bookmark_borderThe Unmoved Mover Argument – Part 12: What is Potentiality?

WHERE WE ARE
In his book Philosophy of Religion  (hereafter: POR), Norman Geisler provides an argument in support of the second premise of his Thomist Cosmological Argument (see pages 194-197).  Here is my understanding of the argument that Geisler gives in support of that premise:

52. But no potentiality can actualize itself.

THEREFORE:

53a. There is some actuality outside of every composed thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

 51a. Every limited changing thing is composed of both an actuality (its existence) and a potentiality (its essence).

THEREFORE:

L1. There is some actuality outside of every limited changing thing to account for the fact that it actually exists.

THEREFORE:

2b. The present existence of every limited, changing thing is caused by another thing.

Before we can evaluate this part of Geisler’s argument, we must first have a clear understanding of what these claims mean.
 
CLARIFICATIONS NEEDED TO UNDERSTAND GEISLER’S ARGUMENT FOR THE 2ND PREMISE
This part of the argument is clearly steeped in concepts from Thomistic metaphysics.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally mistaken or confused, then this part of the argument is likely to fail under close examination.  If Thomistic metaphysics is fundamentally correct and logical, then this part of the argument is likely to be successful.
In any case, this part of the argument is UNCLEAR apart from careful and clear definitions and explanations of some basic concepts of Thomistic metaphysics.  The main question at issue for now is this:
Q1. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts that he makes use of in this part of his argument?
Premise (52), for example, MAKES NO SENSE, at least as it stands, apart from an explanation of Thomist metaphysics.  So, our main question at issue can be focused further:
Q2. Does Geisler provide us with clear definitions and explanations of the basic concepts in premise (52), so that we can have a clear understanding of what this premise is asserting?
Premise (52) consists of two main concepts, and so Geisler needs to provide clear answers to at least two questions of clarification:
Q3. What is a “potentiality”?
Q4. What does “X actualized Y” mean?
Furthermore, it is NOT obvious that (52) is TRUE, so Geisler also needs to provide some justification for this claim:
Q5. Why is it not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself”?
 
WHAT IS A “POTENTIALITY”? (QUESTION 3)
Here is a passage where Geisler attempts to clarify the concept of a “potentiality” and attempts to answer Question 3:

Geisler states that a “potential” is “the mere capacity to have a certain kind of existence.”  That is a crappy definition. What the hell is “a certain kind of existence”?  How many kinds of existence are there?  Something either exists or it does not exist.  Do some things have SUPER existence? Do some things only have QUASI existence?  Do some things have MEGA-DOUBLE-SECRET existence? Talk about kinds of existence sounds like WOO-WOO pseudo-science bullshit.
However, Geisler does then go on to provide some specific examples, and that might help to clarify what the hell he means by the manifestly UNCLEAR phrase “a certain kind of existence”.   Geisler talks about “the potential for steel to be a skyscraper” and “the real potential” of an “empty bucket” to “be filled”.  So, steel has the potential to either be girders stacked into pile on the ground, or to be assembled together as the framework of a skyscraper.  A bucket has the potential to either be empty or to be filled with water.
We would NOT normally speak of these potential states as being “kinds of existence”, so the Thomistic terminology here is foreign to how we ordinarily talk about such things and states of things.  Steel has the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and buckets have the potential to contain water (and other liquids).  Air, at ordinary temperatures and pressures, does NOT have the potential to be used as the framework of a building, and (as Geisler points out) the flat surface of a desk top does NOT have the potential to contain water (or other liquids), at least not in any sizeable quantity (You could spray a mist of water onto the surface of a desk top, and the water would remain in place for an hour or more until it evaporated. But this would be a very inefficient way to transport water from one location to another!).

By some measures, what came to be known as a “skyscraper” first appeared in Chicago with the 1885 completion of the world’s first largely steel-frame structure, the Home Insurance Building. It was demolished in 1931.

But a particular steel girder either exists or it does not exist.  It’s “kind” of existence doesn’t change when it is moved from a pile of girders and assembled into the framework of a new building.  It existed in the pile, and it continues to exist in the framework of the new building; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence in this process.  The bucket exists when it is empty, and it continues to exist when it is filled with water; it does NOT take on some new “kind” of existence when filled with water.  So, when Geisler defines “A potential” in terms of the capacity “to have a certain kind of existence”, he is just muddying the water and failing miserably to clarify the meaning of this term.
It appears that there are not degrees of existence, and this casts doubt on the whole idea of “kinds of existence”.  However, the “potential” to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper does appear to be a matter of degree.  Air clearly does not have the “potential” to be used as the primary material for constructing the framework of a skyscraper, nor does liquid water have such a “potential”.  But if water is frozen into large columns and bars, it could be used to construct a temporary framework for a one-story building.
Ice would, however, melt in warm temperatures, so it would be a poor choice to use it in the structure of even a small building (except for igloos in areas that stay freezing cold year round).  Ice also is not as strong as wood 2x4s.  You can use wood to construct the framework of a two or three-story building, and it would be sturdy and stable, in both cold and warm weather.  But wood  2x4s are not as strong as steel girders, so wood 2x4s would not work for construction of the framework of a skyscraper.  We can see that there are different degrees of suitability of materials for construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

Air & Liquid Water:  useless for constructing a framework for any building.

Frozen Water:  can be used to construct a framework, but not strong enough to support multiple stories, and melts in warm weather (over 32°F).

Wood 2x4s: can be used to construct a framework that is strong enough to support a few stories, doesn’t melt in warm weather, burns up at high temperatures (over 570°F), but is not strong enough to support dozens of stories.

Steel Girders:  strong enough to be used to construct frameworks for buildings with dozens of stories, will not melt in warm weather (steel melts at 2,500°F), and does not burn up at temperatures where wood burns up (steel burns at 1,500°F in pure oxygen, and at 2,246°F in air).

The suitability of a material for use in constructing the framework of a building is a matter of degrees, because (a) there are different degrees of strength, and there are different degrees of susceptibility to melting, and  different degrees of susceptibility to burning.  Thus, there are different degrees of “potential” of different materials for use in construction of the framework of a building, and of a skyscraper.
The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose is typically a matter of degrees and typically is a matter of more than one criterion.  Some things or materials might be completely unsuitable, while some things/materials are somewhat suitable, and some things/materials are very suitable or ideal for the purpose at hand.  The “potential” of something to be used for a particular purpose depends on the properties or characteristics of that thing that are relevant to the particular purpose under consideration.
Steel girders have “great potential” for use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers because they are very strong (stronger than wood 2x4s), because they don’t melt in ordinary temperatures, and don’t burn, except at extremely high temperatures.  These various properties or characteristics of steel girders are what make steel girders very suitable for this particular purpose; they are what give steel girders this “great potential” related to the purpose of use in construction of the frameworks of skyscrapers.
Here is an summary (in more abstract terms) of how we understand the idea of the “potential” of a steel girder to be used in the construction of the framework of a skyscraper:

The “potential” of thing T to perform function F depends on various properties of T that are relevant to how well it can perform function F

How do we determine whether thing T has the “potential” to perform function F well?

  • One obvious way of making this determination is to observe T performing function F, and evaluating how well it is performing that function.
  • Another way of making this determination is by making inductive inferences about T based on how well other things that are SIMILAR to T perform function F.   We might observe many wood 2x4s in the frameworks of many different buildings, and based on many such observations, we may reasonably infer that some particular 2×4 is well-suited for use in the construction of a framework for a two-story house or apartment building, and based on many such observations we may reasonably infer that some particular wood 2×4 is NOT suitable for use in the construction of the framework for a 40 story office building.
  • A third way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties, such as strength in the case of materials for use in constructing the framework of a building.  Strength tests could be made on a particular 2×4 to determine whether it was strong enough for the intended framework that is to be constructed.
  • A fourth way of making this determination is on the basis of relevant properties of things that are SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  Strength tests can impact the thing being tested (the test itself can break or weaken the thing), so we might run tests on things that are very SIMILAR to the particular thing in question.  We might run tests on a random sample of 2x4s from a particular source of lumber, and if 100% of the samples pass the test, we might reasonably infer that other 2x4s from that source of lumber are also strong enough to pass the test, and thus suitable for use in construction of a framework for a specific building.

So, we can either (a) observe the particular thing performing the desired function, or (b) we can observe SIMILAR things performing the desired function, or (c) we can check or test the particular thing for the relevant properties that make it suitable for that function, or (d) we can check or test SIMILAR things for the relevant properties that would make them suitable for that function.  There may be other ways to determine the “potential” of a thing T to perform a function F well, but these are some of the important ways we have of making such determinations.
 
POTENTIAL VS. POSSIBLE VS. ACTUAL
There are three closely related concepts that I think we need to understand in order to have a clear understanding of what the term “potential” means in the context of Geisler’s Thomistic Cosmological Argument: potential, possible, and actual.  I think we need to understand how these concepts relate to each other.
In Aristotle’s theory of change, whenever any change occurs some potential has been actualized.  When a green banana turns into a yellow banana, we say that the green banana had the “potential” to become a yellow banana.  We KNOW that this particular green banana had this potential because we observed that it actually became a yellow banana.  In other words, when a property of a thing ACTUALLY changes, we infer that the thing had the POTENTIAL to have the new property.  The banana was ACTUALLY green, and had the POTENTIAL to become yellow, and then at some point it was ACTUALLY yellow, and no longer green.  The change in color of the banana was a POTENTIAL that became ACTUAL.
Because this banana is now ACTUALLY yellow, we know that is is POSSIBLE for this banana to be yellow, because what is ACTUAL is necessarily logically possible. But does having the POTENTIAL to be yellow the same thing as it being logically possible to be yellow?  I know that Ed Feser rejects equating these two concepts.  But I’m not sure whether Geisler distinguishes these two concepts.
One important difference, it seems to me, is that the POTENTIAL to be yellow ceases to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  But the logical possibility of being yellow does NOT cease to exist when the thing in question is ACTUALLY yellow.  When the banana turns yellow, it no longer has the POTENTIAL to be yellow, and it is ACTUALLY yellow.  But we infer that it HAD the potential to be yellow previously, when it was still completely green.  In the case of logical possibility, when the banana turns yellow, it is still logically possible for that banana to be yellow, even while it is ACTUALLY yellow.  We infer not only that this was logically possible when the banana was completely green, but that it is still logically possible now that the banana is completely yellow.
Having the POTENTIAL to be yellow is a kind of physical possibility for the green banana.  We know from many experiences with green bananas that they often turn yellow over a period of days.  The chemical and biological nature of bananas makes it so that they tend to turn yellow as they age.  So, a banana turning from green to yellow is NOT merely a logical possibility, it is a tendency of (some varieties of) bananas to go from green to yellow over a matter of days after being picked.  This tendency is based on the chemical and biological nature or composition of bananas.   It is logically possible for a green lime to turn yellow a few days after being picked, but limes don’t tend to do this.  The mere logical possibility of some change in properties is NOT sufficient to bring about that change.  Limes don’t have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, but they do have the logical possibility of turning yellow days after being picked.  Bananas have the POTENTIAL to turn yellow in a matter of days after being picked, because they have a nature or composition that gives them a tendency to do so.  This tendency to turn yellow in a matter of days is MORE THAN just a logical possibility for a banana, it is something more like a physical possibility for bananas to turn yellow.
Does an ACTUAL change in property logically imply that a thing had MORE THAN just a logical possibility of undergoing that change? Some changes are random and extremely rare.  According to quantum physics, it is possible for all of the air molecules in a room to quickly move to one small area in the corner of the room, causing any people or animals in the room to asphyxiate.  But this possibility is so extremely unlikely, so extraordinarily improbable, that we can safely assume this will never actually happen.  Since the laws of chemistry and physics are based upon such extreme improbabilities, it is logically possible for a law of chemistry or physics to be broken.  I take it that this means that an ACTUAL violation of a supposed law of physics is logically consistent with that law being a true law of physics.
 
TO BE CONTINUED…
In the next post on this topic, I will try t clarify the meaning of Geisler’s term “X actualized Y” (Question 4), and look into why he thinks it is not possible for a “potentiality” to “actualize itself” (Question 5).
P.S.  I hope that when I get around to examining Feser’s Thomist Cosmological Argument, that Feser will make more of an effort than Geisler to define and/or clarify the basic concepts in his argument.  The fact that Geisler makes so little effort to define or clarify his most basic terms leads me to suspect that he himself is UNCLEAR about the meaning of those basic terms, and that he literally does not know what he is talking about.

bookmark_borderBack to God and Leviticus

When Easter rolled around this year, I dove back into the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”  These are issues that I have enjoyed thinking about for the past four decades, and will continue to think and write about for the rest of my life.
 
DEFENDING THE HALLUCINATION THEORY
I wrote a series of posts defending the Hallucination Theory, specifically examining seven objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor.  I discovered that the main problem with McDowell’s discussion about this skeptical theory is that he DOES NOT HAVE A CLUE about (a) what the word “hallucination” means, (b) what psychologists have learned about hallucinations and dreams, and (c) how to present a clear and intelligent argument for an historical claim about Jesus.  So, McDowell had no chance of producing a solid and strong refutation of the Hallucination Theory.  
His more recent defense of the resurrection in a book co-authored with his son, Evidence for the Resurrection mostly re-hashes the same pathetic objections against the Hallucination Theory, and COMPLETELY FAILS to refute that skeptical theory just like he COMPLETELY FAILED to refute it in The Resurrection Factor.  I noticed that in the most recent version of Evidence that Demands a Verdict McDowell abandoned his pathetic case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points to Peter Kreeft’s pathetic attempt to refute it (although Kreeft’s attempt appears to lean heavily on McDowell’s case).
 
DEFENDING OTHER SKEPTICAL THEORIES ABOUT THE RESURRECTION
If you are interested in the questions “Did God raise Jesus from the dead?”  and “Did Jesus rise from the dead?” you might want to also see my series of posts defending the Conspiracy Theory against objections raised by Peter Kreeft in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), and my series of posts defending the Apparent Death Theory (or “Swoon Theory”) against objections raised by Peter Kreeft.

Portion of the Temple Scroll, labeled 11Q19, one of the longest of the Dead Sea Scrolls

 
BACK TO GOD, LEVITICUS, AND THE PERVERTED FACULTY ARGUMENT
Having exposed McDowell’s sham of a case against the Hallucination Theory, I will now return to my previous topics:

  • Leviticus and Homosexuality

Part 12: More Bad Guidelines is where I left off on Leviticus.

  • Feser’s Perverted Faculty Argument

Part 1: The Core Argument is where I left off on the Perverted Faculty Argument.

  • The Thomist Cosmological Argument

I’m critiquing Norman Geisler’s pathetic attempt to present a Thomist cosmological argument, as a warmup exercise before I attempt to critique Feser’s better and clearer presentation of this argument for the existence of God.

 

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? INDEX

In the series of posts titled “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” I have argued in defense of the Hallucination Theory, the view that one or more of Jesus’ disciples believed that Jesus rose from the dead because of a dream or hallucination (or some other form of distorted or mistaken perceptual experience) in which it seemed that a living and physical Jesus was seen and/or heard by the disciple(s) at some point after Jesus was crucified, and presumably died.
I do NOT confidently believe that the Hallucination Theory is TRUE, but I do think it is a plausible theory that should be taken seriously, and I firmly and confidently believe that the attempts of Christian apologists to refute or disprove this skeptical theory have (so far) COMPLETELY FAILED.
(I also confidently believe that the attempts of Christian apologists to refute or disprove the Apparent Death Theory have COMPLETELY FAILED; see my series of posts defending this theory against several objections raised by Peter Kreeft.  I also confidently believe that the attempts of Christian apologists to refute or disprove the Conspiracy Theory have COMPLETELY FAILED; see my series of posts defending this theory against several objections raised by Peter Kreeft.)
In the series of posts “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” I argue that each one of the SEVEN objections raised by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor FAILS, and that his case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS to refute or disprove that skeptical theory.
There is one primary problem, and two main subsidiary problems with McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory.  The primary problem is that McDowell shoots himself in both feet by attempting to refute the Hallucination Theory in less than five full pages of text (TRF, p.91-96. There is only about a third of a page on this subject on p.91 and only about a quarter of a page on p.96).  It was IDIOTIC for him to attempt to do this in just a few pages, and this doomed his effort to COMPLETE FAILURE from the very start.
Attempting to lay out a refutation of the Hallucination Theory in just a few pages resulted in two major problems:  (1) McDowell presents ZERO evidence in support of the key psychological “principles” about hallucinations that his case is based upon, and (2) McDowell does a horrible job of providing evidence and reasoning in support of the various historical claims and assumptions upon which his case is based.  The result is that McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory in TRF is a complete and utter FAILURE.

https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/04/05/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-1-the-hallucination-theory/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/04/06/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-2-more-objections-to-the-hallucination-theory/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/04/12/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-3-the-no-expectancy-objection/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/04/16/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-4-more-problems-with-objection-trf5/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/05/02/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-5-the-failure-of-no-expectancy-objection-trf5/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/05/05/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-6-the-no-favorable-circumstances-objection-trf4/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/05/11/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-7-the-doesnt-match-the-facts-objection-trf7/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/05/20/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-8-the-very-personal-objection-trf2/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/06/08/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-9-dining-with-jesus/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/06/15/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-10-looking-at-luke-24/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2021/06/20/did-jesus-rise-from-the-dead-part-11-five-hundred-witnesses/

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 11: Five Hundred Witnesses

WHERE WE ARE
In Parts 1 through 7 of this series,  I argued that at least six of Josh McDowell’s seven objections (in The Resurrection Factor; hereafter: TRF) against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.
In Part 8 of this series, I began to examine McDowell’s one remaining objection: Objection TRF2 (“Very Personal”).  McDowell presents this objection in three short paragraphs (TRF p. 93-94).
I found some serious problems in the first paragraph on Objection TRF2.  I pointed out that McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION, because the phrase “the same hallucination” (and “the same dream”) is AMBIGUOUS, and McDowell shifts from one meaning of this phrase to another meaning in the course of his confused reasoning.
In Part 9 of this series, I began to examine the second paragraph in McDowell’s presentation of  Objection TRF2.  
I also found some serious problems in the second paragraph on Objection TRF2. I pointed out that, contrary to McDowell, common experience, scientific studies, and a number of passages in the Bible all agree that it is possible for us to dream about a person sitting down and eating something along with the person who is having the dream, and thus it is possible to have an hallucination about a person sitting down and eating something along with the person who is having the hallucination.
I also pointed out that McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in the second paragraph, because the following key statement is AMBIGUOUS, and in one sense the statement is relevant but FALSE, and in another sense the statement is true but IRRELEVANT:

An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you… (TRF, p. 94. I am using the Authentic Media version published in 2005)

In Part 10 of this series, I continued to criticize McDowell’s Objection TRF2.  I pointed out that McDowell does not provide ANY EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER in support of the psychological principles that his case against the Hallucination Theory is based upon.  And I objected that McDowell does a terrible job of supporting the historical claims and assumptions upon which his case is based, including the historical claims upon which Objection TRF2 is based.
McDowell cites a few passages from Luke 24 and from John 20 and 21.   I pointed out that McDowell did not cite or quote any passages from the other two gospels: Mark and Matthew, and that those two gospels CONTRADICT the claims in Luke and John that the risen Jesus appeared to his male disciples on the first Easter Sunday.  This completely destroys the credibility of the passages cited by McDowell from Luke and John, and shows that those passages are probably fictional stories.
The serious problems that I have pointed out with Objection TRF2 seem sufficient to show that this objection FAILS, but I have not yet examined the third paragraph of McDowell’s presentation of this objection, so I don’t want to declare victory until giving McDowell this one last chance to rescue Objection TRF2 from complete FAILURE.
 
FIVE HUNDRED WITNESSES OF THE RISEN JESUS
Since all of the other objections raised by McDowell in TRF against the Hallucination Theory have FAILED, it all comes down to Objection TRF2 and whether this objection clearly shows that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE (or that it is highly probable that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE).  And since the first two paragraphs of McDowell’s presentation of Objection TRF2 fail to support the key claims and assumptions of this objection, and since McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in both of those paragraphs, the success or failure of this objection comes down to the contents of the third paragraph of his presentation of this objection.
The first two sentences of the third paragraph state the main point of that paragraph:

A ‘hallucination’ is a very private event–a purely subjective experience void of any external reference or object.  If two people cannot initiate or sustain the same vision without any external object or reference, how could more than 500 do so at one time?  (TRF, p.94)

If this final attempt to shore up Objection TRF2 FAILS, then ALL of McDowell’s objections to the Hallucination Theory FAIL, and his case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS.
McDowell does not present ANY HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in this paragraph supporting the key historical claim that “more than 500” people saw the risen Jesus “at one time”.  Furthermore, he also does not give us an END NOTE with a quotation or citation of a biblical passage to support this historical claim, let alone make an attempt to provide a clear and intelligent argument in support of this key historical claim.  However, he has briefly discussed this claim in a previous chapter of TRF (on pages 78and 79).
Here is the biblical passage that McDowell uses to support this historical claim:

3 For I handed on to you as of first importance what I in turn had received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures,
4 and that he was buried, and that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the scriptures,
5 and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
6 Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers and sisters at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have died.
7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.
8 Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
(1 Corinthians 15:3-8, NRSV, emphasis added)

This is a passage from a letter written by the apostle Paul.   The phrase “brothers and sisters” is not a literal reference to family relationships, but means “male and female Christian believers”.
 
WERE THESE PEOPLE ALREADY CHRISTIAN BELIEVERS?
This suggests an important question about these “witnesses” of the risen Jesus: were they all Christian believers BEFORE having this experience or did some/most/all of them convert to Christianity AFTER this experience?  That makes a big difference in terms of the possibility of bias and wishful thinking being involved in their experiences of this event.  If these people were Christian believers BEFORE having this experience, then they already believed that Jesus had risen from the dead and they already believed that some people had seen the risen Jesus.  Such Christian believers would be inclined to desire and to expect to have experiences of the risen Jesus, and thus they would be biased and subject to wishful thinking concerning having such an experience.
Paul gives us NO INFORMATION on this point, other than to indicate that these people are Christian believers now.  For all we know, ALL of these people were Christian believers at the time this event took place.
 
HOW MANY PEOPLE WERE ACTUALLY PRESENT?
“five hundred” is a very round number, and it seem unlikely that a head count would have been done during this event or immediately afterwards, so this number is probably NOT an actual head count. This is probably a guess or an estimate of the size of a crowd of people.
How was this estimate made?

  • Did someone who was present during the event look around at the group and guess at that time the number of people in the crowd?
  • Did someone who was present during the event, make a guess a day or two after the event at the number of people who had been present?
  • Did someone who was present during the event, make a guess a week or two after the event at the number of people who had been present?
  • Did someone who was present during the event, make a guess a month or two after the event at the number of people who had been present?
  • Did someone who was present during the event, make a guess a year or two after the event at the number of people who had been present?
  • Did someone who was NOT present during the event, but who spoke with various people who were present during the event, make a guess a day or two after the event at the number of people present?
  • Did someone who was NOT present during the event, but who spoke with various people who were present during the event, make a guess a week or two after the event at the number of people present?
  • Did someone who was NOT present during the event, but who spoke with various people who were present during the event, make a guess a month or two after the event at the number of people present?
  • Did someone who was NOT present during the event, but who spoke with various people who were present during the event, make a guess a year or two after the event at the number of people present?

Paul gives us NO INFORMATION about HOW this estimate was made, about WHO made the estimate, and WHEN (how long after the event) the estimate was made.
 
WHEN AND WHERE DID THIS OCCUR?
If this was an actual historical event, then it took place on a particular day, and in a particular place.  When and where did this event occur?  Paul gives us NO INFORMATION about WHERE this occurred, and only provides very vague information about WHEN it occurred:  it happened sometime AFTER “the twelve” apostles had an experience of the risen Jesus, and sometime BEFORE Paul had an experience of the risen Jesus. ( It is odd that Paul mentions “the twelve” apostles, because there were only eleven apostles who had experiences of the risen Jesus, according to Matthew, Luke, and John.  No gospel mentions that Judas, who betrayed Jesus, had an experience of the risen Jesus.)   Paul’s experience of the risen Jesus happened a number of years after the crucifixion of Jesus, while the eleven apostles had experiences of the risen Jesus within weeks of the crucifixion, so this is a very broad span of time.
If this event took place a year or more after the crucifixion, these people were probably all Christian believers who already believed that Jesus had risen from the dead, and thus were subject to significant bias and wishful thinking in relation to having an experience they would describe as “seeing the risen Jesus”.
 
WHAT SORT OF EXPERIENCE WAS THIS?
What sort of experience was this for these people?  Did they all have exactly the same experience?

  • Were hundreds of Christian believers gathered together, worshipping, singing, and praying in tongues at the time of this experience?  
  • Did they all experience this as a dream or vision or did it seem like an ordinary sense experience?
  • Did some experience a vision and others seem to have an ordinary sense experience?
  • Did the people all experience a flash of light in the sky at the same time?
  • Did the people all hear the voice of Jesus speaking at the same time?
  • Did the people all hear Jesus speaking the very same words?
  • Did the people all see Jesus walking around in the exact same direction and at the exact same spot at the same time?
  • Did the people all see Jesus wearing the same color and style of clothing, the same style and color of hair, the same eye color, the same height, the same type of facial hair?

Paul gives us NO INFORMATION about WHAT SORT of experience or experiences these people had.  For all we know these experiences were all clearly subjective in nature, like dreams or visions.
 
HOW LONG DID THESE EXPERIENCES LAST?

  • Did these experiences last for only a second or two?
  • Did these experiences last for only a minute or two?
  • Did these experiences last for an hour or two?
  • Did these experience last for several hours?
  • Did these experiences last for a day or two?
  • Did these experiences last only briefly (seconds) for some, but much longer (minutes or hours) for others?

Paul gives us NO INFORMATION about the the DURATION of these experiences.  For all we know, these experiences only lasted for a second or two and then abruptly ended.
===============

In short, we don’t know HOW MANY people had this experience,

and we don’t know WHEN or WHERE this event took place,

and we don’t know WHAT SORT of experiences these people had,

or HOW SIMILAR their experiences were,

and we don’t know HOW LONG these experiences lasted!

===============
HOW MANY OF THESE PEOPLE KNEW THE HISTORICAL JESUS?
There is one more crucial aspect of this event that we don’t know about.  Paul’s experience of the risen Jesus is of dubious value as evidence for the resurrection because, so far as we know, Paul never met Jesus before Jesus was crucified and buried: Paul did not know what Jesus looked like.  
Since Paul did not know what Jesus looked like, Paul COULD NOT IDENTIFY any person as being Jesus of Nazareth.  The eleven apostles traveled around with Jesus for a year or longer, so they knew what Jesus looked like.  But Paul was not a follower of Jesus when Jesus was a preacher, prophet, and faith healer.  Because Paul never met the historical Jesus, Paul would have no way of identifying any person as being Jesus of Nazareth, so Paul’s alleged experience of the risen Jesus has no significant value as evidence that Jesus rose from the dead.

La conversión de San Pablo by Bartolomé Esteban Murillo

The same problem occurs with the “five hundred” witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

  • Did ALL of these people know the historical Jesus?
  • Did MOST but not ALL of these people know the historical Jesus?
  • Did MANY but not MOST of these people know the historical Jesus?
  • Did ONLY A FEW of these people know the historical Jesus?
  • Did NONE of these people know the historical Jesus?

These are absolutely crucial questions for doing a rational evaluation of the experiences of the “five hundred” alleged witnesses of an appearance of the risen Jesus.  If NONE of these people knew the historical Jesus, then NONE of these people would be ABLE TO IDENTIFY a person they saw as being Jesus of Nazareth.  If ONLY A FEW of these people knew the historical Jesus, then only a FEW of them would BE ABLE TO IDENTIFY a person they saw as being Jesus of Nazareth.  However, Paul gives us NO INFORMATION about these “five hundred” witnesses and whether any of them knew the historical Jesus.
 
FOR ALL WE KNOW
For all we know, given the extremely limited information provided by Paul, this is what actually happened:

Two hundred and twenty-three Christian believers were gathered together in Thessalonica on a Sunday, worshipping Jesus and singing hymns.  The crowd was whipped into an ecstatic religious frenzy, and after two hours of the believers singing and speaking in tongues, a preacher/prophet among them shouted out “Jesus is here!  Jesus is here!” and this preacher/prophet looked up into the sky and had a vision of Jesus in the clouds.  He spoke again:  “I see Jesus standing on the clouds right above us!”  and through the power of suggestion, a few of the Christian believers (more specifically, three believers) who were in a state of religious frenzy also “saw” Jesus in the clouds overhead for about four seconds.   But the preacher/prophet and the few other Christians who “saw” Jesus in the clouds were people who, like Paul, had never actually met the historical Jesus.

Ten months later, someone named Jason who was present during this Christian worship service told Paul that there was “a crowd of about  500 people gathered together” and that the risen Jesus was seen in the clouds overhead, above the gathered crowd.  Jason did not himself see Jesus, but knew that the preacher and some others in the crowd sincerely believed they saw Jesus in the clouds that day.  Jason did NOT say to Paul that everyone in the crowd saw Jesus in the clouds that day, but Paul mistakenly inferred that this is what took place. 

The estimate of there being “five hundred” or more people gathered together at the event was a serious exaggeration due to (a) the fact that Jason’s memory of the event was several months old by the time he told this story to Paul, and (b) due to the strong desire of Jason to tell an exciting and impressive story to Paul.  The number of people who had the experience of “seeing” Jesus in the clouds (as a vision, not as an ordinary sensory experience) was not wrongly estimated by Jason, but Paul misunderstood the story, because the story was told in a vague or unclear way by Jason, so Paul mistakenly inferred that everyone present had experienced seeing Jesus in the clouds overhead, when in fact only a few people in the crowd had a visionary experience of “seeing” Jesus in the clouds that day.

If the above description of the actual event is correct, then the evidence provided by McDowell about the “five hundred” people who allegedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus is WORTHLESS as evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and WORTHLESS as evidence against the Hallucination Theory.  For all we know, given the extremely limited information provided by Paul, the above scenario describes what actually took place.  Thus, for all we know, this evidence from Paul’s letter to the Corinthians is WORTHLESS as evidence against the Hallucination Theory.
Although such very brief “visions” of Jesus during an ecstatic religious frenzy might not constitute hallucinations, and thus the Hallucination Theory might not itself explain this particular event, the Hallucination Theory would NOT be significantly damaged or thrown into doubt by this event, as described above.  The purpose of the Hallucination Theory is NOT to explain every religious experience any Christian believer will ever have, but to explain why at least some of Jesus’ original disciples came to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.
Of course, McDowell and other Christian apologists can imagine the original event being very different from the description I presented above.  He could imagine that there were in fact five hundred thirty-four people present at the event, that none of them were Christian believers, that they all knew the historical Jesus very well, and that their experiences of the risen Jesus seemed like normal sensory experiences of a physical person, and that they all saw Jesus wearing the same color and style of clothing, and they all saw Jesus up close, face-to-face, and clearly recognized his face and his voice, and that they interacted with this person who taught them parables about the kingdom of God for hours, and…  In other words, McDowell and other Christian apologists can imagine a scenario that would make this event into very powerful evidence for the claim that more than five hundred people experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus, and that this was NOT an hallucination, dream, or a religious vision.
But there is no way to rule out my description of this event or to show that their imagined description of the alleged event is even probably correct.  The evidence is way too skimpy to make a reasonable determination either way.  The one single vague sentence by Paul in 1 Corinthians does not provide enough information to establish whether the alleged event provides any significant support for belief in the resurrection of Jesus or any significant support for the view that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.
 
A PURELY SUBJECTIVE EXPERIENCE VOID OF ANY EXTERNAL REFERENCE OR OBJECT ?
McDowell re-states one of his definitions of “hallucination” in the first sentence of the third paragraph of his presentation of Objection TRF2:

A ‘hallucination’ is … a purely subjective experience void of any external reference or object.  (TRF, p.94)

So far, I have not challenged this definition.  However, there is a problem here that is significant for evaluating Objection TRF2.  
The  term “hallucination” is ambiguous.  Sometimes the term is used narrowly to mean a subjective experience “void of any external reference or object”, but sometimes it is used more loosely to refer to subjective experiences that are not entirely “void of any external reference or object.”  The term “hallucination” is sometimes used to refer to distortions of perception of an actual person or object.
For example, suppose that a woman has taken a dose of LSD and as a result she experiences her boyfriend as being a vampire, she sees her boyfriend as having long sharp bloody fangs, and sees him as wearing a long black cape, and sees him as attempting to bite her neck, when in actuality, he does NOT have long sharp fangs, is NOT wearing a long black cape, and is making no attempt to bite her neck.  We would be inclined to say that this woman is experiencing an “hallucination”, but her boyfriend is in fact present, and she is looking directly at her boyfriend, so her experience is ABOUT her boyfriend who is actually physically present in the room with this woman.  Her perceptions of her boyfriend at that moment are mistaken, inaccurate, and false, but her subjective experience is NOT entirely “void of any external reference or object”.
Another example would be if a driver of a car was under the influence of LSD, and as a result of the LSD this driver saw a large fire-breathing dragon sitting in the middle of the highway up ahead, when there was no such creature positioned in the middle of the highway up ahead.  We would be inclined to say that this driver is “hallucinating” the dragon, and yet the driver “sees” the dragon sitting on the highway, and the highway is real and actually exists.  So, in this case the subjective experience of this driver could be reasonably called an “hallucination” even though part of the experience is of an actual external object: the highway.  So, this is an example of an “hallucination” which is NOT  entirely “void of any external reference or object”.
Dreams actually fit McDowell’s definition better than do hallucinations.  In a dream EVERYTHING is subjective and made up by one’s mind or imagination (typically).  There are (typically) no elements or parts of a dream that are directly caused by perception of actual external objects.  Hallucinations, however, often involve a combination of completely imaginary things or creatures that are experienced in a context of other things that are objectively real and perceived by the senses (e.g. the bloody fangs are imaginary, but the boyfriend is real; the dragon is imaginary, but the highway is real).
In any case, if McDowell wants to insist on his narrow definition of “hallucination”, then his case against skeptical theories about the resurrection is doomed to FAIL, because he will be ignoring a significant skeptical theory that refers to subjective distortions of experience that don’t fit his narrow definition of “hallucination”, namely the vast array of distorted perceptual experiences in which a PART of the experience is imaginary, while another PART of the experience is NOT imaginary, but is based upon sensory perception of an actual external object.  His “refutation” of the Hallucination Theory, would in this case, leave untouched the largest collection of mistaken distorted experiences that most people are inclined to call “hallucinations”.
So, McDowell can EITHER stick with his narrow definition of “hallucination” in which case his refutation of the Hallucination Theory will be insignificant and largely irrelevant, OR he can broaden his definition of “hallucination” in which case his argument about hundreds of witnesses seeing the risen Jesus at the same time, will FAIL.  Either way Objection TRF2 FAILS.
 
ONE FINAL PROBLEM WITH OBJECTION TRF2
Since this event where hundreds of people allegedly experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus supposedly occurred after the crucifixion of Jesus and before Paul’s conversion to Christianity, this event took place before any of the four gospels or the book of Acts was written.  This gives us a good reason to doubt that this event was an actual historical event.

  • Why would the Gospel of Mark not mention that hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus at the same time? 
  • Why would the Gospel of Matthew not mention that hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus at the same time? 
  • Why would the Gospel of Luke not mention that hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus at the same time? 
  • Why would the Fourth Gospel (John) not mention that hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus at the same time?
  • Why would the book of Acts (about the early spread of Christianity) not mention that hundreds of people saw the risen Jesus at the same time?

All five of these books were written by Christian authors who desired to promote the Christian faith, and who viewed the resurrection of Jesus as the turning point of history, so all five of these books were written by authors who desired to promote belief in the death and the miraculous resurrection of Jesus.  So, why do NONE of these books mention that hundreds of people experienced an appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time?  This suggests that this story that Paul told the Corinthians was a story that most Christians in the first century doubted or rejected, including the authors of the gospels.
 
CONCLUSION
Because of the extremely limited information provided by Paul about this event, the claim about there being “five hundred” witnesses of an appearance of the risen Jesus FAILS to show that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE (or that it is highly probable that this theory is FALSE), because this is the main point made in the third paragraph of McDowell’s presentation of Objection TRF2, and because this third paragraph was his last chance of showing that this is a solid and powerful objection against the Hallucination Theory, we may now confidently conclude that Objection TRF2 FAILS, just like all of the other objections that McDowell raised against the Hallucination Theory in Chapter 5 of TRF.
McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory  in his book The Resurrection Factor FAILS, because ALL SEVEN of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAIL:

 
 

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 10: Looking at Luke 24

WHERE WE ARE
In Parts 1 through 7 of this series,  I argued that at least six of Josh McDowell’s seven objections (in The Resurrection Factor; hereafter: TRF). against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.
In Part 8 of this series, I began to examine McDowell’s one remaining objection: Objection TRF2 (“Very Personal”).  McDowell presents this objection in three short paragraphs (TRF p. 93-94).
I found some serious problems in the first paragraph on Objection TRF2.  I pointed out that McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION, because the phrase “the same hallucination” (and “the same dream”) is AMBIGUOUS, and McDowell shifts from one meaning of this phrase to another meaning in the course of his confused reasoning.
Furthermore, I argued that two people having “the same dream” is NOT as unlikely as it might seem, because dreams are based on our experiences and memories, and because people often have similar experiences and similar memories.  We know from empirical studies that people often have similar dreams, especially if those people have similar experiences when they are awake.  For example, many students have dreams about teachers, and classrooms, and about failing exams.  Hallucinations are also based on our experiences and memories, as McDowell himself admits, so two people having “the same hallucination” is NOT as unlikely as it might seem, for the same reason.
In Part 9 of this series, I began to examine the second paragraph in McDowell’s presentation of  Objection TRF2.  
I pointed out that, contrary to McDowell, common experience, scientific studies, and a number of passages in the Bible all agree that it is possible for us to dream about a person sitting down and eating something along with the person who is having the dream, and thus it is possible to have an hallucination about a person sitting down and eating something along with the person who is having the hallucination.
I pointed out that McDowell also commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in the second paragraph, because the following sentence is UNCLEAR:

An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you. (TRF, p. 94. I am using the Authentic Media version published in 2005)

This statement is AMBIGUOUS and has at least two different meanings:

Claim A: When you hallucinate about a person, your hallucination will NOT involve that person appearing to sit down and have dinner with you. 

Claim B: When you hallucinate about a person sitting down and having dinner with you, that person is NOT actually having dinner with you at that time.

Only Claim A is RELEVANT to the question at hand, but Claim A is clearly FALSE.  Claim B is clearly true, but it is IRRELEVANT to the question at issue.  So, McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION in both the first paragraph and the second paragraph of his presentation of Objection TRF2.
 
WHERE IS THE BEEF?
On the front cover of my copy of The Resurrection Factor, just below the title, I find these words:

COMPELLING EVIDENCE WHICH PROVES THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS BEYOND REASONABLE DOUBT

This strong claim is not repeated by McDowell inside the book, so one might suspect that this is just HYPE that was slapped onto the cover by the publisher in order to sell more copies of the book.  However, when McDowell has finished presenting his case at the end of Chapter 8, he does make a similarly strong claim:

…the evidence forced me to the conclusion that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead… (TRF, p.132)

So, the strong claim on the cover of the book does seem like a claim that McDowell would endorse.
McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory is, in general, based upon “principles” stating “essential conditions” for hallucinations to occur:

… conditions which most psychiatrists and  psychologists agree must be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.93)

  • Does McDowell provide “COMPELLING EVIDENCE” showing these psychological principles to be true?  Nope.
  • Does McDowell provide “COMPELLING EVIDENCE” showing that “most psychiatrists and psychologists” agree with these psychological principles?  Nope.
  • Does McDowell provide ANY EVIDENCE AT ALL supporting these principles or supporting the claim that these principles are widely accepted by psychological experts? Nope.

Because NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER is presented in support of these key psychological principles, McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, for that reason alone.
A second general problem with McDowell’s attempt to disprove the Hallucination Theory, is the LACK OF EVIDENCE AND REASONING supporting McDowell’s historical claims and assumptions.  McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS not only because he provides ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the key psychological principles upon which his case is based, but also because he does a horrible job of providing historical evidence and reasoning in support of the key historical claims and assumptions in his case against the Hallucination Theory.
This general problem applies specifically to his presentation of Objection TRF2 (Very Personal).  In the three short paragraphs where McDowell presents this objection, there is NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE presented for the relevant historical claims and assumptions.  This is not surprising, since one can hardly present and explain historical evidence in support of historical claims about Jesus and his disciples in the span of just three short paragraphs.  The extreme brevity of his presentation of Objection TRF2 makes it impossible for McDowell to present and explain historical evidence supporting historical claims about Jesus in any sort of clear and intelligent manner.  McDowell shot himself in both feet by attempting to disprove the Hallucination Theory in less than five pages.  This was an exercise doomed to failure from the start.
Of course, McDowell is writing for a general audience, and an audience that is NOT particularly intellectually inclined.  He is writing for Evangelical Christians, who are, in general, unable to think their way out of a wet paper sack.  The fact that they read anything that even pretends to be intellectual is a small miracle.  So, if McDowell were to present actual historical evidence for an historical claim about Jesus, and present that evidence in a clear and intelligent manner, he would lose most of his readers.  So, he is stuck in a bind having to choose between either writing something that is clear and intelligent on the one hand, and writing something that his target audience will actually purchase and read on the other hand.
 
END NOTES FOR HISTORICAL CLAIMS
There is a potential solution to McDowell’s dilemma, however.  He could provide clear and intelligent presentations of historical evidence supporting the relevant historical claims in END NOTES.  That way his anti-intellectual readers won’t have to be bothered with something as silly as the clear and intelligent presentation of evidence to support key historical claims that are required for McDowell’s case.  In fact, McDowell has some end notes in the second paragraph of his presentation of Objection TRF2, so we should carefully examine what he has to say in those END NOTES.  Perhaps his end notes make up for the absence of any significant intellectual content in the body of the text.
Here is the second paragraph, including the numeric references to his end notes:

Christ also ate with those to whom He appeared. [190]  And He not only exhibited His wounds, [191] but He also encouraged a closer inspection.  An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you, and cannot be scrutinized by various individuals at will.              (TRF, p.94)

Here is the entire contents of the two endnotes for the above paragraph:

190. Luke 24:41, 42; John 21:13.
191. Luke 24:39, 40; John 20:27. 

(TRF, p.207)

McDowell doesn’t even bother to quote the gospel passages!  He doesn’t even give us one single complete sentence!  There is no explication or clarification or explanation or any reasoning at all here.  This is about as horrible and pathetic a job of presenting historical evidence for an historical claim about Jesus as one can imagine.  Citing chapter and verse from one or two gospels (without even quoting the passages) is NOT presenting historical evidence for an historical claim about Jesus in a clear and intelligent manner.  These endnotes constitute “COMPELLING EVIDENCE” as much as does a pile of stinking dog crap.
But, this is not nothing.  This is something.  McDowell at least points us in the direction of some relevant historical data.  Passages from the gospels are historical data, but we cannot simply assume, like the ignorant Bible-thumpers for whom McDowell writes his books, that whatever some gospel passage appears to say happened was an actual historical event that happened precisely as that passage seems to describe.
The first thing that occurs to me, apart from disgust at this horrible job of presenting historical evidence, is that only two gospels are referenced here.  But there are four gospels in the NT, so why doesn’t McDowell reference passages from the other two gospels? Why doesn’t McDowell also cite passages from  Mark and Matthew?
I am familiar with the four gospels, so I already know the answer to this question: Mark and Matthew CONTRADICT Luke and John on the very point at issue!  McDowell has CHERRY PICKED the evidence, focusing on the two gospels that support his historical claim, and ignoring the two gospels that CONTRADICT his historical claim.  Another way of looking at this is that McDowell’s thinking here is infected with CONFIRMATION BIAS. He was looking only for evidence that supports his historical claim, and had no interest in any evidence that goes against his historical claim.
The most important gospel for attempting to get at the truth about the historical Jesus (if there was an historical Jesus) is the Gospel of Mark, because this was the earliest gospel to be written, of the four gospels found in the New Testament.  Also, the Gospels of Matthew and Luke use Mark as a primary source of information for their gospels, so if Mark is historically unreliable, then so are Matthew and Luke.  Mark was written around 70 CE, but Matthew and Luke were written around 85 CE, and the 4th Gospel (John) was written around 95 CE.
The Gospel of Mark is the earliest account we have of the life, ministry and death of Jesus, and so the “information” about Jesus’ life, ministry, and death in Mark are to be viewed as more reliable and more likely to be historical than the “information” about Jesus found in Matthew, Luke, and John, other things being equal.
 
THE 4TH GOSPEL (JOHN) ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
For over a century, scholars who were interested in getting at the truth about the historical Jesus did not even bother studying the 4th Gospel (John), because that gospel was written several decades after the crucifixion of Jesus, and because it was so clearly shaped by theological agendas.
These days, scholars recognize that all four gospels were shaped by theological agendas, and that NO GOSPEL provides a reliable historical account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus, and, on the other hand, that there are at least bits and pieces of historical data that can be found in each of the four gospels, through careful critical study, even in the dubious 4th gospel.*  McDowell leans heavily on the 4th Gospel, but as I have argued elsewhere ( Defending the Swoon Theory – Part 6: Objections Based on the 4th Gospel ), that gospel is clearly historically unreliable, so it is reasonable to set aside the two passages from the 4th Gospel (John) provided in the above two end notes, particularly since McDowell gives us no reason to take these particular passages from the generally dubious 4th Gospel seriously as providing reliable historical data.
That leaves us with the two passages from the Gospel of Luke to consider.  But before we examine those passages from Luke, we should study the evidence that McDowell FAILED TO MENTION: the evidence about the alleged appearances of the risen Jesus from the Gospel of Mark, and from the Gospel of Matthew.
 
MARK ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
First of all, there are no stories at all about a risen Jesus appearing to any of his followers in the Gospel of Mark (the mention of some such appearances in the second half of Chapter 16 of Mark were not part of the original text of this gospel).  This does not mean, however, that the author of Mark doubted the resurrection or doubted that some of Jesus’ disciples had experiences of a risen Jesus.  The author of Mark clearly implies that a risen Jesus did appear to some of his disciples at some point after Jesus was crucified and buried in a tomb.
However, what is crucial about Mark’s account concerning the alleged appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples, is that the first appearances to his disciples took place in GALILEE, and NOT in Jerusalem:

1 When the sabbath was over, Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, so that they might go and anoint him. 
2 And very early on the first day of the week, when the sun had risen, they went to the tomb. 
3 They had been saying to one another, “Who will roll away the stone for us from the entrance to the tomb?” 
4 When they looked up, they saw that the stone, which was very large, had already been rolled back. 
5 As they entered the tomb, they saw a young man, dressed in a white robe, sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. 
6 But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him. 
7 But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.” 
8 So they went out and fled from the tomb, for terror and amazement had seized them; and they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.
Mark 16:1-8 (NRSV, emphasis added)

There is no appearance of the risen Jesus to Mary Magdalene (or to any of the women who went to the tomb on Sunday morning) in the Gospel of Mark.  There is no appearance of the risen Jesus to any of Jesus’ male disciples on Easter Sunday in the Gospel of Mark.
The young man in the tomb dressed in a white robe (an angel?) indicates that the risen Jesus is heading back to GALILEE, and that his disciples will see the risen Jesus in GALILEE.  If Jesus began walking back to GALILEE on the morning of the first Easter Sunday, then Jesus did NOT visit his gathered disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of Easter Sunday.  Furthermore, the author of Mark clearly implies in this passage that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place in GALILEE, and did NOT take place in Jerusalem.
Since it takes several days to walk from Jerusalem to GALILEE, the author of Mark also implies that the first appearances of the risen Jesus took place about a week or two AFTER Jesus was crucified, and did NOT take place on the first Easter Sunday.  Therefore, the Gospel of Mark clearly CONTRADICTS both the Gospel of Luke and the 4th Gospel, which claim that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place on the first Easter Sunday, about 48 hours after Jesus was removed from the cross.
Mark places the first appearances of Jesus in GALILEE about a week or two after the crucifixion, while Luke and the 4th Gospel place the first appearances of Jesus in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday, about 48 hours after Jesus was removed from the cross.  The historical information in the 4th Gospel is highly unreliable, so we should clearly prefer the Gospel of Mark’s account of this over the account in the 4th Gospel.  And Gospel of Mark is earlier than the Gospel of Luke, so we should prefer Mark’s account to Luke’s account of what happened after the burial of Jesus, other things being equal.
But if Mark’s account is correct, then Luke’s story about Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday is fictional.  It is either entirely fictional or else it is based on a traditional story that had an historical basis but was seriously corrupted and altered either by the author of Luke or by the process that transmitted the story from its original source to Luke.  The time and location of the first appearances to Jesus’ male disciples in Luke are completely wrong, if we accept Mark’s account as correct.  That means that Luke’s account has little or no connection with eyewitness testimony about the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples, because it is highly unlikely that Jesus’ disciples would fail to remember the time and location of the first appearance of the risen Jesus that they experienced together.  In any case, the stories of Easter Sunday appearances of the risen Jesus in Jerusalem found in Luke  are highly dubious.
The RELEVANT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE that McDowell neglected to mention destroys the credibility of the stories about a risen Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday.  Perhaps that is WHY he forgot to mention Chapter 16 of the Gospel of Mark.
 
MATTHEW ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
The Gospel of Matthew largely follows Mark’s account, again clearly implying that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place in GALILEE and NOT in Jerusalem:

1 After the sabbath, as the first day of the week was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to see the tomb.
2 And suddenly there was a great earthquake; for an angel of the Lord, descending from heaven, came and rolled back the stone and sat on it.
3 His appearance was like lightning, and his clothing white as snow.
4 For fear of him the guards shook and became like dead men.
5 But the angel said to the women, “Do not be afraid; I know that you are looking for Jesus who was crucified.
6 He is not here; for he has been raised, as he said. Come, see the place where he lay.
7 Then go quickly and tell his disciples, ‘He has been raised from the dead, and indeed he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.’ This is my message for you.”
8 So they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy, and ran to tell his disciples.
Matthew 28:1-8 (NRSV)

The author of Matthew clearly implies that the risen Jesus is leaving Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday morning and heading back to GALILEE, and also clearly implies that the first appearances of the risen Jesus took place in GALILEE about a week or two after Jesus had been crucified and buried. Furthermore, Matthew not only says nothing about an appearance of the risen Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem, but he describes an appearance of the risen Jesus that took place in GALILEE:

16 Now the eleven disciples went to Galilee, to the mountain to which Jesus had directed them.
17 When they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted.
18 And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.
19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,
20 and teaching them to obey everything that I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Matthew 28:16-20 (NRSV, emphasis added)

According to the Gospel of Matthew, the risen Jesus left Jerusalem heading back to Galilee on the morning of the first Easter Sunday, and an angel gave the women visiting Jesus’ tomb a message to tell Jesus’ male disciples: “Jesus is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him.”  After the disciples were given this message, they too headed back to Galilee, to a particular mountain, where they “saw him”, where they (allegedly) saw the risen Jesus for the first time.
Note that even upon seeing the risen Jesus in Galilee “some doubted”.  How could some of Jesus’ disciples still doubt that Jesus was alive again IF they had already seen him, and eaten with him in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday?  If the stories in Luke and John of the risen Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter were true, then the disciples would not still doubt his resurrection a week or two later upon seeing the risen Jesus in Galilee.  Matthew’s account CONTRADICTS these Jerusalem appearance stories found in Luke and John.
So, if Chapter 28 of Matthew is correct, then Luke’s story about Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday is fictional.  It is either entirely fictional or else it is based on a traditional story that had an historical basis but was seriously corrupted and altered either by the author of Luke or by the process that transmitted the story from its original source to Luke.  In any case, the stories of Easter Sunday appearances of the risen Jesus in Jerusalem found in Luke and John are highly dubious.
The RELEVANT HISTORICAL EVIDENCE that McDowell neglected to mention destroys the credibility of the stories about a risen Jesus appearing to his disciples in Jerusalem on the first Easter Sunday.  Perhaps that is WHY he forgot to mention Chapter 28 of the Gospel of Matthew.
 
LUKE ON THE APPEARANCES OF THE RISEN JESUS
Here is the passage from Luke that McDowell references in the footnotes for the second paragraph on Objection TRF2:

36 While they were talking about this, Jesus himself stood among them and said to them, “Peace be with you.”
37 They were startled and terrified, and thought that they were seeing a ghost.
38 He said to them, “Why are you frightened, and why do doubts arise in your hearts?
39 Look at my hands and my feet; see that it is I myself. Touch me and see; for a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.”
40 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his feet.
41 While in their joy they were disbelieving and still wondering, he said to them, “Have you anything here to eat?”
42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish,
43 and he took it and ate in their presence.
(Luke 24:36-43, NRSV, emphasis added)

The LOCATION of this appearance of the risen Jesus is specified in verse 33:

33 That same hour they got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.            (Luke 24:33, NRSV, emphasis added)

The phrase “the eleven” refers to Jesus’ inner circle of twelve male disciples minus Judas, who had supposedly betrayed Jesus.

Christ at Emmaus by Rembrandt, 1648, Louvre

The DAY and TIME of this appearance of the risen Jesus is specified in verses 1, 3, 29, and 33:

1 But on the first day of the week, at early dawn, they [i.e. Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and the other women] came to the tomb, taking the spices that they had prepared.

13 Now on that same day two of them [i.e. two followers of Jesus, one named Cleopas] were going to a village called Emmaus, about seven miles from Jerusalem…

29 But they [i.e. two followers of Jesus, one named Cleopas] urged him [i.e. the risen Jesus] strongly, saying, “Stay with us, because it is almost evening and the day is now nearly over.” So he [Jesus] went in to stay with them.

33 That same hour they [i.e. two followers of Jesus, one named Cleopas] got up and returned to Jerusalem; and they found the eleven and their companions gathered together.   

(Luke 24:1, 13, 29, 33, NRSV, emphasis added)

Luke clearly implies that the first appearance of the risen Jesus to his gathered male disciples (“the eleven”) took place in Jerusalem on the evening of the first Easter Sunday.  This CONTRADICTS the accounts of the first appearances of Jesus to his male disciples found in Mark and in Matthew.
Not only does Luke’s account of the Easter Sunday appearances of the risen Jesus CONTRADICT the Gospel of Mark, but Luke makes it clear that he is consciously and deliberately CONTRADICTING the Gospel of Mark on this point.  The Gospel of Mark was a primary source of information used by Luke to construct his gospel, so Luke generally relies on Mark.  Mark’s gospel has the young man in white robes (an angel?) at the tomb tell the women this:

“Do not be alarmed; you are looking for Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He has been raised; he is not here. Look, there is the place they laid him.  But go, tell his disciples and Peter that he is going ahead of you to Galilee; there you will see him, just as he told you.”  (Mark 16: 6-7, NRSV)

Luke consciously and deliberately alters what is said to the women at the tomb to this:

“Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here, but has risen. Remember how he told you, while he was still in Galileethat the Son of Man must be handed over to sinners, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.”                                     (Luke 24:5-7, NRSV, emphasis added)

Luke intentionally discards the message that Jesus was going to Galilee, and that his disciples would see him in Galilee.   Furthermore, Luke doubles down on his rejection of Mark’s placing the first appearances in Galilee by having Jesus tell his disciples to NOT go to Galilee, but rather to STAY IN JERUSALEM:

46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day,
47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.
48 You are witnesses of these things.
49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.”
(Luke 24:46-49, NRSV, emphasis added)

What Jesus sent, what his Father promised, was the power and presence of the Holy Spirit, which according to the book of Acts, also written by Luke, was sent by Jesus from heaven 50 days after Passover (see Acts 2:1-4), when Jesus was crucified.  So, according to Luke the risen Jesus commanded that his disciples STAY IN JERUSALEM until the Holy Spirit was sent by Jesus, which did not occur until about seven weeks after Jesus was crucified.  This clearly contradicts Mark’s implication that Jesus headed for Galilee on the morning of the first Easter Sunday and that his disciples also headed back to Galilee and met up with him there about a week or two after the crucifixion.  Luke thus not only CONTRADICTS the Gospel of Mark, but does so consciously and deliberately, openly rejecting Mark’s implication that the first appearances of the risen Jesus took place in GALILEE about a week or two after the crucifixion of Jesus.
 
CONCLUSION
One must take sides in this open CONFLICT between Luke on the one hand, and Mark and Matthew on the other hand.  Matthew and Luke were both written around 85 CE, and they both depend heavily on Mark’s gospel as a primary source of information about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus.  So, the contradiction between Matthew and Luke means that Matthew cancels out Luke, in that they both have about the same level of credibility and reliability.
That leaves us with Mark versus John.  Mark being the first gospel written (about 70 CE), and John being the last gospel written (about 95 CE), Mark is clearly to be preferred over John in terms of historical reliability, especially in view of the longstanding scholarly view that the 4th Gospel (John) is highly unreliable and strongly shaped by theological agendas.  Thus, Mark’s implication that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples took place in Galilee is more likely to be correct than the account of John that has the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his male disciples take place in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday, and therefore John and Luke’s accounts of appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples in Jerusalem on Easter Sunday are probably fictional.
The biblical evidence that McDowell neglected to mention shows that the passages from Luke and John that he references in end notes #190 and #191 are probably fictional stories.  Therefore, Objection TRF2 FAILS, because (a) McDowell does not provide ANY EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER in support of the psychological principle that is the basis for this objection, and (b) the bits of evidence that he provides in support of his historical claims are shown to be highly dubious in view of clear contradictions between the gospel passages (in Luke and John) that he references in end notes and related passages from other gospels (Mark and Matthew) that he neglects to mention.
=========================
* NOTE:  Because of wishful thinking, the recent shift in historical Jesus scholarship towards making use of the contents of the 4th Gospel has led some Christian believers to embrace the mistaken belief that many NT scholars have recently arrived at the conclusion that the 4th Gospel provides an historically reliable account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus.  But this is NOT the case.
In a series of posts I have argued that the Jesus scholars who now take the 4th Gospel into consideration in their studies, still hold the traditional scholarly view that the 4th Gospel does NOT provide an historically reliable account of the life, ministry, and death of Jesus:
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/11/13/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-wishful-thinking-about-nt-scholarship/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/11/23/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-wishful-thinking-by-kermit-zarley/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/01/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-wishful-thinking-by-joe-hinman/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/04/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-scholars-do-not-believe-4th-gospel-is-reliable/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/11/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-seven-key-nt-scholars/
https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2019/12/25/hinmans-defense-of-his-sad-little-argument-what-joe-knows-for-sure-just-aint-so/
 
 

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 9: Dining with Jesus

WHERE WE ARE
In Parts 1 through 7 of this series,  I argued that at least six of Josh McDowell’s seven objections (in The Resurrection Factor; hereafter: TRF) against the Hallucination Theory FAIL.
In Part 8 of this series, I began to examine McDowell’s one remaining objection: Objection TRF2 (“Very Personal”).  I pointed out that McDowell confuses a legitimate conceptual point with a significant empirical claim.  While it is a legitimate conceptual truth  that it is not possible for two people to experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” because hallucinations and dreams, are purely subjective phenomena that occur in a person’s mind, it is also an empirical truth that two people can experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” in the sense that two people can have hallucinations or dreams that have the same detailed description.
McDowell mistakenly infers from the conceptual truth that two people cannot experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” the conclusion that two people cannot experience “the same hallucination” or “the same dream” in the sense that two hallucinations (or dreams) have matching detailed descriptions.  McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION here, because the phrases “the same hallucination” and “the same dream” are ambiguous phrases, and McDowell shifts from one meaning of this phrase to another meaning in the course of his confused reasoning.
Furthermore, I argued that two people having “the same dream” is NOT as unlikely as it might seem, because dreams are based on our experiences and memories, and because people often have similar experiences and similar memories.  We know from empirical studies that people often have similar dreams, especially if those people have similar experiences when they are awake.  For example, many students have dreams about teachers, and classrooms, and about failing exams.  Hallucinations are also based on our experiences and memories, as McDowell himself admits, so two people having “the same hallucination” is NOT as unlikely as it might seem, for the same reason.
 
DINING WITH JESUS
In the second paragraph of the section in TRF where McDowell explains Objection TRF2 (Very Personal), he talks about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus where Jesus supposedly eats with other people:

Christ also ate with those to whom He appeared.  And He not only exhibited His wounds, but He also encouraged a closer inspection.  An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you, and cannot be scrutinized by various individuals at will.  (TRF, p.94; note that I am now using the edition published  by Authentic Media in 2005).

Let’s begin with the most obvious intellectual blunder by McDowell in this short paragraph:

Christ also ate with those to whom He appeared.

This claim clearly and blatantly BEGS THE QUESTION at issue.  The question is whether Jesus himself actually met up with some of his disciples after he died and was buried.  If Jesus did NOT actually do this, then it is FALSE that “Christ also ate with” some of his disciples after he died and was buried.  We have to FIRST determine whether Jesus was alive after he died and was buried, and THEN we can determine whether Jesus ate with some of his disciples after Jesus died and was buried. The claim that “Christ…ate with” some of his disciples after he died and was buried cannot be used as a premise in a rational argument for the claim that Jesus rose from the dead. Duh!
Let’s now consider the next most obvious intellectual blunder by McDowell in this short paragraph.  We know by common experience that we can dream of seeing a person sit down.  We can dream of seeing another person eat something.  We can dream of eating something with someone else present.  So, OBVIOUSLY we can dream of all three of these things happening: we can dream of a person sitting down, and then that person eating something, and at the same time dream of eating something ourselves.  We can dream of someone we know doing things, so if someone living in the first century knew Jesus, that person could dream of Jesus sitting down and eating something, and dream of eating something himself/herself along with Jesus.  In short, it is OBVIOUS that a person who knew Jesus could dream of Jesus sitting down and eating something along with that person.
If one can dream this, then one can also hallucinate this.  Hallucinations like dreams, are produced by our minds and imaginations and are drawn from our experiences and memories.  There is no good reason to believe that an experience that could happen in a dream could never happen in an hallucination.  Since a person can dream of Jesus sitting down and eating something with that person, a person can also hallucinate that Jesus sits down and eats something with that person. (Also, given the way that McDowell broadly defines the term “hallucination”, a dream of someone sitting down and eating something would itself count as an “hallucination”.)
 
SCIENCE ON DREAMS
Perhaps McDowell is an odd duck, and he never remembers his dreams, and he never talks with others about what they have dreamed.  In that case, he might doubt my claim based on common experience that we can dream about people sitting down, and that we can dream about other people eating, and that we can dream about eating something ourselves.  Nevertheless, there are scientific studies about dreams that support my claims.  One study, for example, showed that one of the most common dreams that people have is “eating delicious food”:

Note that one of the most common dreams of students (who were the subjects of this study about dreams) include dreams about “School, teachers, studying”. When students are at school listening to a teacher, they are normally sitting down in a chair at a desk or table.  Another very common dream is about “Being chased or pursued”, and such dreams would often involve walking or running.  Another very common dream is about “Swimming”.  If we can dream about swimming, walking, and running, it seems obvious that we could also dream about sitting down.  So, scientific studies about dreams support my claim that we can dream about someone sitting down, and dream about someone eating something, and dream about eating something ourselves.
 
THE BIBLE ON DREAMS
McDowell rejects the scientific view that humans evolved from non-human primates because he believes that evolution “contradicts the Bible” (Answers to Tough Questions, p.107), so perhaps he would also reject scientific findings about dreams.  McDowell is a big believer in the divine inspiration of the Bible, so he cannot ignore and reject what the Bible has to say about dreams and visions.  But what the Bible tells us about dreams and visions supports my claim that we can dream about someone sitting down, and dream about someone eating something, and dream about eating something ourselves.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah has something to say on this subject:

8 Just as when a hungry person dreams of eating
and wakes up still hungry,
or a thirsty person dreams of drinking
and wakes up faint, still thirsty,
so shall the multitude of all the nations be
that fight against Mount Zion.

Isaiah 29:8 NRSV

Isaiah clearly implies that we can dream about eating something and about drinking something.  Does McDowell think that Isaiah was LYING?  Does McDowell think that Isaiah was MISTAKEN?  If McDowell believes that the book of Isaiah was inspired by God, then McDowell ought to accept the claim that we can dream about eating something.
According to the prophet Ezekiel, he had a vision in which he ate a scroll:

1 He said to me, O mortal, eat what is offered to you; eat this scroll, and go, speak to the house of Israel.
2 So I opened my mouth, and he gave me the scroll to eat.
3 He said to me, Mortal, eat this scroll that I give you and fill your stomach with it. Then I ate it; and in my mouth it was as sweet as honey.
Ezekiel 3:1-3 NRSV

A vision is not necessarily a dream, but it is like a dream or hallucination in that it is a subjective phenomenon that occurs inside of one’s mind. Ezekiel did NOT believe that he had actually eaten a scroll, nor did he believe that other people near to him during the vision could see him physically eat a scroll.  Ezekiel understood that this vision was happening inside of his own mind.  Since a vision is much like a dream in this respect, this claim by Ezekiel supports my claim that we can dream about eating something.  Does McDowell think that Ezekiel was LYING about his vision?  Does McDowell think that Ezekiel was MISTAKEN about his vision?  If McDowell believes that the book of Ezekiel was inspired by God, then McDowell ought to accept the claim that we can dream about eating something.
According to the book of Genesis (which McDowell prefers to believe over the scientific view that human beings evolved from non-human primates), a king of Egypt had a dream about standing by the Nile river and seeing some cows grazing on grass:

1 After two whole years, Pharaoh dreamed that he was standing by the Nile,
2 and there came up out of the Nile seven sleek and fat cows, and they grazed in the reed grass.
3 Then seven other cows, ugly and thin, came up out of the Nile after them, and stood by the other cows on the bank of the Nile.
4 The ugly and thin cows ate up the seven sleek and fat cows. And Pharaoh awoke.
Genesis 41:1-4 NRSV

If Pharaoh dreamed about standing by the Nile river, then he also could dream about sitting down by the Nile river.  If Pharaoh dreamed about cows eating some grass, then he could also dream about a person eating some fish. If Pharaoh could dream about a person eating some fish, then we can dream about a person eating some fish.  Does McDowell think that the author of Genesis was LYING about Pharaoh’s dream?  Does McDowell think that the author of Genesis was MISTAKEN about Pharaoh’s dream?  If McDowell believes that the book of Genesis was inspired by God, then he ought to accept the claim that we can dream about a person sitting down and eating something.
The NT prophet and seer named John talks about his vision and what he “saw” in that vision:

3 So he carried me away in the spirit into a wilderness, and I saw a woman sitting on a scarlet beast that was full of blasphemous names, and it had seven heads and ten horns.
Revelation 17:3 NRSV

11 Then I saw a great white throne and the one who sat on it; the earth and the heaven fled from his presence, and no place was found for them.
12 And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Also another book was opened, the book of life. And the dead were judged according to their works, as recorded in the books.
13 And the sea gave up the dead that were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and all were judged according to what they had done.
Revelation 20:11-13 NRSV

In a vision, John “saw” a woman sitting on a scarlet beast, and he “saw” someone (Jesus?) sitting on a great white throne, and he saw many people “standing before the throne”.  Since he saw many people standing, and one person (Jesus?) sitting on a throne, and a woman sitting on a beast, he could obviously have also seen someone go from a standing position to a sitting position in a vision.  John did NOT believe he was actually seeing a throne, or actually seeing a woman sitting on a beast, or that anyone near him at the time of his vision could physically see someone sitting on a great white throne, or physically see a woman sitting on a beast.  John understood that his vision, like a dream, was occurring inside of his mind.
So, John’s claims about his vision imply that one can dream of people standing up, and dream of people sitting down, and dream of people going from standing up to sitting down.  Does McDowell think that the prophet John was LYING about his vision?  Does McDowell think that John was MISTAKEN about his vision?  If McDowell believes that the book of Revelation was inspired by God, then McDowell ought to accept the claim that we can dream about people standing up, sitting down, or dream about some person going from a standing position to a sitting position.
In conclusion, McDowell ought to read what the Bible has to say about dreams and visions.  If he does this, then he will have to admit the obvious; he will have to admit that we can dream about a person sitting down and eating something along with us eating something ourselves.  If he admits that we can have such a dream, then he will also have to admit that we can have an hallucination about a person sitting down and eating something along with us eating something ourselves.
 
ANOTHER AMBIGUOUS CLAIM
Now we can consider a less obvious blunder in this short paragraph by McDowell:

An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you.

McDowell misuses the word “illusion” here (this is not the “less obvious blunder” we are going to consider).  Illusions are public objects that multiple people can observe at the same time.  For example, a stick placed in a clear vase of water so that part of the stick extends above the water and part of it is below the water, it can appear to be bent, even though the stick is actually straight.  This is an illusion, and anyone with good eyesight in the room can see the stick in the vase, and can see that the stick appears to be bent, even though it is not actually bent.  So if you hallucinate that Jesus eats something, then Jesus is NOT an “illusion” because this hallucination happens only inside of your mind.  Nobody else can see the Jesus that you are hallucinating (although someone could have an hallucination of Jesus that is very similar to your hallucination of Jesus).
Let’s re-state McDowell’s point without using the word “illusion”:

When you hallucinate about a person, that person does NOT sit down and have dinner with you.

Now we will consider the less obvious blunder by McDowell.  The sentence above appears to be AMBIGUOUS between at least two different meanings:

Claim A: When you hallucinate about a person, your hallucination will NOT involve that person appearing to sit down and have dinner with you. 

Claim B: When you hallucinate about a person sitting down and having dinner with you, that person is NOT actually having dinner with you at that time.

Claim A is clearly FALSE.  As I have argued above, one can OBVIOUSLY dream about another person sitting down and eating something with oneself, so one can also hallucinate about another person sitting down and eating something with oneself.
Claim B is clearly TRUE.  If this experience of eating with this person is an hallucination, then this is happening only inside one’s mind, and thus it is not actually happening.
Only Claim A is RELEVANT to the question at hand, but Claim A is clearly FALSE.  Claim B is clearly true, but it is IRRELEVANT to the question at issue.  So, once again McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION.  When he asserts that “An illusion does not sit down and have dinner with you.” he is either making a relevant claim that is FALSE or he is making a true claim that is IRRELEVANT.
 
SCRUTINIZED BY VARIOUS INDIVIDUALS
McDowell makes one final claim at the end of the second paragraph in the section of TRF on Objection TRF2:

An illusion…cannot be scrutinized by various individuals at will. (TRF, p.94)

This may be the best point McDowell makes in relation to Objection TRF2, but he does not explain or attempt to clarify this point, and he misuses the word “illusion” here (as I have previously pointed out).
Clearly, a person CAN dream about various individuals scrutinizing something or someone.  This implies that a person CAN hallucinate about various individuals scrutinizing something or someone.  Thus, the following claim is FALSE:

An hallucination cannot be about various individuals scrutinizing something or someone.

So, a person who knew Jesus could have hallucinated an event in which various individuals scrutinized Jesus (e.g. examined wounds on Jesus’ body).  There is nothing that precludes such an hallucination from happening.
However, in adding the qualification “at will”, McDowell implies that he believes something else related to hallucinations about Jesus is precluded.  I think what he has in mind here is various individuals all hallucinating at the same time that they are scrutinizing Jesus, and their hallucinations all match up with each other. 
For example,  Peter hallucinates that a risen Jesus shows wounds in his hands to John, and then shows a wound in his side to Thomas, and then shows wounds in his feet to Peter.  There is nothing that precludes Peter from having such an hallucination.  But suppose that John has an hallucination at the same time as Peter, and John’s hallucination corresponds precisely with Peter’s hallucination: John “sees” a risen Jesus show wounds in his hands to himself (John), and then Jesus shows a wound in his side to Thomas, and then shows wounds in his feet to Peter.  That would be an amazing coincidence, which McDowell would argue was very unlikely to actually happen.  Suppose further that Thomas also has an hallucination at the same time as Peter and John have their hallucinations, and the events in his hallucination line up exactly with the events in the hallucinations of Peter and John: Thomas “sees” a risen Jesus show wounds in his hands to John, and then show a wound in his side to Thomas, and then show wounds in his feet to Peter.
McDowell would argue that these three men having hallucinations at the same time and with precisely the same events being “seen” in all three hallucinations is so extremely improbable that the hypothesis of such an extraordinary event is absurd.  It does seem, at least initially, as though such an hypothesis would be extremely improbable.  McDowell might have a good point here, in spite of his frequent confusion and many intellectual blunders.
McDowell failed to clearly spell out this objection, but he hints at it by use of the qualification “at will” at the end of the final sentence in the second paragraph about Objection TRF2.
 
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderMust-Read Paper on the Confusing Terminology in the Philosophy of Religion

Philosopher Dale Tuggy has written an incredibly helpful paper which seeks to help clarify some of the confusing terminology in the philosophy of religion regarding God vs. gods. Key terms defined in this paper include deity, godhood, ultimate, the Ultimate. So far as I can tell, his modest proposal for terminology does not appear to beg the question in favor of western monotheism vs. other religious beliefs such as Buddhism, Hinduism, Hellenistic polytheism (think: Zeus and the ancient Greek pantheon), Jainism, and so forth.
Of special interest to readers of this blog is how atheism and naturalism fits into his proposed schema. Using his definitions for ultimate, god, and deity, the following terms are of interest:

  • naturalistic adeism: This is the view that (i) there is nothing with supernatural powers and so no deity; (ii) no god; and (iii) no Ultimate.
  • adeistic ultimism: This is the view that (i) there are no deities; (ii) there is no god; and (iii) there is an Ultimate.
  • monodeistic ultimism: This is the view that (i) there is exactly one deity; (ii) there is no god; and (iii) there is an Ultimate.
  • polydeistic, non-ultimistic atheism: This is the view that (i) there are many deities; (ii) there is no god; and (iii) there is no Ultimate.

It would be an interesting exercise to apply Tuggy’s proposed terminology to analyze the famous quotation attributed to Stephen Roberts:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

For example, based on Tuggy’s distinction between a deity and a god, one could interpret Roberts in a variety of ways. One option would be to interpret it as a statement about belief in deities. In that case, the statement becomes:

“I contend we are both adeists, I just believe in one fewer deity than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible deities, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

I am not certain, but I think this is a faithful “translation” of Roberts’ quotation using Tuggy’s terminology. I’ve seen countless atheists use the Robert’s quotation (or something like it) to compare a dismissal of Yahweh or Allah with a dismissal of Zeus, Thor, Quetzcoatl, etc. Now, as Tuggy points out, on his terminology, godhood implies deity, but deity does not presuppose godhood. For example, Yahweh is a god (and so also a deity), whereas Zeus is a deity but not a god. This is because, on Tuggy’s view, godhood implies ultimacy; Yahweh and Allah are ultimate whereas Zeus, Thor, et al are not.
The upshot of Tuggy’s deity vs god distinction is that it helps clarify Roberts’ “one fewer god” argument. As an argument for dismissing non-god deities, it it looks promising. As an argument for dismissing “gods” (as defined by Tuggy), it looks dubious. The arguments for the existence of ‘mere’ deities would seem to have little, if anything, in common with the arguments for the existence of a god (in Tuggy’s sense of “god”). Or so it seems to me. This is just my kneejerk reaction: please share your thoughts in the comments section on whether Tuggy’s terminology is helpful, if you actually read Tuggy’s paper.
Dale Tuggy, “On Counting Gods” Theologica: An International Journal for Philosophy of Religion and Philosophical Theology 2017: 188-213.  https://doi.org/10.14428/thl.v1i1.153