Re: Thomas and Gideon (was Re: Abraham)

John Miller (
Fri, 12 Apr 1996 09:34:19 -0800 (AKDT)

Bill Hamilton wrote:
>Christians sometimes get criticized for "putting out a fleece" -- and that
>criticism implies criticism of Gideon, who put a fleece out to determine if
>the person who spoke to him was really God. I've always thought that
>criticism of Gideon was misdirected. Most people today when they talk of
>"putting out a fleece" mean they resolved that if a given event occurred,
>they would take that as a message from God to proceed with some plan. I
>agree that that's dangerous, but that's not what Gideon did. He had
>already been spoken to by God and he wanted to authenticate that it was
>indeed God who spoke to him. So he put the fleece out on two successive
>nights and did what any good scientist would do. He asked that the fleece
>be dry while the surrounding ground be wet one night, and asked for the
>reverse the other night. He didn't want to be tricked by a natural
>phenomenon that might bias the fleece to have more or less condensation
>than the surrounding ground. That's just good science. And God honored
>his request.

Well, I'm one who not necessarily criticizes Gideon--after all with his
outlook of uncertainty he surely needed additional guidance--but I
challenge those who point to "setting out the fleece" as a helpful
mechanism in deciding what God's will is. Gideon's uncertainty (unbelief)
was based at least in part to his not wanting to do what God clearly had
told him to do. God was extraordinarily patient with his unbelief and
honored his fleece experiments (as he is with us), but that IMHO does not
make Gideon an acceptable role model in this particular instance. (If Bill
can read into the story the notion that Gideon wondered if what he had
heard was really from God, then I guess I can read into the same story
timidity and unwillingness to commit to God--until hit on the head with a
2x4. ;>) )

With respect to folks who struggle with knowing the will of God, I found a
book "Decision Making and the Will of God" (I think the title was) by Gary
Theissen very helpful. Some consider it controversial because it
challenges conventional thought about the basic nature of the will of God
with respect to choices we make in our lives. It is published by Multnomah
Press. Not erudite, but practical and helpful.

This post is a simplistic treatment of a complicated issue, and what I left
unstated is probably as confusing as what is there, but this forum probably
isn't ripe for too many details. To me, with Gideon as with 'doubting'
Thomas, one can read an implied criticism from the biblical passage, but
doing so may say more about the reader/thinker than it does about Gideon's
and Thomas' personalities. Criticism of uncertainty is not the main
purpose of those respective passages.

Particularly with Thomas, a blessing was pronounced upon those willing to
believe while lacking evidence, but are those who believed *after* seeing
the risen Lord *unblessed* by that experience? That would include most of
the disciples. One wonders how many of the early Christians believed from
only the accounts provided by others of his resurrection, versus seeing him
in bodily form.

>You are in good company, Glenn.



John M. Miller, Geophysical Institute, Univ Alaska Fairbanks
903 Koyukuk Drive, PO Box 757320, Fairbanks AK 99775-7320
voice: 907-474-7363 fax: 907-474-7689, alt fax: 907-474-7290