Faith’s sister: Doubt

Illustration by: J.ALAN VOKEY/JAVOK.COM
Illustration by: J.ALAN VOKEY/JAVOK.COM
Published March 28, 2013

Poor Thomas. For whatever reason, he missed the first, and mind-blowing, encounter with the Risen Christ on that first Easter night. (I’ve always speculated that Thomas was the only one fearless enough to venture out of hiding in the upper room to fetch a few provisions. It was Thomas, remember, when Jesus risked his final journey to Judea, who said, “Let us also go, that we may die with him” -John 11:16.)

In any case, from that day to this, Thomas has been saddled with the moniker “Doubting.” Deprived as he was of the incontrovertible evidence provided to the other Ten, he just can’t believe that Jesus is risen.

But note this. By the end of the story, Thomas, and Thomas alone, has called Jesus “God.” “My Lord and my God!” he exclaims (John 20:28).

How does this extraordinary confession of faith come about?  It comes by way of doubt.

Doubt, far from being the enemy of faith, is its kissing cousin. For here is the thing: doubt actually requires a certain degree of engagement. Thomas, despite his stubborn refusal to believe, wanted to believe. One week later, when the disciples were again gathered in that upper room, Thomas showed up. He cared. He came to the meeting hoping against hope that his doubt would be dispelled.

The opposite of doubt is not faith but indifference. Doubt contains within itself, always, the stimulus for faith.

Faith, of course, is not merely-nor even primarily-assent to a set of propositions, although this is typically the way we think of it. Think, for example, of our creeds. Doubt, in this scenario, means that one is unable to give unqualified intellectual assent to one or more of our “articles of faith.”

But if we go back to the original meaning of the word credo (“I believe”), we will find that it comes much closer to the idea of trust. “I believe” means “I set my heart on.”  I set my heart on a God who is almighty. I set my heart on Jesus as the very Son of this God. I set my heart on forgiveness as a way of life. I set my heart on the church. And so on.

In this scenario, faith-and doubt-become robust and relational. This is not Thomas figuring out if he can believe in the idea of resurrection. This is Thomas entrusting himself to a Jesus he now experiences as nothing short of his “Lord and God.”

And the road to that relationship was none other than faith’s sister: doubt.


  • Ansley Tucker

    The Ven. Ansley Tucker is the rector at Christ Church, diocese of Calgary.

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