Kreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 1: The Basic Argument

Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus in Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (InterVarsity Press, 1994, hereafter: HCA). Because their case for the existence of God (in Chapter 3 of HCA) and their case for the resurrection of Jesus (in Chapter 8 of HCA) both FAIL miserably, it is reasonable to anticipate that their case for Jesus’s divinity will also FAIL.

Furthermore, in the process of evaluating one of their objections to the Myth Theory, I examined their “scriptural data” supporting the divinity of Jesus (in Chapter 7 of HCA) and found serious problems with the conclusions they derived from that data: Defending the Myth Theory – INDEX (see Parts 4 through 7). So, I already have good reason to believe that a key part of their case for Jesus’s divinity FAILS.

Kreeft provides a very brief summary of this case early in Chapter 7:

Jesus claimed to be God, and Jesus is believable, therefore Jesus is God.

(HCA, p.156)

From this summary argument, we see that the conclusion of the main argument in Chapter 7 is this:

Jesus is God.

We also see that a key premise of the argument is this:

Jesus claimed to be God.

A couple of pages later, Kreeft goes on to spell out a more complex version of this argument:

1. Jesus was either Lord, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

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

3. Therefore “Jesus is Lord”…

(HCA, p.158).

Based on Kreeft’s initial summary argument, we know that the conclusion he is trying to establish is NOT the vague claim that “Jesus is Lord” but the strong and clear claim that Jesus is God.

So, in order for Kreeft’s argument to work to establish his intended conclusion, the wording of the conclusion of the more complex argument must be revised, and that means the wording of the first premise must also be revised so that it supports the revised conclusion:

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

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

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

I take it that this is the main argument in Chapter 7, and that if this argument is a bad argument, then Kreeft and Tacelli will have FAILED to establish the divinity of Jesus.

Notice that the logic of this argument is very similar to the logic of the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli for the resurrection of Jesus in Chapter 8. They attempted to prove that the apostles were telling the truth about the resurrection of Jesus by eliminating the alternative possibilities that the apostles were liars (the Conspiracy Theory), or that the apostles were lunatics (the Hallucination Theory), or that their story about Jesus rising from the dead was not intended to be taken literally (the Myth Theory), or that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross, so his being alive after the crucifixion was not a miracle (the Swoon Theory).

Before attempting any further clarification or evaluation of the premises of Kreeft’s argument in Chapter 7, we should clarify the conclusion a bit more:

3A. Jesus is God.

What does it mean to say that “X is God”? Primarily, this means that “X has the divine attributes”, the attributes that make God who God is. Kreeft and Tacelli spell out some key divine attributes in Chapter 4 of HCA:

…God is spiritual… God is not a material being.

(HCA, p.92)

God Is Eternal

(HCA, p.93)

God is the creator and sustainer of all things.

(HCA, p.95)

God Is Omniscient and Omnipotent

(HCA, p.96)

God Is Good…God cannot be evil in any way…

(HCA, p.96)

Thus, the claim that

3A. Jesus is God.

has a number of implications, such as the following:

  • Jesus is spiritual. Jesus is not a material being.
  • Jesus is eternal.
  • Jesus is the creator and sustainer of all things.
  • Jesus is omniscient (all-knowing).
  • Jesus is omnipotent (all-powerful).
  • Jesus is good. Jesus cannot be evil in any way.

If we find out that Jesus has all of these divine attributes, then that would show that Jesus is God. Similarly, if we find out that Jesus lacks some of these divine attributes, that would show that Jesus is NOT God.

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