bookmark_borderOFF TOPIC: 6 “FACTS” Presented by Trump’s Defense – Part 2

WHERE WE ARE
In Part 1 of this series,  I argued that AT LEAST three out of  the “six key facts” that Trump’s defense team were focusing on in their case for Trump are IRRELEVANT to the main questions at issue, and that a fourth of those “six key facts” was relevant but INSIGNIFICANT because it is based on the statements of politicians who have a strong vested interest in not telling the truth on this question.
In this post I’m going to dispatch with one more of the “six key facts”:

Purpura claimed Ukraine did not know military aid was being withheld at the time of the phone call, so there could effectively be no quid pro quo between the parties. “President Zelensky and high-ranking Ukrainian officials did not even know,” Purpura argued, “the security assistance was paused until the end of August, over a month after the July 25 call.” (from a CNN article)

Most, perhaps all, of the critical commentary on this claim by Purpura focuses on there being EVIDENCE that Zelensky or other Ukrainian officials were aware of the hold at the time of the phone call.  In other words, most (or all) critics of this point argue that the claim by Purpura is NOT A FACT:
https://www.cnn.com/politics/live-news/trump-impeachment-trial-01-27-20/h_cf1c4a5a5e27619361dfb02657639110
https://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2020/jan/28/fact-checking-trump-impeachment-defense/
https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2020/01/25/assessing-trump-teams-6-point-impeachment-defense/
https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/25/politics/fact-checking-opening-statements-by-trump-legal-team/index.html
https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/trump-s-impeachment-trial-defense-hinges-six-arguments-they-can-ncna1124286
https://apnews.com/b048901b635f423db49a10046daaf8a8
 
ANOTHER IRRELEVANT “FACT” 
But there is a more important point here that most (or all) critics have failed to notice or state:
The claim by Purpura here is IRRELEVANT to the question at issue, just like three of the other “six key facts” are IRRELEVANT. 
Out of the “six key facts” that are the foundation of Trump’s defense, at least FOUR of those “facts” are IRRELEVANT, making this possibly the worst defense ever presented in a Senate Impeachment Trial.
The problem with Purpura’s point is that the hold or pause on the military aid is simply a MECHANISM or PROCEDURE for preventing the money from flowing to Ukraine.  Ignorance about HOW the money for Ukraine was moving through a government PROCEDURE or MECHANISM is IRRELEVANT, particularly from the point of view of a high-level Ukrainian official, like the President of Ukraine.
What mattered to Zelensky was that the MONEY HAD NOT YET BEEN TRANSFERRED from the US to Ukraine.  Zelensky was probably as ignorant about our government’s PROCEDURES and PROCESSES for handing out money to other governments as Mick Mulvaney and Donald Trump.  Zelensky would not be interested about the details of how our federal government carries out distributions of money to other governments.  All he cared about was that the US Congress had authorized funds to go to Ukraine for military aid, and that this money had NOT YET BEEN TRANSFERRED to Ukraine.
So, from Zelensky’s point of view, if Trump or an ambassador appointed by Trump (or a lawyer representing Trump) threatened to withhold money that Congress had previously approved to go to Ukraine for military aid, then that threat might be very real, and should be taken seriously, whether a “hold” or “pause” had been placed on the funds or not.  What mattered from Zelensky’s point of view was that Trump was threatening to prevent or delay the transfer of funds UNLESS he did a “favor” for Trump, namely announcing an investigation into the Bidens.
IT DOES NOT MATTER from Zelensky’s point of view whether a “hold” or “pause” had been placed on funds that were approved for Ukrainian military aid.  What matters from his point of view is that Trump had the power or ability to prevent or delay the transfer of those funds to Ukraine.  No knowledge about the DETAILS of HOW this would be accomplished in terms of our government’s MECHANISMS or PROCEDURES was needed or desired.
The only thing that Trump needed in order to PRESSURE Zelensky into announcing investigations against the Bidens was a threat to SOMEHOW OR OTHER prevent or delay the transfer of funds to Ukraine for military aid.   Zelensky KNEW that the funds had not yet been transferred, and he KNEW that the President of the US has great power and authority in matters of foreign policy, so he had every reason to believe that such a threat by Trump (or by a representative of Trump) was a real threat, not an idle threat.
Therefore, the claim that Zelensky was unaware of the hold placed on the funds that were intended to go to Ukraine for military aid is IRRELEVANT to whether Trump was in a position to threaten to prevent or delay the transfer of those funds to Ukraine.  Trump could offer a quid pro quo and make a deal with Zelensky, exchanging Trump’s approval of the transfer of funds to Ukraine for Zelensky announcing an investigation into the Bidens WITHOUT Zelensky knowing anything about the hold that Trump had placed on those funds.
 
CONCLUSIONS SO FAR
AT LEAST FOUR out of the “six key facts” at the foundation of Trump’s defense are IRRELEVANT, and one of the remaining two other “facts” is relevant but INSIGNIFICANT, making this probably the worst defense ever presented in a Senate impeachment trial.

bookmark_borderOFF TOPIC: 6 “FACTS” Presented by Trump’s Defense – Part 1

This is not ENTIRELY off topic, because it involves thinking critically about reasons and arguments. I have extensive education and experience related to criticism of arguments, especially of really crappy arguments presented by Christian apologists. In this post I will criticize some really crappy arguments presented by Trump’s defense team.
Here is a CNN article that I’m drawing quotes from:
https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/25/politics/fact-checking-opening-statements-by-trump-legal-team/index.html
Deputy White House Counsel Mike Purpura focused on “six key facts”:

President Donald Trump’s legal team kicked off their opening arguments in the Senate impeachment trial Saturday morning. In defending the President, Deputy White House Counsel Mike Purpura said the case is based on “six key facts that have not and will not change.”

Do any of these “six key facts” show that Donald Trump did NOT abuse his authority as president? Do any of these “six key facts” undermine some key claim in the case against Donald Trump?
 
Here is one of those “six key facts”:

Aiming to make the case that Trump did not engage in a quid pro quo because the Ukrainians got what they wanted without ever announcing an investigation into the 2016 election or the Bidens, Purpura argued “a presidential meeting took place on September 25 without the Ukrainian government announcing any investigations.”

That fact is IRRELEVANT. The fact that Trump’s scheme was discovered and FAILED before he could carry it out completely in NO WAY shows that Trump is INNOCENT.
If a bank robber points a gun at a bank teller and demands that the teller fill his briefcase full of cash, and if the bank robber is disarmed and arrested before he leaves the bank, his FAILURE to leave the bank with the stolen cash in NO WAY shows that the bank robber is innocent. He would still be arrested, and convicted, and sent to prison, even though he FAILED to get away with the stolen money.
 
Here is another one of those “six key facts”:

Purpura argued that Trump has “been a better friend and stronger supporter of Ukraine then his predecessor” while Trump’s lawyer Jay Sekulow noted that Trump, not Obama, took the “concrete step” of “actually providing Ukraine with lethal weapons, including javelin missiles.”

Whether Trump was a “stronger supporter of Ukraine” than Obama is IRRELEVANT.
For the sake of argument, lets assume that Trump was in many ways a “stronger supporter of Ukraine” than Obama was. SO WHAT? That is completely compatible with the charge that Trump ABUSED HIS AUTHORITY as president by conditioning a meeting with the new president of Ukraine on whether Ukraine announced investigations into the Bidens, or by conditioning security assistance to Ukraine on whether Ukraine announced investigations into the Bidens. That is an ABUSE OF HIS AUTHORITY and Trump should be REMOVED from his office for that reason.
Trump could have been “a big supporter of Ukraine” up until the point that he saw an OPPORTUNITY to get help from Ukraine to win the 2020 election by their announcing an investigation into the Bidens.  Trump’s desire to win re-election might well overpower any desire he has to support the people and government of Ukraine.  When Trump’s personal interests had no clear connection with our relationship with Ukraine, then Trump was happy to support that country.  But when his personal interest in winning re-election became connected (in Trump’s mind) with how and whether we support Ukraine against Russian aggression, then Trump might well have become more than willing to throw his support for Ukraine out the window.
 
Here is one more of the “six key facts”:

Purpura said “the transcript shows that the President did not condition either security assistance or a meeting on anything.”

This statement is AMBIGUOUS. In one sense, the statement is FALSE, and thus NOT a FACT. In another sense it is true, but IRRELEVANT.  So, in order to interpret this statement in a way that makes it true, it is IRRELEVANT.
The scope of the statement is unclear. If it has a broad scope, then it is FALSE:

the transcript shows that the President did not EVER condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

The transcript does not and CANNOT show any such thing, because the transcript tells us only about what Trump said on the phone call, not about what he said prior to the phone call, and not about what he said after the phone call. Trump could have conditioned security assistance or a meeting on an announcement of an investigation of the Bidens either before the call or after the call.
So, we must narrow the scope of the claim to limit it to the phone call:

the transcript shows that the President did not ON THE CALL condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

This clarified statement is still AMBIGUOUS. In one sense this statement makes a controversial claim, and thus it is NOT a FACT:

the transcript shows that the President did not ON THE CALL either EXPLICITLY OR IMPLICITLY condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

That is NOT a FACT; that is a dubious interpretation of the transcript by Trump’s defense team. Democrats would argue that there is an IMPLICIT conditioning of security assistance on the Ukrainians announcing an investigation into the Bidens. Trump’s defense team can try to argue against that interpretation, but their obviously controversial interpretation is NOT a FACT.
The sense of this statement that does assert an uncontroversial claim is this:

the transcript shows that the President did not ON THE CALL EXPLICITLY condition security assistance or a meeting on anything.

This statement could reasonably be called a FACT, but it is IRRELEVANT, because the Democrats only claim that there is an IMPLIED or SUGGESTED quid pro quo by Trump on the phone call. They don’t argue that Trump EXPLICITLY asserts a quid pro quo on the call.
 
Here is another of the “six key facts”:

Purpura said “President Zelensky and other Ukrainian officials have repeatedly said there was no quid pro quo or no pressure on them to review anything.”

This point, unlike the above three points, is relevant. However, it is INSIGNIFICANT, because it is a very WEAK and DUBIOUS point. Zelensky’s statements are NOT CREDIBLE on this question.
Politicians lie all the time, especially when they have a vested interest in not telling the truth on a certain question. President Zelensky has some strong motivations to lie about this question.
If Zelensky said “President Trump was trying to shake us down and use his authority as President of the United States to force us into announcing a bogus investigation against the Bidens, and thus to interfere in US domestic politics against our will.” That might be the truth, but it would obviously make Trump look very bad, and thus make Trump very angry with President Zelensky. Trump might then use his presidential powers to hurt Zelensky or the Ukrainians.
Also, this would help remove Trump from office, and since Trump is (allegedly) a “stronger supporter of Ukraine” than Obama (and perhaps than the leading Democratic presidential candidates), Zelensky might prefer that Trump remain president and NOT be removed from office by the Senate.
Furthermore, if Zelensky admitted to nearly caving in to Trump’s pressure, that would make Zelensky look weak and corrupt to his own people, and since he ran on an anti-corruption platform, that might seriously damage his popularity in Ukraine.
Because Zelensky has some strong motivations to lie on this question, his statements on this issue are NOT CREDIBLE.
 
CONCLUSIONS SO FAR
Three out of the “six key facts” are simply IRRELEVANT, and one of the “six key facts” is relevant but INSIGNIFICANT because based on the statements of a politician who has a strong vested interest in lying about this issue.
Given that at least half of these six points are IRRELEVANT, and that a fourth point is relevant but INSIGNIFICANT, the case for Trump’s innocence looks pathetically weak.
(In fact, it looks about as pathetically weak as Peter Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus.  Just sayin’.)

bookmark_borderDefending the Swoon Theory – Part 20: Evaluation of Objection #7

WHERE WE ARE
In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft has raised nine objections against The Swoon Theory, as part of his case attempting to prove that Jesus rose from the dead.
In previous posts I have argued that his Objection #1Objection #2Objection #3Objection #4Objection #5, Objection #6, and Objection #8 all FAIL as objections against The Swoon Theory, and also FAIL as objections against the more general view that I call The Survival Theory.  None of those objections prove that the Swoon Theory is false, because none of those objections constitute a strong and solid argument against the Swoon Theory.
I have shown that at least seven out of Peter Kreeft’s nine objections to the Swoon Theory FAIL (at least 78% of his objections FAIL).  So, it is likely that the remaining two objections will also FAIL.
In Part 19 I clarified the premises of Kreeft’s Objection #7, and I analyzed the logical structure of that objection.  In this current post, I will show that Objection #7 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory (and the Survival Theory), just like all of the other objections that Kreeft has raised against the Swoon Theory (and the Survival Theory).
Here is the logical structure of the core argument for Objection #7 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
There are four main premises in the core argument of Objection #7:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

E. Jesus’ disciples did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Kreeft gives an argument for each of the first three premises, (B), (C), and (D), and he gives three arguments in support of premise (E).  So, there are a total of six sub-arguments supporting the premises in the core argument.  How many of those six sub-arguments are strong and sound arguments?  Given Kreeft’s consistency in putting forward crappy argument after crappy argument, it should come as no surprise that ZERO of these sub-arguments is strong and sound, as I will now begin to show.
 
EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (B)
Here is the argument Kreeft gives for premise (B):

3. IF Jesus was still alive when he was buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening, THEN Jesus would have been too weak to move the stone from the door of the tomb that weekend.

THEREFORE:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Premise (3) is an historical claim that Kreeft does not bother to support with historical evidence or reasoning, as is his custom.  However, it is fairly obvious that (3) rests upon a number of historical claims and assumptions:

  • Jesus was severely scourged prior to being crucified.
  • Jesus’ hands were both nailed to the cross.
  • Jesus’ feet were both nailed to the cross.
  • A crown of thorns had been pushed onto Jesus’s head, inflicting several wounds in his scalp.
  • A soldier stabbed Jesus forcefully with a spear, creating a deep wound in Jesus’ side.
  • Jesus was removed from the cross on Friday afternoon and his body was placed into a stone tomb prior to sunset that day.
  • The door of Jesus’ tomb was blocked with an enormous boulder that required several people to move into place.

None of these assumptions is an historical FACT, and each of these assumptions is subject to significant doubt.  So, it is very likely that at least some of these assumptions are FALSE, and it is possible that all of them are FALSE.  Kreeft has not bothered to support these questionable assumptions with historical evidence and reasoning.
If any of these assumptions are FALSE, then that would cast doubt on the truth of premise (3).  So, it is very clear that (3) is NOT an historical FACT, and that there is a significant chance that (3) is FALSE.  Because premise (3) is questionable, this is a WEAK argument in support of premise (B).  So, premise (B) itself remains questionable, subject to reasonable doubt.   Because premise (B) is questionable, and because (B) is a key premise in the core argument of Objection #7,  we may conclude on this basis alone that Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.
 
EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (C)
Here is Kreeft’s argument in support of premise (C):

8. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had requested of Pilate that the tomb of Jesus be sealed with a stone blocking the doorway.

THEREFORE:

6. It was in the interests of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to keep the tomb of Jesus sealed.

THEREFORE:

4. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Premise (8) makes an historical claim, and Kreeft has not bothered to provide historical evidence and reasoning in support of (8).  Furthermore, we have good reason to doubt (8), because it is based on a story that is UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew, and as I argued in Part 17, the stories that are UNIQUE to the Gospel of Matthew are historically unreliable.  Thus, there is a very good chance that  premise (8) is FALSE.
Furthermore, premise (6) does NOT FOLLOW from premise (8), because the choices people make are not always in their own self-interest.  In fact, we expect leaders to, at least sometimes, transcend their own self-interest and make decisions that are intended to be for the good of the community or people that they rule over.  We hope that leaders will, at least sometimes, be willing to sacrifice their own self-interest for the good of the community or people.  So, the fact that leaders of a community make a choice or decision to do X, does NOT imply that X is in their own self-interest.
Also, premise (4) does NOT FOLLOW from premise (6), because the choices people make are not always in their own self-interest.  So, even if we grant that keeping the tomb sealed was in the self-interest of the Jewish leaders, that does NOT rule out the possibility that the Jewish leaders moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.  People sometimes do things that are not in their own self-interest.
To sum up, this argument for the key premise (C) is WEAK because there is a good chance that the basic premise (8) is FALSE, and the inference from (8) to (6) is INVALID, and the inference from (6) to (4) is INVALID also.  Both of these inferences are INVALID because they ignore the fact that people sometimes make choices that are contrary to their own self-interest.  Kreeft’s argument for the key premise (C) thus FAILS.  Because premise (C) is a key premise of the core argument for Objection #7, that means that for this reason alone, Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.
 
EVALUATION OF THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (D)
Here is Kreeft’s argument for the key premise (D):

9.  The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would have been executed if they let the body of Jesus leave the tomb or be removed from the tomb, and the Roman soldiers knew this.

THEREFORE:

7A. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus knew that it would have been strongly against their self-interest to move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb (or to allow anyone else to move the stone).

THEREFORE:

5. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Premise (9) is based on an historical assumption:

RG: Roman guards were posted outside of the tomb of Jesus to prevent the tomb from being opened and to prevent Jesus’ body from leaving the tomb or from being removed from the tomb.  

As I previously argued in Part 16 and Part 17  this assumption is probably FALSE.  Because (9) is based on an assumption that is probably FALSE, premise (9) is itself probably FALSE.  That means that this argument for premise (D) FAILS, because it is based on a premise that is probably FALSE.  Because premise (D) is a key premise in the core argument for Objection #7, we may conclude on this basis alone that Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.
Furthermore, the inference from (9) to (7A) is INVALID, because premise (9) is concerned with allowing Jesus’ body to leave the tomb, meaning that Jesus either escaped from the tomb or that someone (other than the guards) removed his body from the tomb and took it to some other location.  But premise (7A) is only concerned with moving the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.  While it is true that moving the stone from the door of the tomb would provide an opportunity for Jesus to escape or for someone to take Jesus’ body from the tomb, neither of those opportunities would automatically or necessarily be realized simply by moving the stone from the door of the tomb.
Suppose Jesus was still alive when he was placed in the tomb.  Suppose that Jesus came back to consciousness late on Saturday night and began screaming for help from inside the tomb.  The Roman soldiers might move the stone in that case, in order to investigate who was inside the tomb screaming for help, or if they believed that the screaming came from Jesus, they might move the stone to kill Jesus off, or to take the living Jesus back to Pilate or to their superior officer for further direction as to what to do with Jesus.  If this was the intention of the Roman soldiers in that circumstance, they would reasonably infer that moving the stone would NOT constitute a dereliction of their duty to guard the tomb, and thus moving the stone would NOT be grounds for their execution.  So, even if (9) were true, it does NOT FOLLOW that (7A) must also be true.
The inference from (7A) to (5) is stronger and more plausible than the analogous inference from (6) to (4) in Kreeft’s argument for premise (C).  This inference is stronger and more plausible because we are now talking not just about self-interest, but about a choice that is “strongly against the self-interest” of the soldiers, namely choosing an action that puts their lives into serious risk.  Although people often act against their own self-interest, they rarely knowingly choose to put their lives into serious risk.
However, people do on rare occasions make choices and actions where they knowingly put their lives into serious risk.  Furthermore, we are talking about Roman soldiers here.  Kreeft probably has in mind that these are strong, tough, and brave soldiers who were guarding the tomb, thus making it difficult for Jesus’s disciples to steal the body from the tomb.  But if these soldiers were strong, tough, and brave, then they might not fear death to the same degree that you or I would fear death.  The tougher and braver the soldiers were, the less they would be fearful of the threat of death, and the more likely they would be to take risks with their own lives.  So, although the inference from (7A) to (5) is plausible, it is not as strong as one might initially think.  If the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb were tough and brave, then the inference from (7A) to (5) becomes a bit uncertain.
Premise (9) is probably false, and the inference from (9) to (7A) is INVALID.  The inference from (7A) to (5) is plausible, but not as strong as it initially appears to be.  Clearly, Kreeft’s argument for premise (D) FAILS.  Because premise (D) is a key premise in the core argument for Objection #7, we may conclude on this basis alone that Objection #7 FAILS.  Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT THE FIRST THREE SUB-ARGUMENTS
We have now seen that the three sub-arguments supporting key premises (B), (C), and (D) are all FAILURES.  If just one of these sub-arguments FAILS, then Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.  Thus, we can already see that Kreeft’s Objection #7 FAILS, and that it is clear and certain that this objection FAILS.
However, because every one of the six sub-arguments put forward by Kreeft in his Objection #7 FAILS, I will continue to criticize this argument further, to show that there can be no doubt that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE from start to finish.
We now know that at least eight out of Kreeft’s nine objections against the Swoon Theory FAIL (at least 89% of his objections against the Swoon Theory FAIL), so it is quite likely that the one remaining objection, Objection #9, will also FAIL.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDefending the Swoon Theory – Part 19: Analysis of Objection #7

KREEFT’S STATMENT OF OBJECTION #7
Here is Peter Kreeft’s statement of his Objection #7 against the Swoon Theory from Chapter 8 of  his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter referred to as HCA):

How could a swooning half-dead man have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb? Who moved the stone if not an angel? No one has ever answered that question. Neither the Jews nor the Romans would move it, for it was in both their interests to keep the tomb sealed: the Jews had the stone put there in the first place, and the Roman guards would be killed if they let the body “escape.”

The story the Jewish authorities spread, that the guards fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15), is unbelievable. Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that; if they did, they would lose their lives. And even if they did fall asleep, the crowd and the effort and the noise it would have taken to move an enormous boulder would have wakened them. Furthermore, we are again into the conspiracy theory, with all its unanswerable difficulties (see next section).

(HCA, p. 183-184)
 
ANALYSIS OF OBJECTION #7
Because this is an objection against the Swoon Theory, and because it is clearly Kreeft’s intention to “refute” the Swoon Theory, we already know the conclusion of the argument that constitutes Objection #7, even though Kreeft fails to clearly state this conclusion:

A. The Swoon Theory is FALSE.

The main premises of Kreeft’s argument are also fairly obvious, though, once again, Kreeft fails to clearly state ANY of these main premises:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

E. Jesus’ disciples did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

But there is a BIG LOGICAL GAP between these four premises and the conclusion that Kreeft is trying to prove.  It is far from clear how the alleged movement of the stone is relevant to proving that the Swoon Theory is FALSE. 
Kreeft not only FAILS to clearly state his conclusion, and FAILS to clearly state the main premises of his argument, but he also FAILS to provide any explanation of how these premises are supposed to prove this conclusion!  In short, his argument here is a steaming pile of dog crap, which is what I have come to expect from Peter Kreeft.
There is what appears to be an intermediate conclusion that is suggested by Kreeft in these two sentences:

Who moved the stone if not an angel? No one has ever answered that question.

This looks like the all-too-common “God-of-the-Gaps” move that one frequently encounters in the arguments of Christian apologists:

There is no plausible natural explanation for X, so God must have caused X. 

Kreeft modifies this common crappy bit of reasoning by substituting “an angel” for “God”:

There is no plausible natural explanation for X, so an angel must have caused X.

More specifically,  Kreeft appears to be making the following inference:

1. There is no plausible natural explanation for how the stone moved from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

2. An angel must have moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Even so, the claim that an angel moved the stone does NOT imply that Jesus died on the cross nor that Jesus was completely dead when his body was placed in a stone tomb.  The supernatural movement of a stone by an angel does NOT imply that some other supernatural event took place (like the resurrection of Jesus), so the movement of the stone by an angel does NOT show that the Swoon Theory is FALSE.  Jesus could have survived the crucifixion without any divine or supernatural assistance, and then received supernatural assistance from an angel in getting out of the tomb.  In that case, the Swoon Theory (and the more general Survival Theory) would still be TRUE.
It is more likely, however, that it is the prior claim that Kreeft is counting on as a basis to disprove the Swoon Theory:

1. There is no plausible natural explanation for how the stone moved from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

But Kreeft provides no explanation of how or why this claim shows that the Swoon Theory is false.  So, on its face, Kreeft’s argument appears to be INVALID.  The intermediate conclusion (1) does not appear to prove or imply the ultimate conclusion (A) that Kreeft is trying to establish with this argument.
We can return to an overall evaluation of this argument later.  For now, let’s focus on the analysis of the logical structure of the claims and inferences that Kreeft has presented.  I take it that the core of Kreeft’s argument looks like this (click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Even if we grant these four key claims, the intermediate conclusion (1) doesn’t follow.  For example, Kreeft has NOT eliminated the possibility that some other Roman soldiers, who were not guarding the tomb, moved the stone, and Kreeft has NOT eliminated the possibility that some Jews who were neither “authorities in Jerusalem” nor “disciples of Jesus” moved the stone.
Furthermore, when Kreeft talks about “the disciples”, what he means (in this context) is the twelve disciples (or the eleven remaining disciples after Judas betrayed Jesus and thus was no longer counted as a disciple).  But Jesus had many followers besides the inner circle of his “twelve disciples”, and Kreeft has NOT eliminated the possibility that some followers of Jesus other than the twelve disciples moved the stone.
Jerusalem was a large city, so there were probably some non-Jewish people there other than Roman soldiers.  There may have been some non-Jewish Egyptians, and some non-Jewish Greeks, and some non-Jewish Africans, and there may have been some Romans in Jerusalem who were not Roman soldiers.  So, there are lots of different potential groups of people who could have moved the stone, about which Kreeft has said NOTHING.
I’m going to break down Kreeft’s statement of Objection #7 into several clearly-stated claims.  This is his first sentence: “How could a swooning half-dead man have moved the great stone at the door of the tomb?”  This is a rhetorical question that actually makes a CLAIM:

3. IF Jesus was still alive when he was buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening, THEN Jesus would have been too weak to move the stone from the door of the tomb that weekend.

This is a reason given in support of an unstated premise that is part of the core of the argument:

B. Jesus did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

Kreeft’s second sentence is another rhetorical question followed by a third sentence that asserts a claim: “Who moved the stone if not an angel?  No one has ever answered that question.”  I have already interpreted these two sentences as implying the following bit of reasoning:

1. There is no plausible natural explanation for how the stone moved from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

THEREFORE:

2. An angel must have moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

However, I suspect that claim (2) does not play a role in Kreeft’s argument against the Swoon Theory.
The first part of the fourth sentence makes two claims:  “Neither the Jews nor the Romans would move it…”  Here are the two claims implied by this part of the fourth sentence:

4. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

5. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would NOT have intentionally moved the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

The next part of the fourth sentence also makes two claims:  “…for it was in both their interests to keep the tomb sealed…”  Here are the two claims implied by this second part of the fourth sentence:

6. It was in the interests of the Jewish authorities in Jerusalem to keep the tomb of Jesus sealed.

7. It was in the interests of the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus to keep the tomb sealed.

Premise (7) is a bit weak and vague.  Kreeft goes on to argue that this was a life-or-death issue for the Roman soldiers, making this more than mildly in their interest, and keeping “the tomb sealed” is a roundabout way of saying that the soldiers would have done everything in their power to prevent Jesus’ body from leaving the tomb:

7A. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus knew that it would have been strongly against their self-interest to move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb (or to allow anyone else to move the stone).

Premise (6) and premise (7A) are reasons in support of premise (4) and premise (5), and premises (4) and (5) are reasons in support of two UNSTATED premises that are part of the core of Kreeft’s argument:

C. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

D. The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

The next phrase in the fourth sentence makes a claim:  “…the Jews had the stone put there in the first place…”  Here is the claim:

8. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem had requested of Pilate that the tomb of Jesus be sealed with a stone blocking the doorway.

The next phrase in the fourth sentence also makes a claim: “…the Roman guards would be killed if they let the body ‘escape.’ ” Here is the claim made by that phrase:

9.  The Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus would have been executed if they let the body of Jesus leave the tomb or be removed from the tomb, and the Roman soldiers knew this.

I have added the phrase “and the Roman soldiers knew this”, because (9) is supposed to be a reason supporting (7) and (ultimately) (D), but this reasoning FAILS unless we add that the Roman soldiers were AWARE of the threat of execution if they failed to prevent the body of Jesus from leaving the tomb.
The fifth sentence in Kreeft’s statement of Objection #7 makes two claims:  “The story the Jewish authorities spread, that the guards fell asleep and the disciples stole the body (Mt 28:11-15), is unbelievable.” Here are the two claims this sentence makes:

10. The Jewish authorities in Jerusalem spread the story that the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus fell asleep while guarding the tomb, and that the disciples of Jesus stole the body of Jesus from the tomb while the soldiers slept.

11. It is NOT the case that the disciples of Jesus stole the body of Jesus from the tomb while the Roman soldiers were sleeping. 

Claim (10) does not appear to play a role in Kreeft’s argument, nor does claim (11) appear to play a role in this argument against the Swoon Theory.
The first clause of the sixth sentence makes a claim:  “Roman guards would not fall asleep on a job like that…”  I assume that “a job like that” is a vague reference to the idea that the soldiers were ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to stand guard over the tomb of Jesus.  Here is the claim:

12. IF the Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus, THEN the Roman soldiers would not fall asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus.

The next clause of the sixth sentence also makes a claim:  “…if they did, they would lose their lives.”  Here is the claim stated more clearly:

13. IF the Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus, THEN those Roman soldiers knew that they would be executed if they fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus and if Pilate (or one of their superior officers) found out about this.

I have added the qualifications “Pilate (or one of their superior officers) found out about this…” as well as the qualification that “the Roman soldiers knew that they would be executed…” because  (13) is supposed to be a reason supporting claim (12), but the inference from (13) to (12) FAILS unless these qualifications are included in (13).   Claim (12) is in turn a reason given to support the key premise (E), but other UNSTATED assumptions are needed for this inference to be logical:

F. The Roman soldiers had been ordered by Pilate (or by a superior officer) to guard the tomb of Jesus.

G. IF the Roman soldiers did NOT fall asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus, THEN Jesus’ disciples would NOT have been able to move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

The seventh sentence makes two claims: “And even if they did fall asleep, the crowd and the effort and the noise it would have taken to move an enormous boulder would have wakened them.”  Here is the main claim made by that sentence:

14. IF the Roman soldiers who were guarding the tomb of Jesus fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus and the disciples of Jesus came and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of Jesus, THEN the noise from the crowd and the effort to move the stone would have wakened the Roman soldiers.

Here is another claim implied by the sentence:

15. The stone blocking the door of the tomb of Jesus was an enormous boulder.

Claim (15) is a reason given to support claim (14), and claim (14) is a reason given to support an UNSTATED premise that is part of the core of Kreeft’s argument:

E. Jesus’ disciples did NOT move the stone from the door of Jesus’ tomb.

There is a logical gap in Kreeft’s reasoning here in the inference from (14) to (E), but he would probably fill in this gap by claiming that if the Roman soldiers had fallen asleep and then been wakened by the noise of the disciples effort to move the stone, then the soldiers would have killed or arrested many of those disciples right then, but none of Jesus’s disciples were killed at Jesus tomb, and none were arrested for attempting to break into the tomb, so we can rule out (E) in the case where we suppose that the soldiers fell asleep while guarding the tomb of Jesus, in the view of Kreeft.
The first phrase of the eighth sentence makes a claim:  “Furthermore, we are again into the conspiracy theory…”  Here is the claim made by this phrase:

16. IF the disciples of Jesus came and moved the stone from the door of the tomb of Jesus, THEN the Conspiracy Theory would be true.

The second phrase of Kreeft’s eighth sentence also makes a claim:  “…with all its unanswerable difficulties…”  Here is the claim made by this phrase:

17. There are a number of decisive objections to the Conspiracy Theory which cannot be shown to be weak or flawed objections.

Claim (17) is a reason in support of an UNSTATED claim:

H. It is NOT the case that the Conspiracy Theory is true.

The combination of claim (16) and claim (H) provide a sub-argument in support of the key premise (E).
Here is the logical structure of this argument by Kreeft against the Swoon Theory (click on the image below for a clearer view of the argument diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
In the next post,  I will evaluate (or begin to evaluate) this argument that constitutes Kreeft’s Objection #7 against the Swoon Theory.

bookmark_borderOFF TOPIC: UCSB Graduate Degree

I knew that I had advanced to candidacy for a PhD in philosophy at UCSB back in 1991, but I did not realize that I had earned a graduate degree and diploma from UCSB because of that.  I just found out a few weeks ago that I had earned a graduate degree and diploma from UCSB, and then I requested that UCSB send me my diploma. The diploma arrived in the mail today, about 29 and 1/2 years after I earned the degree!

bookmark_borderDefending the Swoon Theory – Part 18: Premise (1) of Objection #6

WHERE WE ARE
Here, once more, is Peter Kreeft’s Objection #6 against the Swoon Theory, from Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):

How were the Roman guards at the tomb overpowered by a swooning corpse?  Or by unarmed disciples?  And if the disciples did it, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels, and we are into the conspiracy theory, which we will refute shortly.  (HCA, p.183)

Kreeft is making the following four points in the above sentences:

P1. The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by Jesus (by himself).

P2.  The Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by the disciples of Jesus. 

P3. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels.

P4. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, that implies the conspiracy theory, which Kreeft refutes.

The first two points are support for a premise (premise 1) that is part of an unstated but implied argument against the Swoon Theory:

1. It is NOT the case that either (a) Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself or (b) the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb were overpowered by the disciples of Jesus.

A. IF the Swoon Theory is true, THEN either (a) Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself or (b) the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb were overpowered by the disciples of Jesus.

THEREFORE:

2. It is NOT the case that the Swoon Theory is true.

This is a BAD argument, like pretty much EVERY argument that Peter Kreeft presents in HCA.  There are several problems with premise (A):

  • This is a FALSE DILEMMA, because there are other possibilities that Kreeft FAILS to consider.
  • Kreeft FAILS to provide any historical evidence whatsoever in support of the key historical assumption made by (A), namely the assumption that there were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus.  Simply ASSUMING that there were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus BEGS THE QUESTION.
  • Based on the available historical evidence the claim that there were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus is PROBABLY FALSE (see Part 16 and  Part 17  of this series).

It is clear that premise (A) is FALSE (because it is a FALSE DILEMMA) or IMPROBABLE (because it rests on an historical assumption that is probably false), and thus that the argument constituting Objection #6 is UNSOUND, and thus that Kreeft has FAILED, yet again, to refute the Swoon Theory.
 
EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1) OF OBJECTION #6
But what about premise (1) of this argument? Has Kreeft managed to produce at least one true premise in this argument?  I think that premise (1) is PROBABLY TRUE, but not for the reasons Kreeft gave or had in mind.
Premise (1) of Objection #6 is PROBABLY TRUE, because there probably were no Roman soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb.  If there were no Roman soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb, then it was NOT the case that “Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself” and it was NOT the case that “the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb were overpowered by the disciples of Jesus”, because there would have been no Roman soldiers at the tomb to overpower!  So, Kreeft’s premise (1) is PROBABLY TRUE by accident, and not for the reasons that Kreeft believed it to be true.
Here is the main reason why Kreeft thinks that it is NOT the case that “Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself” from another unstated but implied argument:

3.  IF Jesus was still alive when he was placed in the tomb, THEN Jesus would have been very weak and near death (“a swooning corpse”) while in the tomb on Saturday and Sunday following his burial on Friday evening.

4. IF Jesus was very weak and near death while in the tomb on Saturday and Sunday following his burial on Friday evening, THEN the Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by Jesus (by himself).

5. IF the Roman guards at the tomb could not have been overpowered by Jesus (by himself), THEN it is NOT the case that Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself.

THEREFORE:

6. IF Jesus was still alive when he was placed in the tomb, THEN it is NOT the case that Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself.

7.  IF the Swoon Theory is true, THEN Jesus was still alive when he was placed in the tomb.

THEREFORE:

8. IF the Swoon Theory is true, THEN it is NOT the case that Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself.

Premise (4) is reasonable, but NOT certain.  Sometimes people who are weak and near death can rally their strength for a brief period of time, and perform significant physical feats.  Sometimes Roman soldiers are weak and slow and clumsy, so it is possible that a weak and nearly dead Jesus had a burst of strength and energy and that the Roman soldiers at the tomb just happened to be weak and slow and clumsy that particular Sunday morning, and Jesus managed to over power the Roman guards.  This is, I grant, improbable, but it is a real possibility.  We cannot be CERTAIN that a weak and nearly dead Jesus would FAIL to overpower Roman soldiers guarding his tomb.  There is at least a small chance that a weak and nearly dead Jesus could overpower some Roman soldiers.
Premise (3) is NOT as reasonable or plausible as premise (4).  Premise (3) is based on several questionable historical assumptions about alleged wounds and injuries of Jesus:

  • Jesus was severely scourged prior to being crucified.
  • Jesus’ hands were both nailed to the cross.
  • Jesus’ feet were both nailed to the cross.
  • A crown of thorns had been pushed onto Jesus’s head
  • A soldier stabbed Jesus forcefully with a spear, creating a deep wound in Jesus’ side.

None of these historical assumptions is a FACT.  All five assumptions are questionable and doubtful.  (See the section called “OTHER PROBLEMS WITH THE SECOND BULLET POINT” in Part 12 of this series). It is highly probable that one or more of these assumptions is FALSE.  There might have been no flogging or scourging of Jesus, or there might have been a moderate scourging of Jesus, or only a light flogging.  Jesus hands and feet might have been tied to the cross, or only his hands were nailed, or only his feet were nailed.  The crown of thorns might not be historical, or there might have been a crown of thorns but the thorns pointed outward rather than inward towards his scalp, or the crown had thorns pointing inward but was not shoved forcefully onto his head.  The stabbing with a spear might not be historical, or there might have been a small poke with just the tip of the spear, or there might have been a stabbing of Jesus with a spear that was not forceful enough to create a deep wound in his side.
Because each of the alleged wounds of Jesus is NOT a FACT, but is only somewhat probable at best, and because the severity or extent of each alleged wound is also NOT a FACT, but is uncertain, we cannot reasonably conclude that premise (3) is true.  Jesus MIGHT have been very weak and near death if he had survived crucifixion and been buried in a tomb, but he MIGHT have been fairly strong, or only somewhat weak, depending on how many of the alleged wounds were ACTUALLY inflicted on him, and depending on the extent and severity of those wounds.
Premise (3) might well be FALSE; it is at best only somewhat probable.  Kreeft’s main argument for premise (1) rests upon an argument with a premise that  is based upon a number of questionable historical assumptions, so this is a WEAK ARGUMENT in support of premise (1).
Furthermore, it should be noted that the above argument only supports one part of premise (1), namely the denial that Jesus overpowered the Roman guards.  So, the above argument is insufficient by itself to establish premise (1); we also need a second argument to support the denial that Jesus’ disciples overpowered the Roman guards.
Kreeft has a second argument in support of premise (1), and in support of the denial that Jesus’ disciples overpowered the Roman guards.  The second argument is based on Points 3 and 4 of his statement of Objection #6:

P3. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, they knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels.

P4. If the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb, that implies the conspiracy theory, which Kreeft refutes.

These points can reasonably be understood as part of an argument in support of premise (1):

9. IF the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb by overpowering the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb, THEN the disciples of Jesus knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels. 

10. IF the disciples of Jesus knowingly lied when they wrote the Gospels, THEN the conspiracy theory is true.

11. It is NOT the case that the conspiracy theory is true.

THEREFORE:

12.  It is NOT the case that the disciples of Jesus removed Jesus from the tomb by overpowering the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb.

The conclusion (12) follows logically from the premises of this argument.  However, each of the three premises is problematic.
Premise (11) asserts that the conspiracy theory is NOT true, but I have previously shown that Kreeft’s arguments against the conspiracy theory all FAIL, so premise (11) is questionable.
Premise (10) is also questionable, because the authors of the Gospels could have lied about how Jesus escaped from the tomb and yet firmly and honestly believed that Jesus had risen from the dead.  They might well have believed that Jesus died on the cross,  but then heard from either the women who allegedly witnessed Jesus’ burial in the tomb, or from the men who buried Jesus, that there were signs of life in him at that time, and they could have interpreted that as a return to life from death, and then been inspired to go help Jesus escape from the tomb.
Helping Jesus to get past the Roman guards does NOT imply that they believed Jesus did not die on the cross, nor does it imply that they disbelieved in a miraculous resurrection of Jesus.  Furthermore, if the disciples had beaten up or killed some Roman soldiers at Jesus’ tomb, they would certainly have very good reason to NOT share that information with the general public in written accounts of Jesus death, burial, and (alleged) resurrection.  Admitting in writing that they had beaten up or killed some Roman soldiers would result in their immediate arrest and execution by Roman authorities.
The disciples might have lied about the details of how Jesus escaped from the tomb while NOT lying about their belief that Jesus had died on the cross and then miraculously come back to life a short while later.  So, premise (10) is questionable.  Strictly speaking, premise (10) is FALSE, if we understand the claim to be that lying about how Jesus escaped the tomb LOGICALLY IMPLIES disbelief in the resurrection of Jesus.  The one does NOT imply the other.
Premise (9) is questionable, because it makes an historical assumption that is PROBABLY FALSE.  Premise (9) assumes that the Gospels were written by the disciples of Jesus.  Nobody believes that the Gospel of Mark was written by one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  Nobody believes that the Gospel of Luke was written by one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  That leaves only the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of John.
Most NT scholars do NOT believe that the Gospel of Matthew was written by one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.   Most NT scholars do NOT believe that the Gospel of John was written by one of the twelve disciples of Jesus.  So, it is UNLIKELY that Matthew was written by one of the twelve disciples and it is UNLIKELY that John was written by one of the twelve disciples.  Premise (9) is based on an historical assumption that is PROBABLY FALSE.  The Gospels were probably NOT written by the disciples of Jesus.
Since each of the three premises of this second argument is (at least) questionable, it is highly likely that at least one of the premises is in fact FALSE, and thus it is highly likely that this second argument in support of premise (1) is UNSOUND.
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT PREMISE (1) OF OBJECTION #6
Kreeft has presented (or implied) a WEAK ARGUMENT in support of one part of premise (1), and he has presented (or implied) an argument that is highly likely to be UNSOUND in support of a second part of premise (1).
To successfully support premise (1), both of those arguments need to be STRONG and SOUND arguments, but the first argument is WEAK, and the second is probably UNSOUND, so Kreeft has FAILED to provide adequate support for premise (1).
As I stated previously, I believe premise (1) is TRUE, but not for the reasons given by Kreeft.  It is true because there were no Roman soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb, and thus NOBODY overpowered Roman soldiers at the tomb, because there were no Roman soldiers to overpower.
 
EVALUATION OF OBJECTION #6
Objection #6 consists of the following argument against the Swoon Theory:

1. It is NOT the case that either (a) Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself or (b) the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb were overpowered by the disciples of Jesus.

A. IF the Swoon Theory is true, THEN either (a) Jesus overpowered the Roman guards at his tomb by himself or (b) the Roman guards at Jesus’ tomb were overpowered by the disciples of Jesus.

THEREFORE:

2. It is NOT the case that the Swoon Theory is true.

Premise (A) is FALSE (because it is a FALSE DILEMMA) and is also IMPROBABLE because it is based on the dubious historical assumption that  there were Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus (see Part 16 and  Part 17  of this series).
Premise (1) is probably TRUE, because it is probably NOT the case that Roman soldiers were guarding the tomb of Jesus.
But if we set aside this reason for accepting premise (1), and examine Kreeft’s arguments in support of this premise, we find that his first argument for one part of that premise is WEAK, and his second argument for another part of that premise is probably UNSOUND.  So, Kreeft FAILS to provide adequate support for premise (1).
Objection #6 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory, because it is based on an argument that has a FALSE premise, namely premise (A).