to sink into kneejerk despair. It's not really a mind doubt but a heart doubt.

This really spoke to me. I have faith in the supernatural workings of God in people's lives. But at the same time, I'm a pessimism. I think of Jacob when he said, "I've had a lot of sad things happen in my life." It must have taken so much belief to believe that his son Joseph was alive (risen from the dead so to speak). Just as it took Thomas a lot to believe in the good. Jacob and Thomas both believed in God and yet.... to expect great things! to expect joyful things! To believe in a god of joy in addition to a god of holiness and miracles! To believe in a joyful outcome! ???????? Hard to believe. The Lord prophesied through Jeremiah, "For I know the thoughts I think of you...thoughts of good and not of evil to give you a future and a promise The word translated promise can mean a "looked for hope" or "an expected end."

We can accept promise but when we see that gets unbelievable. Like the gospel. Too-good-to-be-believed news. It's not the miraculous we can't believe; it's the joy. It's not, "Am I gullible to believe this weirdo miraculous supernatural crap?" It's "Dare I be happy and trust that this supernatural stuff can happen in my sad life?" and "Dare I believe that God could make me that happy?"

There are a lotta folks in the Bible who have faith but who simply cannot believe that something good has or can happen. Like Jacob being told his son Joseph was still alive. Took a while to believe that. Like the church praying for Peter's release from prison. Poor Rhoda. Trying to tell all the spiritual giants that their prayers had been answered and they didn't believe her. Sometimes we have faith, we simply don't have the capacity to believe our life can be filled with joy. I think that might be a kind of double-mindedness. At least, we must work to renew our hearts and spirits as well as our minds.

I really am pondering the joy of the lord now. The meaning of joy is coming closer and closer to my spirit. I'm almosting it. As the psalmist says in 139, "It is 'high' I cannot attain unto it. I hope to attain to it. Heaven is about the capacity to receive and accept joy. Life trains us to be like Thomas...not of two minds but of two hearts. No wonder his nickname was The Twin. But he was not double-minded, he was double-hearted. A sad hopeful heart joined to a despairing heart. Lift up your hearts!

1 comment:

J. M. Butler said...

Wow! As usual a great post, Carole. I have to admit that I have a growing soft spot inside for Thomas, particularly since I know that I too would have likely doubted in his situation. Thanks so much for sharing!

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