Evangelical Apologist Randall Rauser Refuses to Answer the Question: Do You Perceive the Presence of Jesus?

5 Things to Do When You Can't Feel God's Presence

From a conversation with popular evangelical Christian apologist Randall Rauser on his blog:

Gary: What evidence would convince you that Jesus does not dwell within you, Randall?

Rauser: Is that your way of asking what would persuade me that Christianity is false? Well, for example, encountering a very irritated looking Allah after death: that would certainly do it. Various experiences, likely the bones of Jesus discovered in a tomb, perhaps a group of first century letters outlining the means and motive for the resurrection story being a hoax, etc.

Gary: No, I’m not talking about the historical evidence for Christianity. I am asking about your belief that the spirit of the resurrected Jesus dwells within you. What evidence would you need to reject as false your perception that the spirit of Jesus dwells within you? (evidence prior to your death.)

Rauser: Jesus doesn’t literally “dwell within me”. And Rod Stewart’s beloved is not literally in his heart and soul. That’s a spatial metaphor conveying the existence of a relationship.

Gary: As a former evangelical myself, many evangelicals are taught that it is possible to perceive “Christ in you”. It isn’t just intellectual knowledge it is perceptible through the senses. Many evangelicals believe that the spirit of Jesus speaks to them in an non-audible voice. They describe it as a perception of being “moved” or “led” or “directed” to do this or to do that. For some evangelicals, a denial of the perception of “Christ dwelling within you” is a concerning sign as to your status as a true born-again believer.

Randall, do you now or have you ever perceived the presence of Jesus Christ within you?

Rauser: I’ve written a couple of books that offer extended treatments of Christian epistemology: “Theology in Search of Foundations” and “The Swedish Atheist…” You can read about my epistemological views there. Just be sure you don’t confuse a spatial metaphor with literal language. That’s a big mistake.

Gary: Randall, do you now or have you ever perceived the presence of Jesus Christ within you?

Rauser: LOL, trying to have a conversation with you is analogous to a child trying to talk to Dora the Explorer on TV. The child initially thinks there actually is a meaningful back-and-forth conversation, but eventually they realize otherwise.

I’m going to go walk the dog now.

Gary: Dear Readers of Randall Rauser’s blog: This is the exact same reaction I received from evangelical scholar and apologist Michael Licona when I asked him the same question. He too did NOT want to answer this question. He twisted himself into a pretzel to avoid answering it. Why is that?? All Licona and Rauser need to say is: 

“I do not believe that anyone can perceive the presence of Jesus’ spirit or that of the Holy Spirit through the senses. The presence of Jesus is not something one experiences but something one believes intellectually.”

Why can’t they say that?





End of post.

16 thoughts on “Evangelical Apologist Randall Rauser Refuses to Answer the Question: Do You Perceive the Presence of Jesus?

  1. Gary,

    You’ve done an excellent job in using their own theology/thought to demonstrate the irrationality of their “belief” or “Faith” or whatever new-fangled term they come up with next to justify their irrationality. Well done.

    The reason I suspect Rauser, Licona, and millions of other Christians and their Apologists don’t want to answer your question concisely and be honestly wide open on it is because their answer WILL NOT completely jive with people in their own Christian circles, their specific denomination of Believers/Faithers, i.e. Presbytery, fellowship/convention (Baptists), Church-wide Assembly (Lutherans), and certainly all other Christian denominations around the world. Authority is the religion’s or Faith’s Achilles’ heel. It always will be because:

    #1 – their Canonical New Testament is unreliable and ambiguous, and…

    #2 – no supreme orthodoxy among “Christians™” (see #1 above)


  2. About this: ““I do not believe that anyone can perceive the presence of Jesus’ spirit or that of the Holy Spirit through the senses”.

    An experience of a common “dream” is not anything that is perceived through any of the senses at all, yet, the experience itself is something very real to the one having the dream.

    In fact, every single thing – without exception – that we experience is actually experience in the mind. Our sensory input faculties, like eyes and ears, do not produce any experience at all. The experience of everything – sight, sound, happiness, saddness, pain, comfort, everything – is a “mind” thing.

    Do you hold that it is impossible to have another (shall we say) “hidden” input faculty (ie, something like the oft-referred-to “sixth sense” – that might enable people to have input from a “supernatural” source?

    These are simply questions. I have noticed in previous posts that you like to argue. I’m just asking questions.


    1. “An experience of a common “dream”. . . .” – All experiences are experienced in/by the mind. That doesn’t mean the content of the experience is necessarily true. The contents of dreams don’t really happen, even though we experience them. The content of an optical illusion is experienced but isn’t really what it seems. This should all be unremarkable.

      “In fact, every single thing. . . .” – Yes, all experiences are experienced in/by the mind.

      “Do you hold that it is impossible. . . .” – No, it’s not impossible, but it would need to be established and demonstrated that such a thing is possible, and that hasn’t happened yet, to my knowledge.


      1. Actually, the contents of a dream can really happen. You may have a dream about someone you haven’t seen in a very long time and then a day or so later they appear.
        It’s stuff like this, weird stuff, is the reason I’m not an atheist and believe that reality is just physical matter. There is much more beneath the surface but I don’t really know what it is.
        By the way, I’m not here to debate this with anyone. People are free to believe whatever they want, but I’m just giving you an example.


        1. Of course you can dream about someone you haven’t seen and then you see them the next day, but that doesn’t mean it’s anything weird necessarily. Not only would it be unusual if something like that didn’t happen occasionally, but we tend to think it is weird because we don’t pay attention to all the times it doesn’t happen. Nothing weird about it necessarily, so it’s no reason to not be an atheist.


          1. On the Steve Jobs recommended reading list is ‘Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind’. I thought that that was sort of odd, for a long time he was the youngest person in your country, the United States, to become a billionaire. A ‘beginner’s mind’?
            And then I got it. A mind wide open to many possibilities, to avoid the closed mind where learning ends. I can’t see the point in being an atheist or a Christian, or anything with a firm attitude that this is it.
            The world and the galaxy and the universe is so vast, who am I to draw some final conclusion …


            1. Most atheists are not “hard atheists”. We accept the possibility that the supernatural may exist, we just don’t see any good evidence that it does. Most of us are not as rigid as you suggest.


        2. How often do you dream about someone from your past and they do NOT appear a day or so later. I will be a lot but you don’t remember these events because they are not unusual. Odd incidents such as the one you describe are expected in a world of random chance.


          1. Gary, I’m a labourer turning 50, I’m nothing special. But to answer you question, I don’t have dreams about people from my past on a weekly basis, or monthly, or yearly for that matter.
            It’s something rare and unexpected, it’s certainly not something that happens on a regular basis but when it does it’s special.


            1. Give me a guess as to the odds of this event occurring.

              I will bet that the odds are better than you think because almost every person I know claims to have had this experience or something like it. How many of us having been thinking of someone and just at that moment the phone rings and it is that person? Or, how often have you been thinking of something and you find out your wife is thinking the very same thing at the very same time?

              It happens with me and my wife all the time! A miracle? I highly doubt it.

              If these odd events happen to everyone, they are not miracles. They are just rare, random events…otherwise known as coincidences.


              1. Gary, I’m not even touching the surface, I’m just putting something very basic and simple across to you.
                Give it time, we’ll find it. Just sit back and be patient.


            2. Yes, dreaming about someone and then seeing them the next day is a rare thing, but rare things happen all the time – given enough chances or trials. If something is only a one-in-a-million shot, if you give it a million tries, it will probably happen, and then that person – the one who makes the million-in-one shot, will think, just like you, that it can’t be just the odds, it can’t be a coincidence, and yet, it is perfectly explainable just by the odds.


  3. There’s no possible answer apologists can give to your question, because you have backed them into a corner with their own inconsistencies. If they stick with the idea of having an invisible spirit talking to them, then that invalidates the value of all their intellectual argumentation that they are so proud of.

    And if they admit that they don’t have an invisible spirit talking to them, then that conflicts with the basic christian belief that they are supposed to have “Jesus in their heart”. And their congregations aren’t going to hold with that. Maybe the apologist can’t even admit this to himself, because it would increase his cognitive dissonance beyond what he can cope with.

    The only answer when cornered like this is “Look! A giant pterodactyl!”

    Or as you have seen, “I have to walk my dog.”


  4. Something I’ve noticed:

    Ehrman doesn’t think Wrights scholarship is worthless. Nor does he think Licona’s scholarship is worthless. In fact, Ehrman touts Wright as one of the top scholars out there, and Licona has been a guest on Ehrman’s blog. And both Wright and Licona claim to have the Holy Spirit. But, that didn’t, and doesn’t keep Ehrman from recognizing their scholarship.

    And most assuredly, Ehrman ranked Larry Hurtado quite highly as a scholar, and it was Hurtado who wrote “The relationship of the “Holy Spirit” to individuals isn’t what we’d call “possession.” I.e., the Spirit doesn’t take over the individual, suppressing the personality, as the symptoms of “spirit possession” in various cultures. Hence, the many exhortations in NT writings to cooperate with the Spirit! The Spirit seems to provide resources for moral transformation and/or for powerful deeds, but the human individuals retain control of themselves.For Paul and other earliest believers, the Spirit wasn’t “a way of thinking” but a powerful force acting as agency of God and Christ.”

    So, Hurtado wasn’t shy about talking about the Holy Spirit. And, Ehrman most assuredly did not degrade Hurtado’s scholarship for it.

    Scholarship has to stand on it’s own merit. That’s what “peer review” is all about. I have never once read a credible (though skeptic) scholar deride the work of another NT historian, saying anything like “Brown’s work is bogus, because he says he has the Spirit of God dwelling inside him”.

    Nope, it’s easy enough for Ehrman to recognize good scholarship when he sees it. He realizes that another scholar claiming to have the Holy Spirit does not, in any fashion, necessarily degrade that other scholars works.

    So, what is the problem you guys have with it? You think if Wright told you “I believe I have the Holy Spirit”, you could turn around and say “yeh, so your work is hopelessly biased”? Hey, when real, actual, learned scholars of Ehrman’s caliber don’t do that, then who the heck cares what some random blogger says?

    (That’s just for a bit of perspective, and we all need that sometimes. I don’t even rank as a “random blogger”, so at least Gary has more qualifications than I do)


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