“I would take 100 Doubting Thomases over 1 modern cynic. For at least Thomas cared enough and was curious enough to seek the answer to something he hoped was true! I’m not sure modern man really cares what is true.” That was a line f rom my Easter 2 sermon. The text, as you may have guessed, was John 20:19-31, the story of the apostle Thomas refusing to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead without adequate proof.
As it happens, Thomas, the lone (still living!) apostle who was not present the evening of the resurrection for Jesus’ big reveal, is singled out every year on the Sunday after Easter. You might as well call this Doubting Thomas Sunday. I think the general idea is to line up the weeks (Thomas seeing Jesus was the Sunday after the resurrection) and to serve as an apologetic for the resurrection in case those who heard the story the week before may have trouble believing it.
In fact, his refusal to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead is most curious. Did he not trust his friends? Did he think they were delusional? Was he waiting for an April Fool’s “gotcha” moment? Was he afraid of being vulnerable for fear he may be wrong? His doubt is indeed perplexing, for it seems impossible that his ten closest friends could and would have lied to him and that he would not have believed them.
But in Thomas there remains a willingness to be proven wrong. He says to his friends, “But he said to them, ‘Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger in the mark of the nails and my hand in his side, I will not believe.’” We hear that as stubborn pride and foolish reason, perhaps. But at the very least, he lays out a scenario in which he could believe.
This scenario is unavailable to us, of course, as Jesus has ascended into heaven and is no longer around to show us his wounds. The account that John provides is the next best thing, however, and we should note how quickly and decisively Thomas changes in the wake of the evidence. He makes one of the most remarkable confessions about Jesus in all the scriptures: “My Lord and my God!” Let it never be said that Jesus is not said to be truly God in the New Testament, for Jesus gladly receives the worship of Thomas and does not refute the confession as a falsehood.
So with Thomas, we do experience a doubter, but also a seeker, and one willing to be shown the truth and willing to adopt it as his own. What of the modern cynic? Are they as open as Thomas? I don’t think so. Skepticism has reached such a state of normalcy that the best of apologetics, especially if they are evidentially based, has no common ground from which to build a case. I would take 100 doubting Thomases over one modern cynic because, again, Thomas was open to the evidence available to him. His mind could be changed. And he wanted his apostle’s claims to be true.
The modern skeptic does not want Christianity to be true, and they do not care what evidence you have. They will write it all off as historical relics as useful as other myths, and they will pay that price even if it means they lose touch with the rest of antiquity. To the true Doubting Thomas’s of our day, the men and women who truly have open minds and are not overtly hostile to God, presenting them evidence seems prudent. But for the average modern skeptic, most are too far gone to give good evidence a fair hearing. The discussion must go deeper as soon as possible.
The only way to relate to the hardened modern skeptic is to help them see the absurdity of their own worldview and demonstrate that they are building a world using God’s capital. Before evidence will matter, they will need to see how much they take for granted in God’s world: objective morality, logic, and the uniformity of nature to name three of the larger points. But again, unlike Thomas, so long as they sincerely do not want the claims of Christianity to be true, they will not be interested in the evidence that proves them to be so.