Since I posted the testimony of an atheist professor who witnessed a corpse rising from the dead, I’ve received some interesting feedback by both believers and critics alike. Our purpose here is to review these questions and challenges and respond to them accordingly.
1. Bruce Grindal Was Just Hallucinating.
Nicholas, a writer at Hume’s Apprentice, explains that “Grindal confirmed that he had eaten very little in the 48 hours or so leading up to his hallucination, and also that he had slept poorly. Lack of sleep and lack of food are known causes of hallucinations.”
This proposal is problematic for several good reasons. Firstly, as I touched on in the actual testimony itself, that the man, Ali, was raised from the dead was not only witnessed by Grindal but by others also present. Grindal affirms as much writing that “It was although everybody present simultaneously touched a live wire. No words were said, indeed, what could be said?” And as I explained hallucinations are subjective projections from within one’s own mind and thus cannot, or is extremely unlikely to, be experienced by other people, and especially in larger groups. On top of that it’s even more unlikely that all the people present would witness the same hallucination. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Gary Collins, “Hallucinations are individual occurrences. By their very nature only one person can see a given hallucination at a time. They certainly are not something which can be seen by a group of people…Since a hallucination exists only in the subjective, personal sense; it is obvious that others cannot witness it” (1). In agreement clinical psychologist, Gary Sibcy, informs us that he has “surveyed the professional literature (peer-reviewed journal articles and books) written by psychologists, psychiatrists, and other relevant healthcare professionals during the past two decades and have yet to find a single documented case of a group hallucination, that is, an event for which more than one person purportedly shared in a visual or other sensory perception where there was clearly no external referent” (2).
Further, it is difficult to accept that an atheist would hallucinate a dead person coming back to life. Atheists don’t believe in miracles and thus are likely not predisposed to subjectively hallucinate such a thing. This claim is thus just far too unlikely. In good conscience we, if we’re to allow the evidence to speak for itself, ought to dismiss this event as mere subjective, and collective, hallucinations. These lines of argument would do away with Nicholas’ challenge that Grindal was subject to hallucinations because of not eating food and sleeping enough. It is true that a lack of eating can lead to the possibility (it’s not guaranteed) of hallucinations but this clearly fails to make sense of the testimonial data presented. Moreover, as Michael Block writes in his examination of visual hallucinations, “Patients usually recognize them as being distinct from reality…” (3). In other words, if Grindal suspected he was merely hallucinating these events, he would have known.
However, we can sympathise with Nicholas’ attempt to explain this remarkable event away. Simply put, if this really happened then atheism is outright false and that would certainly be too high a price to pay for atheists like Nicholas. On an atheistic worldview people don’t rise from the dead. As I already said it is much easier to simply reject phenomena as being hallucinations even on how unlikely such a scenario would seem to be. As far we know this event had a massive impact on Grindal to the extent that it caused him to reject his atheism, as Mike Licona explains, “Grindal was an atheist. He wasn’t after this experience. I have spoken with his widow, he died in 2012, I’ve [also] spoken with one of his former students, and they both say that this experience disturbed him for the rest of his life… he never wanted to talk about this experience after getting it put in writing.”
Now, Nicholas then concedes more than he actually intends to; he writes that “By Grindal’s account, some saw the resurrection and OTHERS DID NOT SEE ANYTHING. That is key: if the drummer boy had objectively risen from the dead everyone would have seen it, but they did not.”
Essentially if some people saw it then it strongly implies that we have multiple eyewitnesses. That’s a persuasive piece of evidence that Nicholas actually concedes rather than denies. Now, one could speculate as to why not everyone present had witnessed Ali’s raising. Remember that Grindal said that the ceremony occurred at midnight when it was dark. It is likely that those who were in the background, and thus who were not up close to the raising, would not have seen the events unfold especially if, as Grindal says, no-one was expecting it to happen. Moreover, Grindal affirms that a group of singers began to dance around the Ali’s corpse prior to him being raised from the dead. This would have obscured the view for some onlookers. Moreover, northern Ghanaian burial ceremonies are not exactly structured. They take place in rural villages and attendees don’t exactly sit in pews, rather they dance, sing, chant, and engage in diverse traditional practices. Many attendees are probably just too busy occupying themselves with something else that they wouldn’t have noticed Ali being raised for the short time he was. Therefore, there are, I believe, several rational explanations as to why not everyone present would have witnessed Ali’s raising. However, what really matters is who witnessed it. Bruce Grindal, an atheist, witnessed it alongside other attendees. It was proof enough for Grindal to reject his atheism.
2. Only Grindal’s Testimony and Scientific Investigation.
William offers several remarks, “Your only argument against hallucination is that the event was witnessed by other people. Where are the testimonies of those other people? There aren’t any are there… this is simply one person’s account… Yet another “miracle” that just so happens to occur in a time and place that makes it immune to independent scientific investigation.”
The testimony of an atheist, Bruce Grindal, who believed everything to the contrary of the possibility of something being raised from the dead is a worthy testimony. As far as we know this event affected Grindal for the rest of his life as his widow as well as one of students affirmed. The real question is whether or not Grindal was telling the truth, and whether or not he provides a reliable testimony. As far as we know all the evidence points in his direction. Do we have any reason to suspect that he is lying or being disingenuous? No.
Then that William attempts to undermine “Yet another “miracle” that just so happens to occur in a time and place that makes it immune to independent scientific investigation” of which I contend is just confused. Firstly, no-one expected a person at his own burial to be raised from the dead so why would anyone expect investigative researchers to be present? Miracles are unexpected events that are surprising and sometimes quite shocking; they are not events that one can prepare for and thus scientifically observe as some critics demand. How would William even suggest for investigators to scientifically observe a person being raised from the dead? Should investigators kindly ask the relatives if they can quickly borrow the corpse, transport it to a lab, plug it to machines, and then require several priests to come in and pray for the corpse to see if it revives? As soon as critics like William can actually come up with ways in how one could actually even apply such a method then we can entertain his idea further.
3. How Does This Square with Christian Theology?
Robert asks an important theological question, “How does that fit the Christian world view? How was he raised? It sounds like a tribal ritual.”
What we should note is that Grindal’s own testimony does not say that he converted from atheism to Christianity. All we know from his life transforming experience is that he rejected his atheism. Now, there are a few things we could say concerning this. Firstly, that a miracle, such as this one, could occur apart from the supernatural power of Jesus Christ is consistent with Christian theology and very much attributable to Satan. According to the Apostle Paul the Antichrist “will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie” (2 Thess. 2:9). The Gospel of Matthew has Jesus warning that many “will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive” (Mat. 24:24), and according to Revelation 13:11 there will be “great signs, so that he even makes fire come down from heaven on the earth in the sight of men. And he (will) deceive those who dwell on the earth by those signs which he was granted to do.”
Thus, on a Christian worldview that this man was raised form the dead apart from the power of Jesus (assuming that this was the case as we do not know) demonstrates that Satan is present and therefore able to accomplish remarkable feats. Moreover, I contend that there is power dark power in witchcraft. In one interview I had with a close friend, prior to his moving away, he informed me that he, alongside several other Christians, prayed for a student who had been involved in witchcraft. This was because her mother was steeped in it and this, in turn, filtered down to her daughter of whom they were praying for. My friend informed me that when he and others began praying for this girl, evidently hostile to this group of Christians for no apparent reason, she fell to the floor screaming and writhing. This is but one of several testimonies I’ve received concerning supernatural power commanded by Satan. In other words, that Ali was raised from the dead is attributable to dark power that is not in accordance with Christ.
4. Is Ali’s Being Raised From the Dead Like Jesus’ Resurrection?
Melissa says, “This is definitely one of those bizarre stories much like the resurrection of Jesus. Yet Jesus was the one who predicted His death and resurrection and then delivered on both accounts.”
I’d would agree with Melissa that Ali’s raising is “much like the resurrection of Jesus” in the way that it is also a remarkable event of which evidently had a profound impact on certain people. But they are certainly not the same. There are other miraculous accounts within the Bible where people have been raised to life after having died. For example, Elijah resurrected the son of Zarepath’s widow (1 Kings 17:17-24), Elisha resurrects the son of the Shunammite woman (2 Kings 4), and a dead man comes back to life when he touches Elisha’s bones. However, this supernatural power is likewise commanded by Jesus when he brings back to life a widow’s son (Luke 7:13-15), Jairus’ daughter (Matthew 9:25), and Lazarus (John 11:43-44). However, there is a big difference between a resurrection and a revivification. Philosopher and exegete William Lane Craig explains that “A person revived from death merely returned to the mortal life and would die again; a resurrection in Jewish thinking was to glory and immortality. Certainly miraculous revivifications of the dead were known—Jesus himself raised the dead in that sense—, but such revivifications were not, properly speaking, resurrections” (4). Jesus was resurrected into an enteral, imperishable body that would never taste death again, unlike Lazarus, Jairus’ daughter, and even Ali himself. In this way they are not the same.
5. Was Bruce Grindal Lying?
Jim challenges, “What a bunch of hooey! There’s nothing saying that this guy was examined by a doctor and declared to be dead. Either this was a trick or the author is lying.”
Jim’s proposal would stretch credulity particularly because he would have us believe that Grindal did several very unlikely things. Firstly, Grindal would have to make this all up, and then base an entire article he penned for the Journal of Anthropological Research on an imaginative lie (5). If he was ever caught to be lying, or inconsistent in any way, it would have severely damaged his scholarly reputation which, for most, is far too much of a risk. However, scholars have widely documented and commented on Grindal’s remarkable experience without them entertaining the idea that he lied about it (6). Scholars trust his testimony. Secondly, we would have to hold that Grindal not only lied to his wife, but also to his student, and managed to convince them that he was telling the truth when he wasn’t. According to his widow and his student this experience, quite naturally, had a big impact on Grindal for the rest of his life. Did he simply lie, write about the lie in Journal of Anthropological Research, risk his reputation, and then convince those who knew him best (such as his wife and student) that he really saw this even though he really didn’t? It’s hard to entertain Jim’s challenge as being plausible and I don’t think it stands under a little scrutiny.
I think we have good grounds for affirming that not only did Bruce Grindal witness a man being raised from the dead, but that he was also telling the truth of what he witnessed that night. Further, it is also unlikely that Grindal hallucinated this event. It is possible that one may hallucinate given their lack of nourishment and sleep, however, having entertained that proposal it just doesn’t seem to match the details sufficiently. I strongly think that since Grindal was an atheist himself prior to his experience this should be a red flag for our atheist friends.
1. Scholar Gary Habermas in communication with clinical psychologist Gary Collins, 21 February, 1977.
2. Scholar Gary Habermas in communication with clinical psychologist Gary Collins, 21 February, 1977.
3. Block, M. 2012. An Overview of Hallucinations. Available.
4. Craig, W. 2014. What Was Herod Thinking? Available.
5. Grindal, B. 1983. “Into the Heart of Sisala Experience” in the Journal of Anthropological Research. p. 68.
6. See, Hellweg, J. Englehardt, J. & Miller, J. 2015. Raising the Dead: Altered States, Anthropology, and the Heart of Sisala Experience. Magliocco, S. 2010. Witching Culture. p. 13. MacLean, H. 2012. The Shaman’s Mirror. p. 11.