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Saturday, April 06, 2013

Dealing With Doubt

Yes-No-Maybe--YesNoMaybe-Dice-Black-on-Yellow-front-800x800Now Thomas (also known as Didymus), one of the Twelve, was not with the disciples when Jesus came.
So the other disciples told him, “We have seen the Lord!” 
But he 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.” 
A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!”  
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.” 
Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” John 20:24-28

Basis For Belief
Thomas, often referred to as doubting Thomas, gets a bit of a bad press. He refused to take the accounts of Jesus' resurrection on faith and wanted evidence for his belief.

Sometimes we expect people to believe all sorts of claims about God and the Christian faith without recognising the genuine need for evidence.

Let's not forget that the apostles and other early disciples did have clear evidence that Jesus was alive. Peter and John saw the empty tomb and the apostles, apart from Thomas, witnessed Jesus empty a locked room and speak to them.

Thomas wasn't actually asking any more of the Lord than any of the others had already received. He simply wanted some evidence.

Facts and Faith
blind faithJesus, of course, offered a blessing to those who believed without seeing (Jn 20:29).

But He did not ask for blind faith.

He gave Thomas the evidence he needed to believe.

Many Christians have come to faith with little or no physical evidence. Perhaps this is why so many intellectuals find it hard to accept Christianity. And yet there remains an overwhelming body of genuine evidence for the truth of the Christian faith which, if examined carefully and with an open mind, is perfectly able to convince the skeptic.

It is unreasonable for us to demand faith from people without offering evidence. Even Peter said:

Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect. 1 Pet 3:15

Answering Atheists 
The resurrection convinced Thomas that Jesus was God. If we can provide good evidence that Jesus did indeed rise from the dead then we have a credible reason for our hope.

But most Christians do not have the basic knowledge to present the arguments for the resurrection. This is quite tragic as there are so many resources available.

My favourite website is Apologetics 315 (apologetics is simply a fancy name for arguing in favour of the faith). There are lots of resources there including articles, videos and mp3s. But it will take you some time to find your way around as there is so much material.

So here's a quick acrostic to help you, courtesy of Timothy McGrew from his talk Evidence Jesus is Alive  

Reasons To Believe Jesus Is Alive 
evidence-jesus-is-aliveA - Appearances. Jesus appeared to many different people at different times and in different places. The most compelling example is that of the 500 people who saw Him at the same time - that could not be an hallucination (1 Cor 15:6).

L - Low Status of Women. Women were the last people who would be taken seriously as witnesses is first century Israel. No-one who wanted the account of the resurrection to be believed would invent a story about women being the first to see the risen Jesus.

I - Immediate Proclamation in Jerusalem. It didn't take centuries, or even decades, for the disciples to start telling people Jesus had risen from the dead. Just 7 weeks after the crucifixion they were preaching about it publicly in the Temple.

V - Voluntary Suffering of the Disciples. All the apostles (with the possible exception of John) died as martyrs, willing to give their lives rather than deny they had seen the risen Jesus.

E - Empty Tomb. No serious alternative explanation of the empty tomb has been offered. No-one ever found the body of Jesus which was a major problem for the authorities.

I've just given headlines here. I recommend you listen to the interview with Tim McGrew to get the full arguments so you can have a basic preparation for dealing with the doubts of the skeptics. It will build your faith too.

You may also like to visit this site

Of course, having the good answers is not enough. There is no substitute for praying for the skeptic. Pray like only prayer will work and make your case like only that will work.

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