Doubting Thomas?

Today is Low Sunday, the Sunday after Easter. The traditional gospel for today is about Thomas’ doubt. Our Vicar preached a good sermon on how it is not really Thomas’ doubt that God draws our attention to in this gospel but rather the apostles’ failure to proclaim and embody their faith. I thought it was a very good sermon.

Yesterday I started reading a book by Michael Harvey, Skepticism, Relativism, and Religious Knowledge: A Kierkegaardian Perspective Informed by Wittgenstein’s Philosophy. I think I have started it before as there are notes in the ebook. The topic of religious epistemology really interests me. Some of the problems, I think, of modern Christianity centres on a misunderstanding of faith and in particular placing faith within the sphere of knowledge. So, for example, fideism is faith without proof. I think this book makes a number of very good points from a Kierkegaardian point of view about today’s gospel and Christianity as a whole.

So I have three quotes from the Foreword by Stanley Hauerwas:

… what cannot be forgotten is that truth for Christians is not just another object but a concrete person, Jesus of Nazareth.

This point needs to be made again and again. Jesus say “I am the truth” not “I will give you the truth and then you have it apart from me”. Truth for Christianity is a person and not an object – a person who is experienced and encountered but may never be understood.

… To be a Christian, which to be sure involves “believing,” entails an ongoing transformation of the emotions. Such a transformation means to believe in God is to know how to do something. In particular it means knowing how to go on when you often do not know where you are or where you are going. The truth of what Christians believe cannot be separated from who they must be.

Faith is about living – living with hope. Faith is a resolution to “abide in Him” more than a conclusion reached at the end of an argument. The Truth that is encountered in faith makes me a different person – it transforms me and calls me to change every day of my life.

Skepticism arises from our desire to know without the self being transformed. Ironically skepticism is but the result of our anxious desire to secure certainty by being “at home in the world.”

I really like this idea – the search for certainty is a desire to find a home in this world. For Christians “truth” is transcendent and otherworldly because God is transcendent. For science “truth” is imminent and an object that can be measured and described. God is beyond our measuring and defining. So faith is always a leap into the uncertain.

Our modern age holds truth at arms-length and thinks that I can know the truth without that truth changing me. The opposite of faith is not doubt – because that would place faith in the sphere of knowledge – but sin, a refusal to be transformed by Jesus.

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