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Doubting and Believing [Sermon Notes]

StNicholas Goulburn


Doubting and Believing

Sermon Notes from Sermon

Presented by the Reverend Ross Hathway

on the 18th Of June, 2017

John 20:24-31 & Ecclesiastes 1:12-18


Introduction: A Sceptic: is a person inclined to question or doubt accepted opinions. That is a cynic or a scoffer.

John 20: 24-31. The story of a sceptic turned believer – Thomas.
Doubt: Have you had times of doubting faith?
My experience is that quite a few believers do.


Mixture of things.
We are tempted to sin…
Today: When we doubt our faith, is it because we have started to believe something else?
The skeptical doubt we see on TV (chat shows) appears brave and authentic.
Comedians and scientists use their unbelief to connect with their audiences.
Doubt conveys a kind of knowing aloofness; an ability to stand courageously above the gullibility of the ordinary person/be cool.

But, there are ‘Honest doubters’ too.
We need to talk about it…
Great Christians have. Martin Luther, and Billy Graham.
Honest doubt is preferable to the kind of wilful ignorance or deliberate naivety of most popular religion of our culture.
But generally speaking people are more concerned for their reputations and sticking with received opinions rather than searching for the truth 

1. Doubt appears real, but has its limits
But, even honest doubt has its limits.
History of philosophy: It is simply not possible to doubt everything.
Doubts will tend to arise in one place because of increasing certainties in other places.

That is, People lose belief because of the presences of counter-beliefs.
When we begin to have doubts say about the resurrection of Christ we need to ask;
“What am I starting to believe in more than the Christian faith?”

We not told much about what lead Thomas to doubt.
Was he naturally sceptical or just crushed/overwhelmed by the disaster of Jesus crucifixion?
Like the others he still hasn’t got the necessary spiritual insight about who Jesus is.
John 14:5 Upper room> “Lord we don’t know where you are going, so how can we know the way”.
What Jesus was saying just didn’t make sense of the world as he knew it. 
Consequently nothing in Thomas’ view of the world made him think that the report of the resurrection of Jesus was true.

He had witnessed miracles and had heard the teaching of Jesus and had even been prepared to die with him.
But still he cannot see.
So he demands tangible proof of the risen Jesus because he cannot think of a circumstance in which he might ever have to place his fingers in the wounds of Jesus. 

Read John 20: 24-25

He thinks he knows what he can’t possibly ever see.
This is very much how the beliefs of the New Atheists and the other cultured despisers of Christianity of our time work.
They tend to fly under the cover of the authority of empirical science, which gains its power from dealing with what is there in front of its face.
That’s why it can describe the world so well – it must deal with what is in the laboratory, and not with what is only there ‘in theory’.
God isn’t part of the theory, so God must go. 
TO SUMUP. Doubt appears real, but has its limits

2. Christianity is not a philosophy or a theory – it is an historical faith.
It’s about what God actually does rather than what human beings feel he ought to do. 
The Gospels are about eyewitness testimony.
They don’t ask us to accept a philosophy.
They invite us to the courtroom to hear the witnesses to what happened tell their stories – and to consider whether we believe the stories or not. 

3. Thomas’s theories are exploded by meeting the risen Jesus
A week later, everything dramatically changes for Thomas
John 20: 26-27
Thomas’ theoretical world dramatically collapses.
John 20: 28 > ‘My Lord and my God!’ What else could be said?
Then Jesus says some v significant things about the structure of Christian believing
John 20: 29-30.

4. Christian believing is believing the testimony of those who saw the events of the life of Jesus
Thomas becomes a necessary link in the chain of believing.
Eyewitness to the risen Christ.
His testimony will serve as evidence to those who haven’t seen Christ first-hand.
It will be the seeing and believing of the Thomas and the other apostles that leads to the hearing and believing of ‘those who have not seen’. 

Are the witnesses trustworthy or not? And how will their testimony be transmitted?
John 20: 31 > It’s written down for us who now come to read.
And the blessing of those who will believe without seeing that Jesus declared.

Doubting might be cool/sophisticated, but believing is blessed, it produces hope

Thomas, is a blessing to us who read and believe and have life in his name. 
It doesn’t mean all doubt is removed.
Doubt can exist alongside faith and not destroy it.
But ultimately believing is what connects us to the one who gives life abundantly.
We believe that death has been conquered, and sin has been defeated. It is a believing hope, in other words. And that changes everything.

Believing is not accepting a superior theory:
It is just a matter of seeing as Thomas saw – or at least, of believing his testimony: Christ is risen – my Lord and my God.
Dead men do not rise from the dead, it is true.
But that is only a theory. 

It is important to acknowledge the presence of doubt,
Let us be honest with one another about our struggles in believing.
But ultimately, at the end of all our questions and problems and conundrums and paradoxes, stands the figure of the risen Jesus.
And we meet him, the tables are more than turned. He is risen: and the sheer fact of his life brings us trembling to his feet to exclaim with Thomas: My Lord and my God!