Showing up, and why it mattersMarch 8, 2009 — Deacon Duncan
There are three ideas at the core of my unapologetic against Christianity. The first is the principle that truth is consistent with itself. The second and third are what I call the Undeniable Fact and its Inescapable Consequence: God does not show up in real life, and consequently men have no option but to put their faith in their own fantasies, intuitions, superstitions and hearsay. To the extent that salvation depends on true faith in God, therefore, salvation is impossible, since God is not here to give us something real to put our faith in, and since mere gullible trust in men’s words is not really the same as having genuine faith.
Lately, it seems like much of the opposition to my unapologetic is centered around the idea of what it means for God to show up in real life. Believers seem to want a definition that’s broad enough, and vague enough, that they can count God as having shown up without there ever being any real-world evidence we could use to prove or disprove their claims. But I think perhaps we can pin down the definition of “showing up” in fairly reasonable and unambiguous terms, and thereby show how crucial it is to consider whether God actually does show up in real life.
You will recall that, according to the Gospel stories, no one is said to have actually seen Jesus rise from the dead. The Event, if it happened at all, happened inside a sealed tomb when no one was around, and the tomb was already empty by the time anyone looked inside. What changes it from a missing body story to a “resurrection” story is the fact that believers subsequently reported various appearances of Jesus after his death. That is, he showed up, in ways that were personally significant to them and which were sufficient to prove to them that he was indeed alive.
What I propose is that Christians 2,000 years ago were the same sort of people as believers today, and they were giving Jesus credit for “showing up” on precisely the same subjective, non-materialistic basis as believers do today. Rather than having a miraculous, supernatural eruption of divine power and glory, we merely have the same sort of ordinary, subjective, religious experiences we observe believers having all the time—without God Himself showing up in any kind of literal, tangible, objectively-real manner.
Believers, of course, will object that Jesus really did show up after the alleged Resurrection. But therein lies the catch, you see, because in order to make that argument, they must first admit that they know the difference between “showing up” in the common, evidence-free, religious sense of the word, and genuinely showing up in real life, outside of the fantasies, intuitions, and superstitions of men. And yet, it is precisely this sort of genuine, real-world showing up, which would be necessary in order for the resurrection story to be true, which does not happen in real life.
It does not matter if believers want to argue that I can’t possibly know that God does not genuinely show up in real life. God’s failure to show up is an Undeniable Fact with an Inescapable Consequence: if God has not genuinely shown up in your life, you have no real-world basis for faith in Him. The only option available to you is blind trust in what men claim about God, and this is faith in men, not faith in God. Even if you’d like to believe that somewhere out in the hinterlands, God is showing up for a lonely old hermit who has no social contact with anyone else, the fact remains that in your life, God does not show up in real life, and therefore you have no opportunity to have reality-based faith in anything more than human fallibilities.
If God were showing up in real life, genuinely showing up in a tangible and objectively-real sense, often enough that Christians could have a valid basis for their personal faith, there would be more than enough empirical, verifiable evidence to satisfy the skeptic. He’d be photographable, videotapable, even paparazziable! There would be no cause to doubt His existence, nor any advantage in doing so. Even the Pharisees, who were murderously opposed to Jesus’ ministry, never found reason to doubt whether or not he actually existed. But then again, Jesus did show up (at least until he was executed).
So yes, I do know that God does not show up in real life, and what’s more, I know that the Resurrection is extremely easy to explain just by watching what ordinary, everyday Christians accept as genuine and infallible proof that God has miraculously manifested Himself in their personal lives. It’s all a matter of how God “shows up” in real life, and the mental maneuvers believers are willing and eager to perform in order to turn His absence into His presence. The Gospel is just an exercise in mutual and self deception.