But Thomas, one of the twelve, called Didymus, was not with them when Jesus came.
The other disciples therefore said unto him, We have seen the Lord. But he said unto
them, Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the
print of the nails, and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe. (John 20: 24-25)
It is amazing how seemingly disparate ideas sometimes coalesce into insights, our mind
capturing a phrase or a line, here and there, and constructing something that matters to
us, as individuals. I had this experience yesterday.
Last evening I had a conversation with a very dear friend in which I expressed many of
my fears about the collapse of our ‘house of cards civilization’ – what I only half-jokingly
refer to as Armageddon. My friend, one of the few genuine Christians that I have ever
known, spoke to me about how her (our) faith saves us from fear. Her faith-based
wisdom – with respect to fears of Armageddon and also to the normally-held fears in our
day-to- day lives – was reassuring. But I admit I had my doubts.
The conversation then ranged further when my friend spoke of the unprecedented
movement in our public discourses towards ‘Groupthink’, the phenomenon where
people, in order to be in harmony and conformity with others, just go along with
whatever thoughts seem to be most accepted. Groupthink is made all the worse by
people being intolerant of dissent – intolerant of doubters. Indeed, there are incredible
‘chilling effects’ caused by intolerance of free thought in contemporary society; today
many more people are now afraid to express dissenting opinions, and I believe they are
also afraid to think dissenting opinions. We have entered an era where conformity to
generally-expressed beliefs (which I might add are not the same as generally-held
beliefs) by mainstream media, politicians, and social leaders, is valued over Truth. And
even in cases where dissenting opinions are no truer, the process of dissent is
Groupthink, and the expectation that we must conform in our thoughts with the thoughts
of others, is found everywhere in life. It is found in the Christian Community. In my
heart-of- hearts, I have my own personal brand of faith in God, in Jesus, and in the truth
of Christian teachings. But I also have, like Thomas, doubts.
I worry about my doubts, but cling to them because I seek truth over what others would
have me believe. In the wee hours of this morning, unable to sleep and with tortured
thoughts in my mind, I picked up a book I have been reading, Lord Avebury’s The
pleasures of life (1889) and saw these five reassuring words:
“Doubt does not exclude faith”
Lord Avebury, by way of explanation, went on to quote four lines of the poet Tennyson:
Perplext in faith, but pure in deeds,
At last he beat his music out.
There lives more faith in honest doubt,
Believe me, than in half the creeds
It is the honesty of the heart that is the crucial thing. Lord Avebury’s five words
resonated with me, as they allow me to accept my doubt while still having faith – and not
Groupthink faith. On reading John 20:24-29 I felt my doubts somehow vindicated. For
Jesus embraced Thomas’s doubt; Thomas, an honest man found his Lord, his God
whilst staying true to himself:
Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach
hither thy hand, and thrust [it] into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.
29 Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed:
blessed [are] they that have not seen, and [yet] have believed. (John 20: 27-29)
And indeed, with the reassurance that Jesus cares too for doubters, I will hope that I
will, to paraphrase Tennyson, “At last beat my music of faith out”.