Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why didn't Jesus appear to everyone?

One of the stock objections to the Resurrection is that Jesus didn’t appear to more people. But the problem with this objection is that infidels will always move the goalpost.

1. Suppose Jesus appeared to Pilate. Suppose we had an ostensible firsthand account of his appearance to Pilate.

How would infidels respond? Their first resort would be to deny the authenticity of the account. It must be a 2C forgery, or something like that.

And they know it couldn’t be authentic since dead men don’t return from the grave. So you have a circular denial.

2. But suppose the account was authenticated. How would infidels respond?

i) Their next resort would be to ask rhetorically, What’s more likely: that Jesus really did appear to Pilate, or that Pilate lied, or hallucinated, or we have a case of mistaken identity, &c.?

ii) They’d add that ancient witnesses can’t be trusted. They’re so superstitious, you know. So that feeds into their confirmation bias. They see what they expect to see. Things that go bump in the night.

3. Suppose Jesus appeared on national TV. How would the infidel respond?

He might says: What’s more likely: that dead men return from the grave, or that his television appearance was a computer-animated illusion?

4. Suppose Jesus made a personal appearance to the infidel? How would he respond?

i) He might say, How do I know it’s Jesus? What does Jesus look like, anyway? And it’s not like I can do a DNA match.

ii) Or he might say, What’s more likely: that dead men return from the grave, or that I had a hypnagogic hallucination?

iii) Or he might say, Even a space alien impersonating Jesus is more likely than Jesus appearing to me. At least space aliens, if they exist, are naturally possible. And any naturalistic explanation, however unlikely, is more likely than any supernaturalistic explanation like a miracle (i.e. the Resurrection). 


  1. In an infinite and exhaustive multiverse, there's going to be some universe where alien pranksters stage this kind of holographic projection, or people simply have mass hallucinations of this sort. This is why I am puzzled by the skeptical notion of the absolute priority of naturalistic explanations - the idea that, because we can merely think of a naturalistic explanation for some phenomena, theistic explanations should be ruled out. This basically puts the skeptic in a position (that most don't want to be in) of saying that there simply cannot ever be any evidence for theism. Any phenomenon can be explained naturalistically.

  2. "But the problem with this objection is that infidels will always move the goal post."

    Infidel: "I'm getting sick of you kicking it through the uprights. I'm moving the goalposts back!

    Let's see you kick it through now, you mean, bigoted, dogmatic, intolerant, stupid Christian fundy!!

    Kick the ball now, you Prot Fundy Mug-Fug!"

  3. Do critics accept the testimony of men like James and Paul, who had been enemies of Christianity prior to the resurrection? Do they accept the non-Christian Jewish testimony to the empty tomb? Some do, but many don't. Do they accept Constantine's testimony concerning the revelation he allegedly received from God? Do they accept non-Christian corroboration of the traditional gospel authorship attributions? Etc. We have many examples of critics rejecting corroboration of Christianity from non-Christian sources, often when there's nothing even close to a good reason to do so. Before they ask for more evidence, they should come up with a better explanation of what they already have.

  4. By the way, we also have many modern examples of corroboration of paranormal phenomena from hostile sources. See here. Do skeptics who ask for something like testimony to the resurrection from Pilate accept these modern paranormal phenomena on the basis of such hostile corroboration?