I continue to have the thought that Thomas is my favorite apostle. Not just because Nickel Creek did an amazing song called Doubting Thomas (what a song!):
I actually find a lot of hope in this song about doubt that is so beautifully sung. I find that my sanctification process carries the same truth in it. I look more like Jesus walking through doubt than I do avoiding it. What I mean is this, I have days (sometimes weeks) where I struggle to maintain my “right beliefs” or whatever you want to call them. An example is that I tend to struggle with the phrase from John 14 where Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life… no one comes to the Father except through me.”
What I struggle with is not my own personal salvation…
I do not struggle with grace being available to anyone who proclaims Jesus as Lord. I do wrestle or doubt that just because one struggles to believe that everyone who does not proclaim the same reality is destined for hell. That irks me.
Maybe it is my post-everything (modern, truth, etc.) reality. Maybe it is my millennial mindset. Maybe it is a lack of understanding. Maybe I am merely not versed enough in the text to understand how it is necessary for God to leave so many of his beloved creatures out of his final, ultimate blessing.
I think I really struggle with the idea that my word on someone else’s salvation matters. That what I think happens to a faithful Muslim on judgment day changes how God loves that man or woman is absurd. That is making too much of myself. That is possibly deify-ing myself. Though for my own sanity, I do find it necessary in the life of my own mind to err on the side of this God I believe in showing a heck of a lot of Grace. You might not agree with this line of thinking – that is fine by me. You might even think this makes me heretical – though I hear that word used wrongly constantly.
To be heretical merely means to hold views differing from the conventional belief of an age or time. Like, David Lipscomb was technically heretical for his belief that slaves ought to be free. Dr. King was heretical for his belief that young black and white children should be allowed to attend the same school. Jesus was heretical for his consistent teaching that Samaritans and Gentiles were equally important in God’s Kingdom. So, I guess if I am a heretic I am in good company.
I used to believe that doubt was the antithesis of faith. I thought they could not co-exist in one person. I thought we had to be clear cut on our entire belief system to be “worthy” of “getting in” on that final day. I now find that line of thinking absurd for a number of reasons. Ultimately, I have come to the belief that my times of doubt do not make me a bad person nor do they make me of lesser value in the Kingdom. I would argue the opposite.
We (the church) need some oppositional voices. We do not like these differing voices all the time, but we desperately need them. Without Paul’s voice, the early church would have immediately required so much of the Gentiles that they potentially would have walked away from the community of faith. Without St. Francis’ voice, the church would have such a meager version of the beautiful tradition of service and action it now has.
I think I am learning that a mature faith is not nearly as concerned with having answers locked and loaded as it is having a willingness to wrestle with life’s most challenging questions and realities. A mature faith is not one that knows every answer, but one that sees beyond the immediate into the infinite. The mature faith does not ignore or demoralize the doubt. The people I have crossed who impact me most deeply tend to be those who no longer treat doubt as their enemy. They tend to carry it with them, almost dearly, as though they need it. As Cornel West says, “I am a blues man in the life of the mind… I carry catastrophe (doubt) with me, but it does not have the final word.”
That last phrase by Dr. West speaks life to me. I can hold myself in tension (between doubt and faith) because our whole world is in tension. In fact, I am a better version of me when I do so. When I accept the doubt as part of who I am, I no longer see it as the enemy. I can carry it with me. I can treasure this gift of God. I can use it to my advantage. Rather than feeling a sense of guilt or shame that I have for even the most fleeting moment a sense of doubt.
I think this hatred of doubt can be attributed to a number of things, but one of the most important things is that we feel the need to be able to divide our lives and selves into two distinct categories…
We need our categories. We need our divisions. We need to think dualistically.
Until I am willing to do away with my lines and categories, I will perpetually loathe myself (or worse other people). This need for these divisions causes our churches to make snap judgments on entire groups of people without ever getting to know them or their stories…
As I mentioned earlier, Paul saw this in the early church and cut it out real quick.
Where do we need to cut out our divisions? Whether they are in our hearts or in our communities, what does that look like?
I hope this brings my fellow “Doubting Thomas’s” some hope.
Grace and Peace,
P.S. I do not want to be heard saying that being a heretic is a good thing. I am saying that just because we call someone a heretic does not make them one.