Today the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of St. Thomas, to whom we often give the uncomplimentary moniker, “Doubting Thomas,” a title that ignores the fact that Thomas’ disbelief quickly gave way to belief. (“My Lord and My God!”)
John Henry Newman said something that is intructive to all of us in his suggestion that Thomas’ fault was in “pick[ing] and choos[ing] by what arguments he would be convinced,” in demanding a particular form of proof, rather than examining whether there was enough out there already to convince him. Newman said:
He said that he would not believe that our Lord had risen, unless he actually saw him. What! Is there not more than one way of arriving at faith in Christ? Are there not a hundred proofs, distinct from each other, and all good ones? Was there no way of being sure he came form God, except that of seeing the great miracle of the resurrection? Surely there were many others; but Saint Thomas prescribed the only mode in which he would consent to believe in him.
It is very easy to fault “Doubting” Thomas. But I think many people are guilty of expecting God to act in a particular way, of expecting to find God in the way that we prescribe, of setting the rules by which God ought to operate. Thomas is not the only one guilty of picking and choosing what arguments would convince him. I think we all would do well to examing whether there are ways in which we “prescribe the only mode” in which we will see God.