Gospel Disproof #22: The unfortunate alternatives


A couple days ago I posted about the Undeniable Fact and its Inescapable Consequence. As some of the commenters have pointed out, this is not a complete disproof of the Gospel, because believers can simply insist that yes, God does so show up in real life. In other words, they can simply deny the Undeniable Fact. That, however, is a reply that has its own unfortunate consequences for the believer.

The first consequence is that before you can say that God shows up in real life, you have to admit that He has no good and compelling reason not to show up. After all, if there were such a reason, then obviously He must not show up after all, because He can’t. But by claiming that God does show up in real life, the believer is admitting that apologists everywhere are not telling the truth when they suggest that, say, God cannot show in real life because doing so would “ravish” man’s free will (to use C. S. Lewis’ excuse).

Now then, if there’s nothing preventing God from showing up in real life, then we have a very easy means of determining whether or not men are telling the truth about Him. According to the Gospel, God wants to be with us, badly enough to die for it Himself, so if men are telling the truth about Him, all we have to do is ask Him to show up, and He will, because it’s what HE wants. And if He does not show up, then we know that Christians are not telling the truth about Him.

That’s an unfortunate consequence for the Christians, because even they themselves know God is either unwilling or unable to show up in real life—that’s why they work so hard inventing good and compelling reasons why He can’t and/or shouldn’t do it. And that in turn proves that the Undeniable Fact is indeed undeniable. But that’s not the most unfortunate consequence.

The big problem with denying the Undeniable Fact is that in order to claim that God shows up in real life, you have to significantly lower the bar for what constitutes “showing up.” If you look at the specific cases people will give you for God showing up, you’ll find several stories about people having funny feelings, or strong emotional experiences, or amazing things happen that they give God credit for. That, however, is not a case of God showing up, it’s just ordinary superstition. Muslims do the same thing with Allah; Hindus with Krishna & Co., New Agers with their “spirit guides” and so on.

The way to prove this is to ask for pics. They don’t have them, of course, and shame on you for even asking. But that’s the catch, right? Because what they’re telling you is that God is “showing up” in a way that’s not literally true. They’re demonstrating the fact that, for believers, an “appearance” does not need to be a literal, physical, visible and audible appearance in order to count as a true appearance of God.

Wind back a couple thousand years and apply that to the Christians who wrote the New Testament. The big argument for the resurrection is not that people saw Jesus rise from the dead—the only actual eyewitnesses would have been the guards, and their testimony is that he did not rise. No, the evidence of the resurrection is his alleged post-death appearances to the believers.

By claiming that God shows up in real life today, modern Christians are pulling the rug out from under the witness of the Apostles, by giving us a chance to observe, first hand, what sort of experiences it takes to convince believers that they’re in the presence of a genuine “appearance.” We can know that, if the Apostles happened to be anything like the Christians of today, they could accept almost any subjective or superstitious perception as being a genuine manifestation of their “risen” Savior, whether or not anything was happening in the physical material world.

Thus, by showing how little it takes to constitute an “appearance” of God, those who deny the Undeniable Fact are giving us the evidence we need to show that the Gospel is a fraud. The only evidence for the resurrection is the witness of the apostles, but modern Christians demonstrate that this evidence does not mean what they think it means. The only way out is to admit that the Undeniable Fact is indeed undeniable, and that God does not show up in real life.

Comments

  1. davidct says

    I had not thought about how applying today’s weak standards of evidence for the presence of the supernatural would bring into question the standards of ancient evidence. Of course that is without even bringing up the strong possibility that the evidence of the Gospels was just made up in the first place.

    As a lifelong outsider, it just seems that the higher you pile it the worse it smells. Craig’s slick maneuvers don’t really change this except for those who are already convinced.

  2. rikitiki says

    Not sure if this is so ‘on-topic’, but, to me, a bigger disproof of the resurrection is this: per the gospel stories, the Jewish higher-ups were having so much trouble with Jesus and his band that they had him arrested, tried, and executed. Any half-thinking Jew would keep tabs on the apostles, set up a spying operation, etc, to ensure Jesus’s death didn’t become a rallying point which might bring out an even stronger leader from that group (something that’s happened quite often in the past). So, the sanhedrin would have seen the ‘risen-Christ’ as soon as he came back and would’ve promptly bumped him off. And wouldn’t ANY group have gone out shouting the news to everybody as soon as possible? I mean, c’mon here, they’d be all like: “Look! Our Jesus guy is SO great that you killed him and he’s baaack! nah-nah-nyah-nyah-nyah!” The gospel narratives make no sense in strictly human terms.

  3. Nathan says

    Your argument relies on the premise that God does not ‘show up’. Your evidence for this is that:
    * It contradicts what many apologists have said.
    * Apparent experiences of God can be easily explained as normal human emotions or coincidences.

    From this premise, you assert that any Christian who claims that God ‘shows himself’ must be self-deluded. This ability to delude oneself, you claim, is evidence that the apostles’ testimony is unreliable.

    You explain that God must want to show himself:
    “According to the Gospel, God wants to be with us, badly enough to die for it Himself…”
    Jesus died so that we would be reconciled with God. Reconciliation in this case does not necessarily imply a physical closeness. Mankind’s choice to sin led to death, and Jesus died to give us life – eternal life.

    In any case, if God does make himself known physically (or audibly) what is his motivation? When God appears to Saul, his motive is to stop Saul’s persecution of Christians, and to use Saul to further spread the message of Jesus. God does not give Saul some physical token with which he can prove God’s appearance. Neither does he feel the need to prove himself to the general populace when he appears to anyone. And can you argue that God’s strategy was flawed? Saul (soon to be known as Paul) went on to become probably the most influential figure in the early church, and arguably it was through him that the message of Christianity spread through the world.

    Jesus himself faced those who called for a ‘sign’ in order for him to prove that he was God (Matt. 12: 39-4). But Jesus is not concerned about proving his divinity – he is concerned with the salvation of those who he knows will accept his message.

    You argue that the evidence for God’s manifestations is insufficient for a rational person to believe. But have you considered that God’s purpose in those particular manifestations was not to convince you?

    God’s objectives do not require that he prove himself through physical manifestations. The lack of evidence for God ‘showing himself’ neither demonstrates that he doesn’t, nor does it demonstrate that he needs to.

    Perhaps some Christians credit God for certain experiences in a way that is unwarranted. But perhaps God makes himself known personally to individuals in a way that he knows they need.

  4. Brian M says

    Nathan:

    I’m not sure what your response really demonstrates. We have to believe God appears to believers merely because they say He did? That’s unfalsifiable.

      • says

        THIS.

        If you go about babbling nonsense about how sparkly purple faeries are living in your garden and they magickally make the flowers bloom, and they gave you authority over all humans and blah blah blah, and you know this because you’ve seen them, at the very least you get a 72 hour hold and some interesting drugs.

        Go about babbling the same nonsense about this God fellow, and you’re somehow considered this… paragon of virtue. Untouchable — even if you’re a kiddie-fiddler. (See the Catholic priest scandal.)

        Can someone explain why this double standard exists?

    • Janney says

      We have to believe God appears to believers merely because they say He did? That’s unfalsifiable.

      It’s also exactly Deacon’s point: it’s faith in people.

  5. Crudely Wrott says

    Ahah! Thanks to Nathan’s post #3 above I finally understand Carl Sandburg’s poem, Fog.

    THE fog comes
    on little cat feet.

    It sits looking
    over harbor and city
    on silent haunches
    and then moves on.

    Now I see that an appearance of God is like a mist that wafts in then is gone; like a small feline in the darkness pausing, its presence only realized by a glimpse of its tail flipping as it disappears behind something or into some shadow or just at the edge of sight.

    Yeah, I’ve seen God. Shows up in the damnedest places with no warning and not so much as a “chio” before, poof! gone! Cat’s tail at visual periphery.

    Shit. There it goes again.

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