Jesus’ closest disciples did not initially believe the message of Jesus’ resurrection. Instead, they doubted. Luke tells us that they even went so far as to categorize the story of the women who encountered angels at the tomb as “nonsense.” This terms comes from the medical realm and refers to the delirious ravings of someone overcome by their sickness. Not a good response from the disciples, it seems.
However, I believe their honest engagement with doubt and questions actually is an expression of faith as they move into a new experience of Christ. It is not authentic to disavow our doubts when they are there. It will not lead us into faith to shut our questions into a back room of our minds, and pretend they do not exist.
Even in our own day, we’ve had our share of doubters who have in their honest journey of doubt experienced the risen Jesus. Here’s a list
- Lee Strobel (journalist) – at the popular level, Strobel sought to disprove his wife’s faith in Jesus, but ended up becoming a Christian himself. His book The Case for Christ shares that journey.
- C. S. Lewis (Oxford and Cambridge medieval literature professor) – Lewis is so well-known for The Chronicles of Narnia and his own journey of faith that it’s hard to remember that his journey from agnosticism to faith was triggered by conversations with J. R. R. Tolkien. Basically, Tolkien got Lewis thinking about whether all the best myths which cause longing to rise up in our hearts might be echoes of the one true story found in Jesus Christ.
- Edith Stein (Jewish philosopher) – Stein’s upbringing in a Jewish home led her to reject her faith. She wandered for years before finding faith in Jesus Christ after battling through philosophical issues. Stein went on to become a nun, later known as Teresa Benedict of the Cross
- Francis Collins (geneticist) – Collins was an atheist scientist, but his work on the human genome project with DNA brought him to a point of consideration about the intricacy of the nature of life and the universe. He later converted to Christianity, and wrote about it in his book, The Language of God.
- Alexander Solzhenitsyn (novelist and social commentator) – Solzhenitsyn is best known for writings such as One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich and The Gulag Archipelago. Solzhenitsyn’s suffering in a Russian gulag actually led him to faith in Christ.
- Antony Flew (philosopher) – Flew was a rabid atheist throughout most of his life, but changed directions later in life. His 2007 book, There is a God: How the World’s Most Notorious Atheist Changed his Mind, offers this striking description: “It may well be that no one is as surprised as I am that my exploration of the Divine has after all these years turned from denial…to discovery.” He defended his change of direction and directly addressed claims of ‘the new atheists’, most notably in his review of Christopher Hitchens’ book The God Delusion.
One of the most important lessons we can learn from the early disciples – and this list of contemporaries who found faith – is that following our doubts down the paths they lead us will often lead us to encounter the resurrected Christ.