Proof #50: Ask Jesus to Appear

A reply to proof #50 of God is Imaginary.


GII says that Proof #50 has generated so many excuses that it was necessary to create a separate page to rebut them. These items are allegedly Christian answers specifically geared to this proof. None of these are very good; they represent the worst possible answers to the conundrum presented here. No citations are given for these responses, so I have no idea where any of them may have come from.
This proof appears under the heading of "extreme irony."

Repeatedly, atheists assure us that proofs based on experience mean nothing to them. On the WWGHA Forum Rules for Christians, point 7:
We are generally science minded, so the more proof you have of something, the more likely we are to agree with you. On that note, anecdotes, while perhaps interesting, generally don't prove much, at least not to an atheist.
So it fascinates me that any atheist would consider asking Jesus to make a personal appearance proof of anything. Let me explain why.

Consider two hypothetical individuals, Joe and Bob. Joe is a devout Christian, and he seeks to convert Bob, an avowed atheist. We can pretty much assume that Bob isn't going to pray for Jesus to appear, since Bob doesn't believe in prayer. So any request for a personal appearance is going to come from Joe. If Joe then sees Jesus in his bedroom that night, and rushes to tell Bob about it the next morning, what happens?

Bob, as a science-minded atheist, doesn't consider Joe's personal anecdote to be of any evidential value. Joe was already a Christian and had faith in Jesus; this appearance doesn't change that. Bob is still an atheist, though he may consider Joe a little bit nuts now. So, what did this personal appearance do to advance the Kingdom of God? Precisely nothing. Jesus made an appearance, but we are still at square one.

What if Jesus had appeared to Bob instead? Might that have made a difference? It's tough to say, but my guess is no. Again, we go back to the science-mindedness of Bob. As a typical atheist, Bob likely believes that nature is all that exists. In this type of mindset, miracles are impossible. If Jesus were to appear and announce himself, in all probability Bob would begin to look for natural explanations for this event. Bob might consider it a dream brought on by Joe's incessant attempts to witness.

Either way, nothing much happens. God gains nothing by making a personal appearance to either party.

Thinking about things this way completely alters the premise of the GII website. The author reasons that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people, that it is permissible for Jesus to make these appearances, and that it is easy for Jesus to make appearances.

From that, he adds that it would be beneficial for Jesus to appear. But, as I have demonstrated above, it is not beneficial in any way. The Christian already believes, so there is no need for Jesus to appear to the Christian. The atheist will probably dismiss the appearance as a hallucination, dream, or seek another naturalistic explanation due to an anti-miracle bias. It would be pointless, therefore, to appear to the atheist.

Then, the GII author says that Jesus hasn't appeared to anyone in 2,000 years. Of course, the author admits previously that Jesus appeared to hundreds of people during the middle of the first century, so he's negating his own point. That leaves us with the question of why the appearances stopped and what is the proper way to know Jesus today.

Contrary to what our anonymous friend says, Jesus does not promise to appear to us today. No verse of the Bible promises that; the author draws that conclusion from faulty exegesis of existing passages. Jesus' appearance to Paul is said to be "last of all" (1 Cor 15:8). In his gospel, John says that "these [things] are written so you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God" (Jn 20:31).

The proper way to know Jesus is through the Scriptures.

In my very simple example above, I explained (reasonably) why Jesus wouldn't make appearances to Christians or to atheists. Neither appearance would make any progress or win any converts. But I failed to consider a third possibility. What whould happen if Jesus would appear to someone of a different religion?

It is impossible to answer what would happen if Jesus would appear to an adherent of each religion. But I don't think it would help much if he did. The simple explanation goes back to why an atheist considers personal testimony a poor piece of evidence: the magic word paradigm. Everyone's beliefs and biases form a paradigm, which is a filter through which the world is viewed. Were Jesus to appear to, say, a Muslim, the Muslim would use his paradigm to evaluate the situation.

Muslims are taught that Jesus was not God. In the Koran, Allah (God) was neither begat nor begets. That means that a manifestation of Jesus calling the Muslim to repentance would be very unlikely to have an effect since the Muslim neither believes that Jesus is God nor can call anyone to repentance. Notice that this is eerily similar to the atheist's reaction above: the atheist doesn't believe in miracles, so the experience is chalked up to some currently unknown (but natural) explanation. Each person uses his own paradigm to conclude something about the experience.

With that as a starting point, it should be easy to see how the adherents of other religions will place such experiences in their own paradigms.

Why doesn't Jesus appear today? Simple. It won't make a difference.