The Resurrection and the Paranormal

One thing that has surprised me about my recent research on the historical case for the resurrection of Jesus is how quickly and deeply it has merged into more general debates about the paranormal, parapsychology, and psychical research. I already knew that Gary Habermas had an interest in near death experiences (NDEs), and somewhere (I can’t locate the source offhand) William Lane Craig comments on a potentially believable contemporary case of demon possession. But until recently listening to some more of Michael Licona’s debates and interviews, studying some of Habermas’s statements, and reading Dale Allison for the first time, I didn’t realize the extent to which a number of the scholars and apologists involved in the debate over the resurrection were making appeals and comparisons to the paranormal and supernatural in general, and in the contemporary world. While skeptics frequently make unfavorable comparisons between belief in the resurrection and various paranormal events, like  visions of the Virgin Mary, faith healers, demonic manifestations, and so forth, I didn’t fully appreciate the degree to which some prominent believers were actually arguing for the believability of such events, their supernatural nature,  and their relevance as evidence to support the case for the resurrection. The exact ways in which they are doing this are somewhat complicated and I haven’t teased out all the mechanics yet, but it’s an interesting aspect of the debate. Craig doesn’t actively incorporate more general evidence for the paranormal or supernatural into his arguments for the resurrection, but Habermas and Licona do. (Allison uses the evidence from apparitions of the dead in a more complicated manner that deserves a separate analysis later.)