Doubting Thomas: Hendrick ter Brugghen

In many horror and supernatural stories there is always one character, the skeptic, who starts off doubting the supernatural events taking place but ends up becoming convinced of them. It is an important narrative device that is intended to convince the viewer that the events in the story could be true.

The Bible is no exception where we find the character of Doubting Thomas. He refuses to believe the hearsay of his friends about the resurrection of Jesus and demands to see with his own eyes. Of course, once he sees, he is convinced and it reinforces the reality of the event.

The skeptics are usually portrayed as narrow minded people, who have a limited view of the world, preventing them from seeing the obvious.They will only believe what they can see with their own eyes rather than on trust or some other kind of ‘knowledge’.

It is, of course, misleading. Skeptics and others do not accept just what is seen with the eye. When a pencil is put into a glass of water, our eyes tell us the wood has bent. Our ancestors believed the world was flat because the limits of their observations told them so. Our eyes tell us one thing but our wider knowledge of the world helps us understand what we at seeing.

It was only through the scientific method that we gathered accurate information about our world. No other forms of ‘knowledge’ managed to do the job and where they appeared to, it was usually by accident, having no evidence or methodology to back up the claims.

We now have an expanding body of knowledge and a method of experimentation beyond what our eyes can see. This serves to help us understand and interpret what we see with our eyes.

Ironically, it seems the true Doubting Thomas’s are found within some churches. They are the ones that need ‘signs and wonders’ to facilitate their belief. They are the ones that need to see with their own eyes in order to believe. An anti-scientific and anti-rational approach stops them thinking about different interpretations of what they are witnessing and prevents them noticing when magicians are posing as pastors. In these churches, skepticism is suspended exactly at the point where it is needed most.

There is space in many churches for questioning, challenging and not denying the facts of science but others, ironically, wish to promote the Doubting Thomas.

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