Monday, October 3, 2011

Apparitions of the dead: Can they disprove Christianity?

I was thinking about Apparitions of the dead. They are an interesting phenomena that can very adequately explain away Jesus' resurrection in natural terms. However, they are also a double sided sword. For if they can be proven to be veridical- than that not only becomes evidence in support of the Resurrection, but against Naturalism itself! So, I think that before we cling to apparitions data for support, we better first try to prove, at least to ourselves, that the apparition data fits a naturalistic worldview. Sadly, most atheists scientists just ignore apparitional data; hell, according to Dale Allison, Theologians do too!

"Now I share Gary's fascination for NDEs, and I am nonplussed that theologians by and large seem content to ignore them"

However, these scientists may have good reason to ignore them. Here is a great article on this sort of phenomena here. As Gary Habermas admits in his essay here, may of these events do not have very good evidential merit.
"In my own study of apparition cases, in spite of my very positive mindset, I hardly ever saw a case for which there were not several potential alternative theses. In fact, when even the best cases are studied, something regularly seems to be lacking."

So it seems to me that, by Gary's own admission, the burden of proof lies on the Theist to explain why they think that these apparitions constitute as proof of an afterlife, and not of vivid Hallucinations. However, I think that, even if one where to concede that apparitions are strong evidence in support of an afterlife, that they could still turn around and mount a powerful attack against traditional Christianity. To do this, one has to show that the apparition data is inconsistent with the Bibles teachings and thus, Christianity. The doctrine that stands out most quickly to me is the doctrine of hell. Traditional Christianity has always taught that not all will enjoy salvation. However, if within the vast amounts of apparitional data we find at least one case of a non-Christian enjoying his/her stay in the afterlife, than that should constitute as damning evidence against the doctrine of hell and, by extension, traditional Christianity as we know it.

Now, I'm not sure what Theologians would make of this sort of argument- perhaps they would find it convincing. Perhaps, just perhaps, it is why they are so hesitant to embrace the data in the first place! Personally, I see apparitional data as being, if anything, quite relieving to the atheist, since it offers some hope of an afterlife, even if we don't believe it.

3 comments:

  1. "However, if within the vast amounts of apparitional data we find at least one case of a non-Christian enjoying his/her stay in the afterlife, than that should constitute as damning evidence against the doctrine of hell and, by extension, traditional Christianity as we know it."

    So too with near-death experiences. Many report an encounter with a being of universal compassion and love that accepts everyone unconditionally. Very different from the exclusivist God of tradtional Christianity.

    Have you ever heard of this book?

    http://www.amazon.com/Visions-Jesus-Direct-Encounters-Testament/dp/0195126696/ref=pd_ybh_1?pf_rd_p=280800601&pf_rd_s=center-2&pf_rd_t=1501&pf_rd_i=ybh&pf_rd_m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=04N1XKWD546SQQRCH14C

    From what little I've read on the amazon preview, the author appears to entertain the possibility that 'Christic apparitions' may be veridical, yet traditional Christianity may still be false:

    "One could come to believe, for instance, that Jesus was resurrected and still exists, but not believe one Supreme Deity exists." (p. 7)

    That is, the apparitions of Jesus and others could support a number of paranormal/supernatural worldviews that are nothing like Christian theism. Interesting stuff.

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  2. Yeah... NDE's actually vary according to your culture. As a matter of fact, one of the strongest NDE's is from a member of the Baha'i faith!

    Also, interesting book. According to amazon, one guy captured his own apparition on film! If that story is true, the implications for naturalism are huge! I'll have to read the book and find out whether it can be debunked or not!

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    Replies
    1. I have read the book. Wrote a review on it as well

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