What Happens When You See Jesus?

There is a population of people in all cultures throughout history who hear voices that aren't there and see things that don't exist to other people. Modern American society labels these beliefs the product of a mental illness and it is given several different names. Most patients with severe, persisting delusions are schizophrenic, a disorder that can be treated with medication, but at the moment is incurable. One of the most common types of delusions seen in schizophrenics is that of religious figures appearing to them or speaking to them.

A study done in 2002 in the UK compared patients who had religious delusions with those who did not have religious themes as part of their delusion. I'll get to the findings in a bit but first, a bit about schizophrenic delusions.

Patients with schizophrenia can be very convincing. Most people who work with the mentally ill have at one time or another had a twinge of concern that perhaps the person they were evaluating might really be being persecuted. They have extremely good logical skills and can generally answer any objection to their overarching theory with a detailed explanation of why they are correct.

For example, some people imagine that celebrities are secretly in love with them. Some people imagine that various government agencies have listening devices located in unusual places and are closely monitoring their activities. Some people believe that the people around them are being replaced with impostors. Still others believer that angels and devils appear to them. Some even have Jesus or the angel Gabriel appear to them.

Now I want to be clear here. If someone you know is seeing Jesus appear to them, please get them to see a mental health professional as soon as possible. There is almost no chance Jesus is actually appearing to them, regardless of what they tell you, and there is a very high chance they are severely mentally ill and in need of medication and therapy.

What's worse, in the study done in the UK, the patients with religious delusions had much worse overall pathology and were harder to treat.

Now -- the hard part for me to understand is this. From my point of view, the present is the key to the past. It is likely that processes that are going on now on earth are the same ones as have taken place for the bulk of our history as a species, especially as it concerns mental functioning.

So if someone today has Jesus appear to him, we don't listen to what he says Jesus told him. We get him to a psychiatrist and medicate him. Rarely, we don't, and the results are usually quite predictable.

So it is odd, given the facts that we have today, that Christians find the appearances of Jesus to Paul to be evidence of God acting in history, yet they don't find the same analogous actions occurring today to be the same phenomenon. Surely Christians believe that Jesus, being omnipotent, could appear should he choose to. In fact, most believe he will appear at some time in the near future.

So I ask again to all my Christian friends:

Let me know what you would think if three of your friends came to tell you about one of them having an appearance from Jesus, and two of them seeing a light and hearing a voice. Assume Jesus instructed your friend he appeared to that all Christians should run daily marathons and become vegans.

Is this something you would consider authoritative? If not, why not, and by what method do you differentiate between ancient appearances, for which we only have textual evidence and modern appearances, for which we have live witnesses whom we can interrogate to determine the veracity of their claim?

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