WHERE WE ARE
In the previous six posts of this series, I have shown that at least five out of seven (71%) of Josh McDowell’s objections in The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF) against the Hallucination Theory FAIL:
McDowell has at most provided only two solid objections against the Hallucination Theory, NOT seven. However, in this current post I will show that Objection TRF7 (Doesn’t Match the Facts) also FAILS. Thus, at least six out of his seven objections FAIL, at least 85% of his objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.
THE “DOESN’T MATCH THE FACTS” OBJECTION (TRF7)
In TRF McDowell states his seventh objection, Objection TRF7, in a single paragraph consisting of only two sentences:
A final principle is that hallucinations have no spectrum of reality–no objective reality whatsoever. The hallucination theory in no way accounts for the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and especially the subsequent actions of the high priests. (TRF, p.86)
First of all, the claim that hallucinations have “no objective reality” is NOT a general psychological principle. This is NOT an empirical generalization that psychological experts have arrived at on the basis of observations or experiments.
Of course, McDowell NEVER offers ANY actual evidence for ANY of his alleged “psychological principles”, and he has NO CLUE what psychological experts actually know or believe about hallucinations. But in lumping this idea (that hallucinations lack objective reality) in with his other alleged “psychological principles” he shows that he doesn’t understand what the hell he is talking about.
The idea that hallucinations are subjective and have “no objective reality” is a conceptual claim, not an empirical claim. If one is a competent speaker of the English language, then one knows that hallucinations are purely subjective in nature; that is part of the MEANING of the word “hallucination”. No psychological observations or experiments are required to know this. But McDowell’s head is too far up a dark place for him to notice the difference between this conceptual claim and the dubious empirical generalizations that most of his other objections are based upon.
Given that McDowell presents this objections in only two sentences, it should come as no surprise that this objection is VERY UNCLEAR. Given that McDowell subtitled the section where he presents Objection TRF7 as “Doesn’t Match the Facts” (TRF, p.86), he implies that the following four items are each “facts”:
1. the empty tomb
2. the broken seal
3. the guard units
4. the subsequent actions of the high priests
Strictly speaking, these are NOT FACTS. These are phrases. These are incomplete sentences.
To be CLEAR, McDowell needs to spell out what specific claims he has in mind here, and that requires spelling out several complete sentences representing the various claims that are summarized by these four phrases. Because he presents this objection in only two sentences, McDowell FAILS to clearly state the key claims upon which Objection TRF7 is based.
Furthermore, McDowell makes NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to explain HOW or WHY these vaguely hinted at claims are relevant as evidence against the Hallucination Theory. It is very tempting to conclude that Objection TRF7 FAILS right out of the starting gate because McDowell’s presentation of it is SO UNCLEAR. However, McDowell discussed these four items earlier in TRF, so with a bit of thought and effort, one might be able to figure out the specific claims that McDowell has in mind here, and at least make educated guesses about HOW or WHY he thinks they constitute significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory.
THE PROBLEM OF CONFIRMATION BIAS
Objection TRF7 is at best a WEAK OBJECTION, because it is an example of CONFIRMATION BIAS. McDowell has selected a few considerations that he believes support his cherished belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and/or that he believes cast doubt on the Hallucination Theory.
Two can play this game! A skeptic can also come up with a list of considerations that seem to support the Hallucination Theory and/or that cast doubt on the Christian view that Jesus physically rose from the dead. For example, the alleged doubt and disbelief of Jesus’ disciples about Jesus’ rising from the dead appears to provide a strong reason to doubt credibility of the Gospels, which in turn makes it UNREASONABLE to believe that a person rose physically from the dead on the basis of the Gospel accounts (see the section titled “IF PREMISE (3) IS TRUE, THEN WE SHOULD REJECT THE VIEW THAT JESUS ROSE FROM THE DEAD” in Part 5 of this series where I spell out this line of reasoning).
Furthermore, the Gospels of Mark and Matthew indicate that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples took place in Galilee a week or more after the crucifixion, while the Gospels of Luke and John indicate that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples took place in Jerusalem less than 48 hours after Jesus was crucified. This is a fundamental disagreement between the Gospels that strongly undermines the credibility of the Gospels, and that is specifically related to the credibility of the Gospels on the key issue of the appearances of the risen Jesus. McDowell doesn’t include THESE FACTS in his list. Why not? Because they run contrary to his desired conclusion! His list is BIASED in favor of his desired conclusion.
Anyone can generate a list of considerations that support their own point of view about Jesus and the resurrection. But such a list is NOT an objective or complete list of relevant considerations, and such a list is clearly BIASED in favor of the proponent’s beliefs. To put forward such a BIASED list of considerations and argue that one’s opponent’s view is wrong because he or she is unable to account for those “facts” is UNREASONABLE; this is an unreasonable approach to a controversial question (i.e. “Did Jesus physically rise from the dead?”). Objection TRF7 is based on a BIASED list of considerations, and so it is a WEAK OBJECTION at best.
ELIMINATION OF ITEM #4: THE SUBSEQUENT ACTIONS OF THE HIGH PRIESTS
First of all, McDowell has provided us with a “padded” list. The fourth item in his list is REDUNDANT with another item in the list.
When McDowell previously discusses “the subsequent actions of the high priests” in TRF, he was discussing the actions of the high priests subsequent to the alleged events of the first Easter Sunday and to the preaching of the resurrection by Jesus’ disciples. The reactions of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to the events of the first Easter Sunday and to the preaching of the resurrection by Jesus’ disciples is used by McDowell to argue for “the empty tomb”.
For example, according to McDowell the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem (allegedly) claimed that Jesus’ disciples stole his body from the tomb, and McDowell argues that this is evidence that the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem believed that the tomb where Jesus had been buried on Friday evening was empty as of Sunday morning. From this he infers that it is certain or nearly certain that Jesus was in fact buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening and that his body was no longer in that tomb as of Sunday morning.
So, we may eliminate Item #4 in McDowell’s list, because its relevance is as evidence for Item #1: “the empty tomb”. That leaves only three items in his list.
ELIMINATION OF ITEM #2 AND ITEM #3: THE GUARD AT THE TOMB
Here are the UNCLEAR phrases that McDowell uses to state the second and third items in his list:
- the broken seal
- the guard units
McDowell has previously quoted a story from the Gospel of Matthew about how Pilate orders a unit of soldiers to guard the tomb of Jesus in order to prevent anyone (especially followers of Jesus) from stealing Jesus’ body from the tomb (TRF, pages 54-60, and 64). In that story, the guards place a seal on the tomb, which was, according to McDowell, a symbol representing the authority of the Roman Empire prohibiting anyone from opening or entering into the tomb, on pain of death by crucifixion. The seal was allegedly broken when an earthquake took place on Sunday morning that moved the blocking stone from the entrance of Jesus’ tomb, thus allowing the risen Jesus to exit the tomb.
The problem here is simple and straightforward: These are NOT FACTS!! They are not even well-supported theories. These are, rather, very dubious CLAIMS. Consider this statement by a contemporary scholar about the guard at the tomb story:
If most NT scholars consider the guard at the tomb story in Matthew to be UNHISTORICAL, then Item #2 and Item #3 in McDowell’s list are NOT FACTS, but are very dubious CLAIMS.
Who is this scholar that I quote above? Is this a liberal or skeptical scholar who rejects miracles and doubts the Christian belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead? Nope. This is a quote from a leading Christian apologist, an apologist who specializes in defending the traditional Christian belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead! This is a quote from Dr. William Lane Craig (see “Questions on the Evidence for the Resurrection” on Craig’s apologetic website). Given that Craig has a strong bias in favor of the traditional Christian belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead, we have good reason to accept his statement that most NT scholars view the guard at the tomb story as being UNHISTORICAL.
Craig, himself, does not think that the case for this story in Matthew being UNHISTORICAL is conclusive, but he does admit that the evidence casts significant doubt on the historicity of this story:
(from “The Guard at the Tomb” by Dr. William Craig)
So, we may eliminate Item #2 and Item #3 in McDowell’s list, because they are NOT FACTS but are DUBIOUS CLAIMS that are rejected or doubted by most NT scholars. That leaves only ONE item in his list.
SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH ITEM#1: THE EMPTY TOMB
It turns out that McDowell does NOT have four considerations in Objection TRF7 that each provide significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory. It turns out that he has at most just ONE consideration that might provide significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory, namely Item #1: “the empty tomb”.
Recall that this list of considerations is a BIASED list, and so even if “the empty tomb” consideration provides significant evidence against the Hallucination Theory, Objection TRF7 will still be a WEAK OBJECTION, because skeptics can also produced BIASED lists of considerations, some of which provide significant evidence against the Christian view that Jesus physically rose from the dead.
The Meaning of “The Empty Tomb”
The phrase “the empty tomb” requires CLARIFICATION, which McDowell does not bother to provide when he presents Objection TRF7. However, his previous discussions in TRF related to “the empty tomb” provide information that can be used to infer what he means by this phrase.
McDowell basically tells a STORY about “the empty tomb”, a story that consists of DOZENS of historical claims concerning events that allegedly occurred beginning on Friday when Jesus was crucified, continuing through Sunday night following that Friday, and also (perhaps) including some events that took place weeks later (e.g. the preaching of the apostles about the resurrection of Jesus and the reactions of the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem to that preaching). This story told by McDowell is based on his interpretations of various passages from the four Gospels and the book of Acts, plus some additional historical claims and assumptions made by McDowell.
The main problem of clarification is to determine WHICH of the DOZENS of historical claims and assumptions that McDowell makes concerning “the empty tomb” are considered by him to be essential, and which are details that are not essential. Because McDowell FAILS to provide clarification about the meaning of the phrase “the empty tomb”, I will make an educated guess about which of his many historical claims and assumptions on this subject are essential, and thus constitute the MEANING of this phrase:
- Joseph of Arimathea was given permission by Pilate to remove the body of Jesus from the cross on Friday afternoon.
- Joseph of Arimathea removed the body of Jesus from the cross on Friday afternoon, shortly before sunset.
- Some of the women who were followers of Jesus watched Joseph of Arimathea take the body of Jesus to a nearby stone tomb, and watched Joseph prepare the body for burial, and they watched the body of Jesus being placed in the tomb, and then watched a large blocking stone be moved in place to shut the opening of the tomb, just before sunset on that Friday.
- On Saturday, Pilate ordered a contingent of soldiers to guard the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed, in order to prevent someone from stealing Jesus’ body.
- On Saturday, a contingent of soldiers assembled at the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed, in order to place a seal on the tomb and to guard the tomb, in order to prevent someone from stealing Jesus’ body.
- Early on Sunday morning the blocking stone at the entrance of the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed was moved away from the opening of the tomb, breaking the seal placed on the tomb by the soldiers.
- Early on Sunday morning, the soldiers who had been assigned to guard the tomb, stopped guarding the tomb, and they left the area where the tomb was located.
- Early on Sunday morning, a group of women who were followers of Jesus, including some who had watched Jesus’ body being placed into the stone tomb on Friday evening, returned to the tomb.
- When the group of women arrived at the tomb where Jesus’ body had been placed on Friday, they found the large blocking stone moved away from the opening of the tomb, and they found the tomb to be “empty”, that is, they found that Jesus’ body was no longer in the tomb.
- Some of the women who went to the tomb early on Sunday morning went back into Jerusalem and told some of Jesus’ male disciples what they had seen.
- At least two of Jesus’ male disciples (i.e. Peter and John) went to the tomb that day and saw that the tomb was “empty”, that is, they found that Jesus’ body was no longer present in the tomb.
It is my educated guess that these are the bare-bones historical claims that Josh McDowell has in mind when he uses the phrase “the empty tomb”. This is based on both my reading of McDowell’s “story” about “the empty tomb” as well as my own sense of what is most important and essential among the many historical claims and assumptions asserted by McDowell about “the empty tomb”.
“The Empty Tomb” is NOT a Fact
There are a couple of OBVIOUS reasons for rejecting McDowell’s claim that “the empty tomb” is a FACT. First, I eliminated the Item #4 from McDowell’s list because it was part of the EVIDENCE that McDowell presented in support of “the empty tomb”. The giving of EVIDENCE in support of “the empty tomb” indicates that “the empty tomb” is the CONCLUSION arrived at on the basis of various reasons and arguments, which implies that “the empty tomb” is NOT a FACT.
One might argue that “the empty tomb” story as presented by McDowell is TRUE or ACCURATE, but if this is a CONCLUSION based on evaluation and consideration of various reasons and arguments, then “the empty tomb” is more of an INFERENCE or THEORY than a FACT. A FACT should not require evaluation and consideration of various reasons and arguments. Rather, FACTS are, or should be, the starting points for use in arriving at CONCLUSIONS or for confirming THEORIES.
When we are talking about historical issues, the use of the word “fact” should be limited to two sorts of considerations: (1) raw historical data (e.g. “The Gospel of Mark states that Mary Magdalene and two other women went to the tomb of Jesus very early on Sunday morning.” This is something we can know by direct observation, by simply reading the Gospel of Mark.), and (2) historical claims that are about events that were (allegedly) directly observed (e.g. “On Sunday morning, Mary Magdalene looked inside of Jesus’ tomb and she saw that Jesus’ body was not present in the tomb.” We who live two thousand years after these events allegedly took place cannot know this to be true on the basis of direct observation, but this is a claim about what Mary Magdalene learned or believed on the basis of direct observation.)
Inferences and theories are fine, and some inferences and theories are TRUE and ACCURATE, and we can sometimes provide very strong and powerful reasons and arguments showing an inference or theory to be TRUE. But what we know on the basis of direct observation, and what others learn or believe on the basis of direct observation deserve to be given special respect, and this sort of information should be distinguished from inferences and theories. Direct observations are NOT infallible. Observations can be mistaken, misleading, or misremembered, and people can LIE about their own alleged direct observations. Nevertheless, direct observations deserve respect as our best and most sure guides to reality, as our most important way of testing and evaluating inferences and theories.
So, given that McDowell offers various reasons and arguments in support of “the empty tomb” story, and that those reasons and arguments themselves are based on various alleged historical facts, this clearly indicates that “the empty tomb” is NOT a FACT, but is an inference or theory.
Because “the empty tomb” appears to be a somewhat complex story or account that involves several different historical claims covering various events and details over a period of a few days (at least). This is not an idea that can be easily proven, and this is not an idea that can be evaluated on the basis of our own direct observations. We need to gather MANY FACTS, and consider various reasons and arguments based on those FACTS in order to evaluate the truth and accuracy of this complex story about events that took place over two thousand years ago. Thus, it is at best very misleading to say that “the empty tomb” is a FACT.
Furthermore, there are a number of PROBLEMS and REASONABLE DOUBTS concerning the many historical claims listed above that constitute the idea of “the empty tomb”. Some NT scholars doubt that Joseph of Arimathea was an actual historical person. As we have already seen MOST NT scholars doubt the historicity of the guard at the tomb story in Matthew, and thus doubt the historical claims about there being soldiers who guarded the tomb of Jesus. Some NT scholars doubt that Jesus was buried in a tomb. Some NT scholars doubt the historicity of the stories about a group of women going to the tomb on Sunday morning and finding it to be empty. There are a whole lot of reasons and arguments to consider, both for and against the various historical claims that constitute the complex idea of “the empty tomb”.
It is NAIVE to view the evaluation of the historicity and accuracy of this account that McDowell has constructed (based on his own understanding and interpretation of the Gospels) as being simple or straightforward. This is a complex issue, and it is unlikely that a REASONABLE person will end up concluding that ALL of these various historical claims that McDowell views as essential to “the empty tomb” story are clearly true and that ALL of them are completely accurate. With such a complex set of historical claims, many of which have been doubted or rejected by competent NT scholars, it is likely that some of the claims are FALSE or DUBIOUS, and thus it is a mistake to say that “the empty tomb” is a FACT.
“The Empty Tomb” is NOT Significant Evidence For the Resurrection Theory
Although the various historical claims that constitute “the empty tomb” story do FIT WITH the Christian belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead, these claims, even if completely true and accurate, do not provide strong evidence for this belief.
Other explanations can be given for “the empty tomb”. The body of Jesus could have been stolen by Jesus’ disciples (i.e. the twelve), or by some subset of them (one of them, two of them, three of them, etc.), or it could have been stolen by Jewish leaders in Jerusalem (to prevent veneration of the dead body of Jesus) or by some subset of those Jewish leaders (one of them, two of them, etc.), or by anti-Roman Jewish rebels who respected Jesus or who wanted to use the cruel death of Jesus to promote violent rebellion against the Romans.
Jesus could have survived the crucifixion, revived in the tomb on Saturday, and frightened off the Roman guard by yelling from within the tomb, and the blocking stone at the entrance of the tomb could have been moved by Jesus, by an earthquake, by people who were burying a family member in a nearby tomb who heard Jesus yelling from inside his tomb. According to “the empty tomb” story as outlined above, the women returned to the same tomb where they saw Jesus body placed on Friday evening. But if we just tweak that one detail, and suppose the women returned to the wrong tomb, we can accept all the rest of “the empty tomb” story, but conclude that Jesus body remained in the tomb where it had been placed on Friday evening.
McDowell would argue that skeptical theories about the body of Jesus being stolen from the tomb or about the women returning to the wrong tomb are all highly improbable. But I am familiar with the various objections that Christian apologists raise against such skeptical theories, and those objections are just as weak and defective as we have seen most of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory to be. I won’t go into discussing all of those objections here, but I have carefully examined those objections and all of them FAIL to refute or to seriously damage the stolen-body theories.
One example of a FAILED objection against the view that Jesus’ body was stolen from the tomb is the difficulty of the would-be thieves getting past the soldiers who were guarding Jesus’ tomb. Although the presence of the soldiers guarding Jesus’ tomb is part of “the empty tomb” story, as McDowell tells it, this specific part of that story is very dubious, because most NT scholars doubt or reject the guard-at-the-tomb story in the Gospel of Matthew as being UNHISTORICAL. So, if one maintains “empty tomb story” in general but drops one of the most dubious parts of that story as told by McDowell, and sets aside the guard-at-the-tomb claims, then one of the main objections to the stolen-body theories is no longer supported by “the empty tomb” story. If McDowell insists that the guard-at-the-tomb claims are an essential part of “the empty tomb” story, then we can reject “the empty tomb” story because it contains dubious historical claims, but if we remove the guard-at-the-tomb claims from “the empty tomb” story, then one of the main objections to stolen-body theories goes away.
Furthermore, if we are allow SUPERNATURAL explanations for “the empty tomb” to be given serious consideration, then there are plenty of alternatives to the Christian SUPERNATURAL explanation:
- Satan moved the body of Jesus to an unmarked grave hundreds of miles away (perhaps in order to deceive the apostles into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead).
- Satan destroyed the body of Jesus, using fire to turn the corpse into ashes.
- God moved the body of Jesus to an unmarked grave hundreds of miles away (perhaps to prevent his followers from venerating Jesus’ body).
- Angels moved the body of Jesus to the top of the mountain where Moses had received the Ten Commandments, in order to provide a more proper burial for a man they believed to be a great prophet.
- Angels destroyed the body of Jesus, in an effort to prevent Satan from physically raising Jesus from the dead to deceive his disciples into believing Jesus was the divine Son of God.
- A wizard caused the body of Jesus to vanish into thin air, or caused the body of Jesus to magically instantaneously move to another tomb.
- An invisible dragon lifted Jesus onto it’s back, and flew the body of Jesus to Australia, in hopes of absorbing some of Jesus’ magical powers during the long flight.
There is no end to possible SUPERNATURAL explanations for “the empty tomb”. Once we allow SUPERNATURAL explanations for historical events, there are limitless possibilities to consider.
“The Empty Tomb” is NOT Significant Evidence Against the Hallucination Theory
A key question at issue is WHETHER and TO WHAT DEGREE the Hallucination Theory FITS WITH “the empty tomb” historical claims.
First, it should be obvious that there is NO CONTRADICTION between “the empty tomb” story and the Hallucination Theory. Thus, even if “the empty tomb” story/claims are completely accurate and true, this would NOT disprove nor refute the Hallucination Theory. The body of Jesus could have been buried in a stone tomb on Friday, and been absent from that tomb on Sunday morning, and this would in no way prevent or preclude some of Jesus’ followers from having hallucinations, including hallucinations of a risen Jesus.
Second, “the empty tomb” story, even if completely accurate and true, does NOT make the Hallucination Theory improbable. Rather, “the empty tomb” story, if true, provides evidence that supports the Hallucination Theory.
If Jesus’ followers became convinced that Jesus body was buried in a stone tomb on Friday evening, but was absent from that tomb on Sunday morning, this belief would incline them towards the idea that Jesus had physically risen from the dead. So, if some of Jesus’ followers experienced hallucinations of Jesus being alive again, their belief in “the empty tomb” story would incline them to interpret those hallucination experiences as evidence that Jesus had physically risen from the dead. Apart from belief in “the empty tomb” story, they might otherwise interpret hallucinations of a living Jesus as being merely “visions” of Jesus in heaven, or as being experiences of Jesus’ ghost or spirit, as opposed to being experiences of a Jesus who had physically risen from the dead in a body, the same body that had been hanging from the cross on Friday afternoon.
Furthermore, McDowell believes that an hallucination of circumstance C occurring is significantly much more likely when the hallucinator has previously had a wish or expectation that circumstance C occur. If this psychological principle is true, and if Jesus’ disciples believed “the empty tomb” story, this belief would incline them towards wishing that Jesus had risen from the dead, or expecting to meet or see the risen Jesus. Given this psychological principle that McDowell believes and advocates, the truth and accuracy of “the empty tomb” claims would make it more likely that some of his disciples would experience hallucinations of a risen Jesus.
So, if we accept the “psychological principle” that McDowell advocates about how hallucinations are usually produced by wishes or expectations, then we should also view the truth of “the empty tomb” claims as providing evidence that supports the Hallucination Theory, evidence that makes it more likely that some of Jesus’ followers experienced hallucinations of a risen Jesus, when there was no actual risen Jesus to see or hear.
The Resurrection Does NOT Explain the Empty Tomb
I think the main idea behind Objection TRF7 (“Doesn’t Match the Facts”) is the belief that the physical resurrection of Jesus explains some “facts” that the Hallucination Theory does not explain, and thus in order to explain those “facts” skeptics must add additional assumptions beyond just the claims made by the Hallucination Theory, and that Christians who believe and defend the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead do not have to add additional assumptions to that view in order to explain those “facts”. In the case of “the empty tomb”, the idea is thus that belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus explains “the empty tomb”, but the Hallucination Theory does NOT explain “the empty tomb”, so skeptics are forced to accept additional assumptions (e.g. to add assumptions about how the body of Jesus was stolen from the tomb by some person or group) in order to explain “the empty tomb”.
While it is true that the Hallucination Theory does not by itself explain “the empty tomb” claims, it is ALSO the case that the belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead does not by itself explain “the empty tomb” claims.
For example, Jesus coming back to life inside the tomb does NOT explain how the large blocking stone was moved from the entrance of the tomb, so that Jesus could exit the tomb and leave it “empty”. If one adds the assumption that Jesus was omnipotent and could move the stone with just a thought, then one could explain that the risen Jesus used his omnipotence to make the large stone move away from the entrance of the tomb. But this is an added assumption to the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and this assumption is an extraordinary and highly controversial one.
Alternatively, one could add the assumption that Jesus had a new body that had the supernatural ability to pass through solid objects, and then explain that Jesus was able to leave the tomb by simply passing through the stone with his new supernatural body. But this adds an additional assumption beyond the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and this assumption is an extraordinary and highly controversial one.
Another explanation that could be made is that two angels descended from heaven and caused and earthquake in order to move the stone away from the entrance to the tomb, thus allowing the risen Jesus to simply walk out of the tomb. But this requires additional assumptions beyond the view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and these additional assumptions are extraordinary and highly controversial ones.
In short, the view that Jesus rose physically from the dead does NOT by itself explain “the empty tomb” claims, and so it is unclear why we should accept the claim that the view that Jesus rose physically from the dead “Matches the Facts” related to “the empty tomb” but the Hallucination Theory does not. BOTH theories require additional assumptions in order to explain “the empty tomb”. Furthermore, it looks like the additional assumptions used by Christians to explain “the empty tomb” are extraordinary and highly controversial, but the additional assumptions used by skeptics who defend the Hallucination Theory are not extraordinary and are only somewhat controversial.
We can eliminate Item #4 from McDowell’s list of “FACTS” with which the Hallucination Theory allegedly does not “MATCH”, because that item is redundant with Item #1 (the empty tomb). We can also eliminate Item #2 ( the broken seal) and Item #3 (the guard units), because these items are clearly NOT FACTS. That leaves us with only ONE item: Item #1: “the empty tomb” story, which is a complex set of several historical claims.
I argued that “the empty tomb” story is NOT a FACT, that it does NOT provide strong evidence for Christian view that Jesus rose physically from the dead, and that the “empty tomb story” not only FAILS to refute or disprove the Hallucination Theory, but that it FAILS to make the Hallucination Theory improbable, and in fact provides additional support for the Hallucination Theory. Also, the Christian theory that Jesus physically rose from the dead does NOT by itself explain “the empty tomb”, but like the Hallucination Theory, requires some additional assumptions, which in the case of the Christian theory are both extraordinary and highly controversial assumptions.
Finally, even if “the empty tomb” story did provide significant evidence AGAINST the Hallucination Theory, Objection TRF7 would still FAIL to be a strong and solid objection, because of the problem of CONFIRMATION BIAS. Skeptics can play the same game as McDowell and come up with a list of considerations that cast doubt on the Christian view that Jesus physically rose from the dead, and at least some of those considerations will provide significant evidence AGAINST the Christian belief that Jesus physically rose from the dead.
I conclude that Objection TRF7 FAILS, and thus that at least six out of seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL, and thus at least 85% of his objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.
At best, only ONE of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory is a good and solid objection (TRF2: Very Personal). I will take a closer look at Objection TRF2 in the next part of this series of posts.