Summary: Can reasonable people believe the things that are crucial to Christian faith? The answer is yes.
I want to begin the lesson by reading a passage from John 20 that will introduce the topic I want us to explore this morning, namely this: Can reasonable people believe the things that are crucial to Christian faith?
“Now Thomas, called the Twin, one of the twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. The other disciples therefore said to him, ‘We have seen the Lord.’ So he said to them, ‘Unless I see in his hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the print of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.’ And after eight days his disciples were again inside, and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!’ Then he said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at my hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into my side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.’ And Thomas answered and said to him, ‘My Lord and my God!’ Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20:24-29)
I would imagine that only Judas among the twelve apostles has been subjected to more critical and unkind judgments than Thomas. Though his nickname within that group was "Didymus," or “the Twin”, we know him better known as "Doubting Thomas" because of his reaction to the first reports brought to him about Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. He insisted that he would have to have hard proof before believing it was so. To the other ten, he said, "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." Because of that statement, Thomas has been reproached across the centuries.
But I would be among the first to speak up in his behalf. Because I believe that in Thomas’ demand for proof, he is to be admired rather than ridiculed. In fact, Jesus himself said back in Matthew 24:26, “If they say to you, ‘There he is!’, don’t believe it.” And there are too many people today who believe too much on the basis of too little. I am appalled at how much irrational garbage people are willing to swallow without a particle of solid evidence to back it up.
People read horoscopes, lay out Tarot cards, and call 900-numbers to learn their futures. A few will even follow David Koresh to Waco, give their 12-year-old daughters to him as sexual partners, and proclaim him to be Jesus Christ come back to teach again. Thirty-eight people followed their so-called "spiritual leader" in drinking a fatal cocktail in order to leave this earth and hop a ride to paradise on a UFO that was following the Hale-Bopp comet.
Call me a Doubting Thomas, too, if you please. But I’m not about to believe Dionne Warwick, David Koresh, or Marshall Applewhite without some proof — some good, solid proof. Too much is at stake for me to accept just any claim someone makes. Not the least of the things at stake is my intention to be a discerning and responsible human being.
Even God’s Word tells us, "Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1).
I don’t want to be such a radical skeptic that I set standards of proof so high they can never be met. Neither do I want to be so gullible that any sort of alleged proof will count as an actual one. Fair and reasonable standards, however, ought to be imposed on every proof offered for any point of view.
Jesus must not have been offended by Thomas’ request, because he invited him to see the evidence he had requested. He said, "Put your finger here; look at my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe."
Someone might say, "That’s my problem! If I could see and touch God, I would believe in him. If I could see and touch the risen Christ, I could accept the claims you Christians make for your religion. But until I have that sort of evidence, well . . .I just refuse to believe.”
The existence of God is the most basic of all religious considerations. If there is no God, then the Bible is worthless, Jesus Christ was a deceiver, our soul is not immortal, and no one should be at all concerned about their actions. But if there is a God, our hope is not in vain and man does have a purpose upon this earth.
But can we prove that God exists? Certainly not the same way that you would prove a book weighs 2 pounds or that a truck is blue, because God can’t be seen, heard, or touched with human senses. We can’t see him in a microscope or a telescope. The Russian cosmonauts went into space and when they came back to earth they said, "There is no God. We didn’t see him."