It can be argued that doubt is the seed of faith in God, for our doubts enable us to question the reasonableness of our free choice to follow the guidance of The Saviour, also understanding that our doubts feed our determination to weather the storms of life, that attempt to blow us off course leading us to where we do not wish to go.
It is only by seeking the path of radical doubt that we can arrive at a genuine appreciation of our faith in God. We need to be enthusiastic sceptics challenged to explore, and reason the imponderables of our faith in God.
By appealing to the notion of radical doubt I am not suggesting that we should trust nothing that cannot be verified by sense experience. Nor am I advocating an overly rationalist or minimalist approach to faith; which would be only another form of blind faith — that is, rejecting any notion of a priori revelation per se and blindly assuming that truth can only be realised, and understood by rational means or, that the phenomenal world is the only reality. Rather I am suggesting that genuine faith has to be lived through a rational engagement with revealed truth to be understood.
In the story of the Apostle Thomas in John 20:24-29 Thomas demands evidence of Jesus' resurrection only to be confronted, and reprimanded by the risen Jesus for his failure to "believe without seeing"(John 20:29).
Jesus' closest disciples were a motley bunch of misfits, including impetuous Peter, the bad-tempered brothers, James and John, arrogant and bigoted Nathanael and the over-zealous Simon who may have even been a terrorist. However, with the possible exception of Peter none of these disciples has captured the popular imagination like that of Thomas, the disciple whose infamous gaff in voicing questions about Jesus' resurrection has won him the title of "Doubting Thomas" (John 20:19-21). But, this hardly does this legendary figure justice.
It has been argued that the Thomas story made a significant contribution to the development of the Christian religion. For Gnostic Christians of the second century Thomas represented both a model of faith and a bastion for their mystical traditions. Many believed him to be the twin brother of Jesus, thus, privy to secret knowledge - gnosis - that could lead to enlightenment and salvation. A recently discovered Gospel of Thomas (1) has even reached near canonical status in the eyes of the Jesus Seminar (1993) that number it as "the fifth Gospel" after Mark, Matthew, Luke and John.
Some people are comfortable in a blind faith or, simple faith that does not seek to question and de-construct the apparently improbable, or to probe such implausible ideas for deeper meanings. They prefer to imagine that ignorance of such theological explorations is bliss; that one should not doubt; only believe! I have no argument with simple faith when understanding that many people are comforted, and deeply encouraged to live their life of faith through their acceptance of that which leads them through the storms of their life, safely into calmer waters.
The Johannine Thomas was of a different mind; he doubted the proclamation of the improbable resurrection of Jesus. However, his doubt was turned to virtue. He alone of all the disciples is the first to see (to know) that Jesus is true God and true Man.
Thomas is reprimanded for demanding a sign before he will believe (John 20:25), as others had before him (4:48). It is suggested that he should believe on the basis of the word spoken to him by others (e.g., 17:20). But if he had simply accepted the (albeit) incredible proclamation of Jesus' resurrection, would he have sought to inquire (seek) further?
Like the other disciples Thomas would have simply been caught up in the miraculous without understanding the import of that encounter. Only by demanding further proof, by seeking to analyse, de-construct, and demythologise the proclamation could Thomas arrive at his extraordinary insight — Jesus is Lord and God.
The lesson of the Johannine Thomas, is that doubt is a virtue and that there is nothing blissful about continuing to be blindly ignorant of the deeper meanings of our received traditions.
I am not advocating a trust nothing stance; rather a test everything approach. I am suggesting that to really live ones faith we must daily test our faith through our living experiences.
Don't just be content to be a member of the blissfully ignorant; the Fourth Evangelist would say that there is no virtue in that position. Like his Doubting Thomas we must seek to know more; to see more; to be more. To understand.