Forming Faith Blog

Doubting [Your Name Here] (John 20:19-31)

For centuries, we have looked at Thomas as if his doubt—and therefore ours—makes him less faithful. How do we get over our “doubt-guilt” and be free?

Painting of Jesus' hands. Thomas doubts.
“Doubting Thomas” Acrylic on canvas, unclear artist, but found at McEvoy’s Musings

Thurl Ravenscroft.

Okay, that must be the most excellent name ever. Just the sound of it is fun. If you know the name, then you are:

  1. A Christmas geek
  2. A Disney fan
  3. A breakfast cereal enthusiast
  4. All of the above. (Like me)

Thurl Ravenscroft was the voice that sang “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch” in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). (Yes, Boris Karloff provided the narration, but Mr. Ravenscroft sang the song.) Ravenscroft also provides voice work on a significant number of Disneyland vinyl records, including one particular Haunted Mansion album, which scared the heck out of me as a child. And finally, Ravenscroft was the voice of Tony the Tiger. Back in the ‘70s, we watched cartoons on Saturday morning and stuffed our faces full of sugar-laced goodness. There was one Frosted Flakes commercial in which Tony was in a kid’s bedroom. As the kid laced up his tennis shoes, Tony asked, “Are you ready for a complete and nourishing breakfast, Thomas?” 

Thomas said, “I doubt it.”

Tony chuckled. “Come on, doubting Thomas, let’s go.”

Don’t Bee a Doubting Thomas

As a kid in Sunday school, I remember being taught about doubting Thomas as if doubt was a bad thing. Don’t be a doubting Thomas. (Like Thomas was similar to the “Don’t Bee” from Romper Room (1953-1994) or Goofus from the Highlights for Children magazine. Be a faithful disciple, not a doubter.

What’s wrong with doubting? Doubting the prevailing wisdom helped us understand that our ships would not sail off the edge of the world and the idea that the earth was not the center of the universe.

Doubting is a good thing. It opens new doors and inspires new thoughts.

Doubting Thomas. Peter? John? James?

Thomas was not the only doubter.

Matthew’s Gospel tells us the eleven disciples went to the mountain where Jesus appeared to them, and some worshiped him, “but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17)

Mary goes back to the disciples to tell them Jesus is back, “but they did not believe her.” (Mark 16:11)

Yet, it is Thomas who is labeled as the doubter. Thomas gets the nickname so well-known it’s even used by cartoon breakfast spokes-tigers.

Do the Hokey-Pokey

Jesus showed up to the disciples, and Thomas was not with them. Thomas later says, “Unless I touch the spot on his hand where the nail went….” Then a week later, Jesus comes back.

First of all, Thomas. Ewww.

Second, a WEEK goes by. What was Jesus doing during that time? How many conversations did the disciples have with Thomas during those days?

Thomas wants evidence. He wants to believe, but he has to be sure. This is another one of those scriptures that get cleaned up for the translations. When Jesus appears and tells Thomas, “Still don’t believe?  Poke your finger here, Thomas.” In some of the earliest translations of the scriptures, the word for “put” is more like SHOVE or JAM. In my imagination, I really want Thomas to just sort of tip over backward onto the floor of Peter’s house.

Can’t Touch This

If you see a sign on the wall that says, “Wet Paint” do you have to touch it to be sure? Do you WANT to touch it? Have long will you drive after the “low fuel” light comes on? How much evidence is required for YOU to believe? 

When the magician pulls the volunteer out of the audience and says, “We’ve never met before, have we?” Do you believe the volunteer when they say “No?” Why?

Do you believe the earth is round?

Do you believe Mcdonald’s when they put the health information on the menu?

When you drive to a place you’ve never been would you rather get directions from someone who has been there and gotten lost along the way or listen to the little voice on your phone? What does she know? Has she ever been there?

What does it take for you to accept something, pardon the pun, as gospel?

Do you believe the Gospels? Every word?

Evidence of Things Unseen

How do you talk to someone who won’t listen or even acknowledge the facts? Do you dread particular family gatherings because we all have the one relative who will show up with the latest conspiracy theory about the elections and space aliens?

Does the messenger make a difference in whether or not you believe the message?

Saint Francis said, “Where there is doubt, let me sow faith.” How do we do that in this day and age?

In her book Saving Grace, Kristen Powers tells us that while some people will never listen to the facts, most will listen to your story.

When sharing the Gospels, it’s okay to admit you had (have) your own struggles. It’s okay to share your own questions. It’s okay if we say to our own “doubting Thomas” I see you. I get you. I am you.

Then, invite them to a good and nourishing breakfast.


Steve Case is a freelance writer and youth pastor living in Raleigh, North Carolina. His most recent book is F**K Death a hard-core guide to grief for those who are sick of pity and condolences. It is available on Amazon.

Free Resource

During the main Narrative Lectionary year (this year: Sept 12 to June 5), we provide a free resource download from one of our products to help you in your faith formation ministry. This week, download the activity “No Doubt Game” from our Living the Word: Kids (PK-2nd, NL) curriculum which can be used with many ages in many contexts!

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