Knowing and Believing

The Gospel reading today seemed particularly appropriate for me.

On the evening of that first day of the week, when the doors were locked, where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve, was not with them when Jesus came. So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.” But he said to them, “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands and put my finger into the nailmarks and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”

Now a week later his disciples were again inside and Thomas was with them. Jesus came, although the doors were locked, and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands, and bring your hand and put it into my side, and do not be unbelieving, but believe.” Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”

Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of his disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written that  you may come to believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that through this belief you may have life in his name.

That is I: show me the nail marks. Give me proof. But it’s more than that, because I’ve always been able to explain away everything like a good materialist.

This proof mentality is a direct result of my religious upbringing, because everything not only could but should be proved. Never mind that the proving was little more than proof-texting, ripping verses completely out of context to back up a Victorian-era pet conspiracy theory. But believing doesn’t require that kind of proof. I’m growing strangely comfortable with that.

When the film Dogma was released, I remember seeing protest letters proudly displayed in the art house theater were I watched it. Catholics were angry and offended. I scoffed at their hypersensitivity, and even now, I have no major issues with a film that mocks this or that religion. We’re all adults. Still, there is one element of the film that lingered in my mind, and oddly enough, it’s framing how I view proof and certainty. Rufus, the thirteenth apostle, asks the main protagonist, Bethany, about the certainty of her newly-found religious belief. “I have a pretty good idea,” replied Bethany, and Rufus smiles approvingly.

A “pretty good idea” works well for me right now.

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2 thoughts on “Knowing and Believing

  1. Jared Olar says:

    “Absolute certainty” vs. “moral certainty.”

    “Moral certainty” is like “a pretty good idea.” It’s not absolutely irrefutable, but it’s pretty solidly grounded in the evidence that happens to be available. Barring supernatural intervention, we can rarely if ever be absolutely certain of any particular proposition — but all we need is moral certainty. It may not always be much, but it’s usually good enough to build on.

    • The Itch says:

      I don’t know if I’d agree that we can rarely be certain of most propositions. I’m fairly certain the Battle of Hastings occurred, and I think my certainty exceeds moral certainty. Yet Hastings has vastly different implications than Golgotha.

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