bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 14: Exposure by Adversaries

WHERE WE ARE AT
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) in an attempt to disprove that theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
In previous posts, I argued that Kreeft’s Objection #1, Objection #2, Objection #3, Objection #4, Objection #5, and Objection #6 were all miserable FAILURES.   Since the first six of Kreeft’s seven objections against TCT are all miserable FAILURES, it is likely that Objection #7 will also turn out to be a miserable FAILURE.
In part #13 of this series, I pointed out that Objection #7 included two separate reasons for thinking that a conspiracy between the twelve apostles to lie about having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus would have been EXPOSED, thus putting an end to Christianity before it had the chance to get started.
The second reason was examined in part #13:

2a. Common experience shows that: All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.

I argued that this claim was FALSE, because the core claim (“All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.”) was NOT based on common experience, but was, rather, a tautology (or something very similar to a tautology).
There is also a serious problem with the core claim itself, namely it is much too weak to be of any use to Kreeft as an objection against TCT, because of the word “inevitably”.  Kreeft needs a much stronger claim, one that would be very dubious:

All (or nearly all) CONSPIRACIES are exposed in less than a year after they are initiated. 

Kreeft provides no evidence whatsoever to support such a questionable generalization.  So, the second reason included in Objection #7  is a miserable FAILURE.
Kreeft needs this much stronger claim, because the exposure of a conspiracy by the apostles would probably NOT have had a big impact on the spread of Christianity, if that exposure happened a number of years after the apostles had been preaching about salvation by faith in Jesus and about the death and resurrection of Jesus.
After a couple of years of preaching by the apostles, converting hundreds or thousands of people to the new Christian faith, belief in Jesus and in his resurrection probably would have continued to spread anyway.  A community of believers is capable of ignoring and resisting strong evidence that runs contrary to the cherished religious beliefs of that community of believers.
 
THE EXPOSURE-BY-ADVERSARIES ARGUMENT 
In this current post, I will critically examine the first reason included in Objection #7:

1. If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples’ adversaries.

The term “unearthed” here means the same as “exposed”, so lets revise this statement to consistently use the term “exposed”, which Kreeft favors.  And the term “disciples’ ” is too broad; we are only concerned with the inner circle of Jesus’ disciples, namely “the twelve”.  Let’s revise this key statement accordingly:

1a. If there had been a conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, it would certainly have been exposed by the apostles’ adversaries.

Kreeft briefly states an argument in support of claim (1):

…the disciples’ adversaries…had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud [perpetrated by the twelve apostles].

The term “fraud” here means the same as “conspiracy”, so we can replace the term “fraud” with “conspiracy” in that statement.  The term “disciples’ ” should be replaced by the more specific term “apostles’ “,  which refers to “the twelve apostles”.
Kreeft’s Exposure-By-Adversaries argument has at least two premises plus an unstated assumption:

3. The apostles’ adversaries had the INTEREST to expose any conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles.

4. The apostles’ adversaries had the POWER to expose any conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles.

A. IF the apostles’ adversaries had both the INTEREST and the POWER to expose any conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, THEN if there had been a conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, it would certainly have been exposed by the apostles’ adversaries.

THEREFORE:

1a. If there had been a conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, it would certainly have been exposed by the apostles’ adversaries.



 


CLARIFICATION OF THE EXPOSURE-BY-ADVERSARIES ARGUMENT 
Before we can rationally evaluate this argument by Kreeft, it needs some clarification.  The most problematic phrase in his argument is “the disciples’ adversaries” which I have already improved upon by replacing the way too general term “disciples” with the more specific term “apostles” which I take to be a reference to “the twelve apostles”, the inner-circle of Jesus’ disciples.  But the phrase “the apostles’ adversaries” is still vague.  We need to spell out more clearly who Kreeft has in mind here.
My initial thought is that Kreeft is referring to the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem around the time that Jesus was crucified and to the Roman rulers at that time.  Kreeft made some comments in his article on TCT that support this understanding of “the apostles’ adversaries”.  Sometimes, he indicates Roman rulers as being their adversaries:

Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ, and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy. For that cat was never in the bag.

Obviously, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem would have no interest in trying to get people to worship Caesar.  Such worship would be considered idolatry or worship of a false god by devout Jews.  It would be Roman rulers who might try to force Christians to worship Caesar.
Sometimes, Kreeft indicates the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem as being their adversaries:

If the resurrection was a lie, the Jews would have produced the corpse and nipped this feared superstition in the bud. All they had to do was go to the tomb and get it.

The phrase “the Jews” in the above quotation is a reference NOT to Jews in general (which would include Jesus, his apostles, and most of the followers of Jesus in the early years of the Christian faith!) but is a reference to the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, who, according to the gospels, persuaded Pilate to order the crucifixion of Jesus.
Sometimes, Kreeft indicates that both Jewish and Roman leaders were adversaries of the apostles:

What advantage did the “conspirators” derive from their “lie” ? They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks!

The term “excommunicated” implies involvement of Jewish leaders.  Roman rulers did not excommunicate people, but Jewish leaders did, at least at one point in the first century, excommunicate Jews who believed in Jesus as the messiah and savior of humankind from participation in religious activities at Jewish synagogues. But it was Roman rulers who “crucified” people, and who ordered Christian believers to be “fed to lions”, not Jewish leaders.
So, it is clear that by “the disciples’ adversaries” (or, better: “the apostles’ adversaries”) Kreeft means: the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified (about 30 CE), and Roman rulers at that time.  Let’s revise Kreeft’s argument to make this clarification:

3a. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified and the Roman rulers at that time had strong INTEREST to expose any conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles.

4a. The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified and the Roman rulers at that time  had sufficient POWER to expose any conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles.

A1. IF the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified and the Roman rulers at that time had both strong INTEREST and sufficient POWER to expose any conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, THEN if there had been a conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, it would certainly have been exposed by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified or by the Roman rulers at that time.

THEREFORE:

1b. If there had been a conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, it would certainly have been exposed by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified or by the Roman rulers at that time.

 
EVALUATION OF THE EXPOSURE-BY-ADVERSARIES ARGUMENT 
Kreeft’s argument makes three historical claims, but he provides ZERO historical evidence in support of these claims.  So, we can already see that he is headed down the same well-worn path of intellectual sloth towards yet another miserable FAILURE of an objection.  Not that this is any surprise, given that each one of his first six objections were all miserable FAILURES.
Based on the above clarification of the phrase “the apostles’ adversaries”, my initial objection to Kreeft’s argument is that the Jewish leadership had the INTEREST but not the POWER to snoop out a conspiracy by the apostles, and the Roman rulers had the POWER but not the INTEREST to snoop out a conspiracy by the apostles, so nobody had both the POWER and the INTEREST to do this.
On further reflection, it is not clear that the Roman rulers had sufficient POWER to expose a conspiracy by the apostles, and it is not clear that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem had sufficient INTEREST to expose a conspiracy by the apostles, so the argument is even more dubious than my initial objection suggests.
The Jewish leadership of Jerusalem did NOT have the authority to execute people, which is why they (supposedly) had to persuade Pilate to order the crucifixion of Jesus.  So, their POWER to threaten the apostles and their fellow believers was limited.
The Jewish leadership of Jerusalem did have INTEREST in opposing the new Christian movement.  But it also seems to me that their INTEREST in exposing a conspiracy by the apostles was probably not very strong.
First of all, the strategy of disputing and attempting to disprove some basic beliefs of a religious group or movement seems a naive and impractical way to diminish the growth of such a group or movement.  Religious beliefs tend not to be easily crushed by rational argument or powerful contrary evidence.  People are good at ignoring evidence and arguments that run contrary to their basic beliefs, especially to their religious beliefs.  It is more realistic and practical to kill or silence or ostracize the leaders of a religious group or movement in order to diminish the growth of the group or movement.
Second, the fact is that the first apostle to be martyred was James the brother of John, and he was “executed by Herod Agrippa I in 44 C.E. (Acts 12:2).” (Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible, p.669), many years after the crucifixion of Jesus.  He was NOT arrested or executed by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, and we don’t know WHY Herod Agrippa had James executed.  It might have had nothing to do with belief in Jesus or in Jesus’ resurrection, for all we know.
So, the apostles were able to preach about Jesus and Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem for many years without any of them being killed or silenced, and when one of them was finally killed, we don’t know WHY he was killed.  It seems to me that if the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem had a strong INTEREST in destroying the new Christian movement or in diminishing its growth, they would have figured out a way to have the apostles killed or silenced or ostracized in the first couple of years after Jesus was crucified. The fact that they did not do this, and that there is no indication that they made repeated attempts to do this, implies that their level of INTEREST in snooping out a possible conspiracy among the apostles was low or moderate.
Roman rulers would NOT have been concerned about Jewish theological disagreements about whether Jesus was the messiah or a prophet or the divine son of God, nor whether God had raised Jesus from the dead.  So, Roman rulers would NOT have a strong INTEREST in exposing a conspiracy by the apostles about the resurrection of Jesus.
Furthermore, Roman persecution of Christian believers did not begin until about three decades AFTER Jesus was crucified:

Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire occurred intermittently over a period of over two centuries between the Great Fire of Rome in 64 AD under Nero and the Edict of Milan in 313 AD, in which the Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius legalised the Christian religion.

(“Persecution of Christians in the Roman Empire” in Wikipedia)

So, it is doubtful that Roman rulers had a strong INTEREST in crushing the Christian movement in the months and years immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus.
The Roman rulers did, however, have the authority to execute people, but in order to snoop out a conspiracy between the apostles, they would also need to have a good understanding of the language and culture of the apostles.  The apostles spoke Aramaic, not Latin or Greek, so there was a language gap between Roman rulers and the apostles.  The apostles were Palestinian Jews by culture, but Roman rulers were NOT Jewish and were fully hellenized in their culture.  The language and culture of Roman rulers is very different from the language and culture of the twelve apostles, which would make it difficult for Roman rulers to get a clear understanding of the words and actions of the apostles.  This would significantly hinder the ability of Roman rulers to snoop out a conspiracy among the apostles.
Recall that there was great concern a few years ago that the Pentagon and the CIA had did not have many people who were fluent in Arabic and familiar with the countries and cultures of the Middle East.  Even though the USA is the most powerful country in the world in terms of military might, there was concern that we did not have good intelligence about terrorist organizations, leaders, and plans because our country was lacking in people who understood the language and cultures of the Middle East countries where terrorists movements were developing and growing.
Our military might does NOT equate to full POWER and control, because our government was lacking in the ability to understand the words and actions of people who were involved in, or who could become involved in, terrorist movements and organizations.  The Romans faced a similar issue: unfamiliarity with the Aramaic language and with the culture of Palestinian Jews.
Let’s review Kreeft’s Exposure-By-Adversaries Argument, in light of the above considerations:
Concerning premise (3a), the Roman rulers would probably have NO INTEREST in becoming involved in the Jewish theological disagreement over whether God raised Jesus from the dead, and did not show strong INTEREST in opposing the Christian faith until decades after Jesus was crucified.  The Jewish leaders in Jerusalem might have had some interest in opposing belief in Jesus’ resurrection, but it seems unlikely that they had a strong INTEREST in a strategy of disputing or disproving the claim that Jesus rose from the dead, as a way of destroying, or diminishing the growth of, the Christian movement. Furthermore, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem allowed the apostles to continue to preach about Jesus and the resurrection of Jesus for at least a decade.  Thus (3a) is probably FALSE.
Concerning premise (4a), the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem did not have the POWER to execute the apostles or other Christian believers, so their ability to threaten Christians was limited.  Roman rulers did have the POWER to execute apostles or other Christian believers, but there was a big language and cultural gap between Roman rulers and the apostles that would make investigation of the words and actions of the apostles difficult for Roman rulers.  So, although Roman rulers had the POWER of life and death over the apostles, it would be difficult for them to investigate and discover a conspiracy among the apostles.  The Roman rulers had limited POWER in terms of their ability to expose a conspiracy between the apostles.  So, (4a) is probably FALSE.
Based on the above considerations, it is very probable that either (3a) or (4a) is FALSE, so it is very probable that this argument by Kreeft is UNSOUND.  This argument is a miserable FAILURE as an objection to TCT, because (a) it makes historical claims that Kreeft supports with ZERO evidence, and (b) upon closer examination two historical claims that are key premises in the argument are both probably FALSE.
 
EVALUATION OF THE EXPOSURE-BY-ADVERSARIES OBJECTION 
This is the conclusion of the Exposure-By-Adversaries argument:

1b. If there had been a conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, it would certainly have been exposed by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified or by the Roman rulers at that time.

Even if this conclusion were true, this would NOT constitute a strong objection against TCT, because there is no specified time-frame in the conclusion.
If it took a decade for the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem to EXPOSE a conspiracy by the twelve apostles to deceive others about their having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus, this would probably have been too late to put an end to the Christian faith and to the belief that Jesus had been raised from the dead by God.  But EXPOSING such a conspiracy a decade after the crucifixion of Jesus would be consistent with the truth of the conclusion (1b).
The truth of the conclusion of the Exposure-By-Adversaries argument would still leave open the possibility that the twelve apostles did conspire to lie about the resurrection of Jesus, and that this conspiracy was exposed by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem, and yet that the Christian faith and belief in the resurrection of Jesus continued to spread in spite of this “refutation” by the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.
 
CONCLUSION
Kreeft presented two reasons that a conspiracy by the twelve apostles about the alleged resurrection appearances of Jesus would have been EXPOSED:

1b. If there had been a conspiracy perpetrated by the twelve apostles, it would certainly have been exposed by the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who were in power around the time Jesus was crucified or by the Roman rulers at that time.

2a. Common experience shows that: All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.

Both of these objections are miserable FAILURES as objections to The Conspiracy Theory, so Objection #7 is a miserable FAILURE, just like all of the previous six objections.  Thus, Kreeft’s case against The Conspiracy Theory is totally and completely a miserable FAILURE.


NOTE (6/1/19):
I have NOT argued that The Conspiracy Theory is TRUE.
What I have argued is that Peter Kreeft has FAILED utterly and completely to show that The Conspiracy Theory is FALSE.  His case against The Conspiracy Theory is no weaker or more flawed than the cases made by other well-known Christian apologists, so I believe his case is representative of the cases made by most apologists against this skeptical theory.  I don’t believe that anyone has ever refuted or disproved The Conspiracy Theory.
My view is that it is very probable that ONE of the four skeptical theories (swoon, conspiracy, hallucination, or myth) is true, and that there is also a significant chance that there was no historical Jesus at all, and that the Gospels are works of fiction.
I don’t think that ANY of the skeptical theories has been proven to be TRUE, but I also don’t think that ANY of them have been proven to be FALSE.  Each one of the skeptical theories has a significant chance of being TRUE.  The historical data that we have to work with is too skimpy and too unreliable to be able to prove or disprove any theory about the alleged crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.  The most we can reasonably hope for is to establish rough probability estimates for each of the skeptical theories (including the theory that Jesus did not exist).

bookmark_borderThe Resurrection of Dr. Sean George – Part 4: Evaluation of Premise (1c)

GEORGE’S ARGUMENT FOR HIS MIRACLE CLAIM
In his main web article, Dr. Sean George appears to put forward the following simple argument:

1. Dr. Sean George rose from the dead. (factual claim)

A. Only God can cause a person to rise from the dead. (metaphysical claim)

THEREFORE:

2. God raised Dr. Sean George from the dead. (miracle claim)

In Part 3 of this series of posts, I argued that various clarifications were needed in order for this argument to be subject to rational evaluation, and that some qualifications were needed in order for the argument to be a fair representation of Dr. Sean George’s reasoning.
Here is what I consider to be a fully clarified version of George’s argument, a version of his argument that is clear enough to be rationally evaluated:

1c. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes and then he came back to life without any neurological problems. (factual claim)

A3. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems. (metaphysical claim)

THEREFORE:

2c. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes and then God caused him to come back to life without any neurological problems. (miracle claim)

The meaning of the premises and the conclusion seems to be clear, and the logic of the argument is correct, so the only question that remains is whether the premises of this argument are true.
 
IS PREMISE (1C) OF GEORGE’S ARGUMENT TRUE?
It is clear that Dr. Sean George is alive today.  It is also clear that he is not currently experiencing any major or obvious neurological impairment, so his claim that he recovered from cardiac arrest “without any neurological problems” seems very plausible.
The only question that I have about premise (1c) is whether Dr. Sean George was “clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes”.  But this, by itself, is NOT an extraordinary claim, because, as I pointed out in Part 3 of this series, the use of CPR does in some cases result in a person coming back to life after being clinically dead for over an hour, and sometimes even after a person was clinically dead for over two hours.
Dr. Sean George appears to believe that it is an extraordinary claim that he BOTH was “clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes” AND that he recovered “without any neurological problems”.  I am skeptical about this being an extraordinary claim, about this being a “medically impossible” event, so at this point, I’m not inclined to demand extraordinary evidence for premise (1c).  Ordinary evidence will suffice, assuming that this premise does NOT assert an extraordinary claim, but merely asserts the occurrence of a rare outcome of CPR.  I will examine this question about whether (1c) makes an extraordinary claim when I evaluate premise (A3).
Dr. Sean George claims that he went into a state of clinical death (i.e. cardiac arrest) at 13:42 (i.e. 1:42pm) on October 24, 2008.
EVIDENCE:



There is only a time stamp, and not a date, indicated on the print-out from the defibrillator.  But I am willing to take Dr. Sean George’s word that this defibrillator print-out is from the medical emergency that he experienced on October 24, 2008.
A heart attack is a common cause of cardiac arrest, and the defibrillator would be used shortly after it was determined that Dr. Sean George’s heart had stopped beating (no pulse detected), so the claim that he went into a state of clinical death (i.e. cardiac arrest) at 13:42 (i.e. 1:42 pm) is supported by the above evidence.
His heart was still beating as of 13:34, the time of the initial ECG print-out, and his heart was no longer beating as of 13:43, the time of the advised shocking on the defibrillator print-out.  So, his cardiac arrest began sometime between 13:34 and 13:43.  It makes sense that the defibrillator would be used ASAP once it was determined that he did not have a pulse, so it is very likely that his cardiac arrest began at 13:42 (i.e. 1:42 pm).
Assuming that premise (1c) is NOT an extraordinary claim, then this evidence is sufficient to show that his clinical death (i.e. cardiac arrest) began at 13:42 (1:42 pm).
It is less clear when Dr. Sean George’s heart began to beat again.  It appears that Dr. Sean George’s arithmetic is faulty.  The period of time when he was clinically dead (in a state of cardiac arrest) consists of three phases:

  1. Ventricular Fibrillation (when he received shocks and CPR)
  2. Flat Line or asystole prior to termination of CPR (when he received only CPR)
  3. Flat Line or asystole after termination of CPR but prior to Return Of Spontaneous Circulation (when he received neither shocks nor CPR)

According to the Timeline presented by Dr. Sean George, the phase 1 began at 13:42 (1:42 pm) and ended at 14:30 (2:30 pm), and thus lasted for 48 minutes.
According to the Timeline presented by Dr. Sean George, the phase 2 began at 14:30 (2:30 pm) and ended at 14:52 (2:52 pm), and thus lasted for 22 minutes.
The combination of phase 1 and phase 2 has a total duration of 70 minutes (48 minutes + 22 minutes = 70 minutes).  Dr. Sean George confirms that the period of attempted resuscitation lasted for 70 minutes:

Over the following 70 minutes the team in Kambalda worked with paramedics and emergency physicians from Kalgoorlie who fought bravely to save my life. … In 1 hour and 10 minutes having had 13 electrical shocks from a defibrillator, and over 4 000 cardiac compressions, they all agreed to stop CPR and all life support measures except oxygen to the lungs. (“The day God raised me from the Dead“)

The third phase began at 14:52 (2:52 pm), but the duration of the third phase, when no CPR was being provided prior to ROSC (Return of Spontaneous Circulation, i.e. return of his heartbeat), is uncertain:

They had stopped the CPR for about five to eleven minutes.  We are not really sure how long it was, whether it was five or eleven, or in between that. (Unbelievable podcast at 30:22-30:31 on the recording)

So, phase 3 had a duration of between five and eleven minutes.  If CPR was terminated at 14:52 (i.e. 2:52 pm) and there was a period of between five and eleven minutes that elapsed where no CPR was provided, and then Dr. Sean George’s heartbeat returned, then his heartbeat returned sometime between 14:57 (2:57 pm) and 15:03 (3:03 pm), and the total duration of clinical death (cardiac arrest) was at least 75 minutes and possibly as much as 81 minutes.
Because he does not know whether phase 3 lasted for five minutes or eleven minutes or something in between, the most that Dr. Sean George can claim with confidence is that he was in a state of clinical death (cardiac arrest) for at least 75 minutes, which is one hour and 15 minutes, NOT one hour and 25 minutes.
Based on this information, Dr. Sean George was NOT clinically dead for “1 hour and 25 minutes” but he was clinically dead for at least one hour and fifteen minutes (i.e. 75 minutes), although it is possible (but uncertain) that he was clinically dead for as much as one hour and twenty-one minutes (i.e. 81 minutes).  In any case, it appears that premise (1c) is FALSE.
However, premise (1c) is only off by a few minutes, so if we tweak George’s argument just a bit, the first premise would be true:

1d. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes and then he came back to life without any neurological problems. (factual claim)

A4. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems. (metaphysical claim)

THEREFORE:

2d. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for at least 1 hour and 15 minutes and then God caused him to come back to life without any neurological problems. (miracle claim)

In this revised version of George’s argument, the only potential problem that I can see is with premise (A4).  If premise (A4) is TRUE, then this is a good argument, but if (A4) is FALSE, then George’s argument is UNSOUND.  In the next post, I will evaluate premise (A4).

bookmark_borderThe Resurrection of Dr. Sean George – Part 3: George’s Argument

Dr. Sean George implies a miracle claim in the title of his main online article:

The day God raised me from the Dead

The miracle claim that this title clearly implies is this:

God raised me from the dead.

To make this claim clear, we need to replace the personal pronoun “me” with its intended referent:

God raised Dr. Sean George from the dead.

At the top of the web page just above the title of the article, is a related but somewhat different statement:

I was dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes but came back to life after my wife prayed a simple prayer

We can clarify this claim by replacing the personal pronoun “I” with its intended referent:

Dr. Sean George was dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes but came back to life after Dr. Sean George’s wife prayed a simple prayer.



 


This claim also has a clear implication:

Dr. Sean George rose from the dead.

It seems to me that that this implied claim is a REASON given in support of the claim implied in the title of his article.  So, we have a simple little argument that is implied by the title and the heading above the title:

1. Dr. Sean George rose from the dead.

THEREFORE:

2. God raised Dr. Sean George from the dead.

As it stands, this argument is logically INVALID.  Claim (2) does NOT logically follow from claim (1).  However, there is a belief about God held by many Christians that would work nicely to fill the logical gap in this argument:

1. Dr. Sean George rose from the dead.

A. Only God can cause a person to rise from the dead.

THEREFORE:

2. God raised Dr. Sean George from the dead.

Is this a solid argument for claim (2)?
The first problem I see with this argument is that the meanings of the premises are UNCLEAR.  Before we can rationally evaluate this argument, we need to understand the meanings of the premises (1) and (A).  The problematic phrases are “rose from the dead” in premise (1), and “rise from the dead” in premise (A).
The basic meaning of this phrase is that a person who has died, becomes alive again.  This meaning is implied in the statement that appears in the header above the title of Dr. Sean George’s article:

I was dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes but came back to life after my wife prayed a simple prayer

But what does it mean to be “dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes”?  It is clear that Dr. Sean George means that he was CLINICALLY DEAD (i.e. in a state of cardiac arrest) for that period of time.  We can see that in the following statement from the article in question:

There aren’t many well documented cases of patients being clinically dead for so long…  (emphasis added)

So, Dr. Sean George claims to have been clinically dead for a period of time and that after that he came back to life.  We can now clarify the above argument, so that it can be rationally evaluated:

1a. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for a period of time and then he came back to life.

A1. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for a period of time to come back to life.

THEREFORE:

2a. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for a period of time and then God caused him to come back to life.

This argument is clearly UNSOUND, because premise (A1) is clearly FALSE.  Because of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), an ordinary human being can “cause a person who was clinically dead for a period of time to come back to life.”  Thus, the claim that ONLY God can “cause a person who was clinically dead for a period of time to come back to life” is clearly FALSE, and therefore, the above argument is UNSOUND.
However, Dr. Sean George makes a more specific claim about his experience of clinical death:

Dr. Sean George was dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes but came back to life…

So, to be fair to George’s argument, we should revise the premises of the above argument to reflect this more specific claim:

1b. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes and then he came back to life.

A2. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes to come back to life.

THEREFORE:

2b. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes and then God caused him to come back to life.

The revision of premise (A1) to specify a duration of time (namely, 1 hour and 25 minutes) makes the resulting premise (A2) more plausible.  However, premise (A2) is still FALSE, and thus this revised argument is also UNSOUND.
Although it is rare for someone to come back to life after being clinically dead for more than an hour, the use of cardiopulmonary resuscitation does sometimes produce such results.  In a review of cases of “prolonged” CPR (i.e. CPR lasting more than 30 minutes), 82 cases of prolonged CPR were identified and analyzed:



from: “Review and Outcome of Prolonged Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation” in Critical Care Research and Practice, Volume 2016, Article ID 7384649, 9 pages.


68 of the 82 patients survived at least one year after receiving CPR for cardiac arrest.  The graph above indicates that 33 of the 82 patients underwent CPR for less than one hour, which means that 49 patients underwent CPR for one hour or longer (82 – 33 =49).
Even if we assume that every one of the 33 patients who underwent CPR for less than one hour survived for at least one year after the cardiac arrest, that would still leave 35 patients who underwent one hour or more of CPR who survived for at least one year after cardiac arrest (68 – 33 = 35).
The number of patients who underwent at least one hour, but less than two hours of CPR was 23, according to the above graph.  Even if we assume that every one of the 33 patients who underwent CPR for less than one hour survived at least one year after cardiac arrest and that every one of the 23 patients who underwent CPR for at least one hour but less than two hours survived at least one year after cardiac arrest, that would still leave 12 patients who underwent CPR for two hours or longer survived for at least one year after cardiac arrest (68 – 56 = 12).
Clearly, it is a FACT that in some cases, the use of CPR by ordinary human beings brings it about that a person who was clinically dead for over an hour comes back to life and survives for at least one year after cardiac arrest.  Clearly, it is a FACT that in some cases, the use of CPR by ordinary human beings brings it about that a person who was clinically dead for at least two hours comes back to life and survives for at least one year after cardiac arrest. Therefore, premise (A2) is FALSE, and the revised version of George’s argument above is UNSOUND.
Dr. Sean George would probably object and point out that he claims more than to have merely survived his cardiac arrest:

There aren’t many well documented cases of patients being clinically dead for so long, returning to life with their memory perfectly intact and without any neurological problems at all. Medically this is impossible; it could only be done by God. (from “The Day God Raised Me from the Dead“, emphasis added)

It is not mere survival after being clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes that makes his recovery a miracle, it is the fact that he survived such a long duration of clinical death “without any neurological problems” that makes his recovery a miracle.  We should revise his argument once more, to reflect this additional aspect of his specific case:

1c. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes and then he came back to life without any neurological problems.

A3. Only God can cause a person who was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes to come back to life without any neurological problems.

THEREFORE:

2c. Dr. Sean George was clinically dead for 1 hour and 25 minutes and then God caused him to come back to life without any neurological problems.

We have now fully clarified George’s argument for his miracle claim.  In the next post, I will examine and evaluate this version of his argument.

bookmark_borderThe Euthyphro Dilemma, Part 4: Why is it a dilemma?

In part I of this series, I showed that the Euthyphro dilemma consists of the following two options:

(I) The reason that God commands that we perform morally obligatory actions is that they are morally obligatory.

(II) Morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands that we perform them.

I also argued that these two options are mutually exclusive and that, from this, we can infer the following two claims:
Claim 1: If the reason that God commands that we perform morally obligatory actions is that they are morally obligatory, then actions cannot be morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands that we perform them.
Claim 2: If morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands that we perform them, then the reason that God commands that we perform them cannot be that they are morally obligatory.
A dilemma is a situation in which there are only two options available, we must choose one option or the other (i.e., we cannot take both), and where there is something problematic, difficult, or uncomfortable about making the choice. To show that the choice between options (I) and (II) is a dilemma, we need to show (a) that (I) and (II) are mutually exclusive (i.e., that we cannot take both options); (b) that there is no other option to choose from (i.e., that (I) and (II) exhaust the possible options); and (c) that there is something problematic about making the choice. As I indicated, I have already shown, in part I, that that (I) and (II) are mutually exclusive. In this post, I will accomplish tasks (b) and (c); that is, I will show that the options are exhaustive, and explain why the choice between (I) and (II) is problematic.
Before I get to those issues, I want to make a point of clarification about Claims 1 and 2.[1] It is not just that, if morally obligatory actions are obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands them, then it cannot be that the reason that he commands that we perform them is that they are obligatory. It is also the case that the reason that he commands that we perform them cannot be that they possess some feature(s) in virtue of which they are obligatory. Similarly, it is not just that if the reason that God commands obligatory actions is that they are obligatory, then it cannot be that they are obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands them. It is also true that if the reason that God commands obligatory actions is that they possess some feature(s) in virtue of which they are obligatory, it cannot be that they are obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands them. These two points are fairly easy to grasp once we’ve grasped the logic of Claims 1 and 2. If the feature in virtue of which an action is morally obligatory is that God commands that we do it, then God’s reason for commanding that we do it cannot be that it has some other feature in virtue of which it is obligatory. And if the reason that God commands that we perform some action is that it has some feature(s) in virtue of which it is obligatory, then it cannot be that what makes it obligatory is that God commands that we do it (since, in this case, the what makes it obligatory is that it has the feature(s) that also provides God with a reason to command it). So, we can re-word Claims 1 and 2 to account for these points as follows:
Claim 1′: If the reason that God commands that we perform morally obligatory action is either that they are morally obligatory or that they possess some feature(s) in virtue of which they are morally obligatory, then actions cannot be morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands that we perform them.
Claim 2′: If morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands that we perform them, then the reason that God commands that we perform them cannot be either that they are morally obligatory or that they possess some feature(s) in virtue of which they are morally obligatory.
More Options?
I will offer two arguments in support of the claim that there are no options in addition to (I) and (II). The first concerns the kind of factors that can be normative reasons and is, since it relies on disputed claims about normative reasons, more controversial. The second consideration is based on a very natural assumption about the connection between God and morality and is, given the naturalness of this assumption, less controversial. Since the first argument is more controversial, the case I will make that (I) and (II) exhaust the options will not stand or fall on this argument. I mention and describe the argument because I think it is a good one, but I am not here basing my case on it.
Before I get to either argument, let’s consider what an option other than (I) and (II) would need to say. Given the mutual exclusivity of options (I) and (II), any option other than (I) or (II) must involve two aspects: first, it must assert that the reason that God commands a morally obligatory action is not that it is obligatory (or has features in virtue of which it is obligatory); second, it must assert that morally obligatory actions are not morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands that we perform them. Given this, the basic outline of a possible third option immediately presents itself, namely,

(III) Morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of something other than God’s commands and the reason that God commands that we perform morally obligatory actions is something other than that the actions are morally obligatory (or have features in virtue of which they are obligatory).

As stated, option (III) is a formula for generating more specific additional options. The phrase ‘something other than’ appears twice in (III) and there are an indefinite number of descriptive phrases that can be plugged in to each space to generate unique options. For example:

(III-U) Morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that they maximize utility and the reason that God commands that we perform morally obligatory actions is that it makes him happy that we perform them.

(III-K) Morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that the action involves treating humanity as an end-in-itself and not merely as a means, and the reason that God commands that we perform morally obligatory actions is that it makes him happy that we perform them.

I strongly suspect that (III-U) and (III-K) are not genuine options because I strongly suspect that the fact that some action makes God happy is not a reason for God to command that we perform it. Remember that I am using ‘reason’ in the normative sense. That some action makes God happy might be a motive for someone to command that we perform the action. But that it is a motive does not entail that it is a normative reason. For reasons, some of which I have mentioned in parts II and III of this series, I think that a consideration such as that an action makes God happy is not a normative reason that favors commanding the action. Here, then, is a consideration in favor of thinking that there is no genuine third option: On the assumption that actions are obligatory in virtue of something other than God’s commands, the only normative reason that God could have for commanding that we perform some action is that the action is morally obligatory (or has features in virtue of which it is obligatory).
If I am right about this, then there is no third option at all. Any alleged third option will, as I’ve indicated, assert that God’s reason for commanding that we perform morally obligatory actions is something other than that they are morally obligatory (or have features in virtue of which they are obligatory). But there are no such other reasons. Thus, there can be no third option. Again, my conclusion that there is no third option will not be affected even if this argument does not succeed since there is another consideration that shows that (I) and (II) exhaust the options.
A very natural assumption about God makes a third option unavailable. This natural assumption is that God commands all and only morally obligatory actions. Whatever is morally obligatory, God commands that we do, and whatever God commands that we do is morally obligatory. God does not command us to do anything that is not obligatory and there is nothing that is obligatory that God does not command that we do. This assumption does not include any claim about ontological priority, only that the actions that are commanded by God are the very same actions that are morally obligatory.
If this assumption is correct, then the predicates X is morally obligatory and X is commanded by God are co-extensive. But the connection is stronger than this. It is not just that these predicates happen to be (or are contingently) co-extensive, as ‘The highest mountain on Earth’ is (contingently) co-extensive with ‘Mt. Everest.’ There is a necessary connection between the properties X is morally obligatory and X is commanded by God. We can capture this necessity as follows: In every possible world in which God issues commands, the properties X is morally obligatory and X is commanded by God are co-extensive. This is not the same as saying that the predicates are necessarily co-extensive. And, indeed, I don’t think that they are necessarily co-extensive since I think that there are possible worlds in which God does not exist but in which moral properties do exist. But even an atheist can agree that in any possible world in which God does exist, he commands us to do all and only morally obligatory actions. Let’s call this claim,

(GC-M): In all possible worlds in which God exists, God commands all and only morally obligatory actions (i.e., in all such worlds, the predicates X is morally obligatory and X is commanded by God are co-extensive).

It is very difficult to see how (GC-M) can be true unless either the reasons for God’s commands are that the commanded actions are morally obligatory (or have features in virtue of which they are obligatory) (i.e., option (I)) or that morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of God’s commands (i.e., option (II)). The only other possible way for (GC-M) to be true is for there to be some feature that, necessarily, all and only morally obligatory actions have, the presence of which feature is the reason that God commands that we perform them. But this seems highly unlikely.
Therefore, if necessarily the actions that God commands are the same as the morally obligatory actions, then (I) and (II) are exhaustive.
Why the choice is problematic
I will now turn to the problematic nature of deciding between options (I) and (II). There are two reasons why a choice between two options might be a dilemma. It could be that both options are good or have good implications and we don’t want to give up something good by only taking one of two good options. Or it could be that both options are bad and we don’t want to have to accept the bad implications or consequences of either option. The Euthyphro dilemma is the latter type of dilemma. Both (I) and (II) have problematic implications.
If (I) is true, then moral properties (at least deontic moral properties) are independent of God’s commands. Since, on option (I) the reason that God commands that we perform a morally obligatory action is that it is morally obligatory (or has properties in virtue of which it is obligatory), the action must be obligatory prior to and independent of God’s command. This is problematic since it has seemed to many theists (and some non-theists) that all moral properties are dependent on God.
The problem for option (II) is that, if morally obligatory actions are obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands them, then, since God is omnipotent, his commands are wholly unconstrained. He could command any action whatsoever, and since deontic moral value[2]  does not exist prior to his commands, it seems that he has no reason to command one thing rather than another. Indeed, he could command something horrible, such as the gratuitous torture of an infant, and, on option (II), this horrible action would be morally obligatory. But no command can make the torture of an infant morally obligatory.
I am going to call the problem described in the previous paragraph the “Euthyphro problem.” As stated, the Euthyphro problem is multifaceted; there are actually at least four inter-related issues that are mentioned in that paragraph. They are

(1) The contingency problem

It is possible for God to command anything whatsoever. Given this, no matter what commands God actually issues, it is possible that he issues a completely different set of commands (in the sense that, in some possible world, he issues this other set of commands). So, since on option (II), morally obligatory actions are obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands that we do them, no matter which actions are actually obligatory, it is possible that a completely different of commands is obligatory. Thus, in some possible world, a wholly different set of actions are morally obligatory than are obligatory in the actual world. This is problematic because it seems that at least some moral claims are necessarily true. In particular, it seems that there are some actions such that their deontic moral status is a necessary feature. However, if option (II) is correct, then it seems that no action has its moral features necessarily. For any action, whatever its actual deontic status, it is possible for it to have a different deontic status.

(2) The counterintuitive possibilities problem

The contingency problem that, on option (II), all actions have their moral properties contingently. A related problem (and a consequence) is that among the possibilities are some that are wildly counterintuitive. The above description of what I’ve called the Euthyphro problem contains an example: it is possible that the gratuitous torture of infants is morally obligatory rather than wrong. But there are other possibilities. It is possible that something morally laudatory, such as giving money to the needy is morally wrong. It is possible that something morally permissible, such as brushing your teeth three times a day, is morally wrong. And it is possible that something morally permissible, such as eating breakfast at 7:30, is morally obligatory.

(3) The arbitrariness problem

If actions are morally obligatory in virtue of the fact that God commands them, then it is difficult to see how God can have reasons for his commands. He has no reason to command one thing rather than another. On option (II) all deontic moral value exists in virtue of divine commands. Deontic moral value is precisely the value that actions have whereby we have reasons to perform or refrain from performing them. Commands are actions. So, if there is no deontic moral value prior to God’s commands, then God can have no reasons for his commands. But if there are no reasons for his commands, then his commands are arbitrary. And if his commands are arbitrary, then morality itself is arbitrary.

(4) The problem of the normative impotence of commands

A command (divine or otherwise) does not seem to be the kind of thing that can make a moral difference. Commands are normatively impotent in the sense that they cannot add to our reasons. We see this when imagine that God commands that we torture an innocent child. This command gives us no reason to torture a child, so it would make no difference to the moral status of child-torture. Or, again, imagine that God commands that we eat breakfast at 7:30 every morning. This command does not give us any reason to eat breakfast at 7:30 am and thus can make no difference to the moral status of refraining from eating breakfast at 7:30 am (by, for example, refraining from eating breakfast entirely). Commands are normatively inert in that they cannot add to the reasons that we already have to engage in (or refrain from) the commanded activity. Option (II) thus claims that morally obligatory actions are morally obligatory in virtue of something that is normatively impotent.

To summarize: the problem for option (II) is that it implies that morality is contingent, it has counterintuitive consequences, it implies that morality is arbitrary, and it claims that obligatory actions are obligatory in virtue of something that is normatively impotent.
The choice between options (I) and (II) is a dilemma because, if we choose option (I), we have to accept that moral properties exist prior to God’s commands, and, if we choose option (II), we have to accept the implications described above.
Can we escape the dilemma?
If we believe that God does not exist, then we do not face the dilemma since we can deny that God issues commands (and thus deny both that God’s reasons for his commands are that actions are morally obligatory and that obligatory actions are obligatory in virtue of God’s commands). If we believe that God does exist but that he does not issue any commands, then, precisely because we believe that God does not issue commands, we do not face the dilemma. But if we believe that God exists and that he issues commands, we must choose between options (I) and (II). There are many theists who will be happy to choose option (I). Such theists will assert that moral properties exist prior to and independent of God’s commands. There are different ways of fleshing out such a view, and I will not discuss the various versions of theism that are consistent with option (I). But many theists are reluctant to concede that moral properties are independent of divine commands. After all, one traditional theistic belief is that God is the source of everything that exists. On this view, moral properties must have their source in God. The Euthyphro dilemma is most problematic for those who hold such views. Such theists face the choice of giving up the claim that God is the source of everything or accepting implications (1) – (4).
On the other hand, there are defenders of option (II) who claim that it does not have any problematic consequences. In particular, such people claim, option (II) does not have the kinds of consequences that are typically mentioned in discussions of the Euthyphro dilemma. In my next post in this series, I will give my assessment of whether option (II) has the consequences I listed above (i.e., (1) – (4)). To give a brief preview, I will argue that problems (3) and (4) are much more serious and difficult to resolve than problems (1) and (2). I will also argue that problems (3) and (4) definitively show that metaethical divine command theory is false.
 


[1] If you are interested, my reason for clarifying claims 1 and 2 has to do with the fact that statements about an agent’s reasons are, plausibly, referentially opaque. (If you have questions about referential opacity or how it is relevant in the context of reasons statements, please let me know in the comments.)
[2] Deontic moral value is the value that an action has in virtue of which we ought to perform it or refrain from performing it. So, an action’s deontic status is just its status as obligatory or wrong or permissible (I do not mean to imply that these are the only three deontic statuses, there are others; supererogatory, for example.)
 
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 13: Inevitable Exposure

WHERE WE ARE AT
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) in an attempt to disprove that theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

  • In previous posts (Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7), I argued that Kreeft’s Objection #1 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #8  I argued that his Objection #2 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #9  I argued that his Objection #3 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #10  I argued that his Objection #4 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #11  I argued that his Objection #5 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #12  I argued that his Objection #6 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.

Since the first six of Kreeft’s seven objections against TCT are all miserable FAILURES, it is likely that Objection #7 will also be a miserable FAILURE.



 
 


OBJECTION #7:  INEVITABLE EXPOSURE OF THE CONSPIRACY
Here is Peter Kreeft’s Objection #7 against TCT:
If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples’ adversaries, who had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed…
There are two sentences here, each providing a different reason why a conspiracy by the Twelve apostles to deceive others (into thinking that the apostles had personally and physically seen the risen Jesus) would have inevitably been exposed:

  1. If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples’ adversaries…
  2. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed…

A briefly stated reason is given in support of (1):
…the disciples’ adversaries…had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud [perpetrated by the Twelve apostles].
I will start by analyzing and evaluating reason (2), and then move on to analyze and evaluate reason (1).
 
REASON (2): THE INEVITABLE EXPOSURE OF CONSPIRACIES
Skeptics dislike conspiracy theories, and I am a skeptic.  So, I am naturally reluctant to criticize reason (2), which sounds very much like a typical skeptical objection to conspiracy theories:

2. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed…

The expression “such intrigues” is a reference to “conspiracies”.  So, we can clarify the meaning of this statement:

2a. Common experience shows that: All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.

If (2a) is a correct interpretation of (2), then there is a serious problem with (2), because there is a serious problem with (2a).
On the one hand, (2a) presents itself as an empirical claim: “Common experience shows that…”.  On the other hand, it seems fairly clear that the core claim is NOT an empirical claim, but is rather a TAUTOLOGY, or something very close to a tautology.  The core claim in (2a) is this:

All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.

This is a very broad generalization, so one immediately suspects that there might be a few exceptions to this very general “rule”.
Try to think of a counterexample to this generalization.  Name JUST ONE conspiracy that has never been exposed.  Good luck with that!  If you can point to a conspiracy X, then, guess what, you KNOW about conspiracy X, and thus conspiracy X has been EXPOSED.
In order for a conspiracy to NOT be EXPOSED, it must be a conspiracy that no one KNOWS about, except for the conspirators themselves.  So, in order to come up with a counterexample of a conspiracy that has never been “exposed”, one must point out a conspiracy that nobody knows about (other than the conspirators).  But if nobody knows about conspiracy X, then one cannot point to conspiracy X and use it as an example of a conspiracy that has specific characteristics (such as never having been exposed).
I suppose that if I myself am a participant in a conspiracy, and that conspiracy has never been exposed, meaning that only the conspirators are aware of the conspiracy, then I can be aware of a potential counterexample to the universal generalization that “All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.”  However, as soon as I use this conspiracy as a counterexample in a discussion with someone who is not a co-conspirator in that conspiracy, then I have EXPOSED the conspiracy.
It is thus extremely difficult to come up with any counterexamples to the above universal generalization about conspiracies.
Furthermore, the use of the word “inevitably” makes it even more difficult to come up with any counterexamples.  Suppose that there is a conspiracy Y which was created one thousand years ago, and yet it has never been EXPOSED.  It would seem that conspiracy Y would be a counterexample to the universal generalization about conspiracies, but it is NOT.
A defender of the universal generalization could note that conspiracy Y might become EXPOSED this year, or next year, in which case it would be true that it was “inevitably” exposed.  And if conspiracy Y continued for another thousand years without being EXPOSED, it is still possible that after a few more years it would be EXPOSED, thus making it true that it was “inevitably” EXPOSED.  There is no clear time limitation on what would count as “inevitable” exposure, so there is no finite amount of time that a conspiracy can remain un-exposed which would disprove the universal generalization that “All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed.”
Because it is impossible or virtually impossible to falsify or disprove the universal generalization that is at the core of (2a), it appears that generalization at the core of (2a) is NOT an empirical claim; it is NOT a claim that we can evaluate on the basis of experience.  Because (2a) asserts that the universal generalization is an empirical claim (“Common experience shows that…”), and yet the core claim in (2a) appears to NOT be a claim that is subject to evaluation on the basis of experience, (2a) is, or appears to be, a FALSE statement.
(2a) appears to be similar to the statement that “Common experience shows that all triangles have three sides.”  Yes, it is true that “All triangles have three sides”, but this is NOT an empirical claim; it is NOT something that “Common experience shows” us to be so.  The universal generalization that “All triangles have three sides” is known to be true based on the meanings of the words “triangle” and “has three sides”.  If one knows the meaning of the word “triangle” then one knows that “All triangles have three sides”.  We don’t have to study hundreds or thousands of triangles in order to come to know the truth of this universal generalization; we only need to understand the meaning of the word “triangle” and the meaning of the words “has three sides”.
There is a further problem with the use of the word “inevitably” in the generalization “All CONSPIRACIES are inevitably exposed”.  Because the word “inevitably” has no implied time limit, this generalization leaves open the possibility that a conspiracy could remain UNEXPOSED for a thousand years, or even for two thousand years.  But if there was a conspiracy among the Twelve apostles, a conspiracy to lie about having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus, it was only necessary for that conspiracy to remain UNEXPOSED for a few years.  That is all the time that would be needed to get the Christian movement started, to persuade hundreds or thousands of people to believe that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
EXPOSURE of that conspiracy a decade or two after the crucifixion would not necessarily have killed off Christianity or belief in the resurrection of Jesus.  Thus, in constructing this generalization using the term “inevitably” to make the generalization invulnerable to counterexamples and contrary experiences, one also removes the significance of this generalization in terms of The Conspiracy Theory.  What matters in terms of TCT, is whether the conspiracy remained hidden for a number of years.  EXPOSURE of this conspiracy after a decade or two might not have the sort of devastating impact that EXPOSURE of the conspiracy would have just a few weeks after it began (i.e. a few weeks after the crucifixion of Jesus).
What this means is that the fact that the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection has persisted for two thousand years does NOT mean that there was never a time when a conspiracy among the apostles was EXPOSED.  It might well have existed and been exposed a decade after the crucifixion of Jesus, but the EXPOSURE was too late to stop the new Christian movement and the (by then) entrenched belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
The generalization asserting that all conspiracies are “inevitably exposed” is too weak for Kreeft’s purposes.  Exposure that occurs a decade or two after the crucifixion might have very little impact on the advancement of Christianity and the Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus.  Thus, the fact that Christianity and the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection has persisted for two thousand years, does NOT show that a conspiracy between the Twelve apostles to deceive others (about their having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus) was never EXPOSED.  For all we know, it might have been exposed a decade after the crucifixion, but that was too late to put the brakes on the growing Christian movement.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderThe Resurrection of Dr. Sean George – Part 2: Littlewood’s Law

Dr. Sean George claims that God raised him from the dead.
I have prepared a PowerPoint presentation called “The Resurrection of Sean George” which contains lots of relevant information and skeptical points about Dr. Sean George’s miracle claim.  Here at The Secular Outpost,  I plan to present my main objections to his miracle claim.
The following is a summary of Dr. Sean George’s alleged resurrection:

 
One of my primary objections to this miracle claim is that there are millions of cardiac arrests in the world each year, so we should expect for there to be some very rare outcomes of cardiac arrests to occur each year.  A one-in-a-million outcome to a cardiac arrest should be expected to occur at least once or twice each year.  Therefore, if Dr. Sean George’s outcome was a one-in-a-million outcome, then it is unreasonable to conclude that it was a miracle, because we would reasonably expect such outcomes to occur somewhere in the world once or twice each year, even if there is no God and there are no miracles.

 
(This data is from: Heart Disease and Stroke Statistics—2019 Update
A Report From the American Heart Association, Chapter 17, “Incidence”).
The population of the USA is about 4% of the world’s population.  Since about half a million cardiac arrests occur each year in the USA, there must be millions of cardiac arrests in the world each year.  If, for example, cardiac arrests in the USA constitute 10% of the cardiac arrests in the world, then there would be about five million cardiac arrests in the world each year.
An estimate from a 2007 medical journal (Journal of Electrocardiology) article shows that my back-of-the-envelope estimate is not far off the mark:
Cardiovascular disease is a leading cause of global mortality, accounting for almost 17 million deaths annually or 30% of all global mortality. In developing countries, it causes twice as many deaths as HIV, malaria and TB combined. It is estimated that about 40-50% of all cardiovascular deaths are sudden cardiac deaths (SCDs) and about 80% of these are caused by ventricular tachyarrhythmias. Therefore, about 6 million sudden cardiac deaths occur annually due to ventricular tachyarrhythmias. The survival rate from sudden cardiac arrest is less than 1% worldwide and close to 5% in the US.  (from an abstract for the article “Global public health problem of sudden cardiac death.”   https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17993308 , emphasis added)


NOTE:  “Sudden cardiac death (SCD) is a sudden, unexpected death caused by loss of heart function (sudden cardiac arrest).”


  • 40% of 17 million is: 6.8 million
  • 50% of 17 million is:  8.5 million

So, there are between 6.8 million and 8.5 million sudden cardiac deaths in the world each year.  If SCDs represent 99% of cardiac arrests (because 1% of people with a cardiac arrest survive), then there are between 6.9 million and 8.6 million cardiac arrests in the world each year, or 7.75 million cardiac arrests (plus or minus .85 million).
My skeptical objection here is basically an application of Littlewood’s Law:

 


“The law was framed by Cambridge University Professor John Edensor Littlewood, and published in a 1986 collection of his work, A Mathematician’s Miscellany. It seeks among other things to debunk one element of supposed supernatural phenomenology and is related to the more general law of truly large numbers, which states that with a sample size large enough, any outrageous (in terms of probability model of single sample) thing is likely to happen.”  (“Littlewood’s Law, Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Littlewood%27s_law )


Given the above information, the only thing necessary to dismiss Dr. Sean George’s miracle claim, is to show that the outcome of his cardiac arrest had at least one chance in ten million of occurring.  Since, about 8 million cardiac arrests occur in the world each year, we should expect to see such a rare outcome about once every year or two, even if there is no God, and there are no miracles.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 12: Hometown Disadvantage?

WHERE WE ARE AT
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) in an attempt to disprove that theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

  • In previous posts (Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7), I argued that Kreeft’s Objection #1 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #8  I argued that his Objection #2 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #9  I argued that his Objection #3 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #10  I argued that his Objection #4 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #11  I argued that his Objection #5 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.

Since the first five of Kreeft’s seven objections against TCT are all miserable FAILURES, I don’t expect either of the remaining two objections to be a solid objection against TCT.  Nevertheless, I will continue to consider and evaluate the remaining objections.



Jesus said to them, “Prophets are respected everywhere except in their own hometown and by their relatives and their family.” (Mark 6:4, Good News Translation)


OBJECTION #6: HOMETOWN DISADVANTAGE?
Kreeft borrows his Objection #6 from the Christian apologist William Lane Craig.  Here is how Kreeft states the objection:
The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem-same time, same place, full of eyewitnesses—if it had been a lie.
As with the previous five objections, Kreeft fails to provide ANY evidence or justification for his claims and assumptions.  He does, however, provide a quote from William Craig on this objection:
The fact that the disciples were able to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of their enemies a few weeks after the crucifixion shows that what they proclaimed was true, for they could never have proclaimed the resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances had it not occurred.”  (Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection, Chapter 6)
But the above quote from Craig simply asserts, in different words, Kreeft’s main claim.
 
KREEFT’S OBJECTION #6 IS A FAILURE
Craig, like Kreeft, FAILS to provide ANY reasoning or justification for the key claim (at least not in the quote provided by Kreeft).  WHY would it be the case that the “disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem…if it had been a lie” ?  WHY would it be the case that “they could never have proclaimed the resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances had it not occurred” ?  I don’t see any evidence or reasoning to back up these questionable claims.  Because neither Kreeft nor the quote from Craig provides an argument or justification for the questionable claim made by Kreeft, Objection #6 is a FAILURE.
Perhaps Craig and Kreeft have in mind the possibility that the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem were among “their enemies”, enemies of the Twelve apostles and the religious movement that they were leading, and that the Jewish leadership could have, if Jesus had not actually risen, produced the dead body of Jesus and put it on public display, in order to destroy the credibility of the claims of the apostles to have personally and physically seen the resurrected Jesus.  But then Objection #6 would be basically a re-hash of Objection #5, which I have already shown to be a miserable FAILURE.
Furthermore, since Craig specifies that the apostles began preaching the resurrection of Jesus “a few weeks after the crucifixion”, the body of Jesus would have been in an advanced state of decomposition by that point, and thus it would be difficult to recognize or identify the body as belonging to Jesus.  It would be easy for the apostles or their converts to discount this as a deception on the part of the Jewish leadership of Jerusalem; they could reply that the corpse was that of some other dead Jewish peasant who only looked vaguely like Jesus, not the actual body of Jesus.  Thus, Objection #5 won’t help to support Objection #6.



 
 
 
https://www.aftermath.com/content/human-decomposition/


KREEFT’S OBJECTION #6 IS A MISERABLE FAILURE
The apostles did NOT claim that the risen Jesus continued to make public appearances and to preach in public places like he had done prior to being crucified.  They claimed to have seen the risen Jesus in more private places and circumstances.  The claim that they saw the risen Jesus in a room where they were gathered in Jerusalem is NOT a claim that residents of Jerusalem could easily disconfirm or disprove.
The apostles were allegedly in hiding in Jerusalem when the risen Jesus supposedly appeared; they were hoping to avoid being arrested and crucified themselves:
On the evening of that first day of the week, when the disciples were together, with the doorlocked for fear of the Jewish leaders, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” (John 20:19, New International Version)
They were intentionally staying out of public view.  So, there appears to be no easy way for residents of Jerusalem to disconfirm or disprove claims by the apostles to have seen the risen Jesus in private places, places that were not open to public view.  The main claim by Kreeft in Objection #6 is thus implausible and is probably FALSE.
Furthermore, the Gospels of Mark and Matthew place the first appearances of the risen Jesus to the apostles in Galilee, not in Jerusalem.  So, the Jerusalem appearance stories may be later legendary stories, and the original preaching of the apostles in Jerusalem might NOT have included stories about the risen Jesus appearing to the apostles in Jerusalem, but rather stories about appearances of the risen Jesus in Galilee, so those events would NOT be in the “same place” as where they were preaching to the residents of Jerusalem.  The assumption made by Objection #6 that the initial preaching of the apostles in Jerusalem included stories about them personally and physically seeing the risen Jesus in Jerusalem is probably FALSE.
 
CONCLUSION
Thus, upon reflection, Objection #6 is based on a claim that is probably FALSE (i.e. “The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem…if it had been a lie.”) , and Objection #6 also rests on an assumption that is also probably FALSE (i.e. The initial preaching of the apostles in Jerusalem about the resurrection of Jesus included stories of appearances of the risen Jesus to the apostles that they claimed took place in Jerusalem.)
Therefore, not only is Objection #6 a FAILURE, because Kreeft provides no evidence or justification for his main premise, but Objection #6 is a miserable FAILURE as an objection to TCT, because it is based on a claim and on an assumption that are both probably FALSE.

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 11: Producing Jesus’ Corpse

WHERE WE ARE AT
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) in an attempt to disprove that theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

  • In previous posts (Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7), I argued that Kreeft’s Objection #1 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #8 I argued that his Objection #2 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #9 I argued that his Objection #3 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #10 I argued that his Objection #4 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.

Since the first four of Kreeft’s seven objections against TCT are all miserable FAILURES, it is likely that none of the remaining three objections will turn out to be a solid objection against TCT.  Nevertheless, I will continue to consider and evaluate the remaining objections.
 
OBJECTION #5:  PRODUCING JESUS’ DEAD BODY
Here is  the main point in Kreeft’s Objection #5:
If the resurrection was a lie, the Jews would have produced the corpse and nipped this feared superstition in the bud. All they had to do was go to the tomb and get it.
The use of the expression “the Jews” here is bothersome.  Afterall, Jesus was a Jew, and all of the Twelve apostles were Jews,  and nearly all of the disciples of Jesus (during his lifetime) were Jews.  What Kreeft means by “the Jews” here is this: the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem around the time of Jesus’ crucifixion.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
OBJECTION #5 IS BASED ON SEVERAL QUESTIONABLE ASSUMPTIONS
Objection #5 is based upon a number of historical assumptions:
HA1: The body of Jesus was removed from the cross and buried in a stone tomb.
HA2:  None of the Twelve apostles, none of Jesus’ followers, and nobody in Jesus’ family removed his body from the tomb.
HA3: IF the body of Jesus was removed from the cross and buried in a stone tomb, and none of the Twelve apostles, none of Jesus’ followers, and nobody in Jesus’ family removed his body from the tomb, THEN the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem at the time of Jesus’ crucifixion knew where Jesus’ body was buried (or could easily find out where it was buried).
HA4: Some of the Twelve apostles began to preach the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem just a few days after Jesus’ crucifixion, claiming to have personally and physically seen the risen Jesus.
HA5:  Immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus, the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem was strongly motivated to suppress the growth of the religious movement that was later called “Christianity”. 
HA6: IF immediately after the crucifixion of Jesus the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem was strongly motivated to suppress the growth of the religious movement that was later called “Christianity”, THEN they probably would have made serious efforts in the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus to refute the new Christian belief that Jesus had risen from the dead.
HA7: IF the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem made serious efforts in the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus to refute the new Christian belief that Jesus had risen from the dead, and IF they knew where the body of Jesus was buried (or could easily find out where it was buried), THEN they probably would have produced Jesus’ corpse a few days after Jesus was crucified and put it on public display in Jerusalem.
HA8: IF the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem had produced Jesus’ corpse a few days after Jesus was crucified and put it on public display in Jerusalem, THEN that would probably have eliminated any belief in the resurrection of Jesus, and thus ended Christianity before it had a chance to get started.
There is not a single assumption above that amounts to an historical FACT.  Every single one of these assumptions is a questionable or dubious historical hypothesis, yet Kreeft has provided ZERO historical evidence in support of these assumptions.  Kreeft’s Objection #5 thus rests on at least EIGHT different questionable historical assumptions, none of which he has made any effort to prove or substantiate.  Thus, Objection #5 is clearly a FAILURE.
 
IT IS VERY PROBABLE THAT ONE OF THESE ASSUMPTIONS IS FALSE
If just ONE of these EIGHT questionable historical assumptions is FALSE, then that would pretty much sink Objection #5, because each one of these assumptions is needed to establish the correctness of Objection #5.  Since each of these assumptions is questionable and has some significant probability of being FALSE, it is very probable that at least one of these eight assumptions is FALSE.  Therefore, it is very probable Objection #5 rests upon at least one FALSE historical assumption.  In that case, Objection #5 is not merely a FAILURE, but it is a miserable FAILURE, like all of the four objections that preceded it.
The Gospels do claim that Jesus was removed from the cross and that his body was placed in a stone tomb.  So, there is some historical evidence for HA1.  But the details of the burial of Jesus vary between the Gospels, victims of crucifixion were usually not allowed to have a proper burial, and the shame of Jesus not being given a proper burial is something that early Christian storytellers would likely have edited out, and replaced with fictional accounts of a proper burial.  Thus NT scholars do not all agree that Jesus’ body was removed from the cross and given a proper burial in a stone tomb.  Though there is some evidence for HA1, its truth is uncertain.
What sort of evidence is there that could establish HA2?  We don’t know the activities of all of the Twelve apostles in the days immediately following Jesus’ crucifixion.  We don’t know the activities of his family members in that time frame, and we certainly don’t know the activities of all of Jesus’ followers in that time frame.  So, HA2 is just speculation.  It might well be the case that somebody who knew or followed Jesus moved his body out of the tomb (if he was in fact buried in a stone tomb).
There is no reason to think that the leaders of Jerusalem had any interest in whether the body of Jesus was buried in a stone tomb or in the location of such a tomb.  The Gospel of Matthew includes a story that indicates that Jewish leaders requested that Roman soldiers be placed at Jesus’ tomb to prevent the theft of his body, but many NT scholars view this story as apologetically-motivated fiction.  It is intended to be a response to the skeptical challenge that the tomb was empty because the apostles stole Jesus’ body.  Thus, it appears likely that HA3 is FALSE.
There is no reason to think that the apostles began to preach about the death and resurrection of Jesus in the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus.  First of all, the Gospels of Mark and Matthew indicate that the apostles left Jerusalem shortly after Jesus was crucified, and that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to the apostles took place in Galilee, which was several days journey north of Jerusalem.  So, the belief of the apostles in the resurrection of Jesus probably did not begin until at least a week after Jesus was crucified.  Then they would have to travel back to Jerusalem before they could preach about the resurrection there.  So, the very earliest that the apostles would have preached about the resurrection of Jesus in Jerusalem is about two weeks after the crucifixion, which means that they did NOT start preaching in Jerusalem about the resurrection of Jesus “just a few days after” the crucifixion of Jesus.
Kreeft himself approvingly quotes William Craig who talks about the apostles preaching in Jerusalem “a few weeks after the crucifixion” that Jesus had risen from the dead.  If the apostles started preaching about the resurrection “a few weeks after the crucifixion”, then the apostles did NOT start preaching about the resurrection “just a few days after the crucifixion Jesus’ crucifixion”. Thus, there is good reason to believe that HA4 is probably FALSE.
Recall that it took over a decade for the first of the Twelve apostles to be killed (i.e. James the brother of John), and James was NOT killed by order of the Jewish Council in Jerusalem.  If the Jewish leadership of Jerusalem was indeed instrumental in getting Jesus crucified by the Romans, they appear to have been satisfied with killing the charismatic leader of this religious movement, and were not so anxious about killing off the lower-level of leadership, i.e. the Twelve apostles.  So, HA5 is probably FALSE.
Assumption HA6 is improbable on its face, because it is foolish to try to suppress a religious movement by presenting evidence against some central belief of that religious movement.  It is far more effective and far more common to suppress a religious movement by killing the leaders of the movement.  Engaging in rational debate with fervent religious believers about the truth of their central religious beliefs is pretty much guaranteed to fail, no matter how strong the evidence might be against those beliefs.
Note the various conditions involved in HA7:
IF the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem made serious efforts in the days immediately following the crucifixion of Jesus to refute the new Christian belief that Jesus had risen from the dead, and IF they knew where the body of Jesus was buried (or could easily find out where it was buried), THEN…
Both conditions are unlikely, so it is very unlikely that both conditions would have been met.  But in the unlikely event that both conditions were true, it is NOT probable that the consequent would follow:
…THEN they probably would have produced Jesus’ corpse a few days after Jesus was crucified and put it on public display in Jerusalem.
Remember that the leadership in Jerusalem were unable to identify Jesus; they had to bribe Judas, so that Jesus could be identified and arrested.  There were no newspapers, no photographs of Jesus, no wanted posters with a mug shot of Jesus, no videotape of Jesus.  So, the only way for someone to get to know what Jesus looked like would be to go in person to hear him preach and/or watch him perform faith healings.  Producing Jesus’ dead body would not be persuasive evidence for the majority of people living in Jerusalem who never laid eyes directly upon Jesus.

  • Why not simply produce the body of some random dead Jewish peasant and claim that the body was that of Jesus?
  • Why not hire witnesses to falsely testify that they saw Jesus’ dead body in the tomb after the apostles began preaching the resurrection?
  • Why not hire witnesses to falsely testify that they saw the apostles steal the dead body of Jesus from the tomb?
  • Why not put forward their best theological arguments against Jesus being the messiah or divine Son of God, and thus not a likely candidate for resurrection by God?
  • Why not hire witnesses to falsely testify that Jesus was a fornicator or a thief, in order to cast doubt on the alleged resurrection of Jesus?
  • Why not hire witnesses to falsely testify that the apostles were fornicators or thieves, in order to cast doubt on their claims to have seen the risen Jesus?

There are many different ways to try to persuade people to reject the belief that Jesus had risen from the dead, so we cannot reasonably conclude that it is PROBABLE that the Jewish leadership would have chosen the specific strategy of putting Jesus’ dead body on public display.  HA7 is therefore probably FALSE.
The assumption that Christian believers would have been universally persuaded to reject belief in the resurrection of Jesus by putting Jesus’ dead body on public display is naive and implausible.  People who have a fervent religious conviction are very often impervious to factual evidence that goes against their basic religious beliefs.
Furthermore, since there were no photographs or videos of Jesus, and since there was no such thing as fingerprinting or DNA testing, there would not be a good way to PROVE that a particular dead body was the body of Jesus.  Finally, putting Jesus’ corpse on public display would have been convincing evidence for only as long as the body remained recognizable as being Jesus, which would only be a matter of days.  After a week or two, the decomposing body would not be readily identifiable.  So, HA8 is probably FALSE, because it supposes that people who have a fervent religious conviction would be easily and universally persuaded to abandon that strongly-held conviction on the basis of evidence that was merely modest evidence, not in any way conclusive evidence.
 
CONCLUSION
Objection #5 is a FAILURE, because Kreeft presents ZERO historical evidence in support of several historical assumptions supporting this objection, and it is a miserable FAILURE as an objection against TCT, because each of the EIGHT historical assumptions supporting Objection #5 is questionable or dubious, and each of those assumptions has a significant chance of being FALSE, so it is very likely that at least ONE of the EIGHT assumptions is FALSE, and thus that Objection #5 is based on a FALSE assumption.

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 10: Motivation for Lying

WHERE WE ARE AT
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) in an attempt to disprove that theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

  • In previous posts (Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7), I argued that Kreeft’s Objection #1 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #8 I argued that his Objection #2 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
  • In Part #9 I argued that his Objection #3 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.

(Notice a pattern here?)
 
OBJECTION #4: NO MOTIVE FOR LYING
Kreeft’s Objection #4 against TCT is fairly brief:
There could be no possible motive for such a lie. Lies are always told for some selfish advantage. What advantage did the “conspirators” derive from their “lie” ? They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks!
I will try to be brief in my replies to this objection.
Kreeft’s main point is stated in the very first sentence:
There could be no possible motive for such a lie.
If this were true, it would be a good objection, but this statement is clearly FALSE.  I have already pointed out the potential motivation of greed or the desire for greater financial security (see my discussion of “Point 1” in Part #9).
Other motivations might well have led the apostles to lie about the resurrection of Jesus: a desire for power, a desire for fame or admiration, a desire to maintain bonds of friendship (between the apostles), a desire for sex or romance (a common temptation for leaders of religious movements and organizations).  A few moments of reflection reveals the main point of Objection #4 to be FALSE.


Hieronymus Bosch- The Seven Deadly Sins and the Four Last Things:  “…the seven deadly sins are depicted: wrath at the bottom, then (proceeding clockwise) envy, greed, gluttony, sloth, extravagance (later replaced with lust), and pride…”



 
There need not be just ONE motivation shared by all Twelve apostles, so long as each one of them had some motive or other for engaging in the conspiracy to deceive others, at least for a few years (long enough for the Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection to be firmly established in the religious movement).
Kreeft goes on to make a specific point that is intended to support Objection #4:
What advantage did the “conspirators” derive from their “lie”?  They [the Twelve apostles] were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks!
This is our old friend Objection #1, making its third or fourth appearance in Kreeft’s case against TCT.  Once again Kreeft simply asserts various dubious historical claims yet FAILS to provide ANY historical evidence whatsoever to support his claims.  I have previously shown that Objection #1 was a miserable FAILURE.  Repeating the same crappy objection over and over again doesn’t magically make it any less of a miserable FAILURE.
 
CONCLUSION
The main point of Objection #4 is a FALSE claim, and Kreeft attempts to support this point by yet again re-using  a previous miserable FAILURE of an objection (Objection #1).  Therefore, Objection #4 is another miserable FAILURE, just like Kreeft’s first three objections against TCT.

bookmark_borderDefending the Conspiracy Theory – Part 9: The Character of the Apostles

WHERE WE ARE AT
Peter Kreeft raises seven objections against The Conspiracy Theory (hereafter: TCT) in an attempt to disprove that theory, as part of an elimination of alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead.
In previous posts (Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7), I argued that Kreeft’s Objection #1 against TCT was a miserable FAILURE.
In the last post, Part #8, I argued that his Objection #2 against TCT was also a miserable FAILURE.
 
THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH OBJECTION #3
In this present post, I will argue that because Kreeft’s Objection #3 against TCT is basically a re-hash of the first two objections, it is also a miserable FAILURE, just like Objection #1 and Objection #2.
Here is the basic point Kreeft makes in Objection #3:
The disciples’ character argues strongly against such a conspiracy on the part of all of them, with no dissenters.
The main problem with this objection is the same as the main problem with Objection #1: we know very little about the lives of “the Twelve” apostles, so there is insufficient historical knowledge to back up Kreeft’s generalizations about the character and behavior of the Twelve apostles.
Kreeft does not make ANY effort whatsoever to provide historical evidence to support his claims about the good character of the Twelve apostles, but even if he were to make a serious effort to support his claims with historical evidence, he would still FAIL, because the historical evidence that he needs for this objection simply does not exist.

 
OUR IGNORANCE ABOUT “THE TWELVE” APOSTLES
Here is a summary of key points about “the Twelve” apostles from Chapter 27 of John Meier’s A Marginal Jew, Volume 3:

  • We know NOTHING about Bartholomew.
  • We know almost nothing about Jude of James.
  • We are completely ignorant about Thaddeus.
  • James of Alphaeus is a member of the Twelve about whom we have ZERO knowledge.
  • We know NOTHING about Matthew.
  • We know VERY LITTLE about Philip.
  • There is a little bit of information about Andrew during the ministry of Jesus, and there is NO INFORMATION about Andrew after the crucifixion and alleged resurrection of Jesus.
  • We know almost nothing about Thomas.
  • We know almost nothing about Simon the Cananean.
  • We know very little about Judas Iscariot.
  • We know virtually nothing about Matthias.

(For more details on our ignorance about the apostles, see Part #5 and Part #6 in this series.)
That leaves us with just three other apostles–PETER, JAMES, and JOHN:
In the end, of all the members of the Twelve, only Peter and, to a lesser degree, the sons of Zebedee [James and John] emerge from the shadow of the group to stand on their own as knowable individuals. (AMJ3, p.199)
Thus, we know very little about most of the fourteen people who constituted “the Twelve” apostles, so any general claims that Kreeft makes about the alleged good character of the Twelve apostles cannot be established on the basis of solid historical evidence.
 
THREE MAIN POINTS
Kreeft makes three main points in support of his Objection #3:

  1. The apostles were “simple, honest, common peasants”.
  2. The apostles “willingly died for their ‘conspiracy.’ ” and thus proved their “sincerity” by “martyrdom”.
  3. The Conspiracy Theory fails to explain the “transformation” of the apostles from “runaway cowardice to steadfast boldness under threat and persecution”.

 
POINT 1: The apostles were “simple, honest, common peasants”.
Being “simple” does NOT make a person honest.  For example, children often lie, even to their teachers and parents.  Being “simple” also does NOT make it unlikely that the apostles came up with the story of the resurrection of Jesus.  Contrary to Kreeft’s Objection #2, the apostles would NOT have to be particularly creative or intelligent in order to come up with that story.  See my reply to Objection #2 in post #8.
Kreeft asserts that the Twelve apostles were “honest” people.  But that claim BEGS THE QUESTION.  Obviously, if one is willing to entertain the theory that the apostles conspired to intentionally deceive others about having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus, then one is willing to entertain the idea that the apostles were DISHONEST, at least concerning the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  To assert that the Twelve apostles were all “honest” is to simply ASSUME that TCT is false, but that is precisely what we are discussing and arguing about! It is no more fair for a skeptic to simply ASSUME that the Twelve apostles were all DISHONEST, than it is for Kreeft to simply ASSUME that the Twelve apostles were all HONEST.  This BEGGING of the QUESTION is the sort of illogical thinking that happens when one has no interest in historical evidence or historical truth.
Let’s assume for the moment that the Twelve apostles were all “common peasants”.  That does NOT mean that they were all honest people.  There is often a significant amount of crime, for example, in neighborhoods populated by poor people. (There might well be as much crime going on in wealthy neighborhoods, but crime by wealthy people tends to be “white collar” crime rather than theft and robbery.)  In fact, the claim that all of the apostles were “common peasants” suggests that they may have been tempted to engage in deception about the resurrection of Jesus because of the desire for wealth or for financial security. 
Consider this passage from the book of Acts about how the apostles were treated by the converts to their religious movement:
32 Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one claimed private ownership of any possessions, but everything they owned was held in common. 
33 With great power the apostles gave their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. 
34 There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. 
35 They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need.
(Acts 4:32-35, New Revised Standard Version)
If, as Kreeft claims, all of the apostles were “common peasants”, then they were all either poor or financially insecure.  Being in charge of this new religious movement might not have made them rich, but it would have at least provided a greater level of financial security to the apostles.  That could have been a strong motivation to engage in a conspiracy to deceive others about having personally and physically seen the risen Jesus.
So, the claim that all the apostles were “common peasants” does NOT help make the case that they were honest people, and in fact it provides us with a reason to suspect that they were dishonest, in view of the fact that they obtained money and food from the people who converted to their religious movement.
Point 1 FAILS to provide any support for Kreeft’s Objection #3.
 
POINT 2: The apostles “willingly died for their ‘conspiracy.’ ” and thus proved their “sincerity” by “martyrdom”.
This point is clearly a re-hash of Objection #1, so it FAILS miserably, for the same reasons that Objection #1 failed.  See my replies to Objection #1 in Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7 .
 
POINT 3: The Conspiracy Theory fails to explain the “transformation” of the apostles from “runaway cowardice to steadfast boldness under threat and persecution”.
This point is clearly a re-hash of Objection #1, so it FAILS miserably, for the same reasons that Objection #1 failed.  See my replies to Objection #1 in Part #4, Part #5, Part #6, and Part #7 .
 
CONCLUSION
Objection #3 is a re-hash of Objection #1 and Objection #2, so it is a miserable FAILURE, just like Kreeft’s first two objections.
If Kreeft wanted to recycle his objections to make his list of objections seem longer than it actually was, then he should have put this point further down on his list.  Repeating previous objections immediately following those objections makes it obvious that he is re-using the earlier points.  This is the sort of mindless error that one would expect from a middle-school student, not from a professor of philosophy.
With three spectacular FAILURES in a row, I won’t hold my breath in anticipation of Kreeft coming up with a solid objection to TCT.