bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 18: Evaluation of the 2nd Point Against Jesus being a Lunatic

WHERE WE ARE

For a brief summary of what has been covered in Part 3 through Part 15 of this series, see the “WHERE WE ARE” section at the beginning of Part 16 of this series.

In Part 16 of this series, I argued that Kreeft and Tacelli’s first argument against Jesus being a lunatic FAILED because both premises of the argument are too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated and because they offer ZERO factual evidence in support of the SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS and HISTORICAL CLAIMS that are asserted in those premises.

In Part 17 of this series, I argued that there was another serious problem with the first argument against Jesus being a lunatic: the available historical evidence is insufficient to draw any firm conclusions about Jesus having a high degree of practical wisdom. Then I moved on to analyze and clarify Kreeft and Tacelli’s second point against Jesus being a lunatic. Their second point actually includes two very similar arguments against Jesus being a lunatic.

THE SECOND POINT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LUNATIC

Here are my clarified versions of the two arguments included in Kreeft and Tacelli’s second point against Jesus being a lunatic:

21. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person.

24. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable and this was NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

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23. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable because they felt personally challenged by Jesus.

22. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they feel uncomfortable, and this is NOT because they feel personally challenged by the insane person.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (21) OF THE FEELING-SUPERIOR ARGUMENT FOR (5B)

Let’s examine the first premise of the Feeling-Superior Argument for premise (5B):

21. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person.

This is a SCIENTIFIC CLAIM in the area of psychology or sociology. Kreeft and Tacelli are philosophers, not psychologists, and not sociologists. They have no expertise concerning insanity or how mentally healthy people feel when they meet insane people. They provide no facts or evidence in support of this broad generalization. So, this claim appears to be nothing but a wild guess by Kreeft and Tacelli, without any scientific or factual basis.

As is often the case with generalizations by Kreeft and Tacelli, there is VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION in this claim:

When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they:

  • ALWAYS feel uncomfortable…
  • ALMOST ALWAYS feel uncomfortable…
  • feel uncomfortable a VERY HIGH PERCENT of the time…
  • USUALLY feel uncomfortable…

The same VAGUNESS of QUANTIFICATION occurs in the second part of this premise as well:

They feel that way…

  • ALWAYS because…
  • ALMOST ALWAYS because…
  • a VERY HIGH PERCENTAGE of the time because…
  • USUALLY because…

…they feel superior to the insane person.

There are at least four different QUANTIFICATIONS for the first part of this premise, and at least four different QUANTIFICATIONS for the second part of this premise, so there are at least sixteen different possible interpretations of premise (21), just in terms of different possible combinations of QUANTIFICATION.

This VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION also makes it more obvious that Kreeft and Tacelli have absolutely no facts or evidence to back up their claims here. There is not even a hint of a psychology study or a sociology study to back up any of their generalizations about how people feel in particular circumstances. If they had some actual facts or data, then they would be able to QUANTIFY these generalizations. They simply make wild GUESSES and then put their guesses forward as FACTS. For critical thinkers, there is a big difference between a GUESS and a FACT. You cannot prove anything on the basis of GUESSES.

If Kreeft and Tacelli had made CLEAR generalizations, providing QUANTIFICATION for the first and second parts of premise (21), then we might have been able to determine that (21) was FALSE or DUBIOUS. If they had, for example, made the following claim, we could have rejected the claim as obviously FALSE:

21A. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they ALWAYS feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way ALWAYS because they feel superior to the insane person.

Mentally healthy people have a wide variety of personalities, attitudes, psychological traits and tendencies, and mentally healthy people feel different on different days, and at different times of the day. A mentally healthy person can be sad or happy, angry or calm, afraid or confident, anxious or optimistic, irritable or jolly, frustrated or satisfied, etc. How a person is feeling, and the attitude a person’s has at the time, plays a big role in how he or she will react in a given situation.

The character and personality, the pscyhological traits and psychological tendencies of a mentally healthy person also play a big role in how he or she will react in a given situation. So, how a person will feel in a particular situation depends on much more than just the specific event that he or she experiences. Therefore, the idea that a mentally healthy person will ALWAYS feel uncomfortable when they meet an insane person is absurd. Furthermore, the idea that a mentally healthy person who does feel uncomfortable when they meet an insane person will ALWAYS feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person is even more ridiculous. This might happen sometimes when a mentally healty person meets an insane person, but it obviously doesn’t ALWAYS happen that way. Human behavior is just not that consistent and not that predictable.

If we modify the QUANTIFICATION to “almost always”, the claim still seems highly implausible:

21B. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they ALMOST ALWAYS feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way ALMOST ALWAYS because they feel superior to the insane person.

This is a very strong generalization that flies in the face of the obvious facts that I just pointed out: how a mentally healthy person reacts to a particular situation depends on many factors that have nothing to do with the details of the event that he or she experiences. The personality, character, attitudes, psychological traits, psychological tendencies, the mood, the experiences had by the person earlier that day, or earlier that week all contribute to how a mentally healthy person will react to a particular event or situation. It doesn’t require a PhD in psychology to know these obvious facts about human behavior.

If we weaken the QUANTIFICATION down to a level where the claim becomes at least somewhat plausible, then the force of the argument is also seriously weakened:

21C. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they USUALLY feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way USUALLY because they feel superior to the insane person.

The term “usually” would be appropriate if, for example, the actual QUANTIFICATION was 60% of the time:

21D. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they feel uncomfortable ABOUT 60% OF THE TIME, and when they feel that way ABOUT 60% OF THE TIME that is because they feel superior to the insane person.

This means that out of 100 instances where a mentally healthy person meets an insane person, the mentally healthy person feels uncomfortable in only about 60 of those instances, and that of those 60 instances where the mentally healthy person feels uncomfortable, only about 36 of those instances (60% of the 60 instances) are ones where this feeling of being uncomfortable is the result of the mentally healthy person feeling superior to the insane person. Now we are only talking about a little more than 1/3 of the 100 instances where a mentally healthy person meets an insane person. A generalization this weak is not going to be sufficient to prove what Kreeft and Tacelli want to prove.

Another problem with premise (21) is that a person with a very serious mental illness can sometimes think and behave in a fairly normal way. People who are insane can have good days and bad days. They are not necessarily hallucinating and delusional every hour of every day. So, it is possible to meet an insane person on a day or at a particular hour of a day, when that person is thinking and behaving in a fairly normal way, and thus the insane person does NOT appear to be insane at that particular time.

But in that case, a mentally healthy person can meet an insane person without knowing that the other person is insane. In such cases, it seems unlikely that the mentally healthy person will feel uncomfortable, and very unlikely that they would feel uncomfortable as a result of feeling superior to the insane person. Depending on how frequently mentally healthy people meet insane people when the insane person happens to be having a good day (or a good hour), that could significantly reduce the percentage of time that Kreeft and Tacelli’s generalization holds true.

The phrase “they feel uncomfortable” is rather VAGUE and BROAD in meaning. Presumably, they have in mind feeling mentally or psychologically “uncomfortable” as opposed to feeling physically “uncomfortable”. However, consider for a moment the various kinds of physical discomfort that occur. Pain is one way of being uncomfortable, but there are other ways as well. An itch or itchiness can make one feel physically uncomfortable. Being dizzy or nauseated is another way of feeling physically uncomfortable. One can be uncomfortable because of feeling too warm or too cold. Light can be too bright, making one feel physically uncomfortable. Sound can be too loud, making one physically uncomfortable. Smells can be too strong or stinky, making one feel physically uncomfortable. There is a wide range of different physical sensations that can make one feel physically uncomfortable.

Mental or psychological discomfort also comes in a wide variety of different kinds. Worry and anxiety is one kind of psychological discomfort. Sorrow and sadness are a different kind of psychological uncomfortableness. Guilt and shame and embarrassment are other forms of psychological discomfort. Anger and frustration are yet another form of feeling psychologically uncomfortable. Boredom and loneliness are other forms of feeling psychologically uncomfortable. Fear and anxiety are another kind of psychological uncomfortableness. Confusion and fuzzy-headedness are forms of feeling mentally uncomfortable. Clearly, “feeling uncomfortable” in terms of mental or psychological discomfort encompasses a wide range of different kinds of feelings.

Because the phrase “feel uncomfortable” can apply to a wide variety of psychological feelings that increases the likelihood that when a mentally healthy person meets an insane person, they will “feel uncomfortable” in one way or another. However, this also decreases the likelihood that such feelings will ALWAYS or ALMOST ALWAYS be the result of feeling superior to the other person. It is very implausible that a feeling of fear in one instance, and a feeling of anger in another instance, and a feeling of saddness in a different instance, and a feeling of loneliness in yet another instance, and a feeling of embarrassment in a different instance will all happen to result from the same psychological cause: feeling superior to another person.

Also, the feeling of being uncomfortable comes in various degrees:

When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person (a lunatic), they:

  • feel EXTREMELY uncomfortable
  • feel VERY uncomfortable
  • feel MODERATELY uncomfortable
  • feel A LITTLE uncomfortable

Given the previous VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICTION in premise (21) this additional VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION makes premise (21) highly ambiguous:

4 x 4 x 4 = 16 x 4 = 64 different possible interpretations

If there were actual facts and evidence backing up this SCIENTIFIC CLAIM, then Kreeft and Tacelli would be able to provide QUANTIFICATIONS in this generalization. But they have no facts, so they cannot QUANTIFY this claim, at least not without raising suspicions that they are just making wild GUESSES here.

Therefore, premise (21) is too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated. Furthermore, Kreeft and Tacelli have offered ZERO facts or evidence to support the SCIENTIFIC GENERALIZATION that they are asserting in premise (21). This premise appears to be either FALSE or DUBIOUS, depending on the strength of the QUANTIFICATIONS that were intended.

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (24) OF THE FEELING-SUPERIOR ARGUMENT FOR (5B)

Let’s now examine the second premise of the Feeling-Superior Argument for premise (5B):

24. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable and this was NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.

This is primarily a HISTORICAL CLAIM. Kreeft and Tacelli are philosophers, not historians, not experts on the historical Jesus. They provide ZERO historical facts or evidence to support this claim about Jesus. So, premise (24), like premise (21) appears to be nothing more than a wild GUESS by Kreeft and Tacelli. A critical thinker, however, believes that there is a big difference between a GUESS and a FACT. Guesses are not an adequate basis upon which to prove a claim.

Like premise (21), premise (24) also has some VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION:

  • When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they ALWAYS felt uncomfortable…
  • When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they ALMOST ALWAYS felt uncomfortable…
  • When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, A VERY HIGH PERCENT OF THE TIME they felt uncomfortable …
  • When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they USUALLY felt uncomfortable…

===========================

  • and this was NEVER because they felt superior to Jesus.
  • and this was ALMOST NEVER because they felt superior to Jesus.
  • and this was A VERY HIGH PERCENT OF THE TIME NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.
  • and this was USUALLY NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.

How many people did Jesus meet? Jesus met hundreds of people, maybe thousands of people. Do we know the emotional responses of ALL of the hundreds or thousands of people who met Jesus? Obviously not. Do we know the emotional responses of one hundred people who met Jesus? Nope. Do we know the emotional responses of fifty people who met Jesus? I don’t think so.

Do we know the emotional responses of twenty people who met Jesus? There might be stories about twenty or thirty different people meeting Jesus in the Gospels; that would require some reviewing of the Gospels to determine. But I’m quite certain that people who met Jesus did not in general describe their feelings about meeting Jesus. So, the available evidence is rather meager, at best. We only have a small sample of the people who met Jesus (maybe 30 out of 3,000, about 1%), and we have very little in the way of people describing their feelings about meeting Jesus.

What information do we have in the Gospels about people who met Jesus? How many people who met Jesus made the comment “Jesus made me feel uncomfortable.”? ZERO. The word “uncomfortable” does not appear in any of the Gospels (nor do the words “uneasy”, “awkward”, or “nervous”).

How many people made the comment “Jesus made me feel personally challenged.”? ZERO. The word “challenged” does not appear in any of the Gospels (nor do the words “confronted”, or “threatened”, or “impugned” or “self-conscious”). The word “questioned” appears once in Luke (23:9) and once in John (18:19), but it is used literally to say that Herod questioned Jesus and that the High Priest questioned Jesus, meaning they asked Jesus some questions. The word “questioned” is never used by someone to describe their feelings in any Gospel.

NOBODY in any of the Gospels ever explicitly states that they felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus, and NOBODY in any of the Gospels ever explicitly states that they felt personally challenged upon meeting Jesus. So, any claim that some specific person who met Jesus “felt uncomfortable” or “felt personally challenged” can only be an indirect inference based upon what people allegedly said or did upon meeting Jesus, as described in the Gospels.

We can toss aside the Gospel of John to start because it is historically UNRELIABLE. And the events and details in Matthew and Luke that go beyond the events and details found in Mark are also DUBIOUS. The Q material in Matthew and Luke consists of alleged sayings of Jesus, so that material is unlikely to contain accounts of people talking about the feelings they experienced when they met Jesus or accounts of what people said or did upon meeting Jesus. That leaves us with the Gospel of Mark.

PEOPLE WHO MEET JESUS IN CHAPTER 1 OF MARK

How many times does Mark describe someone meeting Jesus? Kreeft and Tacelli don’t have a clue about the answer this question. How many times does Mark describe the reactions of people who met Jesus? How many times do the descriptions of the reactions of people who met Jesus clearly indicate that they felt uncomfortable around Jesus? In those cases where it seems like someone felt uncomfortable when they met Jesus, how many of those cases are ones in which the person gives a clear indication that they do NOT feel superior to Jesus? Kreeft and Tacelli don’t have a clue about the answers to these questions.

Ten different people or groups of people meet Jesus in Chapter 1 of Mark, so let’s do a bit of investigation into these questions and find out some answers for ourselves.

John the Baptist

7 He proclaimed, “The one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to stoop down and untie the strap of his sandals.
8 I have baptized you with water, but he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
9 In those days Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized by John in the Jordan.

Mark 1:7-9, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

John the Baptist does NOT say that he felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. He does indicate that he sees the coming messiah as being superior to himself. However, these words appear to be a prophecy about the future, probably made before John the Baptist met Jesus. So, we cannot reasonably infer that John the Baptist felt uncomfortable when he met Jesus, nor can we reasonably infer that John did NOT feel superior to Jesus when he met Jesus, because John might not have recognized Jesus as being the coming messiah when he first met Jesus. This passage does not indicate how John the Baptist felt when he first met Jesus.

Simon and his brother Andrew

16 As Jesus passed along the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting a net into the sea, for they were fishers.
17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of people.”
18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.

Mark 1:16-18, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

Simon and Andrew do NOT say they felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. They do appear to have no hesitancy in leaving their work as fishermen to go follow Jesus, so one could infer that they did NOT feel superior to Jesus. But they might well have been happy or even delighted to be invited to become disciples of Jesus, in which case it is unlikely that they felt uncomfortable when Jesus invited them to become his disciples. So, it might well be the case that Simon and Andrew did NOT feel uncomfortable when they met Jesus.

James and his brother John, the Sons of Zebedee

19 As he went a little farther, he saw James son of Zebedee and his brother John, who were in their boat mending the nets.
20 Immediately he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1:19-20, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

James and John do NOT say they felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. They do appear to have no hesitancy in leaving their work as fishermen to go follow Jesus, so one could infer that they did NOT feel superior to Jesus. But they might well have been happy or even delighted to be invited to become disciples of Jesus, in which case it is unlikely that they felt uncomfortable when Jesus invited them to become his disciples. So, it might well be the case that James and John did NOT feel uncomfortable when they met Jesus.

People at the Synagogue in Capernaum

21 They went to Capernaum, and when the Sabbath came, he entered the synagogue and taught.
22 They were astounded at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes.

Mark 1:21-22, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

The people at the synagogue in Capernaum do NOT say that they felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. The author of Mark says they were “astounded at his teaching”. I suppose that one could infer from this that they did NOT feel superior to Jesus. However, it is not clear that they felt uncomfortable when they met Jesus. Being “astounded” suggests a degree of admiration for Jesus, and that attitude would be more in keeping with having positive feelings about Jesus. This appears to NOT be an instance where people felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus.

A Man with an Unclean Spirit

23 Just then there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit,
24 and he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.”
25 But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!”
26 And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying with a loud voice, came out of him.

Mark 1:23-26, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

Because this man and other people in the synagogue believed that he was possessed by a demonic spirit, the man presumably behaved in a strange and erratic way, which is an indication that he had some sort of serious mental illness. But if this man had a serious mental illness, then his meeting Jesus would not count as an example of a mentally healthy person meeting Jesus, so this example is of no relevance to evaluating premise (24), which is about how mentally healthy people reacted to meeting Jesus.

Simon’s Mother-in-Law

29 As soon as they left the synagogue, they entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John.
30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law was in bed with a fever, and they told him about her at once.
31 He came and took her by the hand and lifted her up. Then the fever left her, and she began to serve them.

Mark 1:29-31, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

Simon’s mother-in-law does NOT say that she felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. When Jesus allegedly heals her, she begins to serve Jesus and others in the house. This is an indication of gratefulness towards Jesus. Although it is possible to feel both grateful and uncomfortable towards the same person at the same time, if this woman was expressing her gratitude, it seems unlikely that she felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. So, this example provides some evidence against premise (24), at least against the view that mentally healthy people ALWAYS or ALMOST ALWAYS felt uncomfortable when they meet Jesus.

The Whole Town of Capernaum

32 That evening, at sunset, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed by demons.
33 And the whole city was gathered around the door.
34 And he cured many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons, and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.

Mark 1:32-34, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

The people of Capernaum do NOT say that they felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. They don’t say anything at all, in this account. But they clearly are impressed with Jesus’ alleged ability to heal people of diseases. One might reasonably infer that they did NOT feel superior to Jesus. However, there is no indication that they felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. Their being impressed with Jesus’ alleged power to heal is a kind of admiration, and such admiration is more naturally associated with positive feelings, rather than with anger, fear, anxiety, or sorrow. It seems unlikely that most of these people felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus.

A Man with Leprosy

40 A man with a skin disease came to him begging him, and kneeling he said to him, “If you are willing, you can make me clean.”
41 Moved with pity, Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him and said to him, “I am willing. Be made clean!”
42 Immediately the skin disease left him, and he was made clean.
43 After sternly warning him he sent him away at once,
44 saying to him, “See that you say nothing to anyone, but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded as a testimony to them.”
45 But he went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the word…

Mark 1:40-45, New Revised Standard Version, Updated Edition

The man with leprosy does NOT say that he felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. According to Mark, after allegedly being healed by Jesus, the man “went out and began to proclaim it freely”. This implies that the man felt grateful to Jesus, and that he was confident that Jesus had the power to heal people of diseases. If this man was grateful to Jesus and confident that Jesus had the power to heal people of diseases, then it seems unlikely that this man felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus. In any case, there is no clear indication that this man felt uncomfortable when he met Jesus.

Let’s summarize the results from reviewing these ten examples of individuals or groups meeting Jesus, according to Chapter 1 of the Gospel of Mark:

  • 0 examples provide a clear indication that people felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus.
  • 1 example is irrelevant to premise (24): the man with an unclean spirit.
  • 3 examples provided no indication that the person (or group) felt uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus: John the Baptist, the town of Capernaum, and the man with leprosy.
  • 6 examples provided some indication that the person (or group) did NOT feel uncomfortable upon meeting Jesus: Simon, Andrew, James, John, the people at the synagogue in Capernaum, and Simon’s mother-in-law.

Four examples out of the ten provide no support for premise (24), and six examples out of the ten provide some evidence against premise (24). This does not prove that (24) is FALSE, but it does imply that the evidence for (24) is weak, at best.

I don’t have the time right now to examine every chapter of the Gospel of Mark and evaluate each example of a person meeting Jesus. However, I can randomly select a few chapters as a sample of this Gospel, and review those chapters for examples of persons (or groups) meeting Jesus.

I suspect that as the Gospel continues, the number of people who meet Jesus will diminish. So, in order for my sample to be more likely to be representative of this Gospel, I will randomly select one chapter from the early part of Mark (Chapters 1 through 5), one chapter from the middle of Mark (Chapters 6 through 10), and one chapter from towards the end of Mark (Chapters 11 through 14). I’m going to skip Chapter 15, because there are only 8 verses in that chapter, and because it is about the historically dubious events around Jesus’ alleged resurrection.

I’m going to use dice roll outcomes from a random dice roll generator to pick the Chapters. The first dice roll(s) will determine which of the chapters I will review from the early part of Mark:

1->Chapter 1
2->Chapter 2
3->Chapter 3
4->Chapter 4
5->Chapter 5
6->ROLL AGAIN

After I have randomly selected one of the chapters from the early part of Mark, I will use the next dice roll(s) to select one of the Chapters from the middle section of Mark:

1->Chapter 6
2->Chapter 7
3->Chapter 8
4->Chapter 9
5->Chapter 10
6->ROLL AGAIN

After I have randomly selected one of the chapters from the middle section of Mark, I will use the next dice roll(s) to select one of the Chapters from the end section of Mark:

1->Chapter 11
2->Chapter 12
3->Chapter 13
4->Chapter 14
5->ROLL AGAIN
6->ROLL AGAIN

Here are six random dice roll results:

  • The first roll was a 5. That means I will review Chapter 5 from the earlier chapters of Mark.
  • The second roll was also a 5. That means I will review Chapter 10 from the middle chapters of Mark.
  • The third roll was a 2. That means I will review Chapter 12 from the ending chapters of Mark.

In the next post of this series, I will discuss the results from my review of these randomly selected three Chapters of Mark, where I will be looking for examples where a person or group of people meet with Jesus, in order to evaluate premise (24) of Kreeft and Tacelli’s Feeling-Superior Argument for premise (5B).

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 17: The 2nd Argument Against Jesus being a Lunatic

WHERE WE ARE

For a brief summary of what has been covered in Part 3 through Part 15 of this series, see the “WHERE WE ARE” section at the beginning of Part 16 of this series.

In Part 16 of this series, I argued that Kreeft and Tacelli’s first argument against Jesus being a lunatic FAILED because both premises of the argument are too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated and because they offer ZERO factual evidence in support of the SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS and HISTORICAL CLAIMS that are asserted in those premises.

In this current post, I will say a little bit more about the first argument against Jesus being a lunatic, and then I will move on to a critical examination of Kreeft and Tacelli’s second argument against Jesus being a lunatic.

ONE MORE PROBLEM WITH THE 1ST ARGUMENT FOR (5B)

Here again, is the first argument by Kreeft and Tacelli against Jesus being a lunatic:

19. Lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

20. Jesus clearly possessed practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

I have previously pointed out that there is VAGUE QUANTIFICATION in premise (20), which opens this premise up to 64 different possible interpretations. But for the sake of illustration, let’s consider one specific possible interpretation of this premise:

20A. Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Premise (20A) implies three fairly general HISTORICAL CLAIMS:

  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom.
  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of tough love.
  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of unpredictable creativity.

All three terms about personal characteristics here are UNCLEAR terms, but the meaning of “practical wisdom” seems less problematic than “tough love” and “unpredictable creativity”. I won’t attempt to provide a clear definition of “practical wisdom”.

Did the historical Jesus possess a very high degree of “practical wisdom”? This is a very difficult question, and I don’t think it can be answered with any level of confidence based on the historical evidence that is currently available to us. We know very little about the historical Jesus, especially about the thoughts and intentions, and personality of the historical Jesus.

Right now, one of the biggest questions facing Americans is whether or not our former president, Donald Trump, will be charged and convicted with one or more federal crimes related to his attempt to steal the last election through violent and illegal means.

Many of us Democrats and liberals are hoping that Donald Trump will spend the rest of his life in federal prison. However, there is one BIG obstacle in the way of this hope becoming a reality: Donald Trump, like the head of an organized crime family, avoids putting his thoughts and requests, and commands into writing. Trump does not use email or text messages to communicate with his subordinates and co-conspirators.

As a result, it will be very challenging for federal investigators and lawyers to prove claims of criminal intent about Donald Trump. It is thus quite possible that this lying sack of shit who attempted to subvert our democracy through violence and illegal schemes, who greatly deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, will not ever be convicted of a federal crime, and will not spend a single day in federal prison for his evil deeds.

Jesus, like Trump, was probably illiterate. Jesus probably could not read or write, like 90% of his fellow Jews who lived in ancient Palestine. Obviously, Jesus never texted or emailed any of his disciples or any of his opponents and critics. But Jesus also did not keep a diary or journal. Jesus did not write letters or books. Jesus did not write down his thoughts, feelings, sayings, or sermons in a notebook. So far as we know, Jesus never wrote a poem or essay or short story or prayer or hymn or sermon.

Furthermore, although Trump has had hundreds or thousands of conversations with people who are alive today and who can be interviewed by professional federal investigators, nobody who Jesus spoke to is alive today. In fact, the authors of the Gospels were second or third-generation Christians who never set eyes on Jesus and never heard Jesus speak a single word. So, our evidence concerning the thoughts, intentions, desires, and feelings of Jesus are much more difficult to determine than the thoughts, intentions, desires, and feelings of Donald Trump.

Finally, the information that we do have about the historical Jesus is sketchy and has been filtered by clearly biased storytellers and authors. Scholars who study the historical Jesus have generally concluded that the Gospel of John, for example, is mostly legend and fiction that is strongly shaped by a particular Christian theological point of view. Although Kreeft and Tacelli would happily quote dozens of passages from this Gospel as “evidence” for their HISTORICAL CLAIMS, this is a very biased and UNRELIABLE source of information about the historical Jesus.

That leaves us with three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew and Luke both borrow heavily from the Gospel of Mark, so if the Gospel of Mark is UNRELIABLE, then all four Gospels are UNRELIABLE!

Suppose that Mark does present a historically reliable account of the life, ministry, teachings, and death of Jesus. In that case, there would still be serious problems with the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. Mark has no birth story about Jesus, and Mark has no resurrection-appearance stories. When Matthew and Luke are borrowing from Mark, they agree with each other fairly well, but when it comes to their birth stories and their resurrection-appearance stories, they completely contradict each other. So, it appears that stories about Jesus in Matthew and Luke that are not found in Mark, are historically DUBIOUS. When they don’t have Mark to lean on, they contradict each other.

Mark clearly implies that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place in Galilee a week or more after the crucifixion. But Luke clearly asserts that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place on Easter Sunday (two days after the crucifixion) in Jerusalem. Both accounts CANNOT be true.

Most scholars side with the earlier and less theologically-driven account in Mark. That means that Luke’s resurrection appearance stories are FICTION! If Luke gives us FICTION about the most important event concerning the historical Jesus, why should we believe ANY story in the Gospel of Luke that goes beyond stories found in the Gospel of Mark?

Matthew adds several events and details to Mark‘s account of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. These additional elements are almost all clearly legendary or fantastic. Matthew is the Steven Spielberg of the Gospels. Matthew adds several dramatic and theologically-laden events and details to the account that he borrows from Mark‘s Gospel. This gives us good reason to doubt ANY such additions that Matthew makes to stories that he gets from the Gospel of Mark.

In the Gospel of John there are some long sermons by Jesus. Those long sermons might have given us some insight into the thoughts and feelings and personality of Jesus, except that the Gospel of John is historically UNRELIABLE, especially concerning the words attributed to Jesus in that Gospel. So, we cannot use those long sermons found in the Gospel of John.

There is the “Sermon on the Mount” in the Gospel of Matthew, but that is just a collection of some alleged sayings of Jesus that the author of Matthew assembled together. This brings up a central problem with the Gospels: the words that the Gospels attribute to Jesus and that have some significant chance of being accurate representations of the words of the historical Jesus are short sayings and parables. Furthermore, NT scholars believe that the CONTEXTS in which Jesus uttered these sayings and parables have been LOST. The Gospel authors usually invented the contexts for the sayings of Jesus. Without knowing the actual context, correct interpretation of these short sayings and parables is often difficult.

In the end, we are left with the Gospel of Mark, which may or may not be RELIABLE, plus some sayings of Jesus from Q (the passages in Luke and Matthew that closely agree but that are not based on Mark’s Gospel are believed to be derived from an early collection of sayings of Jesus called “Q”). The author of Mark was a second or third-generation Christian believer who probably never set eyes on Jesus and never heard Jesus speak. The author was a Christian believer who would obviously have a BIAS in favor of seeing Jesus as a person of great “practical wisdom”.

Common sense tells us that the Christian author of Mark would be unlikely to report any stories about Jesus, or sayings of Jesus, that indicated that Jesus made a foolish decision or said something that was foolish. So, we cannot use this source as being a FULL and UNBIASED account of the words and actions of the historical Jesus. Nobody will be able to firmly establish claims like the following one, about the historical Jesus, based on the currently available historical evidence:

  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom.

Therefore, claims like premise (20A) also cannot be firmly established on the basis of currently available historical evidence:

20A. Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

THE SECOND ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LUNATIC

Here again, is Kreeft and Tacelli’s presentation of their second point against Jesus being a lunatic:

When we meet a lunatic, we are uncomfortable because we feel superior to him; when his enemies met Jesus, they were uncomfortable for the opposite reason. A lunatic does not make you feel personally challenged, only embarrassed and, eventually, bored. But Jesus made everyone feel challenged and uncomfortable, never bored. A lunatic is like darkness, Jesus was like light. A lunatic is like a man asleep, Jesus was the most wide awake of all men.

(HCA, p.160-161)

First of all, the last two sentences are more poetry than philosophy. They are metaphorical and emotionally-laden sentences that do more to undermine the credibility of Kreeft and Tacelli than to provide any sort of solid reason for the claim that Jesus was not a lunatic. Consider the second-to-last sentence:

A lunatic is like darkness, Jesus was like light.

This is poetry, not philosophy. This use of VAGUE metaphorical language is shameful for professional philosophers who are presenting philosophical arguments. However, I will attempt to translate this unclear statement into clearer language. Darkness is often a metaphor for EVIL. Light is often a metaphor for GOOD. This is a common metaphor used, for example, in the Gospel of John, and also in apocalyptic thinking, and in the Star Wars movies. So, a reasonable guess is that Kreeft and Tacelli are making the following claim:

ALL people who have a very serious mental illness are EVIL, but Jesus was completely GOOD.

Clearly, not ALL people who are seriously mentally ill are EVIL, so this statement is FALSE. Furthermore, since this contrasts with Jesus being allegedly “GOOD”, and since Jesus being “GOOD” means that Jesus was MORALLY GOOD, that implies that the term “EVIL” here means MORALLY EVIL. But in that case, the minority of seriously mentally ill people who we would be inclined to call “EVIL” (namely: psychopaths who are serial killers) are not plausibly considered to be MORALLY EVIL.

They are “EVIL” in the way that an earthquake or a poisonous snake are “EVIL”. Earthquakes and snakes are not moral agents that can be morally BLAMED for their “actions”. Earthquakes and poisonous snakes are NOT MORALLY EVIL. Similarly, it seems that psychopath serial killers are NOT MORALLY EVIL, because their thinking and choices are affected by very serious mental illness, so MORAL BLAME is not appropriate for them. They should be locked up or executed for the safety and well-being of other people, but they are so mentally defective that we should not think of them as being moral agents who are deserving of either praise or blame.

Therefore, based on my suggested interpretation, this statement by Kreeft and Tacelli is FALSE for at least two reasons: (1) some seriously mentally ill people are NOT “EVIL” (even in the non-moral sense of the term), (2) the seriously mentally ill people who are reasonably considered to be “EVIL” are NOT appropriately considered to be MORALLY EVIL.

Consider the last sentence of the second paragraph/argument:

A lunatic is like a man asleep, Jesus was the most wide awake of all men.

Again, the use of unclear metaphorical language is inappropriate for use in philosophical arguments, so this statement mostly undermines the credibility of Kreeft and Tacelli as philosophers.

Being “awake” is commonly used as a metaphorical reference to “enlightenment” or “wisdom”. In Buddhism, being “awake” is the primary description of the Buddha, at least after he grasped the basic ideas of his new philosophy. This is metaphorical language used to assert that the Buddha obtained great enlightenment or wisdom. So, based on this common use of the metaphor of being asleep vs. being awake, we can make a reasonable guess at the meaning of this last sentence:

ALL people who have a very serious mental illness are unwise, but Jesus was the wisest of all men.

To assert that “Jesus was the wisest of all men” is very similar to the previous assertion in the first argument that “Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom”. This claim has all of the problems that we have previously mentioned with the first argument against Jesus being a lunatic, and this claim is also thus REDUNDANT with the first argument.

I will ignore the last two sentences, and focus instead on the sentences that are clearer and more appropriate as relevant evidence. Here are my clarifications of the other sentences asserted by Kreeft and Tacelli in making their second point against Jesus being a lunatic:

21. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person.

22. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and this is NOT because they feel personally challenged by the insane person.

23. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable because they felt personally challenged by Jesus.

24. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable and this was NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.

There are two main contrasts here: (1) feeling uncomfortable because of feeling superior vs. feeling uncomfortable NOT because of feeling superior, and (2) feeling uncomfortable because of feeling challenged vs. feeling uncomfortable NOT because of feeling challenged. Thus, there are two main arguments here of a similar logical structure:

21. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person.

24. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable and this was NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

23. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable because they felt personally challenged by Jesus.

22. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and this is NOT because they feel personally challenged by the insane person.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

Although the second point by Kreeft and Tacelli turns out to include two arguments, we can put both of these arguments into one argument diagram showing two arguments in support of the same conclusion:

In the next post of this series, I will critically evaluate these two arguments from Kreeft and Tacelli’s second point against Jesus being a lunatic.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 16: The Arguments Against Jesus being a Lunatic

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I showed that there are three INVALID inferences in Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A). So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and thus this premise is DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false and so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

In Part 14 of this series, I showed that the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true. In that post I focused on the core of the argument, namely the inference from premise (14) to (4B). No matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), this argument FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

In Part 15 of this series, I examined and evaluated the support that Kreeft and Tacelli provide for premise (14). I evaluated their arguments as arguments for premise (14A), a revised and improved version of premise (14). I showed that the argument based on premise (15) was UNSOUND because premise (15) is FALSE, and because that argument is logically INVALID. I showed that the argument based on premise (16) also FAILED, because premise (16) is too UNCLEAR, due to VAGUE QUANTIFICATION, to be rationally evaluated. Because both of Kreeft and Tacelli’s arguments supporting (14A) FAIL, they have FAILED to show that premise (14A) is true.

THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST JESUS BEING A LUNATIC

The second key premise of Kreeft and Tacelli’s case for the divinity of Jesus is this:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

We have seen that Kreeft and Tacelli have already FAILED to show that (2B) is true, because they FAILED to show that (4B) is true:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

It is now time to examine whether they managed to show that the second element of (2B) is true:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

Kreeft and Tacelli give three arguments in support of premise (5B):

Why couldn’t Jesus be a lunatic?

1. Because the psychological profiles are opposite. The lunatic lacks the very qualities that shine in Jesus: practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

2. When we meet a lunatic, we are uncomfortable because we feel superior to him; when his enemies met Jesus, they were uncomfortable for the opposite reason. A lunatic does not make you feel personally challenged, only embarrassed and, eventually, bored. But Jesus made everyone feel challenged and uncomfortable, never bored. A lunatic is like darkness, Jesus was like light. A lunatic is like a man asleep, Jesus was the most wide awake of all men.

3. No Jew could sincerely think he was God. No group in history was less likely to confuse the Creator with a creature than the Jews, the only people who had an absolute, and absolutely clear, distinction between the divine and the human.

(HCA, p. 160-161)

THE FIRST ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LUNATIC

Here is the first argument from Kreeft and Tacelli for premise (5B):

19. Lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

20. Jesus clearly possessed practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF PREMISE (19)

Premise (19) is UNCLEAR and cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands. First, there is an initial obvious VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION. Here are four alternative interpretations:

ALL lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

ALMOST ALL lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

A VERY HIGH PERCENTAGE of lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

MOST lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

There is also more VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION in the term “lack”, especially given that “practical wisdom”, “tough love”, and “unpredictable creativity” are characteristics that are possessed to various degrees. Here are four alternative interpretations of the term “lack”:

Lunatics have ABSOLUTELY NO practical wisdom, ABSOLUTELY NO tough love, and ABSOLUTELY NO unpredictable creativity.

Lunatics have ALMOST NO practical wisdom, ALMOST NO tough love, and ALMOST NO unpredictable creativity.

Lunatics have ONLY A LITTLE practical wisdom, ONLY A LITTLE tough love, and ONLY A LITTLE unpredictable creativity.

Lunatics have a BELOW-AVERAGE DEGREE of practical wisdom, a BELOW-AVERAGE DEGREE of tough love, and a BELOW-AVERAGE DEGREE of unpredictable creativity.

Furthermore, because no quantification is spelled out, it might well be the case that Kreeft and Tacelli, if pushed for clarification, would quantify the “lunatics” and the “lack” differently for the three different characteristics, so on one possible interpretation of (19), Kreeft and Tacelli might mean to assert these three claims:

  • ALL lunatics have ONLY A LITTLE practical wisdom.
  • ALMOST ALL lunatics have ABSOLUTELY NO tough love.
  • A VERY HIGH PERCENTAGE of lunatics have ALMOST NO unpredictable creativity.

I have suggested four different quantifications concerning “lunatics” and four different quantifications concerning the “lack” of a characteristic, so there are sixteen different combinations of these quantifications for each characteristic. Since there are three different characteristics, the number of possible interpretations of premise (19), based on these different possible quantifications is:

16 x 16 x 16 = 256 x 16 = 4,096 different possible interpretations

There is an extraordinary degree of AMBIGUITY in premise (19).

On top of that extraordinary degree of AMBIGUITY, we also have the UNCLARITY of the basic characteristics at issue:

  • practical wisdom
  • tough love
  • unpredictable creativity

These are all very subjective and fuzzy terms. It is not at all clear what constitutes “tough love” or how we could measure that characteristic in any sort of objective way. I have no idea how “unpredictable” creativity differs from “predictable” creativity, so that concept seems very UNCLEAR. Psychologists do study “creativity” although I doubt that there is much agreement among psychologists on how to objectively measure a person’s creativity.

The term “practical wisdom” probably derives from the philosophy of Aristotle, given that Kreeft and Tacelli are both Catholic philosophers, and are no doubt familiar with Aristotle’s conception of “practical wisdom”. I suspect that Kreeft and Tacelli would be able to produce a definition of “practical wisdom” along the lines of Aristotle’s views on that idea. However, “practical wisdom” is a rather broad concept (meaning something like: the ability and tendency to make good decisions about what policy to adopt or course of action to take). Again, I don’t think there are any widely-accepted ways of measuring the degree of “practical wisdom” possessed by an individual.

So, before we can rationally evaluate premise (19), we need clear definitions of the three key characteristics (definitions that will allow us to assess the degree to which different people possess the characteristic), and we need to know which of the 4,096 possible interpretations of the QUANTIFICATION in premise (19) concerning “lunatics” and “lack” is the correct interpretation.

Finally, the term “lunatic” is an UNCLEAR term, as I mentioned way back in Part 2 of this series of posts:

What does the claim “Jesus was a lunatic” mean? Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of the term “lunatic”. He does, however, sometimes use the word “insane” in place of the word “lunatic”, so presumably, he views these words as synonyms (see Kreeft’s use of “insane” and “insanity” when introducing this part of the argument on pages 155 and 156 of HCA).

The dictionary definition of “lunatic” indicates an AMBIGUITY in this term:

People who are NOT insane sometimes believe things that are WILDLY FOOLISH for them to believe. For example, I think that it is WILDLY FOOLISH for Kreeft to believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead, but I do NOT think that Kreeft is insane. So, the word “lunatic” has a stronger and weaker sense. In the stronger sense of the word, to say that “Jesus was a lunatic” means that “Jesus was insane”. In the weaker sense, it means that “Jesus held some wildly foolish beliefs”. Because Kreeft uses the word “insane” as a synonym for the word “lunatic”, it seems likely that he intended the stronger sense of the word “lunatic”:

affected with a severely disordered state of mind: INSANE

However, the term “insanity” is no longer an accepted medical diagnosis:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insanity

Presumably, when they speak of “lunatics”, Kreeft and Tacelli have in mind “the wide range of mental disorders” that are now diagnosed as “bipolar disorder, organic brain syndromes, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders.” In that case, it will NOT be easy to gather the factual data needed to evaluate premise (19) even after all of the AMBIGUITY of quantification is settled, and the meanings of the UNCLEAR key terms are specified.

We would then need to gather data on the degree to which the three characteristics mentioned in (19) are possessed by people who have been diagnosed with: (a) bipolar disorder, (b) organic brain syndromes, (c) schizophrenia, and (d) other psychotic disorders. Sounds like a HUGE research project, with only a very small chance of finding sufficient relevant data to arrive at confident conclusions about the truth or falsehood of a clarified version of premise (19).

Speaking of FACTUAL DATA, Kreeft and Tacelli have provided absolutely ZERO facts relevant to determining whether premise (19) is true or false! They are philosophers, not psychologists, so they have no expertise in the study of people who have been diagnosed with: (a) bipolar disorder, (b) organic brain syndromes, (c) schizophrenia, or (d) other psychotic disorders. Furthermore, it is obvious that they did ZERO investigation of scientific studies about the relevant personal characteristics of such people. In short, they have absolutely NO CLUE what they are talking about here. They are doing the worst sort of armchair philosophy, namely: making SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS about which they have no expertise and for which they have no factual data whatsoever.

Because premise (19) is hopelessly UNCLEAR, and because Kreeft and Tacelli are obviously CLUELESS about the scientific claims they are making, we should REJECT premise (19) as being too UNCLEAR to rationally evaluate, and as being a SCIENTIFIC CLAIM for which Kreeft and Tacelli have absolutely ZERO factual data. They are simply attempting to baffle us with bullshit.

CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF PREMISE (20)

Premise (20) suffers from some of the same problems that we found with premise (19). There is some VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION in terms of the degree to which Jesus possesses the three key characteristics:

Jesus possessed the MAXIMAL DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Jesus possessed an ALMOST MAXIMAL DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Jesus possessed an ABOVE AVERAGE DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Since no QUANTIFICATION was specified in the original statement, Kreeft and Tacelli might well, if pressed for clarification, assert that Jesus possessed different degrees of the three different characteristics. For example, they might clarify premise (20) as asserting the following three claims:

  • Jesus possessed an ALMOST MAXIMAL DEGREE of practical wisdom.
  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of tough love.
  • Jesus possessed an ABOVE AVERAGE DEGREE of unpredictable creativity.

Although there are not thousands of different possible interpretations of the QUANTIFICATION in premise (20), there still is some significant AMBIGUITY in this premise. Because there are at least four different degrees for each characteristic, and because there are three different characteristics, the number of different possible interpretations of QUANTIFICATION in this premise are:

4 x 4 x 4 = 16 x 4 = 64 different possible interpretations

We also have the same problem with the UNCLEAR meanings of the three key characteristics:

  • practical wisdom
  • tough love
  • unpredictable creativity

These subjective and fuzzy concepts need to be clearly defined before it will be possible to rationally evaluate premise (20). And the definitions of these terms must be such that they enable us to determine (on the basis of facts and observations) the degree to which an individual possesses the characteristic in question.

Once again, as with premise (19), Kreeft and Tacelli provide absolutely ZERO facts in support of the claims that premise (20) makes about Jesus. These are HISTORICAL CLAIMS about a particular person, and such claims need to be supported with HISTORICAL facts or evidence. But we are given absolutely no facts or evidence in support of premise (20). Kreeft and Tacelli are simply asserting these HISTORICAL CLAIMS, without providing any relevant evidence.

Because premise (20) is too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated, and because Kreeft and Tacelli have provided no historical evidence whatsoever in support of the HISTORICAL CLAIMS about Jesus that are asserted in premise (20), we should REJECT premise (20) as a dubious claim.

The first argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (5B) FAILS, because both premises of this argument are too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated and because Kreeft and Tacelli do not offer any relevant factual evidence whatsoever in support of either of the two premises.

In the NEXT post in this series, I will critically examine the second argument for premise (5B), and perhaps, the third argument for (5B) as well.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 15: More on 2nd Argument Against Jesus being a LIAR

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I showed that there are three INVALID inferences in Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A). So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and thus this premise is DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false and so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

Here is a diagram of the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B):

In Part 14 of this series, I showed that the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true. In that post I focused on the core of the argument, namely the inference from premise (14) to (4B). No matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), this argument FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

However, I would like to provide a more complete evaluation of this argument, by looking at the support that Kreeft and Tacelli provide for premise (14). Given their deplorable track record, I suspect that there will be more false premises and/or invalid inferences in this part of their second argument against the view that Jesus was a liar.

PREMISE (15) AS SUPPORT FOR PREMISE (14A)

As I argued in Part 14 of this series, premise (14) contradicts a basic assumption of Kreeft and Tacelli’s case for the divinity of Jesus, making their second argument against Jesus being a liar into a complete disaster. So, I’m going to consider an argument that uses one of the alternative interpretations of premise (14) that does not have this self-destructive implication:

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

THEREFORE:

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Premise (15) is FALSE. Jesus never claimed to LITERALLY be God, not even in the Gospel of John. None of the Gospels portray Jesus as claiming to LITERALLY be God. I have argued that Kreeft and Tacelli are wrong on this basic point. It is extremely unlikely that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and yet none of the Gospels ever mention that he made such an extraordinary claim. Furthermore, Jesus does say things that indicate that he was NOT God. So, premise (15) is FALSE, and thus this argument is UNSOUND and should be rejected.

The inference from (15) to (14A) is also INVALID.

First of all, showing that there were potential selfish motives for Jesus to NOT claim to LITERALLY be God does not show that there were no potential selfish motives FOR claiming to LITERALLY be God. It is possible for there to be selfish reasons or motives for BOTH courses of action.

Second, there are some obvious possible selfish motives for Jesus to claim to LITERALLY be God, selfish motives that are NOT ruled out by the risk that Jesus would experience hatred, persecution, torture, and death as a result of making this claim. Jesus might have had a strong desire to have power, control, and influence over some of his fellow Jews that would come if he could get them to believe that he was LITERALLY God. Jesus might have had a strong egotistical desire to be admired, worshiped, and adored by some of his fellow Jews that would happen if he could get them to believe that he was LITERALLY God. Jesus might have believed that in provoking his fellow Jews to hate, persecute, and kill him, he would be carrying out God’s mission for his life, and that God would then make him King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All of these selfish motivations are possible, even if it is true that Jesus faced hatred, persecution, torture, and death as a result of claiming to LITERALLY be God.

Third, even if it was clearly NOT in Jesus’ overall self-interest to claim to LITERALLY be God, that does not prove that Jesus perceived his circumstances that way. Jesus could have failed to realize how dangerous it was to claim to LITERALLY be God, and he might have had an unrealistic assessment of his chances for being viewed as being divine by many of his fellow Jews. So, the selfish motivation of being obeyed and adored as God by many of his fellow Jews could have outweighed, in Jesus’ mind, the dangers involved in claiming to LITERALLY be God.

Seeing the great danger of Jesus claiming to LITERALLY be God in HINDSIGHT does not prove that Jesus clearly and realistically perceived the extent of this danger prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Therefore, premise (14A) does NOT FOLLOW logically from premise (15). This argument clearly FAILS to show that (14A) is true, because premise (15) is FALSE, and because the inference in the argument is INVALID. This argument is clearly UNSOUND and should be rejected.

PREMISE (16) AS SUPPORT FOR PREMISE (14A)

Here is the argument from premise (16):

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

THEREFORE:

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Strictly speaking, this argument is a non sequitur. There is no clear logical connection between the premise and the conclusion.

Furthermore, premise (16) is VAGUE and UNCLEAR, like so many of the claims made by Kreeft and Tacelli. It is not possible to rationally evaluate such a VAGUE and UNCLEAR premise. The problematic phrase in (16) is: “would be successful”. That phrase must be defined or clarified before this claim and this argument can be rationally evaluated.

The argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support premise (16) gives an indication of what they have in mind by the phrase “would be successful”:

17. The Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

18. Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

THEREFORE:

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

Apparently, Kreeft and Tacelli think that the only selfish motive Jesus could have had for claiming to LITERALLY be God is to receive worship from other Jews. I would think that a more likely selfish motivation would be to gain power and control over other people since Jews believe that they have an absolute duty to obey any command from God. I suppose if Jesus had a huge ego, he might have had a strong desire to be worshiped by other Jews, but that doesn’t seem like a very appealing or desirable goal.

Since Kreeft and Tacelli talk about Jesus wanting “the Jews” to worship him, there is a problem of VAGUENESS in the quantification of the worship that would constitute “success” from Jesus’ point of view. If his disciples Peter and John worshiped Jesus, would that be “success” from Jesus’ point of view? Or does “success” here mean that all twelve of Jesus’ inner-circle of disciples must worship Jesus? Or must hundreds of followers of Jesus beyond the inner-circle of twelve disciples also worship Jesus? Or must most of the Jewish population of Palestine worship Jesus as God, in order for Jesus to count his effort as being “successful”?

And how often and for how long must these Jews worship Jesus? If Peter and John worship Jesus every Sunday for an hour, is that enough to constitute Jesus being “successful”? Or do they need to worship Jesus for an hour every day? Or do they need to worship Jesus for an hour every morning, every afternoon, and every night? Or do they need to worship Jesus every waking moment of their lives? The same questions apply, if Jesus required that the twelve disciples worship him, that hundreds of his followers worship him, or that most of the Jewish population of Palestine worship him.

Since I cannot relate to a person for whom it is highly desirable to be worshiped by other people, I have no idea HOW MANY PEOPLE Jesus would have wanted to worship him as God, nor HOW OFTEN and for HOW LONG Jesus would have wanted those people to engage in such worship. But without having a degree of specificity about such QUANTIFICATION concerning what would constitute being “successful”, premise (16) cannot be rationally evaluated as either being true or false.

It should be pointed out, however, that a sizeable number of Jews became followers of Jesus, or followers of the newly developing Christian faith, in the first century, after the crucifixion of Jesus. Furthermore, according to Kreeft and Tacelli, even the earliest Christian believers (many of whom were Jews) worshiped Jesus as being God. So, if Jesus had the selfish goal of being worshiped by hundreds or thousands of other humans within a few decades after his death, then it appears, at least according to Kreeft and Tacelli, that this goal was achieved, that Jesus was in fact “successful” at least to that extent.

If premise (17) and premise (18) are assumed to be true, it could still be the case that hundreds or thousands of Jews did begin to regularly worship Jesus (on Sundays) as being God, within a few decades after his death (at least according to Kreeft and Tacelli). In that case, it is far from clear that (16) follows logically from (17) and (18).

There is a second problem of QUANTIFICATION in this argument. The phrase “the least likely people in the world to…” only specifies a relative probability. If, for example, Jesus had a 75% chance of getting hundreds of Romans to worship him, a 70% chance of getting hundreds of Greeks to worship him, a 65% chance of getting hundreds of Egyptians to worship him, and a 60% chance of getting hundreds of Jews to worship him, then it might well be the case that the Jews were “the least likely people in the world to have worshiped a man” and yet also the case that it was more likely than not that Jesus would be able to get hundreds of Jews to worship him. So, if being “successful” for Jesus meant getting hundreds of Jews to worship him, then he could have had a reasonable chance of being “successful” even if the Jews were “the least likely people in the world to have worshiped a man.”

In any case, given the VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION in the phrase “would be successful” in premise (16), we cannot rationally evaluate the truth or falsehood of (16), nor can we rationally evaluate the validity or invalidity of the inference from (17) and (18) to (16). Although I cannot determine that premise (16) is FALSE nor that the inference from (17) and (18) to (16) is INVALID, nobody else can determine that (16) is TRUE nor that the inference from (17) and (18) to (16) is VALID. Premise (16) is too UNCLEAR to allow this argument to be rationally evaluated.

CONCLUSION ABOUT THE ARGUMENTS FOR PREMISE (14A)

Kreeft and Tacelli provide two arguments in support of premise (14) and I have evaluated those two arguments as arguments for the revised premise (14A):

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

The first argument is based on premise (15). Premise (15) is FALSE, and the inference from premise (15) to (14A) is INVALID, so the first argument clearly FAILS.

The second argument is based on premise (16), and this argument cannot be rationally evaluated because premise (16) is too UNCLEAR to allow one to determine whether it is true or false, and it is too UNCLEAR to allow one to evaluate the inference from premise (17) and (18) to premise (16). So, the second argument FAILS, because the key premise of that argument contains an UNCLEAR phrase that involves VAGUE QUANTIFICATION (i.e. the phrase “would be successful”). Therefore, the second argument also FAILS.

Both of Kreeft and Tacelli’s arguments for premise (14A) have FAILED, and thus Kreeft and Tacelli have FAILED to show that premise (14A) is true.

CONCLUSION ABOUT ARGUMENTS FOR PREMISE (4B)

Kreeft and Tacelli give two arguments in suport of premise (4B):

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

In Part 14 of this series, I showed that the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true. In that post I focused on the core of the argument, namely the inference from premise (14) to (4B).

Therefore, Kreeft and Tacelli have FAILED to show that premise (4B) is true. That means that they have also FAILED to show that the second key premise of their case for the divinity of Jesus is true:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

So, the first key premise of their case for the divinity of Jesus, premise (1A), is FALSE, and the second key premise of their case, premise (2B), remains questionable because they have FAILED to prove that Jesus was NOT a liar.

bookmark_borderThe Historical Jesus and John The Baptizer

I just wanted to share this interview from today with Dr. James McGrath by Derek on Mythvision podcast. It’s interesting because it shows how historical reasoning works when we try to sift through the evidence to find historical nuggets. So, for instance, of John the Baptizer Jesus was recorded as saying things like:

  • “Truly I tell you, among those born of women no one has arisen greater than John the Baptist (Matthew 11:11, Luke 7:28)”
  • “The Law and the Prophets were until John came; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is being proclaimed, and everyone tries to enter it by force (Luke 16:16)”

You can see the problem for Jesus mythicism here, since it’s hard to imagine the early church inventing Jesus saying that John the Baptist was greater than him, or that the turning point in history was John, not Jesus.

Anyway, it’s a fun interview, so check it out!

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 14: The 2nd Argument Against Jesus being a LIAR

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I showed that there are three INVALID inferences in Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A). So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and thus this premise is DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are at least three more VIEWS that Kreeft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the SKEPTIC VIEW, the STAR WARS VIEW, and the THEOLOGICAL CONFUSION VIEW. Therefore, premise (1A) is clearly FALSE. So, their argument for the divinity of Jesus is based on a premise that is FALSE, and the argument is thus UNSOUND and should be rejected.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false and so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

In this post, I will critically examine the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B).

THE SECOND ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (4B)

Premise (14) is the primary reason given in support of (4B):

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Kreeft and Tacelli provide two reasons in support of (14):

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

Kreeft and Tacelli also give an argument in support of premise (16):

17. The Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

18. Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

THEREFORE:

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

It is clear right away that the primary inference in this argument from premise (14) to (4B) is INVALID. The (alleged) fact that Jesus had no conceivable motive for claiming to LITERALLY be God is IRRELEVANT to whether Jesus was a liar or not.

No matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), the conclusion (4B) simply does NOT FOLLOW from that premise. At most, one could infer that Jesus did not intentionally lie about LITERALLY being God. But that leaves open the possibility that Jesus constantly lied about all sorts of other matters. So, this argument is clearly INVALID and thus it FAILS.

A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH PREMISE (14)

However, there appears to be an even more serious problem with premise (14). This premise LOGICALLY IMPLIES that Kreeft and Tacelli are wrong in their belief that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

19. Jesus did NOT claim that he was LITERALLY God.

If someone S has “no conceivable motive” to do X, then it follows that S will NOT do X. One must have a motivation for every action that one chooses to take. Why would Kreeft and Tacelli assert premise (14) given that this premise (a) clearly FAILS to support their claim that Jesus was not a liar, and (b) clearly implies that their basic assumption that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God is FALSE?

Kreeft and Tacelli are not the sharpest tools in the shed, so it is possible that they could have made both of these HUGE ERRORS all at once. But I suspect that the problem here is that premise (14) does not accurately represent what they were thinking. So, we need to take a closer look at this premise, to see if there is a better interpretation available, an interpretation that is not so obviously IDIOTIC, given what they were attempting to prove.

ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATIONS OF PREMISE (14)

Here again is the quotation from Kreeft and Tacelli, where this premise is put forward:

Because there is no conceivable motive for his lie. It brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death. (HCA, p.160)

The second sentence uses the pronoun “it”, and this clearly refers back to the expression “his lie”. But if we interpret the second sentence straightforwardly, then it would be asserting this:

Jesus LIED in claiming to LITERALLY be God, and that LIE brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

This straightforward interpretation of the second sentence will not work, though, because Kreeft and Tacelli obviously don’t believe that Jesus LIED in claiming to LITERALLY be God. So, clearly, they would not assert that Jesus LIED in this way as being a historical fact. I therefore interpreted the second sentence this way:

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

In other words, I dropped the idea that this was a LIE out of the second sentence because I know that Kreeft and Tacelli do NOT believe that Jesus LIED by claiming to LITERALLY be God.

If they had written these sentences more CAREFULLY and CLEARLY, they would have used scare quotes around the word “lie”:

Because there is no conceivable motive for his “lie” of claiming to literally be God. His claiming to literally be God brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

In the previous sentences, Kreeft and Tacelli based an argument on the claim that “Liars lie for selfish reasons…”. So, it is possible that they intended the phrase “no conceivable motive” in the first sentence to be QUALIFIED in view of their previous statements so that what they actually meant was that Jesus had “no conceivable SELFISH motive”. Here is a revised version of premise (14) based on this hypothesis:

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Another possible interpretation of the first sentence involves keeping the concept of LYING in the claim, but in a hypothetical manner:

14B. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

Finally, it is possible to combine both of these alternative interpretations together to form a third possible interpretation of the first sentence:

14C. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

So, if we substitute these alternative interpretations of this premise into the second argument against Jesus being a liar, does that fix the argument?

First, any of these three alternatives is at least an improvement over the original interpretation, because none of these three alternative claims imply that Jesus did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God. Kreeft and Tacelli’s entire case for the divinity of Jesus rests on the assumption that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, so the original interpretation of premise (14) completely destroys the foundation of their own case for the divinity of Jesus. The alternative interpretations don’t have this huge self-destructive implication.

EVALUATION OF REVISED ARGUMENTS

However, the main question at issue here is whether any of these alternative interpretations of premise (14) change a FAILED argument into a SUCCESSFUL argument. Are any of these alternative claims true? Do any of these alternative claims logically imply the conclusion that Jesus was NOT a liar? Let’s consider revising the argument by using premise (14A):

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

First, premise (14A) is FALSE. If Jesus believed he was LITERALLY God, and if Jesus believed that he was on a mission from God that required him to die by being executed by the Romans, and if Jesus believed that he would become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords if he faithfully carried out his mission, then Jesus clearly had a powerful SELFISH motivation for claiming to LITERALLY be God and thus to help bring about his own execution by the Romans, at the request of offended Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. So, this argument is UNSOUND and should be rejected.

Second, the conclusion does NOT FOLLOW from the premise. Whatever motivations Jesus may have had with respect to claiming to LITERALLY be God, this has almost nothing to do with whether Jesus was generally truthful or generally a liar about OTHER matters. Jesus might well have had many times when there was a selfish motive for him to lie about something (about his age, his health, his parents, his financial circumstances, his plans, his feelings about someone, etc.) Premise (14A) is only talking about one specific thing that Jesus might have chosen to say or not to say, so it does not have wide implications about how honest or dishonest Jesus was in general. Thus, the LOGIC of this argument is INVALID and the argument should be rejected.

Let’s consider revising the argument by using premise (14B):

14B. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

First, premise (14B) is FALSE. There are MANY selfish motives that Jesus could have had for claiming to LITERALLY be God. Jews believed they owed absolute obedience to God, and Jews believed they had a duty to love God with all their heart and mind, and Jews believed that God was a wonderful and amazing person who deserved honor, praise, and worship. So, if Jesus could persuade some Jews to believe that he was LITERALLY God, that would give him great power, influence, and control over those Jews. Since (14B) is FALSE, this argument is UNSOUND and it FAILS.

Second, the inference from (14B) to (4B) is clearly INVALID. Premise (14B) only talks about Jesus’ decision to either claim to LITERALLY be God or not to make this claim. It tells us NOTHING about the thousands of other subjects about which Jesus made claims. So, even if it is the case that Jesus had no motive to claim to LITERALLY be God, he probably did often have motive to lie about thousands of other questions and topics. Since the LOGIC in this argument is INVALID, this argument FAILS.

Let’s consider revising the argument by using premise (14C):

14C. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

First, premise (14C) is FALSE. It is FALSE for the same reason that premise (14B) is FALSE. Thus, this argument is UNSOUND and it FAILS.

Second, the inference from premise (14C) to (4B) is INVALID. It is INVALID for the same reason that the inference from (14B) to (4B) is INVALID. Because the LOGIC of this argument is INVALID, this argument FAILS.

EVALUATION OF THE SECOND ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LIAR

The core of the argument against Jesus being a liar is premise (14):

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

The inference in this core argument is clearly INVALID, so no matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), this argument FAILS.

In addition, premise (14) is clearly FALSE. It is FALSE because persuading other Jews to believe that he was God would give Jesus great power, influence, and control over those Jews. So there is an OBVIOUS selfish motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Thus, this core argument has both a FALSE premise and an INVALID inference. It is clearly an UNSOUND argument and it FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

Furthermore, not only does premise (14) FAIL to support premise (4B), but it actually DESTROYS the entire case made by Kreeft and Tacelli for the divinity of Jesus. Premise (14) implies that Jesus did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God, but that is a basic assumption of Kreeft and Tacelli’s case for the divinity of Jesus. They have truly shot themselves in both feet with premise (14).

Because premise (14) FAILS so spectacularly, I have made a serious effort to come up with alternative interpretations of the sentence on which (14) was based, to see if I could come up with an interpretation that helped to fix their badly broken argument.

I came up with three alternative interpretations, each of which are an improvement over the original premise (14) in that they do not logically imply that Jesus did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God. These alternative interpretations at least don’t DESTROY the entire case by Kreeft and Tacelli for the divinity of Jesus.

However, all three alternative interpretations turned out to be FALSE claims, and NONE of the alternative interpretations logically imply (4B), so if we substitute any of the three alternative premises into the argument for (4B), the argument will have a FALSE premise and an INVALID inference, and FAIL just as badly as the original argument with the original interpretation of premise (14).

I conclude that this argument by Kreeft and Tacelli against Jesus being a LIAR is a complete and utter FAILURE, like most of their other arguments.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 13: The 1st Argument Against Jesus being a LIAR

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I explain how Kreeft and Tacelli use a series of FOUR DILEMMAS in order to try to prove premise (1A). I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference, and I have shown that the SECOND DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I agreed with Kreeft and Tacelli that the inference in the THIRD DILEMMA is logically VALID. I have also shown that in the FOURTH DILEMMA there is one VALID inference (to the LIAR VIEW) and one INVALID inference (to the LUNATIC VIEW). Therefore, there are INVALID inferences in three out of the FOUR DILEMMAS, and just one INVALID inference is enough to sink Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A) of their case for the divinity of Jesus. So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and that premise remains DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that my objections not only show that there are three INVALID inferences in the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (1A), but that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are at least three more VIEWS that Kreeft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the SKEPTIC VIEW, the STAR WARS VIEW, and the THEOLOGICAL CONFUSION VIEW. Therefore, not only is the argument given by Kreeft and Tacelli for premise (1A) a BAD argument, but premise (1A) is clearly FALSE. So, their argument for the divinity of Jesus is based on a premise that is FALSE, and the argument is thus UNSOUND and should be rejected.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false, so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In this post, I will examine the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B).

THE FIRST ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LIAR

Premises (10) and (11) are the core of this first argument for (4B):

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Premises (12) and (13) provide support for premise (11):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (10)

Here again is premise (10):

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

This premise is VAGUE in terms of QUANTIFICATION. Does it assert that liars ALWAYS “lie for selfish reasons”? or that liars USUALLY “lie for selfish reasons”? or that liars SOMETIMES “lie for selfish reasons”? Here are those three different interpretations* of premise (10):

10A. Liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10B. Liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10C. Liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

Premise (10C) is obviously true, but (10C) is too WEAK to be used to show that (4B) is true.

Premise (10B) might be true, although it is NOT obviously true. For all I know, liars lie for selfish reasons 50% of the time, and have other motivations 50% of the time.

It would depend in part on how exactly we define the term “liar”. To the extent that most people are “liars”, it might well be the case that “liars” tell lies for non-selfish reasons 50% of the time. In that case, (10B) would be FALSE. But if the term “liar” is reserved for people who habitually tell big lies, then (10B) might be TRUE. Without a careful and precise definition of “liar” and a large amount of carefully gathered sociological data on the frequency and nature of lying, it would be difficult to determine whether (10B) was TRUE or FALSE.

Furthermore, even if (10B) was true, it is also too WEAK a claim to be used to show that (4B) is true.

Premise (10A) would be strong enough to be used to show that (4B) is true. However, premise (10A) is obviously FALSE. People sometimes tell lies for non-selfish reasons. People have many different motivations for the choices they make and the actions they take, and people sometimes make choices on the basis of non-selfish reasons. Even people who frequently lie sometimes make choices and take actions for non-selfish reasons, so clearly even they will sometimes lie for non-selfish reasons. Premise (10A) is clearly FALSE.

So, if we interpret premise (10) to make the strong claim in (10A), then the premise will be strong enough to be used to show that (4B) is true, but the premise will be FALSE. If we interpret premise (10), to make the weaker claim (10B), then it will NOT be strong enough to be used to show that (4B) is true, and it is uncertain whether (10B) is TRUE or FALSE. Finally, if we interpret premise (10) to make the weak claim in (10C), then we know that claim is TRUE, but it is clearly too WEAK to be used to show that premise (4B) is true. Therefore, premise (10) is either too WEAK to support the conclusion (4B) or else it strong enough to support the conclusion (4B) but is clearly FALSE. Either way, Kreeft and Tacelli’s first argument for (4B) FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (11)

Here again is premise (11):

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (11) with two reasons, given in premise (12) and premise (13):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

Premise (11) suffers from the very same problem of VAGUENESS as premise (10), and as with premise (10), we can interpret premise (11) in at least three different ways:

11A. Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring.

11B. Jesus was USUALLY unselfish, USUALLY loving, and USUALLY caring.

11C. Jesus was SOMETIMES unselfish, SOMETIMES loving, and SOMETIMES caring.

The WEAKER claims made by (11B) and (11C) are more plausible than the strong claim made by (11A), but the WEAKER claims are not sufficient to prove the conclusion that Jesus was not a liar. Only the strong claim made by (11A) will be sufficient to show that (4B) is true.

Human beings in general, unless they are sociopaths, are often selfish and are at least sometimes unselfish. Some admirable human beings are usually unselfish and yet are also sometimes selfish. Based on how human beings generally behave it is very unlikely that any particular person is “ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring”, so premise (11A) is extremely DUBIOUS, apart from lots of strong factual evidence. Premise (11A) is presumptively FALSE; it should be considered FALSE unless and until strong evidence is provided that shows it to be TRUE.

Do Kreeft and Tacelli provide lots of powerful evidence to support the very strong claim made by (11A)? They don’t even come anywhere close. Consider premise (12):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

The same could be said of many teachers: elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, and college professors. The same could be said of many many journalists and writers: newspaper journalists, magazine journalists, television journalists, textbook writers, how-to-book writers, science writers, historical writers, political writers, religion writers, psychology writers, sociology writers, etc.

Would it be reasonable to conclude that ALL teachers and ALL writers who are “passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth” are “ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring”? Obviously NOT. Human beings, even exemplary human beings, are still selfish sometimes, unloving sometimes, and uncaring sometimes. This is just a widely known fact about human behavior. Premise (12) is way too WEAK to prove, or even to strongly support, the very strong claim made by premise (11A).

Consider premise (13):

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

First, it is not at all clear that premise (13) is true.

In order to give up “all worldly goods”, one must have a significant amount of worldly goods to give up. But Jesus was the son of a carpenter. Jesus did NOT come from a wealthy or powerful family. Jesus came from a working-class family in a small backwater village in Galilee. Jesus did not have much in the way of worldly goods to give up. Furthermore, there was no easy path for Jesus to climb his way up into a life of wealth and luxury. Very few working-class Jews from backwater villages in first-century Palestine had any opportunity to become wealthy or powerful people. Jesus probably did go without much in the way of “worldly goods”, but that was already his lot in life when he was born into a working-class family in a backwater village in first-century Palestine. So, we cannot give Jesus much credit for giving up “all worldly goods”.

The second claim in (13) is also DUBIOUS. Jesus “gave up…life itself”. It is uncertain that Jesus deliberately “gave up” his own life. Furthermore, if he did give up his own life, it is not at all clear that he gave it up for unselfish reasons. The Gospels do generally portray Jesus as foreseeing his death by execution. But it would be expected for a great prophet to foresee his own death, and since his death was supposedly a key part of God’s plan, it would be expected that a great prophet would be aware of this key part of God’s plan, so the early Christian storytellers would be inclined to believe that Jesus had foreseen his own death, and they might well have shaped their stories about Jesus to correspond with this belief.

It might well be the case that Jesus anticipated his own death, especially in view of the fact that Jesus had been a disciple of John the Baptist, and John the Baptist was killed for being an outspoken critic of Herod Antipas. So, Jesus might have reasonably guessed that being an outspoken critic of the religious leaders of Jerusalem, he could face the same fate as the man he had previously admired and followed.

Nevertheless, it might well be the case that Jesus did NOT expect to be arrested and executed so early in his career as a prophet, teacher, and healer. He may have been anticipating many more years of preaching and healing before he faced being arrested and executed. If his arrest was a surprise to Jesus, then his death by execution was NOT the result of Jesus giving up his own life. In that case, it would be, at most, the result of Jesus putting his life at moderate risk for the sake of carrying on his ministry.

Suppose that Jesus was aware that there was a serious plot by the religious authorities in Jerusalem to have Jesus arrested and then executed by the Romans. Suppose Jesus remained in Jerusalem believing that this plot was very likely to be successful and that his choice to remain in Jerusalem meant that in all likelihood he would soon be arrested and executed by the Roman authorities. In that case, it would seem that Jesus did give up his life.

However, this would NOT be sufficient to show that Jesus gave up his life for unselfish reasons. We also would need to know what Jesus’ motivation was for remaining in Jerusalem and facing arrest and execution by the Romans. Premise (13) says NOTHING about Jesus’ motivation for giving up his life, so premise (13) FAILS to support the conclusion that “Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish”.

Furthermore, there is good reason to doubt that Jesus’ motivations were purely unselfish, even assuming that he did in fact choose to give up his own life. Jesus believed that he was on a mission from God, and that if he faithfully carried out that mission, God would make Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and put Jesus in charge of all human beings in an eternal Kingdom of righteousness and prosperity.

If, however, Jesus failed to carry out the mission God had assigned to him, then God would NOT bestow such power and glory and prosperity upon Jesus. So, if Jesus believed that his own death was a key part of God’s plan, and thus a key part of Jesus’ mission, then Jesus would have a HUGE selfish reason to follow this plan, and to submit himself to being arrested and executed by the Romans. Given this plausible view of Jesus’ hopes and beliefs, it is clear that in giving up his own life, Jesus might well have been acting PRIMARILY on the basis of selfish reasons.

Finally, even if it was true that Jesus gave up his own life and did this for unselfish reasons, it does NOT follow that Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, or ALWAYS loving, or ALWAYS caring in every single choice he ever made. That would just be one instance where Jesus did something for unselfish reasons. That would have been a heroic choice, but it is a widely known fact of human behavior that even heroes and saints sometimes make choices that are selfish, unloving, or uncaring. So, even if Jesus did make the choice to give up his life for unselfish reasons, that does not come anywhere close to showing that Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring.

Because it is unclear whether Jesus actually gave up his own life, and because premise (13) says NOTHING about Jesus’ motivations for giving up his own life, because we can imagine a very plausible selfish reason why Jesus might have given up his own life, and because one unselfish action does NOT show that a person is consistently and constantly unselfish, premise (13) FAILS completely to provide support for the strong claim made by (11A), that “Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish”.

Since premise (11A) makes a very strong claim that runs contrary to our common experience of human behavior, and since premise (12) and premise (13) FAIL to provide any significant support for premise (11A), we may reasonably conclude that premise (11A) is DUBIOUS, and that it is probably FALSE.

EVALUATION OF THE FIRST ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (4B)

The core argument for (4B) consists of two premises:

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

Both of these premises are VAGUE with respect to QUANTIFICATION.

Both of these premises will work to establish the conclusion (4B) only if they are interpreted as making very strong claims:

10A. Liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11A. Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring.

However, on these interpretations, premise (10A) is clearly FALSE, and premise (11A) is DUBIOUS and probably FALSE. The reasons that Kreeft and Tacelli give in support of (11A) are clearly inadequate to support this very strong claim. Therefore, the first argument FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true; it FAILS to show that “Jesus was not a liar.”

In the next post of this series, I will examine the second argument given by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (4B), the claim that “Jesus was not a liar.”

*NOTE:

After I published this post, I realized that there was a second problem of VAGUENESS with premise (10) concerning QUANTIFICATION. So, there are at least nine different possible interpretations of this premise:

10D. ALL liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10E. MOST liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10F. SOME liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10G. ALL liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10H. MOST liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10I. SOME liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10J. ALL liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10K. MOST liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10L. SOME liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

My objection to the argument involving premise (10) still stands. Clearly, the weakest claim here has no significance:

10L. SOME liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

But even claims of moderate strength are still too weak to make Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument work:

10H. MOST liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

First, Jesus could be one of the liars who doesn’t fall into this category of “MOST liars” who USUALLY lie for selfish reasons. Perhaps Jesus USUALLY or ALWAYS lied for unselfish reasons.

Second, even if Jesus was a liar who USUALLY lied for selfish reasons, he might not have told many lies, and his other actions and choices might have been consistently unselfish so that overall his choices and actions were usually unselfish.

So, in order for their argument to work, they need to make (10) a very strong claim, like the following, which is obviously FALSE:

10D. ALL liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

It turns out that Kreeft and Tacelli make basically the SAME argument concerning Jesus’ disciples, but when they do, they use the word “always” to quantify this claim about lies being made for selfish reasons:

There could be no possible motive for such a lie. Lies are always told for some selfish advantage. (HCA, p.185)

Since they assert this universal generalization when discussing the disciples, they presumably believe this same universal generalization when they discuss the possibility of Jesus being a liar. The claim that “Lies are always told for some selfish advantage” logically implies premise (10D), so it is FALSE too, just like premise (10D) is FALSE.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 12: The Argument for Premise (2A)

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue.

In Part 4 of this series through Part 9 of this series, I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference, and I have shown that the SECOND DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I agreed with Kreeft and Tacelli that the inference in the THIRD DILEMMA is logically VALID.

In Part 10 of this series, I have shown that in the FOURTH DILEMMA there is one VALID inference (to the LIAR VIEW) and one INVALID inference (to the LUNATIC VIEW). Therefore, there are INVALID inferences in three out of the FOUR DILEMMAS, and just one INVALID inference is enough to sink Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A) of their case for the divinity of Jesus. So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and that premise remains DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that my objections not only show that there are three INVALID inferences in the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (1A), but that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are at least three more VIEWS that Kreeft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the SKEPTIC VIEW, the STAR WARS VIEW, and the THEOLOGICAL CONFUSION VIEW.

Therefore, not only is the argument given by Kreeft and Tacelli for premise (1A) clearly a BAD argument, but premise (1A) is clearly FALSE. So, their argument for the divinity of Jesus is based on a premise that is FALSE, and that argument is thus UNSOUND and should be rejected.

THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (2A)

Here again, is premise (2A) one of the key premises of Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument for the divinity of Jesus:

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

The argument in support of (2A) consists of four more specific claims:

4A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar.

5A. Jesus could not possibly be a lunatic.

6A. Jesus could not possibly be a guru.

7A. Jesus could not possibly be a myth.

THEREFORE:

2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

Before I diagram this sub-argument, I should correct a problem with premise (2A). Premise (2A) appears to make the strong claim that it is LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that Jesus was a liar, and LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that Jesus was a lunatic, etc. But such strong claims are clearly and obviously FALSE. We can imagine it being the case that Jesus was a liar, and we can imagine it being the case that Jesus was a lunatic. There is no logical self-contradiction in these claims. Thus, it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE that Jesus was a liar, and it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE that Jesus was a lunatic. The claim intended by Kreeft and Tacelli here is that historical facts show that Jesus was NOT in fact a liar and NOT in fact a lunatic.

So, to avoid the second premise being immediately judged to be FALSE and tossed aside, we should modify this premise so that it has at least some initial plausibility, if possible. This problem is easily fixed, so I will revise the second premise to make it more clearly into a factual and historical claim:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

Since we have revised the second premise to make it at least initially plausible, we need to also revise the premises in the argument supporting the second premise in a similar manner:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

6B. Jesus was not a guru.

7B. Jesus was not a myth.

THEREFORE:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THE ARGUMENTS FOR PREMISE (4B)

Here again, is premise (4B):

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Kreeft and Tacelli give more than one reason in support of this premise:

Why couldn’t Jesus be a liar?

1. Because he has the wrong psychological profile. He was unselfish, loving, caring, compassionate, and passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

2. Because there is no conceivable motive for his lie. It brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

3. Because he could not have hoped that his “lie” would be successful, for the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man, and Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that.

(HCA, p.160)

THE FIRST ARGUMENT FOR (4B)

The first argument for (4B) is summarized in the first sentence: “Because he has the wrong psychological profile.” But that is just a summary. The key premise in the argument is this one:

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

(I will ignore the numbers used by Kreeft and Tacelli, and assign numbers to statements in whatever way helps to clarify the logic of their argument.)

The first phrase of the second sentence logically connects with premise (10): “He was unselfish, loving, caring…”. Let’s take this as another premise in the first argument for (4B):

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

The rest of the second sentence appears to provide some support for the first part of the sentence, for premise (11):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

The fourth sentence also appears to provide some support for premise (11):

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

Premises (10) and (11) are the core of this first argument:

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Premises (12) and (13) provide support for premise (11).

THE SECOND ARGUMENT FOR (4B)

The next point made by Kreeft and Tacelli also relates to Jesus’ motivations:

Because there is no conceivable motive for his lie. It brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death. (HCA, p.160)

What does the phrase “his lie” refer to? Clearly it refers to “Jesus’ lie that he was LITERALLY God”. However, Kreeft and Tacelli don’t believe this was a lie, so in more neutral language, they mean “Jesus’ claim that he was LITERALLY God”:

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

The next sentence begins with the pronoun “it”: “It brought him hatred…”. The pronoun clearly refers back to “his lie”, which we have clarified to mean “Jesus’s claim that he was LITERALLY God.”:

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

Premise (15) appears to be a reason given in support of premise (14), and (14) is a reason given in support of (4B):

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

THEREFORE:

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

ANOTHER ARGUMENT FOR (14)

Here again is the third point given by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (4B):

Because he could not have hoped that his “lie” would be successful, for the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man, and Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that. (HCA, p.160)

The reference to “his ‘lie'” at the beginning of this sentence is not intended literally, which is why the word “lie” appears in quotation marks. Kreeft and Tacelli believe that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and that this claim was true, not a lie. So we need to rephrase “his ‘lie'” in more neutral language:

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

The second part of the sentence provides a reason in support of premise (16):

17. The Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

The third part of the sentence makes a claim that works with premise (17) to support (16):

18. Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

Premise (16) appears to provide further support to premise (14), so the third point by Kreeft and Tacelli appears to be a sub-argument within the second argument, rather than being an independent argument for (4B). So, will modify the diagram for the second argument to include this additional sub-argument.

Kreeft and Tacelli have provided two arguments in support of (4B). In the next post of this series, I will evaluate the first argument in support of (4B).

bookmark_borderBlogging Through Augustine/Martin’s Anthology “The Myth Of An Afterlife” Part 6

Blog Post 6 on “The Myth of an Afterlife”

The Myth of an Afterlife

Chapter Two: Dead as a Doornail Souls, Brains, and Survival 

by Matt McCormick

Augustine summarizes that

 In chapter 2, Matt McCormick presents a strong probabilistic case that human cognitive abilities, memories, personalities, thoughts, emotions, conscious awareness, and self-awareness are dependent upon the brain to occur/ exist and thus cannot survive the death of the brain. McCormick makes his case by providing a broad overview of the general lines of evidence that even the highest mental functions are produced by brain activity, evidence that does not sit well with the notion of any sort of soul or ethereal double that can function completely independently of the brain. Yet this notion is presupposed by all versions of the survival hypothesis that do not depend exclusively upon miraculous bodily resurrection.

McCormick outlines his general argument as follows:

1. Human cognitive abilities, memories, personalities, thoughts, emotions, conscious awareness, and self-awareness (in short, the features that we attribute to the personal soul) are dependent upon the brain to occur/exist. 2. The brain does not survive the death of the body 3. Therefore, the personal soul does not survive the death of the body.

To begin with, McCormick makes the general point regarding the dependency of the mind on the brain.

Decades of evidence from stroke victims, motorcycle accidents, car wrecks, construction site accidents, functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans, brain imaging, and other medical studies have given us a detailed picture of which portions of the brain are active in conjunction with specific cognitive abilities and mental states. What that research has shown is that minds depend upon brains. Damaging a part of the brain destroys a part of our thoughts, eliminates a cognitive ability, or alters some personal or emotional capacity. Restoring the electrochemical functions of the brain renews the mental function.

McCormick argues what science teaches is that brain damage can pinpoint the section of the brain responsible for which cognitive functions, and that the mind is best explained as being entirely dependent.  Even something as basic as awareness can be wiped away and leave a person in a permanent vegetative state.  Even at the simplest level the physical can alter the mental, such as with a pill or caffeine.  Mental functions are directly proportional to their physical brain complexity in creatures, and even humans in their evolutionary history became more cognitively apt as their brains developed.  So why did consciousness develop?

There are countless neural assemblies that register various aspects of our environments and internal states. With conscious awareness, natural selection found a mechanism for summarizing many of the most pertinent facts quickly, making these discriminations available to executive planning faculties. The biological usefulness of conscious awareness is to “produce the best current interpretation of the visual scene, in the light of past experience either of ourselves or our ancestors (embodied in our genes), and to make available, for a sufficient time, to the parts of the brain that contemplate, plan and execute voluntary motor outputs (of one sort or another)” (Crick & Koch, 1995, p. 121). Memory, emotions, awareness of self and others, attention, and other elements of our cognitive constitutions fit into this general evolutionary picture as adaptations, byproducts, or kludges (improvised assemblages).

This goes beyond McCormick a little, but it would seem too that categorizing serves a further evolutionary function, and provides an interesting explanation of the relationship between particulars and universals beyond mere abstraction: so, a particularly scrumptious meal may have presenced to primitive man as “dinner incarnate (like we say of a Van Gogh we say “Now that’s a painting, Art incarnate) to the man’s aroused physiology; an average meal comparatively less so; and week old food hardly at all.   

McCormick argues the belief in the soul also has an evolutionary ground and relates to our tendency to assign minds to things even that don’t have minds

The animism of primitive religions is a result of imbuing the weather, the oceans, and other natural objects with spiritual forces. This overactive propensity to find minds where they are not feeds the belief that souls survive or are autonomous. If we are prone to find minds where they are not, then it is only natural to conceive of minds as unhinged from brains. Minds then become things that can exist in anything, whether they have brains or not. And it is a small step from here to the idea that perhaps minds don’t need to inhabit any physical object at all. Ironically, evolution produced brains that are conscious, as well as a powerful tendency to attribute consciousness to things that don’t have brains.

bookmark_borderPaul through the lens of Luke

It is fascinating to think along with Bart Ehrman and the idea that Luke had a Moral Influence interpretation of the cross rather than a Paying Sin Debt interpretation. But what about Paul? Paul was the great hero of Luke’s work Acts. It seems that Luke had not read Paul’s letters nor seemed to be aware of them. Just the same, it is not unreasonable to suppose Luke would have known the core of what Paul was teaching about the cross, and then conveyed it in Luke-Acts. Perhaps reading Paul as a cross sin debt payment advocate is wrong? This takes us back to the core teaching of the cross, of whether Jesus died to pay our sin debt, or rather to make our hidden sinful nature conspicuous to inspire repentance? Clearly, there didn’t seem to be any theological significance attached to Jesus’ death before he died. If the disciples thought Jesus was supposed to die for theological reasons, they wouldn’t have gotten violent at the arrest. It’s much easier to see how the death of the Davidic heir Jesus would have blossomed into a Moral Influence sense of the cross after his death, as opposed to suddenly a blood magic sin debt atonement interpretation appeared.

See my other post on this here: