Is seeing required for belief?

By Vinal Van Benthem | For The Compass | April 15, 2020

“Seeing is believing.” We’ve heard it said a thousand times. But is this what we, as Christians, really believe? This week’s readings seem to beg the question. In 1 Peter we read, “Although you have not seen him you love him.” But in John, “Unless I see the mark … put my finger into the nailmarks … my hand into his side, I will not believe.” It would appear that even among the earliest Christians there was some disagreement about the need to see solid evidence before believing, so we probably shouldn’t be surprised that in today’s cynical world I don’t have to be from Missouri to demand that you “show me” before I’ll believe you. “But,” you say, “I’m a person of faith and a Christian. I believe without seeing.” Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not sure I believe you. “Show me.”

“All who believed … had all things in common … and divide[d] them … according to each one’s need.” Reading this passage I can’t help thinking of Social Security. As large numbers of “boomers” retire and fewer young people enter the work force, politicians and pundits alike insist that the present system, under which younger workers put money into Social Security to effectively support older workers with the hope that when these younger workers retire money will be there for them, no longer works. Rather, some so-called “experts” suggest that it would be better for individuals to invest their money and take care of themselves.

Let’s go back to Acts. The early Christians (“All who believed”) “had all things in common [dividing] them among all according to each one’s need.” There doesn’t seem to be any mention of keeping property and possessions and investing them for one’s own benefit. But maybe I’ve got it all wrong. Maybe Christians just look different today than they did back then. Maybe taking care of one another like they did in the early church really isn’t practical in today’s economic climate. Maybe I should just take people’s word for it when they tell me that they’re Christians rather than expecting them to “show me.”

Van Benthem is a longtime pastoral minister in the diocese.

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