Do you believe in God... or in history?
371d36d75e05eda735858f8e467be99c"Jesus said, 'So, you believe because you've seen with your own eyes. Even better blessings are in store for those who believe without seeing.' "
~John 20: 29
This quote is one of the most famous in the Bible. It refers to the apostle Thomas, who was missing when Jesus first appeared to the apostles after his resurrection. Thomas was told about the appearance, but he doubted it, claiming he had to put his fingers in Jesus' wounds before he would believe it was really him. The next time Jesus appeared, Thomas was with them. Jesus invited him to put his fingers in the nail wounds, and Thomas believed.
Well, that's how it supposedly went, anyway.
There's an interesting thing about this particular often-told story. It appears in only one gospel - John's. John's gospel is believed to have been written after Thomas'. There are several places where biblical scholars feel John directly refutes Thomas. Thomas clearly had a different view of Jesus' life than John did, and this was a major controversy in the early Church. So the question is... did the "Doubting Thomas" scenerio take place? Or is it just another example of John discrediting Thomas? We don't know for sure.
This leads us to another question: Does it matter?
Lately several books have come out with interesting theories about the life of Jesus. Most notably, Dan Brown's "The DaVinci Code" puts the theory that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene in the forefront. Many Christians are offended by the thought. Some have even suggested theories on how Jesus "resurrected" - that perhaps he wasn't totally dead; that the apostles removed the body and proclaimed him resurrected; etc, etc, etc. People get very passionate in defending the biblical Jesus against these more "human" ideas.
Again, I ask the question: Does it matter?
As I read "The DaVinci Code", I was a little taken aback by the ideas suggested. But when I thought about it... whether or not Jesus was married, it really doesn't detract from the impact his life had in the world. As I continued to ponder this idea, which was in direct conflict with everything I had believed about Jesus' life before... I realized... it didn't really matter to me.
Someone asked me if I believed Jesus truly did resurrect from the dead. I don't believe in pushing my believes on someone else at all - even this blog is more just documentation for my own journey to truth. But I realized something in deciding how to answer his question. I realized that believing in the biblical stories - in the chastity of Jesus and his resurrection, in all of those age-old tales that we've learned about since birth - believing those things amount to believing in historical events. It is no different than believing in the events of World War II.
And I asked myself... Shouldn't faith be deeper than that?
Faith - true faith - involves what you believe about God, about other people, about your purpose here on earth. It is a belief in a higher power and a higher purpose. There is no doubt the events described in the Bible can lead a person to a certain sense of faith. But believing the events took place exactly as they are documented is not the key. The key is reading those stories, contemplating their message about God and life, and developing an individual sense of purpose based on those thoughts.
Faith isn't the result of a history class. Your faith is the basis for how you live - the choices you make, the words that you say, the way you treat others. It is individual and personal. You may choose to make Jesus' life your prime example, and that is definitely easier to do if you believe in the events of the canonical Gospels. You may choose to make Mohommad your example. Or Mother Theresa, or Buddah, or Joe down the street. But it is when you put more thought into it, when you pray (really PRAY - see previous entry) about it and really contemplate what those events mean to you - that is when that faith becomes a part of you and starts having a real impact on your life.