Posted by: Michael M. Dewalt | April 24, 2009

Calvin on Doubt

 

John 20:24-29: “Besides the obstinacy of Thomas is an example to show that this wickedness is almost natural to all men, to retard themselves of their own accord, when the entrance to faith is opened to them.” Thomas’s “sensual judgment . . . founded on the perception of the senses” shows that “the source of the vice [is] that everyone wishes to be wise from his own understanding and flatters himself beyond measure.” The same thing, Calvin notes, “happens to all who are so devoted to themselves that they leave no room for the word of God.”

In response to Thomas’ request, Calvin notes how “Christ so readily yields to the improper request of Thomas.” From that, however, we may see “how earnestly desirous [Christ] was to promote our faith and that of Thomas; for it was not to Thomas only but to us also that he looked, that nothing might be wanting which was necessary for confirming our faith.”

At base, Thomas’s doubt was “astonishing and monstrous,” for he was satisfied with merely seeing Christ with his eyes but also “wished to have his hands as witnesses of Christ’s resurrection. Thus he was not only obstinate but also proud and contemptuous . . . he ought to have been overwhelmed with shame and amazement, but on the contrary, he boldly and fearlessly stretches forth his hand, as if he were not conscious of any guilt.” That stubbornness is similar to what happens “when we render to the word of God less honor than is due to it, [and] there steals upon us, without our knowledge, a growing obstinacy, which brings along with it a contempt of the word of God and makes us lose all reverence for it.” Thus, we should “labor to restrain the wantonness of our mind that none of us, by improperly indulging in contradiction and extinguishing, as it were, the feeling of piety, may block up against ourselves the gate of faith.”

 


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