Certainty Welds Our World Closed
At this time of the year St. Thomas, alias "Doubting Thomas," becomes the topic of many a sermon throughout the Christian Church. Most of these homilies will probably portray Thomas as someone least to be emulated, especially in atmospheres of religious fundamentalism which reduce mystery, freedom, and creativity by removing "uncertainty" and replacing it with "safe predictability," which it calls faith.
Tragically, by doing this, it welds the world closed for many and slowly applies its conforming power, limiting life to the confines of its own crippling and dogmatic boundaries. Naturally, in such systems, which by the way are not just found in religious contexts, it doesn’t take long to find out that doubt is always labelled an enemy, and if it dares to lead to a rethinking of the issues, it’s pronounced devilish.
However, having said this, certain forms of certainty are essential. At the very heart of all living, the certainty of being loved is essential for life to flourish; also, certainty in the integrity of our interactions with one another is essential, if our communities are to become places of trust and reliance. Sound spirituality will always nurture the capacity to discern between realistic and unrealistic certainty. It will perceive healthy moments of doubt as being filled with immense potential for new insight. Paul Tillich, that great theologian and philosopher, once said, “The courage to be is rooted in the God who appears when god has disappeared in the anxiety of doubt.”
Much of the shallowness in life and religion, which fundamentalism perpetuates, is related to an inability to manage and negotiate seasons of doubt. Doubt always seems to be experienced as threat. For this reason, one of the great gifts we can give to each other is space for the vocalization of our doubts. Only in the accepting and engaging spirit of this space, are we able to struggle with integrity in the discovery of new insight and truth.
Our world is open and free, not encrusted with certainty. It’s out of the gift of uncertainty that the material for life comes. As life-artists, every one of us is free to create and build in the looseness of uncertainty, which can be extremely scary, but deeply fulfilling.
To breath the air of doubt is to live. It’s the very soil out of which the shoots of surprise sprout. So, if at this time we hear any sermons on Thomas, let's remember, there's something wonderfully adventurous about doubt and uncertainty. Perhaps that's why Jesus said to him: “Do you believe because you see me? How happy are those who believe without seeing me."