Chapter 12: At Home — Late Friday Night

Doubting Thomas: Christology in Story Form
by John B. Cobb, Jr.

Chapter 12: At Home — Late Friday Night

"You look happier than you have for some time," she said. "I’m so glad."

"Yes, I feel as though a great weight has been lifted, although I can’t really say what it is. Maybe it’s that I was feeling the need to defend Christ, and now I feel that Christ can take care of himself."

"Does that mean that you got answers to the questions that were troubling you, darling?" Mary wanted to know.

"That’s hard to say, sweetheart. I’ve heard lots and lots of answers. But every answer just raises new questions. I still don’t know where it will all lead."

"But you do feel better about things, don’t you?" Mary was troubled by Thomas’s answer but still reassured by his expression.

"Oh, yes, indeed!" Thomas replied enthusiastically. "For a while I felt that everything was falling apart. Now I feel as though doors are opening and hands are beckoning. I’m really eager to get back to the books. I think I’ll understand what the theologians are saying much better now.

"Can you tell me some of the things you’ve learned?" Mary asked. "I know I can’t catch up on all of it, but I don’t want to be left completely behind."

Thomas was deeply grateful for her attitude. Even in his exaltation he had been dreading the growing gap between the way she thought and the new ideas he was wanting to pursue. He understood all too well how she thought and how much sense it made to think that way. "I would like to try," he said. "But it’s not going to be easy. It sure hasn’t been easy for me! I’m glad you heard the discussion here the other night. That gives you an idea. I’ve heard more talk about Baillie tonight. I guess the biggest problem for me was how to think of Jesus Christ in the face of my experience with those Buddhist students. You know how upset I was about my inability to witness to them. I just couldn’t imagine how I could really believe in Jesus Christ and then not have anything to say when Buddhists asked me to tell them! Tonight I decided that it was all right that I couldn’t tell them they were wrong. I can really and truly believe in Jesus and still respect and admire what they’re doing — and not try to redirect them back to the church — not now at any rate."

"Well, I’m glad you feel better, but I’ll have to admit I worry that you may be losing your moorings. If Jesus is God’s saving Word to all people, don’t those young people need to hear it, too?"

Thomas tried to explain what Prof. Wilson had said. In the context of the earlier conversation it had made a lot of sense. Without that context it was not reassuring to Mary. She became genuinely concerned about Thomas’s new theological development. Had he, after all, abandoned the orthodox faith?

"Darling," she said at last, "I’m confused, and I think you’re a bit confused, too. I’m also worried for you. I admit it. Some of what you say doesn’t sound Christian to me. I don’t see why we need to learn from Buddhists when we already have God’s Word in the Bible. But I won’t make an issue of that. Let’s get back to basics. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is your one Lord and Savior?"

Thomas was sobered by that. It wasn’t fair, he felt, to have to answer yes or no to that kind of question. But only a couple of weeks earlier he would have thought it a very correct question indeed. He would have thought that all the elaborations were evasions of the simplest and most unequivocal issue. And Mary, of course, thought so now. Why should she not? And besides, maybe she was right. Maybe his hesitation was an evasion. She wanted to know about his personal faith, not his theology. Had his commitment remained firm? Was he ready to serve Jesus wholeheartedly, without reservations? Was he?

"Yes," Thomas finally answered. "Jesus Christ is my one Lord and Savior. That may not mean quite the same thing to me it once did. But I think it means more, not less. Now I see that Jesus saves me from the need to cling to a particular theology, that he frees me to be open to new ideas — to truth wherever it is. I’m excited by that. I think I understand why his yoke is easy and his burden is light, how he is truly life and light and the way for me to follow. I feel that the Spirit he gave is with me as I’ve never felt it before. I feel free to love everyone, whatever they believe. I don’t need to defend Christianity anymore. Its truth will win the day and the chaff, of which there has been so much, will blow away.

"But something else happened tonight, Mary. There was a young man there who takes Jesus’ teaching more seriously than anyone I have met before. He made me see that affirming Jesus as Lord is not primarily a matter of beliefs but rather discipleship. I don’t see how I can ever follow Jesus as literally as he does, but I’m going to try somehow to shape my life in the way Jesus taught. I’m scared of what that will mean. But I’m also excited. Yes, yes, indeed!" It came to him almost as a revelation. "Jesus Christ is my one Lord and Savior!"

"Then I thank God, darling," Mary sighed. "Let’s go to bed."