Head Full of Doubt, Heart Full of Faith

The Greek philosopher Aristotle was once famously quoted by saying:


"The important thing is to not stop questioning"

…except Aristotle never said that
It does sound like something Aristotle might say, so my guess is that you believed me when I said it.
The quote actually comes from Albert Einstein…


The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.

-From the memoirs of William Miller, an editor, quoted in Life magazine, May 2, 1955; Expanded, p. 281

Hopefully by switching up the quote I’ve actually illustrated Einstein’s point.
And, hopefully, by switching up the quote I’ve also provoked you to question even what I say!

You see, Questioning and Curiosity, Doubt and Skepticism, all exist for a reason.
They are essential to who we are as humans.
They are part of our nature, part of who God created us to be.
It is through skepticism and doubt, questioning and curiosity that we come to understanding.

How do we know anything? Because we test what we know!

We experiment and explore, and every time we do,
we find evidence that either reinforces what we knew as true, or disproves what we thought we knew.

The same is actually true of faith and belief.

How do we believe anything? Because we test what we believe.
We doubt and question, we wrestle with our faith. We explore our beliefs with others,
and in doing so we find evidence that brings us into further understanding. We ask questions and by doing so we dive into a much deeper, and richer well of faith.

The theologian, writer, and pastor Frederick Buechner calls doubt “The ants in the pants of faith,” saying “It keeps faith alive and moving” (and yes he actually said that).

The christian writer Rachel Held Evans expands further on this thought

Doubt is the mechanism by which faith evolves. In my life, Doubt has taught me that I can get some stuff wrong, that I can be wrong,  even in matters of faith, and that even the church can be wrong. [and knowing this] has made me more humble, and more dependent on Christ.
So, I’m grateful for doubt in my life because it keeps my faith alive, and thinking. Where certainty sort of just freezes [faith]. I think doubt plays an important role in faith, I don’t think its the opposite of faith, I think it keeps faith awake, alive, awake, thinking, moveable, changing… It makes faith little bit more challenging, a little bit harder at times, but I’ve found that it makes faith more real.
— http://www.theworkofthepeople.com/keeping-faith-awake

So why, for so many years, has the church taught the opposite?

Why have we been so afraid of doubt? So fearful of raising questions?

Why have questions and doubts been seen as dangerous to a person’s faith?

Unfortunately, I think a lot has to do with our story today. 
This story that begins on the eve of Easter.
This story where all of the disciples are scared and frightened about what may happen next.
This story that takes place behind the locked door of a house.
This story of Thomas struggling to believe that Jesus has Risen and is alive,
and questioning what his friends told him when they said “We’ve seen the Lord”
This story of “Doubting Thomas.”

And even more unfortunate,
is that this title we have given Thomas, that has stuck with him over millennia,
that has turned into a nick name that we think we should avoid being called
actually comes from a poor translation of a word.

“Do not doubt but believe.”   Jesus says to Thomas

At least, thats how one translation of the bible treats it.
Hear Jesus’ words again from a different translation. 

“No more disbelief. Believe!”
It may sound like an over statement,
but, how these words have been translated has shaped the way we treat doubt and faith.
Is Jesus chastising Thomas for his doubt?
Does Jesus think Thomas’ doubt getting in the way of his belief?
Is doubt a road block to true believing?
If Jesus is saying “Do not doubt, but believe.” It certainly seems so!
It sounds like Jesus is saying that doubt is wrong, It is the opposite of faith.
and the only path towards true faith is to do the opposite of doubt…
to believe with certainty, to have faith without questioning.
It sounds like Jesus is telling Thomas “Doubt is the last thing you should do!”

The original greek text frames this story in a much different light. The word “doubt” in the original greek is actually a word that means something like “disbelief” or “unbelieving.”
The original greek says something more like “Thomas, Don’t be unbelieving instead, be believing”

Its like much more Jesus is saying “I’m giving you the evidence you sought Thomas,
you said that in order to believe, you needed to see and touch my wounds, here they are.
I’m meeting you where you are, in the midst of your skepticism and doubt,
I’m bringing you what you need to believe, so now don’t be unbelieving, believe”

You see, Jesus understood innately what all of these theologians and writers would later say in all of these quotes,

Doubt is not the opposite of faith [and belief,] it is an element of it
— Paul Tillich from Systematic Theology, Volume 2

When we doubt, when we question, we aren’t removed from faith,
we are actually in the very thick of what it means to believe.
Faith isn’t what you have when you are removed from doubt,
Faith is how you choose to live and believe even in the midst of doubt.

I for one am grateful for this story. I am grateful that Thomas was among those disciples who got to meet Jesus after he had died. I am grateful that there was a skeptic in the ranks, a doubter who was willing to ask hard questions. I am grateful that Jesus valued him enough to come directly to him. Frankly, I am grateful, because if Christ made room for Thomas, and his doubt in the midst of belief, I know Christ will make room for me too. Because I am like Thomas. I am always seeking answers, and never fully content in my understanding of belief. 

I think if we are being honest, we are all like Thomas.
And even if we don’t always have a skeptical questioning personality,
I think we all have our Thomas moments, where we struggle with our belief, and have doubt. It doesn’t matter how pious we may be, or how much we seem to have figured out our faith, we all struggle with our belief.
I think we all can relate to him, and I think that is exactly why we have this story.

Because we won’t necessarily get to see Christ as Thomas did in this life.
we won’t get to actually stand with him face-to-face, to touch his wounds, and see that he was once dead, but now lives.
We won’t get the physical evidence in order believe.
We are counted among those who must believe without seeing.

But because of Thomas, we know,
that even in the midst of our doubts, even in the midst of our questions
Christ will show up bearing his peace.
Christ will show up, and meet us with the very things we need to believe.

My Friends, even with our doubts and questions
today we continue to proclaim:
Christ is Risen,
and there is no doubt or question that will get in the way of the new life he is bringing
There is no locked door that will block him.
Christ is Risen, and God’s kingdom of love and new life, cannot be contained.
Alleluia, Amen.

Rev. Trip Porch
April, 8 2018
First Presbyterian Church of Granville

The Incredulity of St. Thomas, Caravaggio, Oil, c. 1601-02.