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The Table Video

Keith Ward

Evidence for Life After Death

Regius Professor of Divinity, University of Oxford / Fellow of the British Academy / Priest of the Church of England
July 24, 2013

Keith Ward sat down with the Biola University Center for Christian Thought in San Diego, California in July of 2013. In this clip, Ward discusses various types of evidence for conscious life after bodily death.


I think thought experiments are very important. When Einstein, Albert Einstein, the great physicist thought of the theory of relativity, he thought of it by doing a thought experiment. He thought what would it be like if I was moving at the speed of light and then he just imagined this. And good scientists have good imaginations and they’re very good at thought experiments. But of course, they can confirm usually, not always but usually, confirm their thought experiments by real experiments.

Now, if you have a thought experiment about could I exist after I’m dead, it’s a bit difficult to see how I’m going to confirm that until it’s too late to tell anybody about it. So there is that slight difficulty. But nevertheless, I don’t see why thought experiments shouldn’t be valuable. And I have to say, if you’re a Christian, you think actually there has been evidence and that is the resurrection of Jesus.

The people saw Jesus alive after he died and he talked to them and people like me and millions of people throughout the world would say we actually experienced the personal presence of Jesus Christ. Well, we’re either mad or insane or here’s a possibility which has a certain amount of evidence in personal experience and in historical testimony.

And if you’re not a Christian anyway, these are not the only cases of people who have claimed to have experienced people after death. There are actually huge numbers of accounts of that and I think you gotta be very careful about this. You have to sift it carefully.

The way I’d put it is there’s a lot of very poor evidence for it but a lot of very poor evidence and I think that is worth something. You’ve gotta say, look, people are obviously not getting very clear about the facts and they’re clearly subject to misinterpretations. Some of them must be. Nevertheless, there is a lot of data there that can’t be explained in purely materialistic terms. I have no interest in life after death. As a philosopher, I’d be happy to die and that’s that. I’ve got no interest in going on.

As one of my colleagues in Cambridge, Benedict Williams once said, if he went on forever and forever, he’d get bored to death. But there is one thing I feel strongly about. I do think there is a God. I do think there is a spiritual reality behind the heart of the universe. I don’t know God very well and I’d really like to know God a lot better. I don’t love God as much as I should. I’d really like to get better at that too.

So lots of things I’d really like to do with regard to knowing God and knowing the purpose of human life and knowing the ultimate goal of the universe. I’d like to know all of those things. So from that point of view, I think there’s a strong motivation for thinking that there would be life beyond this if it were possible. And of course, if you believe in God, you’ve got no problem about knowing that it’s possible. So I think it all derives from believing God, actually. If you press me, I’m gonna say, well there’s all this strange evidence.

Some of it’s lunatic, some of it’s very odd. Some of it’s quite impressive but I’ve heard a lot of it. I remain agnostic. But if I have a belief in God, on other grounds, then I believe I experience God in Christ or in some other way, then I have, I think, very good evidence for me personally that if there is such a God, a God of love, then there will be a life beyond this life. So I would regard that as good evidence.