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jesus the radical pastor | exploring the life and mission of the 1st century Jesus for our 21st century » Blog Archive » Doubting Thomas: Part 2- The 1st Empiricist

“But [Thomas] said to them, ‘Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it’” (John 20:25).

Empiricism is coming to the truth by using the human mind in examination of the evidence. Thomas wasn’t a gullible man who was going to “take others’ words for it.” He wanted to see for himself and touch for himself and reach his own conclusion. He needed evidence that demands a verdict. And Jesus in his gracious way invited Thomas into the evidence (see last post). I take it, then, that Jesus isn’t adverse to empiricism nor reluctant to provide evidence in the journey of faith. Having said that, we need to probe a little more because Jesus went on to say this to doubting Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

I don’t want to make more of this than Jesus did. But I don’t want to make less either. Jesus didn’t say, “Blessed are you, Thomas, because you have seen me…” Jesus did compare, dare I say contrast, Thomas’ adoring surrender because of the evidence to those who would believe without seeing, without the empirical evidence. Jesus reserved the term “blessed” for them. Why?

To reduce faith to requiring evidence for origin and growth would shove faith onto a tiny playing field and away from the grand scope of reality. Rationalism and empiricism for all their persisting dominance since the Enlightenment horribly reduced reality. Placing the human mind as the arbiter of truth based on scientific inquiry has made midgets of us all.  Reality is too vast to wear only a lab coat. Perhaps that is why brilliant Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”

From time to time evidence may be brought in as a servant to faith. It is never lord of faith. Jesus is Lord of faith and the evidence, too. Jesus served Thomas. He didn’t rebuke him. Yet, he moved Thomas and the rest of us to contemplate a vast reality where a knowing occurs without evidence or even in the face of contrary evidence. ”I believe, therefore I am.”

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