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

John B. Cobb, Jr., Ph.D. is Professor of Theology Emeritus at the Claremont School of Theology, Claremont, California, and Co-Director of the Center for Process Studies there. His many books currently in print include: Reclaiming the Church (1997); with Herman Daly, For the Common Good; Becoming a Thinking Christian (1993); Sustainability (1992); Can Christ Become Good News Again? (1991); ed. with Christopher Ives, The Emptying God: a Buddhist-Jewish-Christian Conversation (1990); with Charles Birch, The Liberation of Life; and with David Griffin, Process Theology: An Introductory Exposition (1977). He is a retired minister in the United Methodist Church. His email address is Published by Crossroad Publishing Company, 481 8th Ave. # 1550, New York, NY, 10017. Copyright ã 1990 by John B. Cobb Jr. All rights reserved. Used by permission. This material was prepared for Religion Online by Ted and Winnie Brock.

Chapter 12: At Home -- Late Friday Night

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

"Yes, I feel as though a great weight has been lifted, although I canít really say what it is. Maybe itís 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.

"Thatís hard to say, sweetheart. Iíve heard lots and lots of answers. But every answer just raises new questions. I still donít know where it will all lead."

"But you do feel better about things, donít you?" Mary was troubled by Thomasís 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. Iím really eager to get back to the books. I think Iíll understand what the theologians are saying much better now.

"Can you tell me some of the things youíve learned?" Mary asked. "I know I canít catch up on all of it, but I donít 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 itís not going to be easy. It sure hasnít been easy for me! Iím glad you heard the discussion here the other night. That gives you an idea. Iíve 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 couldnít 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 couldnít tell them they were wrong. I can really and truly believe in Jesus and still respect and admire what theyíre doing -- and not try to redirect them back to the church -- not now at any rate."

"Well, Iím glad you feel better, but Iíll have to admit I worry that you may be losing your moorings. If Jesus is Godís saving Word to all people, donít 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 Thomasís new theological development. Had he, after all, abandoned the orthodox faith?

"Darling," she said at last, "Iím confused, and I think youíre a bit confused, too. Iím also worried for you. I admit it. Some of what you say doesnít sound Christian to me. I donít see why we need to learn from Buddhists when we already have Godís Word in the Bible. But I wonít make an issue of that. Letís get back to basics. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is your one Lord and Savior?"

Thomas was sobered by that. It wasnít 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. Iím 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 Iíve never felt it before. I feel free to love everyone, whatever they believe. I donít 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 Jesusí 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 donít see how I can ever follow Jesus as literally as he does, but Iím going to try somehow to shape my life in the way Jesus taught. Iím scared of what that will mean. But Iím 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. "Letís go to bed."

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