Divided into five parts, A Sense of Presence explores the central thesis that the resurrection of Jesus could be explained as a psychological event involving one hallucination, possibly occurring to Peter, and a hysterical reaction by colleagues, which convinced them that Jesus had appeared to them too.
This approach is justified by showing that claims made by often impressionable people to have witnessed supernatural events in more recent times, such as visions of the Virgin Mary or weeping statues, have usually attracted a similar hysterical reaction involving large numbers. Some of these reactions take hold sufficiently strongly to facilitate the development of new sects or movements, which persist even when their credibility is challenged.
The remaining four parts set this thesis in context. Part 1 shows that resurrection was already a widely-accepted concept in the socio-cultural world in which Jesus was born. Part 2 deals with the New Testament accounts of the resurrection, showing that they are often contradictory. Part 4 presents and discusses the philosophical problems involved in a psycho-physical person rising from the dead, while Part 5 looks at the historical and theological issues associated with such an event.
The argument presented is not intended to be dogmatic, but simply seeks to show that naturalistic alternative explanations to the one generally accepted by believers should be given far more attention than they usually receive. A Sense of Presence invites readers to challenge the status quo and will appeal to those wishing to challenge generally-accepted Christian views.