The Bible is the main foundation for any Christian – whether known or unknown. It’s filled with leaders, prophets, and disciples who are all lauded for their great faith. But even as a Christian, this confused me. While faith is described in scripture as the assurance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen, every major biblical figure had marked, tangible proofs given to them. This tension is hardly a popular topic for church sermons.
To illustrate, let’s start with Jesus’ disciple, Thomas. Jesus has just been executed. The disciples, except for Thomas, are in a locked room. Jesus suddenly appears to them, but he doesn’t ask them to believe it’s him just because he can pop through walls – he offers further proof: the wounds in his hands and side. He speaks with them briefly and then vanishes. These disciples later tell Thomas what they saw. Thomas doesn’t believe them, probably because he witnessed Jesus’ arrest and execution. Eight days later, Jesus appears to everyone and chastises Thomas for his unbelief by saying, “blessed are those who have not seen and still believe.”
And so the term Doubting Thomas. But why should he receive this moniker so unkindly? The other disciples didn’t believe either – they required the exact same proof as Thomas. Thomas behaved rationally: he did not doubt that Jesus was crucified and died – he had evidence for that. When he received contrary evidence, he modified his beliefs in light of that evidence. No one believed Jesus was raised until they had proof.
In fact, every major figure in the Bible enjoyed similar incontestable experiences. Adam and Eve literally walked with God. Abraham met and conversed with him. Jacob wrestled him. We’ve only just skimmed the surfaces of Genesis, but the point is this: God evidenced himself in fabulous, incredible, “real” ways no longer seen. Jesus himself performed miracle upon confirming miracle, from giving the blind sight, to resurrecting himself from the dead. Abraham’s deal with his son notwithstanding, it would be idiotic in the highest degree to ignore the call of such a preeminent God. The god depicted in the Bible was more than just a faint “feeling” in one’s heart as he is today. Moses didn’t “feel led” to do anything. When a burning bush tells you what to do, you no longer need “feelings” to direct you.
Modern’s have more faith, faith of the kind described above, than anyone in the Bible or other religious text. They have to. No one sees rods turn into snakes, or fire from the sky, or God visiting them. Unfortunate for us. Why don’t we see these miracles anymore? This should surely bother us and raise our suspicion not a little. What’s changed? We’re required mountains of faith in order to believe things that, in light of what meager evidence we have, very probably never happened. The Modern Christian and the Ancient clearly don’t share the same foundational basis for belief.
What more shall I say? Time would fail me to tell of Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, of David and Samuel and the prophets. None of these had any faith. If you’re wandering through the wilderness with millions of people and a pillar of fire is leading you – probably follow it. It says that it’s Yahweh. Why should you believe differently? If you see Jesus make an amputee’s limb regrow, faith is no longer required to accept his claims because you’ve been given powerful evidence. You’re like Moses, and Solomon, and Paul: without faith.
But don’t be confused, no such claim or manifestation of any god in history has ever occurred. We’ve climbed Mt. Olympus but not seen Zeus. We’ve delved into the Earth and not found Hades. We’ve searched through reeds and observed neither satyr nor fairy.
Why haven’t we found Odin, Vishnu, or Asclepius? Why don’t we see real miracles like those claimed by nearly every ancient religion? Why does God spectacularly evidence himself to people in the Bible but not the real world? I submit that the best explanation is also the most obvious.
Thomas’ name has been used to shame people for many years because he required evidence. As far as belief and faith go, and in light of God’s previous dealings, I think we should all take a cue from Thomas and emphatically declare: “Unless I see in his hands the mark of the nails, and place my finger into the mark of the nails, and place my hand into his side, I will never believe.”
Read followup post here: “What We’ve Been Sold”