Speaking the Truth in Love

Who Has the Wild Imagination?

Some skeptics say that the resurrection of Jesus took place in the disciples’ heads. Hypnosis, for instance, may explain their faith. Jesus was a master hypnotist. Before his death he trained his followers to have hypnotic experiences triggered by certain environmental cues. In these trances they would see Jesus alive.

This theory puts too much stock in the power of hypnosis. For one thing, everyone isn’t susceptible to it. Hypnosis certainly had no effect on Thomas. After the resurrection all the disciples were telling him what they had seen, but Thomas stubbornly refused to believe unless he could put his finger “in the mark of the nails” (John 20:25). And Jesus had no opportunity whatsoever to play mental games with Saul of Tarsus. The staunchest witness of the resurrection became a disciple a good two years after the cross.

The suggestion that the disciples were hallucinating is equally silly. Hallucinations result from drug use or serious illness. Neither of these causes is relevant. Besides, a hallucination is an individual experience. But Paul mentions an occasion when Jesus “appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time” (1 Cor. 15:6).

The resurrection of Jesus wasn’t a hallucination or a hypnotic suggestion. Luke, the man who wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else, explained that his work was the product of thorough investigation: “Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things which have been accomplished among us, just as they were delivered to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word, it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account” (Luke 1:1-3). This “orderly account” (which includes both Luke and Acts) affirms that Jesus “presented Himself alive, after His suffering, by many convincing proofs” (Acts 1:3, NASB). The Christian believer has “convincing proofs.” It’s the skeptic who has the wild imagination.

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