April 23 2017 Without A Doubt

Without A Doubt

Have you ever doubted the existence of God? Have you ever doubted the Resurrection? In a somewhat paradoxical way, I hope you have.

That may sound odd coming from a pastoral leader. Probably because Church leaders have been branded as promoting a kind of blind faith that doesn’t question anything and enshrines the virtue of blind belief as if it were an asset to not think.

This proposition has also been promulgated by pastors who too readily quote today’s Gospel reading saying “Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed” (John 20:31).

Unless I’m wrong, the use of this quotation doesn’t address the issue of doubt, it sidesteps it. The proverb doesn’t say “Blessed are those who have not doubted.” “Not seeing” and “doubt” are two different things.

Often I contemplate the words of theologian Paul Tillich who said “Doubt isn’t the opposite of faith; it is an element of faith.” I find the statement true and that the process it employs useful in empirical sciences as well as Christian belief. The enemy to seeking the truth isn’t the act of questioning, it is indifference to the pursuit of greater knowledge.

In preparing to write this today, I spent some time researching Schrodinger’s Cat, the 1935 theory of quantum physic which often gets simplified to its snarky supposition, “As long as the cat is in the box, it is both alive and dead.”  The real story is that physicist Dr. Shrodinger proposed a thought experiment of putting a cat in a steel box with conditions in which the cat might live or die, but to the observer, it is impossible to know whether the cat is alive or dead until the box is opened. So, until the observer opens the box, the cat lives in a state of quantum superposition of both being alive and dead.

Although theories of quantum mechanics seldom cross your mind when you come to church, maybe today it’s all right. Without knowing it, Saint Thomas the Apostle in today’s Gospel was a forbearer of the quantum conundrum.  “Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands, and put my finger into the nail marks, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25)

He didn’t say “I believe Jesus is dead.” Nor did he say, “I believe Jesus is alive.” But simply that he needed some metric by which he could measure if the “resurrection” was real. One could say, without some metric of knowing, Jesus was in a state of quantum superposition to Saint Thomas – both being alive and dead. When Thomas’s doubt set up the parameters he was using to believe, God gave him a sign. Aren’t we all looking for a sign?

Last week, we initiated the candidates and catechumens of the RCIA program to enter the Church. Over and over again, I found myself repeating to them. “God loves you and is showering you with signs of that love. If you are looking for a sign, how about your Baptism, how about your Confirmation, how about the Eucharist, how about the connection that was made between the priests’ homily and your life, how about the Church, how about…” I would go on and on.

The point was that the Church is replete with signs of how God loves God’s people. What we do as human persons is determine the means of observation that will confirm for us God’s love. Until we do that, until we allow doubt to inform our metric of belief, we remain in a certain paralysis regarding the assurance of God’s love for us. For this reason, may we never completely be without a doubt…

-David Heimann, Pastoral Associate



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