Thursday, January 04, 2018

Why Jesus Wouldn't Appear To Every Individual Or Christian Today

I want to add some comments of my own to Steve Hays' recent post on the subject. I don't want to repeat every point he's made, but there will be some overlap.

In my experience, skeptics don't give much consideration to the disadvantages of these alternatives to Christianity they propose, in this case an alternative version of Christianity that would have Jesus making an appearance to every individual or every Christian. They're so focused on the supposed advantages of their scenario that they give little attention to the downside.

There's no reason to think an appearance of Jesus would be necessary. Lesser evidence would be adequate. Why should we think the work of the Holy Spirit in an individual's heart, historical evidence for Jesus' life that's comparable to the evidence we commonly accept in other contexts involving historical matters, and other such means of leading a person to faith aren't enough?

God is simultaneously accomplishing multiple purposes in the world. Often, there are tradeoffs that require one thing to be gained at the expense of another.

Part of what God is doing is revealing and developing our character. For example, when an atheist doesn't have an adequate explanation for the evidence he has, yet he demands more evidence, that tells us something about his character. Similarly, there's a building of character when somebody who will eventually become a Christian has to value God enough to seek him, improves his character as he thinks through evidential issues and applies his conclusions to his life, and so on.

There are implications for God's character and how we relate to him. There's dignity in a king offering a pardon on his own terms rather than the criminal's. What if the criminal demands that the king come to him and give him the pardon in person? Whether the king accommodates that demand has implications for his character, how he's perceived, how other people looking on will behave, and so forth.

As Steve mentioned in his post, we have many extrabiblical examples of God providing people with an unusually large amount of evidence if he sees fit, and there are many Biblical examples of God doing so as well. God has sometimes answered my prayers, given me highly evidential supernatural confirmation of something in a context in which that confirmation was important to me, and acted supernaturally in my life in other ways. He doesn't always do it, and when he does it, the evidence he provides isn't maximal or even close to maximal. It doesn't have to be. (Similarly, when I'm interacting with other people, I often give them less evidence than I could, since that lesser evidence is adequate. Providing more would be inefficient, take too much time, give a false impression about what's needed in the situation, encourage false expectations in future contexts, etc.) And asking for more evidence wouldn't explain the evidence I have.

For some examples of the evidence we have, which critics are claiming we need to have supplemented, see here, here, and here. The presence of that evidence is far more difficult for a skeptic to explain than the absence of further evidence is for a Christian to explain. What Christianity affirms about matters like God's sovereignty and the work of the Holy Spirit make an appearance of Jesus to everybody unnecessary. God is already addressing everybody adequately. If that adequate work is supplemented by lines of evidence like the ones addressed in my three links above, there's no reason to think that more is needed.

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