Now, this theory is more sophisticated than it looks on the surface. It's based on a philosophical objection to miracles, or at least our ability to know if they ever happen. I have addressed these objections in more detail here.
But I don't think they realize what they are really admitting when they say this. Let me use an illustration.
Ancient Aliens and Radioactive Boxes
The History Channel has an infamous show called "Ancient Aliens." There are some pretty wild things in that show. There is one episode that talks about how the Ark of the Covenant was radioactive, and that is the reason people died when they touched it. They also proposed that the radioactive material somehow acted as a food or energy source (i.e. manna).
Obviously, no one takes this silly idea very seriously. Hence, it doesn't feature very prominently in Christian-atheist debate.
But humor me for a second.....
What if the ark of the covenant (with all the properties that the Bible ascribes to it) was a widely regarded fact of history? What if most scholarly people (Christian and atheist alike) agreed that the Ark of the Covenant was energized by something and killed everyone who touched it?
Suddenly, the "God-is-killing-people-who-touch-the-box theory" wouldn't look so bad by comparison (to the atheists). It wouldn't prove it. But it wouldn't look as bad.
Now, imagine one of the most significant arguments against the "God theory" is that it really was a radioactive box they carried around that they used to get energy from. Now imagine, some Christian and non-Christian are in a debate. The Christian confronts the atheist, saying that their best alternative to the "God theory" is the "Ancient Aliens" theory. The Christian proceeds to go on a tirade about how bad the Ancient Aliens theory is.
Imagine that the atheist responds by saying: "It doesn't matter how bad the alternative theory is. Any of those theories are better than a miracle." The atheist then goes on a tirade about how silly it is to believe in God or miracles.
But think of what he is admitting here....
He would be tacitly admitting that the ridiculous "Ancient Aliens" theory is really the best the atheists can come up with...
Now, don't get me wrong. That would not make the Christian view the correct one.
....But its a horrible position to be in from a debate standpoint...
It's an especially bad position if your part of an ideological group (atheists) that has recently been known for mocking Christians for being unlogical and unrational.
It amounts to an admission that your own ideas would be considered very bad theories if applied to almost anything else.
Back to The Resurrection...
Here's the problem. Sophisticated atheist debaters argue that any theory is more likely than the resurrection theory, because the resurrection is an extraordinarily unlikely violation of the laws of nature (they say).
Any theory is better than resurrection, they say... Then, they move to the prevailing theory as the best alternative.
But let's now look at the prevailing theory against the resurrection. It's the vision/hallucination theory.
Skeptics propose that, after Jesus died, the disciples had grief hallucinations of him. These hallucinations led them to believe he was really alive once again.
This sounds sophisticated, but it's really a pretty bad theory just on the face of it.
Imagine invoking multiple hallucination theory for anything else in history...or in life, for that matter.
Police Officers Have A "Group Hallucination" Of Your Meth Lab
Imagine the little child suggesting that Mommy and Daddy had a "group hallucination" of him reaching for the cookie jar. Or perhaps Julius Caesar wasn't really assassinated. The "witnesses" merely hallucinated the event.....because they had such a strong religious-type devotion to Caesar. Or perhaps lawyers should start using the "Hallucination defense" when 11 witnesses claim that their client committed murder.... Or perhaps you should suggest to the police officers who discover your meth lab that they are merely having "group hallucination".....
This theory has the audacity to say that Jesus' 12 best friends did not have the competence to distinguish their real living Jesus from a figment of their imagination...on multiple occasions....
...Which raises scary questions. If you meet someone for lunch just one time.....did you really meet them???? After all, you're only one witness. Do I really have a girlfriend right now??? Or is she the figment of my wishful thinking, constructed to ease my loneliness????? After all, I'm not 11 people.
Keep in mind.....this is the prevailing alternative theory to the resurrection currently on the market.......even among scholars
Is This Really The Best Available Theory?
I understand that people have a higher tolerance for alternative theories...simply because it's a resurrection were talking about. Resurrections are less likely than most things. But atheists talk like God and miracles are so easy to debunk.
If miracles are so easy to debunk....SURELY non-believers can come up with a theory better than multiple hallucination!??!?! If the atheist movement of the last ten years is so keen on how rational they are...surely a better theory is in order?!?!?!?!?!?!?
It doesn't make Christians correct....it just doesn't make atheists look any better.
Many miracles ARE easy to debunk. The resurrection is not. Not even sort of easy. Therein lies the issue. The best alternative theory leads to absurd conclusions when applied to almost anything else in life or history.
And hallucination theory...is very similar to saying that the Ark of the Covenant is actually a radioactive box energized by radioactive materials. You're kind of forced to accept the theory if it's the best option you have. But it certainly doesn't make your position look good.
You Should Be Happy Though...
Think of this. Should we be happy or sad if Jesus really did rise from the dead? Happy of course, because there is a God who loves us and became a man and died for us and offers us eternal bliss.
Imagine the alternative to this theory sounds like "Ancient Aliens."
Should that make a person happy or sad?
In my opinion, it should make them very happy......
Finally, we can accept God's offer of eternal friendship without fear of being swept away by wishful thinking.