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Evidence for the afterlife

By Spencer Gear - posted Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Where will we be one minute after our last breath? How can we demonstrate there is, or is not, life after death?

On Line Opinion, the Bible, myth and fantasy

Feedback from the OnLine Opinion community express some of the views of the wider community – religious and non-religious. Comments (mainly in response to my articles) do not generally recommend the Bible as reliable evidence for God, Jesus and the cosmos. Here are a few examples:

'Your only authority comes from hugely plagiarized and embellished works that were subjectively included and revised to fit a narrative that the pagan sun-worshipper Constatine (sic) could accept'.


Another wrote that 'the Bible is not evidence.… The resurrection of Jesus is myth'.

These inflammatory comments continued: 'The Bible may have some historical accuracy, but most of it appears to be just superstitious nonsense'. Yet another contributor engaged in this pejorative throw-away line: 'Every minute fraction of this essay is an exercise in childish fantasy, and the naive mommy-daddy "creator-God"'.

As for Jesus's birth, the proclamation was: 'The common nativity story is largely a myth'. Jesus also received a drubbing through this criticism: 'All of the entirely fictional stories about Saint Jesus of Galilee are just plain and simply NOT TRUE'.

Reflecting views of wider community

The views of the wider community mirror those of my OLO critics. I asked one fellow: 'Why are you not taking Jesus seriously? Or the challenge of what happens at death?' He replied, 'I don't take fairy tales seriously'. When asked for examples, he offered no response (link no longer online).

There's a thread on the Internet that asks, 'What is your favorite Bible fairy tale?' One response: 'An all-powerful perfect being creates the world, but he screws it up so bad (sic), he wipes it out with a flood and starts over'. Other such fairy tales include Noah's Ark, the Creation Story, Daniel and the Lions. Others nominated those who live to be over 600 years, the notion that Jesus lets people kill him, and the story about unbelievers tossed into the Lake of Fire.

Scholars have jumped on the mythsl or fairy tale bandwagon. My doctoral dissertation considered John Dominic Crossan's critique of some aspects of the historical Jesus. He claimed 'Jesus's burial by his friends was totally fictional and unhistorical. He was buried, if buried at all, by his enemies, and the necessarily shallow grave would have been easy prey for scavenging dogs' (1994:160). Crossan did not present any convincing evidence to support his claim.


For an earlier generation, the German theologian Rudolf Bultmann (1884–1976) took on the task of demythologising the New Testament. He stated his views succinctly: people can't use electric lights and radios, be treated using modern medicine – and still believe in the world of the spirit and wonder of the New Testament. To retain the spirit world, for him, was to make the Christian proclamation unintelligible for contemporary people (New Testament and Mythology, p. 18).

However, there are historians who disagree with this appraisal.

The Bible: myth or reliable history?

The eminent Christian apologist, Dr William Lane Craig, challenged Crossan's views. His assessment was that the driving force behind Crossan's scepticism 'is not historical, but philosophical considerations, namely, Crossan's anti-supernaturalism. As emerges under cross-examination in my debate with Crossan on Jesus's resurrection, Crossan is, in fact, an atheist who thinks that God is just a construct of the human imagination which believers impose on reality. Therefore, a supernatural event like the resurrection is a priori impossible, regardless of the evidence' (Craig & Crossan 1998:49-51).

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About the Author

Spencer Gear PhD (University of Pretoria, South Africa) is a retired counselling manager, independent researcher, retired minister of the The Christian & Missionary Alliance of Australia, and freelance writer living in Brisbane Qld, Australia.

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