bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 17: The 2nd Argument Against Jesus being a Lunatic

WHERE WE ARE

For a brief summary of what has been covered in Part 3 through Part 15 of this series, see the “WHERE WE ARE” section at the beginning of Part 16 of this series.

In Part 16 of this series, I argued that Kreeft and Tacelli’s first argument against Jesus being a lunatic FAILED because both premises of the argument are too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated and because they offer ZERO factual evidence in support of the SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS and HISTORICAL CLAIMS that are asserted in those premises.

In this current post, I will say a little bit more about the first argument against Jesus being a lunatic, and then I will move on to a critical examination of Kreeft and Tacelli’s second argument against Jesus being a lunatic.

ONE MORE PROBLEM WITH THE 1ST ARGUMENT FOR (5B)

Here again, is the first argument by Kreeft and Tacelli against Jesus being a lunatic:

19. Lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

20. Jesus clearly possessed practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

I have previously pointed out that there is VAGUE QUANTIFICATION in premise (20), which opens this premise up to 64 different possible interpretations. But for the sake of illustration, let’s consider one specific possible interpretation of this premise:

20A. Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Premise (20A) implies three fairly general HISTORICAL CLAIMS:

  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom.
  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of tough love.
  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of unpredictable creativity.

All three terms about personal characteristics here are UNCLEAR terms, but the meaning of “practical wisdom” seems less problematic than “tough love” and “unpredictable creativity”. I won’t attempt to provide a clear definition of “practical wisdom”.

Did the historical Jesus possess a very high degree of “practical wisdom”? This is a very difficult question, and I don’t think it can be answered with any level of confidence based on the historical evidence that is currently available to us. We know very little about the historical Jesus, especially about the thoughts and intentions and the personality of the historical Jesus.

Right now, one of the biggest questions facing Americans is whether or not our former president, Donald Trump, will be charged and convicted with one or more federal crimes related to his attempt to steal the last election through violent and illegal means.

Many of us Democrats and liberals are hoping that Donald Trump will spend the rest of his life in federal prison. However, there is one BIG obstacle in the way of this hope becoming a reality: Donald Trump, like the head of an organized crime family, avoids putting his thoughts and requests, and commands into writing. Trump does not use email or text messages to communicate with his subordinates and co-conspirators.

As a result, it will be very challenging for federal investigators and lawyers to prove claims of criminal intent about Donald Trump. It is thus quite possible that this lying sack of shit who attempted to subvert our democracy through violence and illegal schemes, who greatly deserves to spend the rest of his life in prison, will not ever be convicted of a federal crime, and will not spend a single day in federal prison for his evil deeds.

Jesus, like Trump, was probably illiterate. Jesus probably could not read or write, like 90% of his fellow Jews who lived in ancient Palestine. Obviously, Jesus never texted or emailed any of his disciples or any of his opponents and critics. But Jesus also did not keep a diary or journal. Jesus did not write letters or books. Jesus did not write down his thoughts, feelings, sayings, or sermons in a notebook. So far as we know, Jesus never wrote a poem or essay or short story or prayer or hymn or sermon.

Furthermore, although Trump has had hundreds or thousands of conversations with people who are alive today and who can be interviewed by professional federal investigators, nobody who Jesus spoke to is alive today. In fact, the authors of the Gospels were second or third-generation Christians who never set eyes on Jesus, and never heard Jesus speak a single word. So, our evidence concerning the thoughts, intentions, desires and feelings of Jesus are much more difficult to determine than the thoughts, intentions, desires and feelings of Donald Trump.

Finally, the information that we do have about the historical Jesus is sketchy and has been filtered by clearly biased story-tellers and authors. Scholars who study the historical Jesus have generally concluded that the Gospel of John, for example, is mostly legend and fiction that is strongly shaped by a particular Christian theological point of view. Although Kreeft and Tacelli would happily quote dozens of passages from this Gospel as “evidence” for their HISTORICAL CLAIMS, this is a very biased and UNRELIABLE source of information about the historical Jesus.

That leaves us with three Gospels: Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Matthew and Luke both borrow heavily from the Gospel of Mark, so if the Gospel of Mark is UNRELIABLE, then all four Gospels are UNRELIABLE!

Suppose that Mark does present a historically reliable account of the life, ministry, teachings, and death of Jesus. In that case, there would still be serious problems with the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke. Mark has no birth story about Jesus, and Mark has no resurrection-appearance stories. When Matthew and Luke are borrowing from Mark, they agree with each other fairly well, but when it comes to their birth stories and their resurrection-appearance stories, they completely contradict each other. So, it appears that stories about Jesus in Matthew and Luke that are not found in Mark, are historically DUBIOUS. When they don’t have Mark to lean on, they contradict each other.

Mark clearly implies that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place in Galilee a week or more after the crucifixion. But Luke clearly asserts that the first appearances of the risen Jesus to his disciples took place on Easter Sunday (two days after the crucifixion) in Jerusalem. Both accounts CANNOT be true.

Most scholars side with the earlier and less theologically-driven account in Mark. That means that Luke’s resurrection appearance stories are FICTION! If Luke gives us FICTION about the most important event concerning the historical Jesus, why should we believe ANY story in the Gospel of Luke that goes beyond stories found in the Gospel of Mark?

Matthew adds several events and details to Mark‘s account of the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. These additional elements are almost all clearly legendary or fantastic. Matthew is the Steven Spielberg of the Gospels. Matthew adds several dramatic and theologically-laden events and details to the account that he borrows from Mark‘s Gospel. This gives us good reason to doubt ANY such additions that Matthew makes to stories that he gets from the Gospel of Mark.

In the Gospel of John there are some long sermons by Jesus. Those long sermons might have given us some insight into the thoughts and feelings and personality of Jesus, except that the Gospel of John is historically UNRELIABLE, especially concerning the words attributed to Jesus in that Gospel. So, we cannot use those long sermons found in the Gospel of John.

There is the “Sermon on the Mount” in the Gospel of Matthew, but that is just a collection of some alleged sayings of Jesus that the author of Matthew assembled together. This brings up a central problem with the Gospels: the words that the Gospels attribute to Jesus and that have some significant chance of being accurate representations of the words of the historical Jesus are short sayings and parables. Furthermore, NT scholars believe that the CONTEXTS in which Jesus uttered these sayings and parables has been LOST. The Gospel authors usually invented the contexts for the sayings of Jesus. Without knowing the actual context, correct interpretation of these short sayings and parables is often difficult.

In the end, we are left with the Gospel of Mark, which may or may not be RELIABLE, plus some sayings of Jesus from Q (the passages in Luke and Matthew that closely agree but that are not based on Mark’s Gospel are believed to be derived from an early collection of sayings of Jesus called “Q”). The author of Mark was a second or third-generation Christian believer who probably never set eyes on Jesus, and never heard Jesus speak. The author was a Christian believer who would obviously have a BIAS in favor of seeing Jesus as a person of great “practical wisdom”.

Common sense tells us that the Christian author of Mark would be unlikely to report any stories about Jesus, or sayings of Jesus, that indicated that Jesus made a foolish decision or said something that was foolish. So, we cannot use this source as being a FULL and UNBIASED account of the words and actions of the historical Jesus. Nobody will be able to firmly establish claims like the following one, about the historical Jesus, based on the currently available historical evidence:

  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom.

Therefore, claims like premise (20A) also cannot be firmly established on the basis of currently available historical evidence:

20A. Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

THE SECOND ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LUNATIC

Here again is Kreeft and Tacelli’s presentation of their second point against Jesus being a lunatic:

When we meet a lunatic, we are uncomfortable because we feel superior to him; when his enemies met Jesus, they were uncomfortable for the opposite reason. A lunatic does not make you feel personally challenged, only embarrassed and, eventually, bored. But Jesus made everyone feel challenged and uncomfortable, never bored. A lunatic is like darkness, Jesus was like light. A lunatic is like a man asleep, Jesus was the most wide awake of all men.

(HCA, p.160-161)

First of all, the last two sentences are more poetry than philosophy. They are metaphorical and emotionally-laden sentences that do more to undermine the credibility of Kreeft and Tacelli than to provide any sort of solid reason for the claim that Jesus was not a lunatic. Consider the second-to-last sentence:

A lunatic is like darkness, Jesus was like light.

This is poetry, not philosophy. This use of VAGUE metaphorical language is shameful for professional philosophers who are presenting philosophical arguments. However, I will attempt to translate this unclear statement into clearer language. Darkness is often a metaphor for EVIL. Light is often a metaphor for GOOD. This is a common metaphor used, for example, in the Gospel of John, and also in apocalyptic thinking, and in the Star Wars movies. So, a reasonable guess is that Kreeft and Tacelli are making the following claim:

ALL people who have a very serious mental illness are EVIL, but Jesus was completely GOOD.

Clearly, not ALL people who are seriously mentally ill are EVIL, so this statement is FALSE. Furthermore, since this contrasts with Jesus being allegedly “GOOD”, and since Jesus being “GOOD” means that Jesus was MORALLY GOOD, that implies that the term “EVIL” here means MORALLY EVIL. But in that case, the minority of seriously mentally ill people who we would be inclined to call “EVIL” (namely: psychopaths who are serial killers) are not plausibly considered to be MORALLY EVIL.

They are “EVIL” in the way that an earthquake or a poisonous snake are “EVIL”. Eathquakes and snakes are not moral agents that can be morally BLAMED for their “actions”. Earthquakes and poisonous snakes are NOT MORALLY EVIL. Similarly, it seems that pscychopath serial killers are NOT MORALLY EVIL, because their thinking and choices are affected by very serious mental illness, so MORAL BLAME is not appropriate for them. They should be locked up or executed for the safety and well-being of other people, but they are so mentally defective that we should not think of them as being moral agents who are deserving of either praise or blame.

Therefore, based on my suggested interpretation, this statement by Kreeft and Tacelli is FALSE for at least two reasons: (1) some seriously mentally ill people are NOT “EVIL” (even in the non-moral sense of the term), (2) the seriously mentally ill people who are reasonably considered to be “EVIL” are NOT appropriately considered to be MORALLY EVIL.

Consider the last sentence of the second paragraph/argument:

A lunatic is like a man asleep, Jesus was the most wide awake of all men.

Again, the use of unclear metaphorical language is inappropriate for use in philosophical arguments, so this statement mostly undermines the credibility of Kreeft and Tacelli as philosophers.

Being “awake” is commonly used as a metaphorical reference to “enlightenment” or “wisdom”. In Buddhism, being “awake” is the primary description of the Buddha, at least after he grasped the basic ideas of his new philosophy. This is metaphorical language used to assert that the Buddha obtained great enlightenment or wisdom. So, based on this common use of the metaphor of being asleep vs. being awake, we can clarify the meaning of this last sentence:

ALL people who have a very serious mental illness are unwise, but Jesus was the wisest of all men.

To assert that “Jesus was the wisest of all men” is very similar to the previous assertion in the first argument that “Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom”. This claim has all of the problems that we have previously mentioned with the first argument against Jesus being a lunatic, and this claim is also thus REDUNDANT with the first argument.

I will ignore the last two sentences, and focus instead on the sentences that are clearer and more appropriate as relevant evidence. Here are my clarifications of the other sentences asserted by Kreeft and Tacelli in making their second point against Jesus being a lunatic:

21. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person.

22. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and this is NOT because they feel personally challenged by the insane person.

23. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable because they felt personally challenged by Jesus.

24. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable and this was NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.

There are two main contrasts here: (1) feeling uncomfortable because of feeling superior vs. feeling uncomfortable NOT because of feeling superior, and (2) feeling uncomfortable because of feeling challenged vs. feeling uncomfortable NOT because of feeling challenged. Thus, there are two main arguments here of a similar logical structure:

21. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and they feel that way because they feel superior to the insane person.

24. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable and this was NOT because they felt superior to Jesus.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

23. When mentally healthy persons met Jesus, they felt uncomfortable because they felt personally challenged by Jesus.

22. When a mentally healthy person meets an insane person/a lunatic, they feel uncomfortable, and this is NOT because they feel personally challenged by the insane person.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

Although the second point by Kreeft and Tacelli turns out to include two arguments, we can put both of these arguments into one argument diagram showing two arguments in support of the same conclusion:

In the next post of this series, I will critically evaluate these two arguments from Kreeft and Tacelli’s second point against Jesus being a lunatic.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 16: The Arguments Against Jesus being a Lunatic

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I showed that there are three INVALID inferences in Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A). So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and thus this premise is DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false and so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

In Part 14 of this series, I showed that the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true. In that post I focused on the core of the argument, namely the inference from premise (14) to (4B). No matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), this argument FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

In Part 15 of this series, I examined and evaluated the support that Kreeft and Tacelli provide for premise (14). I evaluated their arguments as arguments for premise (14A), a revised and improved version of premise (14). I showed that the argument based on premise (15) was UNSOUND because premise (15) is FALSE, and because that argument is logically INVALID. I showed that the argument based on premise (16) also FAILED, because premise (16) is too UNCLEAR, due to VAGUE QUANTIFICATION, to be rationally evaluated. Because both of Kreeft and Tacelli’s arguments supporting (14A) FAIL, they have FAILED to show that premise (14A) is true.

THE ARGUMENTS AGAINST JESUS BEING A LUNATIC

The second key premise of Kreeft and Tacelli’s case for the divinity of Jesus is this:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

We have seen that Kreeft and Tacelli have already FAILED to show that (2B) is true, because they FAILED to show that (4B) is true:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

It is now time to examine whether they managed to show that the second element of (2B) is true:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

Kreeft and Tacelli give three arguments in support of premise (5B):

Why couldn’t Jesus be a lunatic?

1. Because the psychological profiles are opposite. The lunatic lacks the very qualities that shine in Jesus: practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

2. When we meet a lunatic, we are uncomfortable because we feel superior to him; when his enemies met Jesus, they were uncomfortable for the opposite reason. A lunatic does not make you feel personally challenged, only embarrassed and, eventually, bored. But Jesus made everyone feel challenged and uncomfortable, never bored. A lunatic is like darkness, Jesus was like light. A lunatic is like a man asleep, Jesus was the most wide awake of all men.

3. No Jew could sincerely think he was God. No group in history was less likely to confuse the Creator with a creature than the Jews, the only people who had an absolute, and absolutely clear, distinction between the divine and the human.

(HCA, p. 160-161)

THE FIRST ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LUNATIC

Here is the first argument from Kreeft and Tacelli for premise (5B):

19. Lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

20. Jesus clearly possessed practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

THEREFORE:

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF PREMISE (19)

Premise (19) is UNCLEAR and cannot be rationally evaluated as it stands. First, there is an initial obvious VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION. Here are four alternative interpretations:

ALL lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

ALMOST ALL lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

A VERY HIGH PERCENTAGE of lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

MOST lunatics lack practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

There is also more VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION in the term “lack”, especially given that “practical wisdom”, “tough love”, and “unpredictable creativity” are characteristics that are possessed to various degrees. Here are four alternative interpretations of the term “lack”:

Lunatics have ABSOLUTELY NO practical wisdom, ABSOLUTELY NO tough love, and ABSOLUTELY NO unpredictable creativity.

Lunatics have ALMOST NO practical wisdom, ALMOST NO tough love, and ALMOST NO unpredictable creativity.

Lunatics have ONLY A LITTLE practical wisdom, ONLY A LITTLE tough love, and ONLY A LITTLE unpredictable creativity.

Lunatics have a BELOW-AVERAGE DEGREE of practical wisdom, a BELOW-AVERAGE DEGREE of tough love, and a BELOW-AVERAGE DEGREE of unpredictable creativity.

Furthermore, because no quantification is spelled out, it might well be the case that Kreeft and Tacelli, if pushed for clarification, would quantify the “lunatics” and the “lack” differently for the three different characteristics, so on one possible interpretation of (19), Kreeft and Tacelli might mean to assert these three claims:

  • ALL lunatics have ONLY A LITTLE practical wisdom.
  • ALMOST ALL lunatics have ABSOLUTELY NO tough love.
  • A VERY HIGH PERCENTAGE of lunatics have ALMOST NO unpredictable creativity.

I have suggested four different quantifications concerning “lunatics” and four different quantifications concerning the “lack” of a characteristic, so there are sixteen different combinations of these quantifications for each characteristic. Since there are three different characteristics, the number of possible interpretations of premise (19), based on these different possible quantifications is:

16 x 16 x 16 = 256 x 16 = 4,096 different possible interpretations

There is an extraordinary degree of AMBIGUITY in premise (19).

On top of that extraordinary degree of AMBIGUITY, we also have the UNCLARITY of the basic characteristics at issue:

  • practical wisdom
  • tough love
  • unpredictable creativity

These are all very subjective and fuzzy terms. It is not at all clear what constitutes “tough love” or how we could measure that characteristic in any sort of objective way. I have no idea how “unpredictable” creativity differs from “predictable” creativity, so that concept seems very UNCLEAR. Psychologists do study “creativity” although I doubt that there is much agreement among psychologists on how to objectively measure a person’s creativity.

The term “practical wisdom” probably derives from the philosophy of Aristotle, given that Kreeft and Tacelli are both Catholic philosophers, and are no doubt familiar with Aristotle’s conception of “practical wisdom”. I suspect that Kreeft and Tacelli would be able to produce a definition of “practical wisdom” along the lines of Aristotle’s views on that idea. However, “practical wisdom” is a rather broad concept (meaning something like: the ability and tendency to make good decisions about what policy to adopt or course of action to take). Again, I don’t think there are any widely-accepted ways of measuring the degree of “practical wisdom” possessed by an individual.

So, before we can rationally evaluate premise (19), we need clear definitions of the three key characteristics (definitions that will allow us to assess the degree to which different people possess the characteristic), and we need to know which of the 4,096 possible interpretations of the QUANTIFICATION in premise (19) concerning “lunatics” and “lack” is the correct interpretation.

Finally, the term “lunatic” is an UNCLEAR term, as I mentioned way back in Part 2 of this series of posts:

What does the claim “Jesus was a lunatic” mean? Kreeft provides no definition or clarification of the term “lunatic”. He does, however, sometimes use the word “insane” in place of the word “lunatic”, so presumably, he views these words as synonyms (see Kreeft’s use of “insane” and “insanity” when introducing this part of the argument on pages 155 and 156 of HCA).

The dictionary definition of “lunatic” indicates an AMBIGUITY in this term:

People who are NOT insane sometimes believe things that are WILDLY FOOLISH for them to believe. For example, I think that it is WILDLY FOOLISH for Kreeft to believe that Jesus physically rose from the dead, but I do NOT think that Kreeft is insane. So, the word “lunatic” has a stronger and weaker sense. In the stronger sense of the word, to say that “Jesus was a lunatic” means that “Jesus was insane”. In the weaker sense, it means that “Jesus held some wildly foolish beliefs”. Because Kreeft uses the word “insane” as a synonym for the word “lunatic”, it seems likely that he intended the stronger sense of the word “lunatic”:

affected with a severely disordered state of mind: INSANE

However, the term “insanity” is no longer an accepted medical diagnosis:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Insanity

Presumably, when they speak of “lunatics”, Kreeft and Tacelli have in mind “the wide range of mental disorders” that are now diagnosed as “bipolar disorder, organic brain syndromes, schizophrenia, and other psychotic disorders.” In that case, it will NOT be easy to gather the factual data needed to evaluate premise (19) even after all of the AMBIGUITY of quantification is settled, and the meanings of the UNCLEAR key terms are specified.

We would then need to gather data on the degree to which the three characteristics mentioned in (19) are possessed by people who have been diagnosed with: (a) bipolar disorder, (b) organic brain syndromes, (c) schizophrenia, and (d) other psychotic disorders. Sounds like a HUGE research project, with only a very small chance of finding sufficient relevant data to arrive at confident conclusions about the truth or falsehood of a clarified version of premise (19).

Speaking of FACTUAL DATA, Kreeft and Tacelli have provided absolutely ZERO facts relevant to determining whether premise (19) is true or false! They are philosophers, not psychologists, so they have no expertise in the study of people who have been diagnosed with: (a) bipolar disorder, (b) organic brain syndromes, (c) schizophrenia, or (d) other psychotic disorders. Furthermore, it is obvious that they did ZERO investigation of scientific studies about the relevant personal characteristics of such people. In short, they have absolutely NO CLUE what they are talking about here. They are doing the worst sort of armchair philosophy, namely: making SCIENTIFIC CLAIMS about which they have no expertise and for which they have no factual data whatsoever.

Because premise (19) is hopelessly UNCLEAR, and because Kreeft and Tacelli are obviously CLUELESS about the scientific claims they are making, we should REJECT premise (19) as being too UNCLEAR to rationally evaluate, and as being a SCIENTIFIC CLAIM for which Kreeft and Tacelli have absolutely ZERO factual data. They are simply attempting to baffle us with bullshit.

CRITICAL EXAMINATION OF PREMISE (20)

Premise (20) suffers from some of the same problems that we found with premise (19). There is some VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION in terms of the degree to which Jesus possesses the three key characteristics:

Jesus possessed the MAXIMAL DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Jesus possessed an ALMOST MAXIMAL DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Jesus possessed an ABOVE AVERAGE DEGREE of practical wisdom, tough love, and unpredictable creativity.

Since no QUANTIFICATION was specified in the original statement, Kreeft and Tacelli might well, if pressed for clarification, assert that Jesus possessed different degrees of the three different characteristics. For example, they might clarify premise (20) as asserting the following three claims:

  • Jesus possessed an ALMOST MAXIMAL DEGREE of practical wisdom.
  • Jesus possessed a VERY HIGH DEGREE of tough love.
  • Jesus possessed an ABOVE AVERAGE DEGREE of unpredictable creativity.

Although there are not thousands of different possible interpretations of the QUANTIFICATION in premise (20), there still is some significant AMBIGUITY in this premise. Because there are at least four different degrees for each characteristic, and because there are three different characteristics, the number of different possible interpretations of QUANTIFICATION in this premise are:

4 x 4 x 4 = 16 x 4 = 64 different possible interpretations

We also have the same problem with the UNCLEAR meanings of the three key characteristics:

  • practical wisdom
  • tough love
  • unpredictable creativity

These subjective and fuzzy concepts need to be clearly defined before it will be possible to rationally evaluate premise (20). And the definitions of these terms must be such that they enable us to determine (on the basis of facts and observations) the degree to which an individual possesses the characteristic in question.

Once again, as with premise (19), Kreeft and Tacelli provide absolutely ZERO facts in support of the claims that premise (20) makes about Jesus. These are HISTORICAL CLAIMS about a particular person, and such claims need to be supported with HISTORICAL facts or evidence. But we are given absolutely no facts or evidence in support of premise (20). Kreeft and Tacelli are simply asserting these HISTORICAL CLAIMS, without providing any relevant evidence.

Because premise (20) is too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated, and because Kreeft and Tacelli have provided no historical evidence whatsoever in support of the HISTORICAL CLAIMS about Jesus that are asserted in premise (20), we should REJECT premise (20) as a dubious claim.

The first argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (5B) FAILS, because both premises of this argument are too UNCLEAR to be rationally evaluated and because Kreeft and Tacelli do not offer any relevant factual evidence whatsoever in support of either of the two premises.

In the NEXT post in this series, I will critically examine the second argument for premise (5B), and perhaps, the third argument for (5B) as well.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 15: More on 2nd Argument Against Jesus being a LIAR

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I showed that there are three INVALID inferences in Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A). So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and thus this premise is DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false and so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

Here is a diagram of the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B):

In Part 14 of this series, I showed that the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true. In that post I focused on the core of the argument, namely the inference from premise (14) to (4B). No matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), this argument FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

However, I would like to provide a more complete evaluation of this argument, by looking at the support that Kreeft and Tacelli provide for premise (14). Given their deplorable track record, I suspect that there will be more false premises and/or invalid inferences in this part of their second argument against the view that Jesus was a liar.

PREMISE (15) AS SUPPORT FOR PREMISE (14A)

As I argued in Part 14 of this series, premise (14) contradicts a basic assumption of Kreeft and Tacelli’s case for the divinity of Jesus, making their second argument against Jesus being a liar into a complete disaster. So, I’m going to consider an argument that uses one of the alternative interpretations of premise (14) that does not have this self-destructive implication:

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

THEREFORE:

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Premise (15) is FALSE. Jesus never claimed to LITERALLY be God, not even in the Gospel of John. None of the Gospels portray Jesus as claiming to LITERALLY be God. I have argued that Kreeft and Tacelli are wrong on this basic point. It is extremely unlikely that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and yet none of the Gospels ever mention that he made such an extraordinary claim. Furthermore, Jesus does say things that indicate that he was NOT God. So, premise (15) is FALSE, and thus this argument is UNSOUND and should be rejected.

The inference from (15) to (14A) is also INVALID.

First of all, showing that there were potential selfish motives for Jesus to NOT claim to LITERALLY be God does not show that there were no potential selfish motives FOR claiming to LITERALLY be God. It is possible for there to be selfish reasons or motives for BOTH courses of action.

Second, there are some obvious possible selfish motives for Jesus to claim to LITERALLY be God, selfish motives that are NOT ruled out by the risk that Jesus would experience hatred, persecution, torture, and death as a result of making this claim. Jesus might have had a strong desire to have power, control, and influence over some of his fellow Jews that would come if he could get them to believe that he was LITERALLY God. Jesus might have had a strong egotistical desire to be admired, worshiped, and adored by some of his fellow Jews that would happen if he could get them to believe that he was LITERALLY God. Jesus might have believed that in provoking his fellow Jews to hate, persecute, and kill him, he would be carrying out God’s mission for his life, and that God would then make him King of Kings and Lord of Lords. All of these selfish motivations are possible, even if it is true that Jesus faced hatred, persecution, torture, and death as a result of claiming to LITERALLY be God.

Third, even if it was clearly NOT in Jesus’ overall self-interest to claim to LITERALLY be God, that does not prove that Jesus perceived his circumstances that way. Jesus could have failed to realize how dangerous it was to claim to LITERALLY be God, and he might have had an unrealistic assessment of his chances for being viewed as being divine by many of his fellow Jews. So, the selfish motivation of being obeyed and adored as God by many of his fellow Jews could have outweighed, in Jesus’ mind, the dangers involved in claiming to LITERALLY be God.

Seeing the great danger of Jesus claiming to LITERALLY be God in HINDSIGHT does not prove that Jesus clearly and realistically perceived the extent of this danger prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Therefore, premise (14A) does NOT FOLLOW logically from premise (15). This argument clearly FAILS to show that (14A) is true, because premise (15) is FALSE, and because the inference in the argument is INVALID. This argument is clearly UNSOUND and should be rejected.

PREMISE (16) AS SUPPORT FOR PREMISE (14A)

Here is the argument from premise (16):

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

THEREFORE:

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Strictly speaking, this argument is a non sequitur. There is no clear logical connection between the premise and the conclusion.

Furthermore, premise (16) is VAGUE and UNCLEAR, like so many of the claims made by Kreeft and Tacelli. It is not possible to rationally evaluate such a VAGUE and UNCLEAR premise. The problematic phrase in (16) is: “would be successful”. That phrase must be defined or clarified before this claim and this argument can be rationally evaluated.

The argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support premise (16) gives an indication of what they have in mind by the phrase “would be successful”:

17. The Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

18. Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

THEREFORE:

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

Apparently, Kreeft and Tacelli think that the only selfish motive Jesus could have had for claiming to LITERALLY be God is to receive worship from other Jews. I would think that a more likely selfish motivation would be to gain power and control over other people since Jews believe that they have an absolute duty to obey any command from God. I suppose if Jesus had a huge ego, he might have had a strong desire to be worshiped by other Jews, but that doesn’t seem like a very appealing or desirable goal.

Since Kreeft and Tacelli talk about Jesus wanting “the Jews” to worship him, there is a problem of VAGUENESS in the quantification of the worship that would constitute “success” from Jesus’ point of view. If his disciples Peter and John worshiped Jesus, would that be “success” from Jesus’ point of view? Or does “success” here mean that all twelve of Jesus’ inner-circle of disciples must worship Jesus? Or must hundreds of followers of Jesus beyond the inner-circle of twelve disciples also worship Jesus? Or must most of the Jewish population of Palestine worship Jesus as God, in order for Jesus to count his effort as being “successful”?

And how often and for how long must these Jews worship Jesus? If Peter and John worship Jesus every Sunday for an hour, is that enough to constitute Jesus being “successful”? Or do they need to worship Jesus for an hour every day? Or do they need to worship Jesus for an hour every morning, every afternoon, and every night? Or do they need to worship Jesus every waking moment of their lives? The same questions apply, if Jesus required that the twelve disciples worship him, that hundreds of his followers worship him, or that most of the Jewish population of Palestine worship him.

Since I cannot relate to a person for whom it is highly desirable to be worshiped by other people, I have no idea HOW MANY PEOPLE Jesus would have wanted to worship him as God, nor HOW OFTEN and for HOW LONG Jesus would have wanted those people to engage in such worship. But without having a degree of specificity about such QUANTIFICATION concerning what would constitute being “successful”, premise (16) cannot be rationally evaluated as either being true or false.

It should be pointed out, however, that a sizeable number of Jews became followers of Jesus, or followers of the newly developing Christian faith, in the first century, after the crucifixion of Jesus. Furthermore, according to Kreeft and Tacelli, even the earliest Christian believers (many of whom were Jews) worshiped Jesus as being God. So, if Jesus had the selfish goal of being worshiped by hundreds or thousands of other humans within a few decades after his death, then it appears, at least according to Kreeft and Tacelli, that this goal was achieved, that Jesus was in fact “successful” at least to that extent.

If premise (17) and premise (18) are assumed to be true, it could still be the case that hundreds or thousands of Jews did begin to regularly worship Jesus (on Sundays) as being God, within a few decades after his death (at least according to Kreeft and Tacelli). In that case, it is far from clear that (16) follows logically from (17) and (18).

There is a second problem of QUANTIFICATION in this argument. The phrase “the least likely people in the world to…” only specifies a relative probability. If, for example, Jesus had a 75% chance of getting hundreds of Romans to worship him, a 70% chance of getting hundreds of Greeks to worship him, a 65% chance of getting hundreds of Egyptians to worship him, and a 60% chance of getting hundreds of Jews to worship him, then it might well be the case that the Jews were “the least likely people in the world to have worshiped a man” and yet also the case that it was more likely than not that Jesus would be able to get hundreds of Jews to worship him. So, if being “successful” for Jesus meant getting hundreds of Jews to worship him, then he could have had a reasonable chance of being “successful” even if the Jews were “the least likely people in the world to have worshiped a man.”

In any case, given the VAGUENESS of QUANTIFICATION in the phrase “would be successful” in premise (16), we cannot rationally evaluate the truth or falsehood of (16), nor can we rationally evaluate the validity or invalidity of the inference from (17) and (18) to (16). Although I cannot determine that premise (16) is FALSE nor that the inference from (17) and (18) to (16) is INVALID, nobody else can determine that (16) is TRUE nor that the inference from (17) and (18) to (16) is VALID. Premise (16) is too UNCLEAR to allow this argument to be rationally evaluated.

CONCLUSION ABOUT THE ARGUMENTS FOR PREMISE (14A)

Kreeft and Tacelli provide two arguments in support of premise (14) and I have evaluated those two arguments as arguments for the revised premise (14A):

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

The first argument is based on premise (15). Premise (15) is FALSE, and the inference from premise (15) to (14A) is INVALID, so the first argument clearly FAILS.

The second argument is based on premise (16), and this argument cannot be rationally evaluated because premise (16) is too UNCLEAR to allow one to determine whether it is true or false, and it is too UNCLEAR to allow one to evaluate the inference from premise (17) and (18) to premise (16). So, the second argument FAILS, because the key premise of that argument contains an UNCLEAR phrase that involves VAGUE QUANTIFICATION (i.e. the phrase “would be successful”). Therefore, the second argument also FAILS.

Both of Kreeft and Tacelli’s arguments for premise (14A) have FAILED, and thus Kreeft and Tacelli have FAILED to show that premise (14A) is true.

CONCLUSION ABOUT ARGUMENTS FOR PREMISE (4B)

Kreeft and Tacelli give two arguments in suport of premise (4B):

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

In Part 14 of this series, I showed that the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true. In that post I focused on the core of the argument, namely the inference from premise (14) to (4B).

Therefore, Kreeft and Tacelli have FAILED to show that premise (4B) is true. That means that they have also FAILED to show that the second key premise of their case for the divinity of Jesus is true:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

So, the first key premise of their case for the divinity of Jesus, premise (1A), is FALSE, and the second key premise of their case, premise (2B), remains questionable because they have FAILED to prove that Jesus was NOT a liar.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 14: The 2nd Argument Against Jesus being a LIAR

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I showed that there are three INVALID inferences in Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A). So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and thus this premise is DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are at least three more VIEWS that Kreeft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the SKEPTIC VIEW, the STAR WARS VIEW, and the THEOLOGICAL CONFUSION VIEW. Therefore, premise (1A) is clearly FALSE. So, their argument for the divinity of Jesus is based on a premise that is FALSE, and the argument is thus UNSOUND and should be rejected.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false and so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In Part 13 of this series, I showed that the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B) FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true.

In this post, I will critically examine the second argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B).

THE SECOND ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (4B)

Premise (14) is the primary reason given in support of (4B):

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Kreeft and Tacelli provide two reasons in support of (14):

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

Kreeft and Tacelli also give an argument in support of premise (16):

17. The Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

18. Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

THEREFORE:

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

It is clear right away that the primary inference in this argument from premise (14) to (4B) is INVALID. The (alleged) fact that Jesus had no conceivable motive for claiming to LITERALLY be God is IRRELEVANT to whether Jesus was a liar or not.

No matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), the conclusion (4B) simply does NOT FOLLOW from that premise. At most, one could infer that Jesus did not intentionally lie about LITERALLY being God. But that leaves open the possibility that Jesus constantly lied about all sorts of other matters. So, this argument is clearly INVALID and thus it FAILS.

A VERY SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH PREMISE (14)

However, there appears to be an even more serious problem with premise (14). This premise LOGICALLY IMPLIES that Kreeft and Tacelli are wrong in their belief that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God:

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

19. Jesus did NOT claim that he was LITERALLY God.

If someone S has “no conceivable motive” to do X, then it follows that S will NOT do X. One must have a motivation for every action that one chooses to take. Why would Kreeft and Tacelli assert premise (14) given that this premise (a) clearly FAILS to support their claim that Jesus was not a liar, and (b) clearly implies that their basic assumption that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God is FALSE?

Kreeft and Tacelli are not the sharpest tools in the shed, so it is possible that they could have made both of these HUGE ERRORS all at once. But I suspect that the problem here is that premise (14) does not accurately represent what they were thinking. So, we need to take a closer look at this premise, to see if there is a better interpretation available, an interpretation that is not so obviously IDIOTIC, given what they were attempting to prove.

ALTERNATIVE INTERPRETATIONS OF PREMISE (14)

Here again is the quotation from Kreeft and Tacelli, where this premise is put forward:

Because there is no conceivable motive for his lie. It brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death. (HCA, p.160)

The second sentence uses the pronoun “it”, and this clearly refers back to the expression “his lie”. But if we interpret the second sentence straightforwardly, then it would be asserting this:

Jesus LIED in claiming to LITERALLY be God, and that LIE brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

This straightforward interpretation of the second sentence will not work, though, because Kreeft and Tacelli obviously don’t believe that Jesus LIED in claiming to LITERALLY be God. So, clearly, they would not assert that Jesus LIED in this way as being a historical fact. I therefore interpreted the second sentence this way:

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

In other words, I dropped the idea that this was a LIE out of the second sentence because I know that Kreeft and Tacelli do NOT believe that Jesus LIED by claiming to LITERALLY be God.

If they had written these sentences more CAREFULLY and CLEARLY, they would have used scare quotes around the word “lie”:

Because there is no conceivable motive for his “lie” of claiming to literally be God. His claiming to literally be God brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

In the previous sentences, Kreeft and Tacelli based an argument on the claim that “Liars lie for selfish reasons…”. So, it is possible that they intended the phrase “no conceivable motive” in the first sentence to be QUALIFIED in view of their previous statements so that what they actually meant was that Jesus had “no conceivable SELFISH motive”. Here is a revised version of premise (14) based on this hypothesis:

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Another possible interpretation of the first sentence involves keeping the concept of LYING in the claim, but in a hypothetical manner:

14B. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

Finally, it is possible to combine both of these alternative interpretations together to form a third possible interpretation of the first sentence:

14C. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

So, if we substitute these alternative interpretations of this premise into the second argument against Jesus being a liar, does that fix the argument?

First, any of these three alternatives is at least an improvement over the original interpretation, because none of these three alternative claims imply that Jesus did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God. Kreeft and Tacelli’s entire case for the divinity of Jesus rests on the assumption that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, so the original interpretation of premise (14) completely destroys the foundation of their own case for the divinity of Jesus. The alternative interpretations don’t have this huge self-destructive implication.

EVALUATION OF REVISED ARGUMENTS

However, the main question at issue here is whether any of these alternative interpretations of premise (14) change a FAILED argument into a SUCCESSFUL argument. Are any of these alternative claims true? Do any of these alternative claims logically imply the conclusion that Jesus was NOT a liar? Let’s consider revising the argument by using premise (14A):

14A. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

First, premise (14A) is FALSE. If Jesus believed he was LITERALLY God, and if Jesus believed that he was on a mission from God that required him to die by being executed by the Romans, and if Jesus believed that he would become the King of Kings and Lord of Lords if he faithfully carried out his mission, then Jesus clearly had a powerful SELFISH motivation for claiming to LITERALLY be God and thus to help bring about his own execution by the Romans, at the request of offended Jewish leaders in Jerusalem. So, this argument is UNSOUND and should be rejected.

Second, the conclusion does NOT FOLLOW from the premise. Whatever motivations Jesus may have had with respect to claiming to LITERALLY be God, this has almost nothing to do with whether Jesus was generally truthful or generally a liar about OTHER matters. Jesus might well have had many times when there was a selfish motive for him to lie about something (about his age, his health, his parents, his financial circumstances, his plans, his feelings about someone, etc.) Premise (14A) is only talking about one specific thing that Jesus might have chosen to say or not to say, so it does not have wide implications about how honest or dishonest Jesus was in general. Thus, the LOGIC of this argument is INVALID and the argument should be rejected.

Let’s consider revising the argument by using premise (14B):

14B. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

First, premise (14B) is FALSE. There are MANY selfish motives that Jesus could have had for claiming to LITERALLY be God. Jews believed they owed absolute obedience to God, and Jews believed they had a duty to love God with all their heart and mind, and Jews believed that God was a wonderful and amazing person who deserved honor, praise, and worship. So, if Jesus could persuade some Jews to believe that he was LITERALLY God, that would give him great power, influence, and control over those Jews. Since (14B) is FALSE, this argument is UNSOUND and it FAILS.

Second, the inference from (14B) to (4B) is clearly INVALID. Premise (14B) only talks about Jesus’ decision to either claim to LITERALLY be God or not to make this claim. It tells us NOTHING about the thousands of other subjects about which Jesus made claims. So, even if it is the case that Jesus had no motive to claim to LITERALLY be God, he probably did often have motive to lie about thousands of other questions and topics. Since the LOGIC in this argument is INVALID, this argument FAILS.

Let’s consider revising the argument by using premise (14C):

14C. There is no conceivable SELFISH motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God, if Jesus knew this claim was FALSE (and thus a LIE).

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

First, premise (14C) is FALSE. It is FALSE for the same reason that premise (14B) is FALSE. Thus, this argument is UNSOUND and it FAILS.

Second, the inference from premise (14C) to (4B) is INVALID. It is INVALID for the same reason that the inference from (14B) to (4B) is INVALID. Because the LOGIC of this argument is INVALID, this argument FAILS.

EVALUATION OF THE SECOND ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LIAR

The core of the argument against Jesus being a liar is premise (14):

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

The inference in this core argument is clearly INVALID, so no matter how well Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (14), this argument FAILS.

In addition, premise (14) is clearly FALSE. It is FALSE because persuading other Jews to believe that he was God would give Jesus great power, influence, and control over those Jews. So there is an OBVIOUS selfish motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

Thus, this core argument has both a FALSE premise and an INVALID inference. It is clearly an UNSOUND argument and it FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

Furthermore, not only does premise (14) FAIL to support premise (4B), but it actually DESTROYS the entire case made by Kreeft and Tacelli for the divinity of Jesus. Premise (14) implies that Jesus did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God, but that is a basic assumption of Kreeft and Tacelli’s case for the divinity of Jesus. They have truly shot themselves in both feet with premise (14).

Because premise (14) FAILS so spectacularly, I have made a serious effort to come up with alternative interpretations of the sentence on which (14) was based, to see if I could come up with an interpretation that helped to fix their badly broken argument.

I came up with three alternative interpretations, each of which are an improvement over the original premise (14) in that they do not logically imply that Jesus did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God. These alternative interpretations at least don’t DESTROY the entire case by Kreeft and Tacelli for the divinity of Jesus.

However, all three alternative interpretations turned out to be FALSE claims, and NONE of the alternative interpretations logically imply (4B), so if we substitute any of the three alternative premises into the argument for (4B), the argument will have a FALSE premise and an INVALID inference, and FAIL just as badly as the original argument with the original interpretation of premise (14).

I conclude that this argument by Kreeft and Tacelli against Jesus being a LIAR is a complete and utter FAILURE, like most of their other arguments.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 13: The 1st Argument Against Jesus being a LIAR

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, through Part 10 of this series, I explain how Kreeft and Tacelli use a series of FOUR DILEMMAS in order to try to prove premise (1A). I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference, and I have shown that the SECOND DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I agreed with Kreeft and Tacelli that the inference in the THIRD DILEMMA is logically VALID. I have also shown that in the FOURTH DILEMMA there is one VALID inference (to the LIAR VIEW) and one INVALID inference (to the LUNATIC VIEW). Therefore, there are INVALID inferences in three out of the FOUR DILEMMAS, and just one INVALID inference is enough to sink Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A) of their case for the divinity of Jesus. So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and that premise remains DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that my objections not only show that there are three INVALID inferences in the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (1A), but that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are at least three more VIEWS that Kreeft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the SKEPTIC VIEW, the STAR WARS VIEW, and the THEOLOGICAL CONFUSION VIEW. Therefore, not only is the argument given by Kreeft and Tacelli for premise (1A) a BAD argument, but premise (1A) is clearly FALSE. So, their argument for the divinity of Jesus is based on a premise that is FALSE, and the argument is thus UNSOUND and should be rejected.

In Part 12 of this series, I revised the second premise so that it would not be obviously false, so that it would have at least some initial plausibility:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

One key premise in support of (2B) is the following premise:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

In this post, I will examine the first argument Kreeft and Tacelli give to support (4B).

THE FIRST ARGUMENT AGAINST JESUS BEING A LIAR

Premises (10) and (11) are the core of this first argument for (4B):

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Premises (12) and (13) provide support for premise (11):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (10)

Here again is premise (10):

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

This premise is VAGUE in terms of QUANTIFICATION. Does it assert that liars ALWAYS “lie for selfish reasons”? or that liars USUALLY “lie for selfish reasons”? or that liars SOMETIMES “lie for selfish reasons”? Here are those three different interpretations* of premise (10):

10A. Liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10B. Liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10C. Liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

Premise (10C) is obviously true, but (10C) is too WEAK to be used to show that (4B) is true.

Premise (10B) might be true, although it is NOT obviously true. For all I know, liars lie for selfish reasons 50% of the time, and have other motivations 50% of the time.

It would depend in part on how exactly we define the term “liar”. To the extent that most people are “liars”, it might well be the case that “liars” tell lies for non-selfish reasons 50% of the time. In that case, (10B) would be FALSE. But if the term “liar” is reserved for people who habitually tell big lies, then (10B) might be TRUE. Without a careful and precise definition of “liar” and a large amount of carefully gathered sociological data on the frequency and nature of lying, it would be difficult to determine whether (10B) was TRUE or FALSE.

Furthermore, even if (10B) was true, it is also too WEAK a claim to be used to show that (4B) is true.

Premise (10A) would be strong enough to be used to show that (4B) is true. However, premise (10A) is obviously FALSE. People sometimes tell lies for non-selfish reasons. People have many different motivations for the choices they make and the actions they take, and people sometimes make choices on the basis of non-selfish reasons. Even people who frequently lie sometimes make choices and take actions for non-selfish reasons, so clearly even they will sometimes lie for non-selfish reasons. Premise (10A) is clearly FALSE.

So, if we interpret premise (10) to make the strong claim in (10A), then the premise will be strong enough to be used to show that (4B) is true, but the premise will be FALSE. If we interpret premise (10), to make the weaker claim (10B), then it will NOT be strong enough to be used to show that (4B) is true, and it is uncertain whether (10B) is TRUE or FALSE. Finally, if we interpret premise (10) to make the weak claim in (10C), then we know that claim is TRUE, but it is clearly too WEAK to be used to show that premise (4B) is true. Therefore, premise (10) is either too WEAK to support the conclusion (4B) or else it strong enough to support the conclusion (4B) but is clearly FALSE. Either way, Kreeft and Tacelli’s first argument for (4B) FAILS to show that (4B) is true.

EVALUATION OF PREMISE (11)

Here again is premise (11):

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

Kreeft and Tacelli support premise (11) with two reasons, given in premise (12) and premise (13):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

Premise (11) suffers from the very same problem of VAGUENESS as premise (10), and as with premise (10), we can interpret premise (11) in at least three different ways:

11A. Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring.

11B. Jesus was USUALLY unselfish, USUALLY loving, and USUALLY caring.

11C. Jesus was SOMETIMES unselfish, SOMETIMES loving, and SOMETIMES caring.

The WEAKER claims made by (11B) and (11C) are more plausible than the strong claim made by (11A), but the WEAKER claims are not sufficient to prove the conclusion that Jesus was not a liar. Only the strong claim made by (11A) will be sufficient to show that (4B) is true.

Human beings in general, unless they are sociopaths, are often selfish and are at least sometimes unselfish. Some admirable human beings are usually unselfish and yet are also sometimes selfish. Based on how human beings generally behave it is very unlikely that any particular person is “ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring”, so premise (11A) is extremely DUBIOUS, apart from lots of strong factual evidence. Premise (11A) is presumptively FALSE; it should be considered FALSE unless and until strong evidence is provided that shows it to be TRUE.

Do Kreeft and Tacelli provide lots of powerful evidence to support the very strong claim made by (11A)? They don’t even come anywhere close. Consider premise (12):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

The same could be said of many teachers: elementary school teachers, middle school teachers, high school teachers, and college professors. The same could be said of many many journalists and writers: newspaper journalists, magazine journalists, television journalists, textbook writers, how-to-book writers, science writers, historical writers, political writers, religion writers, psychology writers, sociology writers, etc.

Would it be reasonable to conclude that ALL teachers and ALL writers who are “passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth” are “ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring”? Obviously NOT. Human beings, even exemplary human beings, are still selfish sometimes, unloving sometimes, and uncaring sometimes. This is just a widely known fact about human behavior. Premise (12) is way too WEAK to prove, or even to strongly support, the very strong claim made by premise (11A).

Consider premise (13):

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

First, it is not at all clear that premise (13) is true.

In order to give up “all worldly goods”, one must have a significant amount of worldly goods to give up. But Jesus was the son of a carpenter. Jesus did NOT come from a wealthy or powerful family. Jesus came from a working-class family in a small backwater village in Galilee. Jesus did not have much in the way of worldly goods to give up. Furthermore, there was no easy path for Jesus to climb his way up into a life of wealth and luxury. Very few working-class Jews from backwater villages in first-century Palestine had any opportunity to become wealthy or powerful people. Jesus probably did go without much in the way of “worldly goods”, but that was already his lot in life when he was born into a working-class family in a backwater village in first-century Palestine. So, we cannot give Jesus much credit for giving up “all worldly goods”.

The second claim in (13) is also DUBIOUS. Jesus “gave up…life itself”. It is uncertain that Jesus deliberately “gave up” his own life. Furthermore, if he did give up his own life, it is not at all clear that he gave it up for unselfish reasons. The Gospels do generally portray Jesus as foreseeing his death by execution. But it would be expected for a great prophet to foresee his own death, and since his death was supposedly a key part of God’s plan, it would be expected that a great prophet would be aware of this key part of God’s plan, so the early Christian storytellers would be inclined to believe that Jesus had foreseen his own death, and they might well have shaped their stories about Jesus to correspond with this belief.

It might well be the case that Jesus anticipated his own death, especially in view of the fact that Jesus had been a disciple of John the Baptist, and John the Baptist was killed for being an outspoken critic of Herod Antipas. So, Jesus might have reasonably guessed that being an outspoken critic of the religious leaders of Jerusalem, he could face the same fate as the man he had previously admired and followed.

Nevertheless, it might well be the case that Jesus did NOT expect to be arrested and executed so early in his career as a prophet, teacher, and healer. He may have been anticipating many more years of preaching and healing before he faced being arrested and executed. If his arrest was a surprise to Jesus, then his death by execution was NOT the result of Jesus giving up his own life. In that case, it would be, at most, the result of Jesus putting his life at moderate risk for the sake of carrying on his ministry.

Suppose that Jesus was aware that there was a serious plot by the religious authorities in Jerusalem to have Jesus arrested and then executed by the Romans. Suppose Jesus remained in Jerusalem believing that this plot was very likely to be successful and that his choice to remain in Jerusalem meant that in all likelihood he would soon be arrested and executed by the Roman authorities. In that case, it would seem that Jesus did give up his life.

However, this would NOT be sufficient to show that Jesus gave up his life for unselfish reasons. We also would need to know what Jesus’ motivation was for remaining in Jerusalem and facing arrest and execution by the Romans. Premise (13) says NOTHING about Jesus’ motivation for giving up his life, so premise (13) FAILS to support the conclusion that “Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish”.

Furthermore, there is good reason to doubt that Jesus’ motivations were purely unselfish, even assuming that he did in fact choose to give up his own life. Jesus believed that he was on a mission from God, and that if he faithfully carried out that mission, God would make Jesus the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, and put Jesus in charge of all human beings in an eternal Kingdom of righteousness and prosperity.

If, however, Jesus failed to carry out the mission God had assigned to him, then God would NOT bestow such power and glory and prosperity upon Jesus. So, if Jesus believed that his own death was a key part of God’s plan, and thus a key part of Jesus’ mission, then Jesus would have a HUGE selfish reason to follow this plan, and to submit himself to being arrested and executed by the Romans. Given this plausible view of Jesus’ hopes and beliefs, it is clear that in giving up his own life, Jesus might well have been acting PRIMARILY on the basis of selfish reasons.

Finally, even if it was true that Jesus gave up his own life and did this for unselfish reasons, it does NOT follow that Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, or ALWAYS loving, or ALWAYS caring in every single choice he ever made. That would just be one instance where Jesus did something for unselfish reasons. That would have been a heroic choice, but it is a widely known fact of human behavior that even heroes and saints sometimes make choices that are selfish, unloving, or uncaring. So, even if Jesus did make the choice to give up his life for unselfish reasons, that does not come anywhere close to showing that Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring.

Because it is unclear whether Jesus actually gave up his own life, and because premise (13) says NOTHING about Jesus’ motivations for giving up his own life, because we can imagine a very plausible selfish reason why Jesus might have given up his own life, and because one unselfish action does NOT show that a person is consistently and constantly unselfish, premise (13) FAILS completely to provide support for the strong claim made by (11A), that “Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish”.

Since premise (11A) makes a very strong claim that runs contrary to our common experience of human behavior, and since premise (12) and premise (13) FAIL to provide any significant support for premise (11A), we may reasonably conclude that premise (11A) is DUBIOUS, and that it is probably FALSE.

EVALUATION OF THE FIRST ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (4B)

The core argument for (4B) consists of two premises:

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

Both of these premises are VAGUE with respect to QUANTIFICATION.

Both of these premises will work to establish the conclusion (4B) only if they are interpreted as making very strong claims:

10A. Liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11A. Jesus was ALWAYS unselfish, ALWAYS loving, and ALWAYS caring.

However, on these interpretations, premise (10A) is clearly FALSE, and premise (11A) is DUBIOUS and probably FALSE. The reasons that Kreeft and Tacelli give in support of (11A) are clearly inadequate to support this very strong claim. Therefore, the first argument FAILS to show that premise (4B) is true; it FAILS to show that “Jesus was not a liar.”

In the next post of this series, I will examine the second argument given by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (4B), the claim that “Jesus was not a liar.”

*NOTE:

After I published this post, I realized that there was a second problem of VAGUENESS with premise (10) concerning QUANTIFICATION. So, there are at least nine different possible interpretations of this premise:

10D. ALL liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10E. MOST liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10F. SOME liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10G. ALL liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10H. MOST liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10I. SOME liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10J. ALL liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10K. MOST liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

10L. SOME liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

My objection to the argument involving premise (10) still stands. Clearly, the weakest claim here has no significance:

10L. SOME liars SOMETIMES lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

But even claims of moderate strength are still too weak to make Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument work:

10H. MOST liars USUALLY lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

First, Jesus could be one of the liars who doesn’t fall into this category of “MOST liars” who USUALLY lie for selfish reasons. Perhaps Jesus USUALLY or ALWAYS lied for unselfish reasons.

Second, even if Jesus was a liar who USUALLY lied for selfish reasons, he might not have told many lies, and his other actions and choices might have been consistently unselfish so that overall his choices and actions were usually unselfish.

So, in order for their argument to work, they need to make (10) a very strong claim, like the following, which is obviously FALSE:

10D. ALL liars ALWAYS lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

It turns out that Kreeft and Tacelli make basically the SAME argument concerning Jesus’ disciples, but when they do, they use the word “always” to quantify this claim about lies being made for selfish reasons:

There could be no possible motive for such a lie. Lies are always told for some selfish advantage. (HCA, p.185)

Since they assert this universal generalization when discussing the disciples, they presumably believe this same universal generalization when they discuss the possibility of Jesus being a liar. The claim that “Lies are always told for some selfish advantage” logically implies premise (10D), so it is FALSE too, just like premise (10D) is FALSE.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 12: The Argument for Premise (2A)

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue.

In Part 4 of this series through Part 9 of this series, I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference, and I have shown that the SECOND DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I agreed with Kreeft and Tacelli that the inference in the THIRD DILEMMA is logically VALID.

In Part 10 of this series, I have shown that in the FOURTH DILEMMA there is one VALID inference (to the LIAR VIEW) and one INVALID inference (to the LUNATIC VIEW). Therefore, there are INVALID inferences in three out of the FOUR DILEMMAS, and just one INVALID inference is enough to sink Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A) of their case for the divinity of Jesus. So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and that premise remains DUBIOUS, at best.

In Part 11 of this series, I argued that my objections not only show that there are three INVALID inferences in the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (1A), but that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are at least three more VIEWS that Kreeft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the SKEPTIC VIEW, the STAR WARS VIEW, and the THEOLOGICAL CONFUSION VIEW.

Therefore, not only is the argument given by Kreeft and Tacelli for premise (1A) clearly a BAD argument, but premise (1A) is clearly FALSE. So, their argument for the divinity of Jesus is based on a premise that is FALSE, and that argument is thus UNSOUND and should be rejected.

THE ARGUMENT FOR PREMISE (2A)

Here again, is premise (2A) one of the key premises of Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument for the divinity of Jesus:

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

The argument in support of (2A) consists of four more specific claims:

4A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar.

5A. Jesus could not possibly be a lunatic.

6A. Jesus could not possibly be a guru.

7A. Jesus could not possibly be a myth.

THEREFORE:

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

Before I diagram this sub-argument, I should correct a problem with premise (2A). Premise (2A) appears to make the strong claim that it is LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that Jesus was a liar, and LOGICALLY IMPOSSIBLE that Jesus was a lunatic, etc. But such strong claims are clearly and obviously FALSE. We can imagine it being the case that Jesus was a liar, and we can imagine it being the case that Jesus was a lunatic. There is no logical self-contradiction in these claims. Thus, it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE that Jesus was a liar, and it is LOGICALLY POSSIBLE that Jesus was a lunatic. The claim intended by Kreeft and Tacelli here is that historical facts show that Jesus was NOT in fact a liar and NOT in fact a lunatic.

So, to avoid the second premise being immediately judged to be FALSE and tossed aside, we should modify this premise so that it has at least some initial plausibility, if possible. This problem is easily fixed, so I will revise the second premise to make it more clearly into a factual and historical claim:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

Since we have revised the second premise to make it at least initially plausible, we need to also revise the premises in the argument supporting the second premise in a similar manner:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

5B. Jesus was not a lunatic.

6B. Jesus was not a guru.

7B. Jesus was not a myth.

THEREFORE:

2B. Jesus was not a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.

THE ARGUMENTS FOR PREMISE (4B)

Here again, is premise (4B):

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Kreeft and Tacelli give more than one reason in support of this premise:

Why couldn’t Jesus be a liar?

1. Because he has the wrong psychological profile. He was unselfish, loving, caring, compassionate, and passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

2. Because there is no conceivable motive for his lie. It brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

3. Because he could not have hoped that his “lie” would be successful, for the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man, and Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that.

(HCA, p.160)

THE FIRST ARGUMENT FOR (4B)

The first argument for (4B) is summarized in the first sentence: “Because he has the wrong psychological profile.” But that is just a summary. The key premise in the argument is this one:

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

(I will ignore the numbers used by Kreeft and Tacelli, and assign numbers to statements in whatever way helps to clarify the logic of their argument.)

The first phrase of the second sentence logically connects with premise (10): “He was unselfish, loving, caring…”. Let’s take this as another premise in the first argument for (4B):

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

The rest of the second sentence appears to provide some support for the first part of the sentence, for premise (11):

12. Jesus was passionate about teaching truth and helping others to truth.

The fourth sentence also appears to provide some support for premise (11):

13. Jesus gave up all worldly goods, and life itself.

Premises (10) and (11) are the core of this first argument:

10. Liars lie for selfish reasons, like money, fame, pleasure or power.

11. Jesus was unselfish, loving, and caring.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

Premises (12) and (13) provide support for premise (11).

THE SECOND ARGUMENT FOR (4B)

The next point made by Kreeft and Tacelli also relates to Jesus’ motivations:

Because there is no conceivable motive for his lie. It brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death. (HCA, p.160)

What does the phrase “his lie” refer to? Clearly it refers to “Jesus’ lie that he was LITERALLY God”. However, Kreeft and Tacelli don’t believe this was a lie, so in more neutral language, they mean “Jesus’ claim that he was LITERALLY God”:

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

The next sentence begins with the pronoun “it”: “It brought him hatred…”. The pronoun clearly refers back to “his lie”, which we have clarified to mean “Jesus’s claim that he was LITERALLY God.”:

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

Premise (15) appears to be a reason given in support of premise (14), and (14) is a reason given in support of (4B):

15. Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and this brought him hatred, rejection, misunderstanding, persecution, torture and death.

THEREFORE:

14. There is no conceivable motive for Jesus to claim that he was LITERALLY God.

THEREFORE:

4B. Jesus was not a liar.

ANOTHER ARGUMENT FOR (14)

Here again is the third point given by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (4B):

Because he could not have hoped that his “lie” would be successful, for the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man, and Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that. (HCA, p.160)

The reference to “his ‘lie'” at the beginning of this sentence is not intended literally, which is why the word “lie” appears in quotation marks. Kreeft and Tacelli believe that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and that this claim was true, not a lie. So we need to rephrase “his ‘lie'” in more neutral language:

16. Jesus could not have hoped that his claim to LITERALLY be God would be successful.

The second part of the sentence provides a reason in support of premise (16):

17. The Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

The third part of the sentence makes a claim that works with premise (17) to support (16):

18. Jesus, as a Jew, would have known that the Jews were the least likely people in the world to have worshipped a man.

Premise (16) appears to provide further support to premise (14), so the third point by Kreeft and Tacelli appears to be a sub-argument within the second argument, rather than being an independent argument for (4B). So, will modify the diagram for the second argument to include this additional sub-argument.

Kreeft and Tacelli have provided two arguments in support of (4B). In the next post of this series, I will evaluate the first argument in support of (4B).

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 11: Evaluation of Premise (1A)

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue.

In Part 4 of this series through Part 9 of this series, I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference, and I have shown that the SECOND DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I agreed with Kreeft and Tacelli that the inference in the THIRD DILEMMA is logically VALID.

In Part 10 of this series, I have shown that in the FOURTH DILEMMA there is one VALID inference (to the LIAR VIEW) and one INVALID inference (to the LUNATIC VIEW). Therefore, there are INVALID inferences in three out of the FOUR DILEMMAS, and just one INVALID inference is enough to sink Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A) of their case for the divinity of Jesus. So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and that premise remains DUBIOUS, at best.

CRITICAL EVALUATION OF PREMISE (1A)

My conclusion at the end of Part 10 is that premise (1A) remains DUBIOUS, at best, because Kreeft and Tacelli have utterly and completely FAILED to provide a sound argument for this premise. But a stronger conclusion than that is warranted by my objections showing that there are at least three INVALID inferences in their argument supporting premise (1A). My objections against those three inferences also show that premise (1A) is in fact FALSE. So, now I will briefly review those objections and explain how they show that premise (1A) is FALSE.

THE OBJECTION TO THE INFERENCE IN THE FIRST DILEMMA

In order to evaluate the inference in the FIRST DILEMMA, I had to clarify the meaning of the “MYTH VIEW”.

The MYTH VIEW is true IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) at least ONE New Testament writing asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God,

AND

(b) it is NOT the case that Jesus claimed to be God.

Obviously, if the answer to the first basic question (i.e. “Did Jesus claim to be God?) is NO, then condition (b) would be satisfied. The only thing remaining that would need to be determined is whether condition (a) was also satisfied.

It appears that it might well be the case that (a) is FALSE, that NO NT writing asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God, and therefore even if we have good reason to conclude that it is NOT the case that Jesus claimed to be God, the MYTH THEORY might well be wrong, and thus the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s first dilemma would be mistaken. If the answer to the basic question “Did Jesus claim to be God?” is NO, it still might be the case that the MYTH THEORY was FALSE, because it might well be the case that no NT writing asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God.

The VIEW that Kreeft and Tacelli FAILED to take into account is the VIEW that the following two claims are true:

  • Jesus never claimed to be God.
  • The New Testament nowhere asserts or implies that Jesus claimed to be God.

This is MY view, and since I am a skeptic, I will call this the SKEPTIC VIEW. The SKEPTIC VIEW differs from the MYTH VIEW, because according to the MYTH VIEW there is one or more passages in the New Testament that assert or imply that Jesus claimed to be God. The SKEPTIC VIEW also differs from the other four VIEWS (the GURU VIEW, the LORD VIEW, the LIAR VIEW, and the LUNATIC VIEW). Therefore, the SKEPTIC VIEW constitutes a COUNTEREXAMPLE to premise (1A), and proves that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are clearly more than just the five VIEWS outlined by Kreeft and Tacelli in premise (1A).

THE OBJECTION TO THE INFERENCE IN THE SECOND DILEMMA

Whether or not the Gospel of John presents an accurate view of the historical Jesus, it presents a logically possible version of Jesus in which the inference that Kreeft and Tacelli make in the SECOND DILEMMA would be mistaken, and thus the logic of that dilemma is INVALID. In short, the Jesus presented in the Gospel of John provides a CLEAR COUNTEREXAMPLE to the inference made in the SECOND DILEMMA presented by Kreeft and Tacelli.

I argued that the characterization of Jesus found in the Gospel of John has two relevant aspects:

  • Jesus never means his claim to be God literally.
  • Jesus believes that some humans are divine or “from God” while other humans are evil or “from the devil”.

The VIEW of Jesus presented in the Gospel of John is thus contrary to the GURU VIEW, because according to the GURU VIEW Jesus believed that ALL human beings are divine or “from God”.

The VIEW of Jesus as satisfying the above two bulleted statements is one in which Jesus views humans as taking opposing sides in a great battle between good and evil. This is a theological view that was reflected in the STAR WARS movies, so I will call this the STAR WARS VIEW of Jesus. The STAR WARS VIEW is clearly different from the GURU VIEW, and it is also clearly different from the other four VIEWS (the MYTH VIEW, the LORD VIEW, the LIAR VIEW, and the LUNATIC VIEW) specified by Kreeft and Tacelli. It also differs from the sixth VIEW that I just introduced above: the SKEPTIC VIEW.

Therefore, the STAR WARS VIEW constitutes another COUNTEREXAMPLE to premise (1A), and proves that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are clearly more than just the five VIEWS outlined by Kreeft and Tacelli in premise (1A).

THE OBJECTION TO AN INFERENCE IN THE FOURTH DILEMMA

There are two inferences in the FOURTH DILEMMA. My objection was that the inference from a NO answer to the question posed in the FOURTH DILEMMA to the LUNATIC VIEW is an INVALID inference.

Kreeft and Tacelli are mistaken when they infer the LUNATIC VIEW from a NO answer to the question “Did Jesus know his literal claim to be God was not true?” It is possible for a person, including Jesus, to be a rational adult of normal cognitive ability who is NOT GOD, to nevertheless NOT KNOW that he was NOT GOD. Therefore, this inference in the FOURTH DILEMMA is logically INVALID.

I argue that it was possible that Jesus could have entertained a bizarre theological idea or theory (such as the TWO MINDS theory) that would have prevented him from accepting the evidence of his own experience as indicating that he was NOT omnipotent, NOT omniscient, NOT eternal, and NOT perfectly good. The acceptance of such a bizarre theological idea or theory would not, however, imply that Jesus was LITERALLY INSANE (that he had a very serious mental illness).

Because the acceptance of bizarre theological ideas is fairly common and not viewed as implying INSANITY or LUNACY, we can call this VIEW of Jesus, the THEOLOGICALLY CONFUSED VIEW. If Jesus accepted a strange or bizarre theological belief that prevented him from recognizing that he was an ordinary, finite, limited, and imperfect human being, but that did not otherwise impact his ability to cope with reality, to survive, and to get along with other people, then he would still have been a rational adult with normal cognitive ability who, nevertheless, did NOT KNOW that he was NOT GOD, even though this fact might have been fairly obvious apart from his bizarre theological theory.

The THEOLOGICALLY CONFUSED VIEW is clearly different from the LUNATIC VIEW, and it is also different than the MYTH VIEW, the GURU VIEW, the LORD VIEW, and the LIAR VIEW. So, the THEOLOGICALLY CONFUSED VIEW is a clear COUNTEREXAMPLE to premise (1A), and it shows that premise (1A) is FALSE.

The THEOLOGICALLY CONFUSED VIEW is also different from the other views that I introduced above: the SKEPTIC VIEW and the STAR WARS VIEW.

CONCLUSIONS ABOUT PREMISE (1A)

In previous posts in this series, I argued that three of the series of FOUR DILEMMAS presented by Kreeft and Tacelli contained INVALID inferences. Since only one INVALID inference would be sufficient to sink this argument for premise (1A), it is clear that they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that premise (1A) is true.

In this post, I argued that my objections not only show that there are three INVALID inferences in the argument presented by Kreeft and Tacelli in support of premise (1A), but that there are three clear COUNTEREXAMPLES to premise (1A), each of which shows that premise (1A) is FALSE. There are at least three more VIEWS that Kreeft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the SKEPTIC VIEW, the STAR WARS VIEW, and the THEOLOGICAL CONFUSION VIEW.

Therefore, not only is the argument given by Kreeft and Tacelli for premise (1A) clearly a BAD argument, but premise (1A) is clearly FALSE. So, their argument for the divinity of Jesus is based on a premise that is FALSE, and that argument is thus UNSOUND and should be rejected.

NOTE: There is also yet another obvious VIEW that Kreft and Tacelli failed to take into account: the NO JESUS VIEW (the view that Jesus was not an actual historical person).

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 10: The Fourth Dilemma

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue.

In Part 4 of this series, I argued that the answer to the question posed in this FIRST DILEMMA is: NO. Furthermore, this NO answer to the question does NOT logically imply that the MYTH VIEW is true, so the logic of the FIRST DILEMMA is INVALID.

In Part 6 of this series, Part 7 of this series, and Part 8 of this series, I showed that if we answer the question posed by the SECOND DILEMMA by focusing on the quotations of Jesus provided by Kreeft and Tacelli from the Gospel of John, then the answer to the question would be: NO. Yet what Jesus says in the Gospel of John (especially in Chapter 8) also shows that the GURU VIEW is FALSE. Thus, the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s SECOND DILEMMA is INVALID.

In Part 9 of this series, I pointed out that the logic of the THIRD DILEMMA is VALID.

In order for Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS to work as a SOUND argument for premise (1A) the logic of all FOUR DILEMMAS must be VALID. Since I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA is INVALID and that the SECOND DILEMMA is INVALID, it is already clear that Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument FAILS to show that premise (1A) is true.

WHAT ABOUT THE FOURTH DILEMMA?

Here is the FOURTH DILEMMA, the final piece of Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument in support of premise (1A):

The previous three dilemmas have each involved an inference to ONE of the five VIEWS, but this final FOURTH DILEMMA has two inferences. According to the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, a YES answer to the question posed in the FOURTH DILEMMA logically implies the LIAR VIEW (the view that Jesus was a liar), and a NO answer to the question logically implies the LUNATIC VIEW (the view that Jesus was a lunatic, a person who was insane, or who had a very serious mental illness).

CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE INFERENCE TO THE LIAR VIEW

Is the inference from a YES answer to the question “Did Jesus know his literal claim to be God was not true?” to the conclusion that the LIAR VIEW is true a VALID inference? First, it should be noted that Jesus never claimed to be God, and that Jesus never claimed to LITERALLY be God. So, this question is based on a FALSE ASSUMPTION. However, we should evaluate the logic of this FOURTH DILEMMA independently of the answers to the previous dilemmas, if possible. So, we should imagine that Jesus had claimed to LITERALLY be God, to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Furthermore, to evaluate this specific inference, we also need to imagine that Jesus KNEW that this claim to LITERALLY be God was NOT TRUE. Would this make Jesus a LIAR? It might be tempting to say that this conclusion, the LIAR VIEW, does not follow logically, because in this imagined circumstance Jesus has only told ONE LIE, but every human being has told at least one lie, and we don’t want to say that every human being is a LIAR on such a meager basis. It seems inappropriate to label a person as being a “liar” simply because that person told ONE SINGLE LIE.

However, this objection to the inference to the LIAR VIEW does not hold up under closer examination. The problem is that this “one lie” would be a HUGE and TERRIBLE lie, at least in the context of Jesus presenting himself as a devout Jew who is leading a group of people who were trying to be devout Jews.

God, according to the Jewish religion, is worthy of worship, and God is worthy of absolute obedience, and a devout Jew should believe anything and everything that God says. So, if Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and Jesus KNEW that this claim was NOT TRUE, Jesus would be deceiving people into worshiping an imperfect human being, and deceiving people into giving absolute obedience to an imperfect human being, and deceiving people into absolutely believing anything and everything that was asserted by an ignorant and imperfect human being. This would be a HUGE and TERRIBLE deception by Jesus, and thus if he did this, he would clearly deserve the label: LIAR.

Therefore, the inference from a YES answer to the question posed in the FOURTH DILEMMA to the conclusion that the LIAR VIEW is true is logically VALID. The LIAR VIEW does indeed follow logically from a YES answer to the question “Did Jesus know his literal claim to be God was not true?”

CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE INFERENCE TO THE LUNATIC VIEW

According to the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, a NO answer to the question posed in the FOURTH DILEMMA logically implies that the LUNATIC VIEW is true. However, they are mistaken on this point. This inference is logically INVALID, and thus the FOURTH DILEMMA adds yet another logical error to their argument in support of premise (1A).

The problem here is that religious beliefs, including basic Christian beliefs, involve the same appearance of INSANITY that the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli rely upon here to label the imagined version of Jesus as being a LUNATIC. Their logic would require that virtually all Christians also be considered to be LUNATICS. Their reasoning, in this case, PROVES TOO MUCH, and can thus be reduced to absurdity.

Did the baby Jesus know all human languages that have ever existed? Did the baby Jesus know all of the laws of physics and chemistry will ever be discovered, plus some laws of physics and chemistry that no human being will ever discover? Did the baby Jesus know all mathematical and geometrical axioms and theorems that will ever be thought of by any human being? Did the baby Jesus know how many hairs there are on the heads of every human being who has ever lived and who will ever live? In short, was the baby Jesus OMNISCIENT? If not, then it follows logically that the baby Jesus was NOT GOD, because God is, by definition, OMNISCIENT.

But if the baby Jesus was OMNISCIENT, then he would have been a FREAK, a MONSTER, and not in any way a finite human being. There are MANY logical problems with the Christian belief that Jesus was GOD INCARNATE, and that Jesus was one person in the TRINITY which constitutes God.

Over the centuries, many Christian philosophers and theologians have expended a great deal of time and effort trying to make sense of the idea that God could become a limited and finite human being, and still somehow remain God. Christian philosophers and theologians have also expended a great deal of time and effort trying to make sense of the idea that God could be three individual persons and yet be just ONE BEING (a Trinity). These intellectual efforts often involve rather bizarre ideas, like the idea that Jesus had TWO MINDS: a finite and limited human mind, and an infinite and unlimited divine mind. Such a bizarre theory was part of an effort to try to make sense of a baby Jesus who was, somehow, also God and thus OMNISCIENT.

But from the point of view of ordinary folks and common sense, the idea that Jesus had TWO MINDS, seems more than a little bit CRAZY. But such bizarre thinking has been a part of the intellectual history of Christian thought for many many centuries. Some of us might not be impressed by the TWO MINDS theory about Jesus, but we don’t conclude that Christian theologians are literally INSANE or LUNATICS. We all understand that religion and theology can easily and quickly go into some wild and wacky places.

Let’s think for a moment about an analogy that might be used to defend the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli on this point. Am I Superman? As a rational adult human with at least normal cognitive abilities, I am quite sure that I am NOT SUPERMAN. I am NOT faster than a speeding bullet. I am NOT more powerful than a locomotive. I am NOT able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Plus, I cannot fly through the air on my own (without a jet pack or some sort of manufactured wings). Any rational adult human of normal cognitive ability knows whether he or she is faster than a speeding bullet, or more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or able to fly through the air on their own (without a jet pack or some sort of manufactured wings). So, any rational adult of normal cognitive ability knows whether or not he/she is SUPERMAN.

Wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to being GOD? I know that I am NOT omnipotent. I know that I am NOT omniscient. I know that I am NOT eternal. I know that I am NOT perfectly good. As a rational adult with at least normal cognitive ability, I know that I am NOT GOD, in the same way that I know that I am NOT SUPERMAN. So, if Jesus was NOT omnipotent, and Jesus was NOT omniscient, and Jesus was NOT eternal, and Jesus was NOT perfectly good, then if Jesus was a rational adult with at least normal cognitive ability, wouldn’t he also know that he was NOT GOD? Wouldn’t it be OBVIOUS that he lacked the basic divine attributes (e.g. eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good)?

It is tempting to say that any rational adult who has at least normal cognitive ability would be able to quickly and easily determine whether or not he/she was eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. However, we must keep in mind the bizarre thinking of Christian philosophers and theologians who try to make sense of a baby Jesus who is LITERALLY GOD, who is LITERALLY omnipotent and omniscient.

One way of making sense of this is by the theory that Jesus had TWO MINDS, a finite human mind, and an infinite divine mind. But then, would baby Jesus KNOW he was omnipotent and omniscient? Would Jesus as a teenager KNOW he was omnipotent and omniscient? Would Jesus as an adult KNOW he was omnipotent and omniscient? It is hard to say. Are we talking about the finite human MIND of Jesus knowing this? or the infinite divine MIND of Jesus knowing this?

To some of us, such questions appear to be INSANE and involve the thinking of LUNATICS. But I am talking about the thinking of some of the greatest Christian theologians and philosophers, and it would be rather ABSURD to declare these great Christian thinkers to all be INSANE, even if we think they are mistaken, even if we think some of their ideas and theories about God are illogical.

In short, Jesus could have entertained some bizarre philosophical or theological ideas that, to some of us, seem INSANE, but that are not any more bizarre than ideas that have been contemplated and defended by some great Christian thinkers. If Jesus had come up with, for example, the idea that he had TWO MINDS, one mind that was a finite and limited mind, and another mind that was an infinite and divine mind, many of us would find that to be a very strange and bizarre belief. But such a belief would NOT NECESSARILY imply that Jesus was LITERALLY INSANE or that Jesus suffered from a very serious mental illness.

If Jesus had come up with such a bizarre idea, that would explain how he could be a rational adult who had at least an ordinary level of cognitive ability, and yet believe that he was LITERALLY GOD when in fact he was just an ordinary, finite, and imperfect human being, just like the rest of us. In short, we can imagine Jesus coming up with a bizarre philosophical or theological idea that would reconcile the appearance that he was ordinary, finite, and imperfect, with the belief that he was supernatural, infinite, and perfectly good, but this bizarre philosophical or theological belief would NOT be sufficient reason to conclude that Jesus was LITERALLY INSANE, that Jesus had a very serious mental illness.

So long as Christians maintain the belief that Jesus was GOD INCARNATE, and that Jesus was one of three individual persons who constitute a single BEING that is GOD (the Trinity), we must either declare many of the greatest Christian thinkers to be INSANE, or else we must allow that Jesus could hold bizarre theological or philosophical beliefs that would make it possible for a rational adult of normal cognitive ability to NOT KNOW that he was a finite, limited, imperfect human being, even though he was in fact a finite, limited, and imperfect human being.

Kreeft and Tacelli are mistaken when they infer the LUNATIC VIEW from a NO answer to the question “Did Jesus know his literal claim to be God was not true?” It is possible for a person, including Jesus, to be a rational adult of normal cognitive ability who is NOT GOD, to nevertheless NOT KNOW that he was NOT GOD. Therefore, this inference in the FOURTH DILEMMA is logically INVALID.

CONCLUSION ABOUT THE FOUR DILEMMAS

I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I have shown that the SECOND DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I agree with Kreeft and Tacelli that the inference in the THIRD DILEMMA is logically VALID. I have shown that in the FOURTH DILEMMA there is one VALID inference (to the LIAR VIEW) and one INVALID inference (to the LUNATIC VIEW).

Therefore, there are INVALID inferences in three out of the four DILEMMAS, and just one INVALID inference is enough to sink Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A) of their case for the divinity of Jesus. So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and that premise remains DUBIOUS, at best.

bookmark_borderKreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 8: Conclusions about the Second Dilemma

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:

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.

In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue. I summarized the clarified version of their four dilemmas in this decision tree diagram:

In Part 4 of this series, I argued some key points about the first dilemma in the above diagram:

Here are those key points:

  • When Kreeft and Tacelli added two more possible views to the TRILEMMA to make their QUINTLEMMA, they unknowingly changed the meaning of the key question in the first dilemma (“Did Jesus claim to be God?”), making the meaning of the question UNCLEAR.
  • Kreeft and Tacelli fail to clarify the key concept of the MYTH VIEW and make a mess of the first dilemma, requiring me to fix the first dilemma by specifying a simple and clear definition of the MYTH VIEW as well as providing a plausible interpretation of the key question: “Did Jesus claim to be God?”.
  • Given my repairs to the first dilemma, it turns out that the answer to this key question is “NO” and yet that the MYTH VIEW is FALSE, contrary to the logic of the first dilemma. So, the logic of the first dilemma is INVALID.
  • The QUINTLEMMA FAILS on the first dilemma of Kreeft and Tacelli’s series of dilemmas and thus the dilemmas FAIL to show that premise (1A) is true (that there are only FIVE possible views about the alleged divinity of Jesus).

Because Jesus did NOT make a claim that if taken literally would be a claim to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe, the answer to the question posed in the FIRST DILEMMA is: NO. That put an end to the series of dilemmas presented by Kreeft and Tacelli, and their attempt to prove premise (1A) FAILS right out of the starting gate.

However, in order to attempt to evaluate the SECOND DILEMMA, we examined six verses from the Gospel of John that were put forward by Kreeft and Tacelli as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God. A careful examination of those verses showed that, even on the dubious assumption that the historical Jesus actually said the things those verses claim he said, those verses FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God. So, based on a careful examination of those six verses, the answer to the question posed in the SECOND DILEMMA is: NO.

The second dilemma or second basic question supposedly leads to the GURU VIEW, if the answer to the question is “NO”:

The question at issue concerning our evaluation of the second DILEMMA is thus whether Jesus meant these statements LITERALLY, and whether in making them he was LITERALLY claiming to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

Here are the six verses from the Gospel of John that Kreeft and Tacelli quote in the opening pages of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA):

  • John 8:12
  • John 8:46
  • John 8:58
  • John 10:30
  • John 11:25
  • John 14:9

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the statements Jesus makes in these passages imply that Jesus is claiming to LITERALLY be God, that is, claiming to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

In Part 6 of this series and in Part 7 of this series, I carefully examined each of the above six verses from the Gospel of John. I showed that NONE of the six verses from the Gospel of John quoted by Kreeft and Tacelli (at the beginning of Chapter 7 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics) as proof that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God actually show that Jesus made such a claim. Therefore, even if we assume for the sake of argument that the Gospel of John provides historically accurate information about the words and teachings of Jesus (it clearly does NOT do so), the evidence from the Gospel of John FAILS to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.

DOES THE GURU VIEW FOLLOW FROM A “NO” ANSWER TO THE SECOND DILEMMA?

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, a “NO” answer to the SECOND DILEMMA logically implies that the GURU VIEW is true:

Is this inference logically VALID? Based on my interpretations of the six passages from the Gospel of John, the GURU VIEW does initially appear to be true. Jesus calls God his “father”, but then he also tells his followers that God is THEIR “father” as well. Jesus claims to be “one with God”, but then he also says things that imply that his followers will also become “one with God”. So, it appears that Jesus claimed to have a very similar relationship with God as what he claimed his followers had or would soon have.

However, in the Gospel of John Jesus also claims to be the promised Messiah of the Jews, and there is no indication that he believed that his followers were also Messiahs. So, in claiming to be the “Messiah”, Jesus was claiming to have a unique and important role in God’s plan for humanity. But then Gurus and Buddhas in Eastern religions also claim to have important roles in bringing enlightenment to others. So, the GURU VIEW seems initially to be a good fit with what Jesus claimed about himself.

There is an important difference between Jesus’ claims about his and his followers’ relationship with God, and the views of gurus in Eastern religions. Although Jesus was inclined to tell his followers that God is THEIR “father”, he was also inclined, according to the Gospel of John, to tell his opponents that God is NOT THEIR “father”:

42 Jesus said to them, “If God were your Father, you would love me, for I came from God, and now I am here. I did not come on my own, but he sent me.
43 Why do you not understand what I say? It is because you cannot accept my word.
44 You are from your father the devil, and you choose to do your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning and does not stand in the truth because there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks according to his own nature, for he is a liar and the father of lies.
45 But because I tell the truth, you do not believe me.
46 Which of you convicts me of sin? If I tell the truth, why do you not believe me?
47 Whoever is from God hears the words of God. The reason you do not hear them is that you are not from God.”

(John 8:42-47, New Revised Standard Version Updated Edition)

Jesus is arguing with some of his opponents here, not talking to his followers. Jesus clearly does not believe that his opponents are “from God”, nor does Jesus believe that God is their “father” in the way that God is his “father” and that God is the “father” of his followers. In short, Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospel of John, does NOT believe that God is the “father” of all humans, nor that all humans are children of God. Some humans are “from God”, but others are NOT “from God”, but are from “the devil”. This view is clearly contrary to the philosophy of gurus in Eastern religious traditions.

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, the mystical view of gurus in Eastern religious traditions is that “we are all God” (HCA, p.165) and that “we and everything else are all, ultimately, God.” (HCA, p.166). That is NOT the claim that each of us is LITERALLY the eternal creator of the universe, nor that each of us is the all-powerful, all-knowing, perfectly good ruler of the universe. Rather, this is a weaker claim that we are all “divine” in some vague metaphysical sense that we are all “part of God”, and that all humans are on a path or journey to enlightenment where we will eventually fully realize our oneness with God.

Jesus believed, according to the Gospel of John, that he had a close and loving relationship with God, and that his followers also had a close and loving relationship with God. But Jesus did NOT believe that every human had such a close and loving relationship with God. Some people, especially people who hated and opposed Jesus, were NOT “from God” but were evil and from “the devil”. Therefore, although Jesus, as portrayed in the Gospel of John, was similar to a mystical guru, in that he did NOT claim to be divine in a unique or supreme way, and only claimed to be divine in the way that his followers were also divine, his views were radically different from those of a mystical guru, because Jesus believed some people were “divine” or “from God” while other people are NOT “divine” and NOT “from God” but are from “the devil”.

In conclusion, because Jesus’ views on this matter, as characterized in the Gospel of John, radically depart from the view of mystical gurus from Eastern religious traditions, if we assume (for the sake of argument) that the words attributed to Jesus by the Gospel of John actually came from the historical Jesus, then the GURU VIEW is FALSE.

But this same assumption about the words attributed to Jesus by the Gospel of John also shows that Jesus did NOT mean “his claim to be God” LITERALLY. Those words show that Jesus did NOT LITERALLY claim to be the eternal creator of the universe and the all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly good ruler of the universe. Therefore, the inference from a “NO” answer to the question posed in the SECOND DILEMMA to the conclusion that the GURU VIEW is true, is a logically INVALID inference. The words of Jesus in the Gospel of John show that the answer to the question “Did Jesus mean his claim to be God literally?” is: NO, but the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John also show that the GURU VIEW is FALSE.

Kreeft and Tacelli are thus wrong on BOTH of their basic points concerning the SECOND DILEMMA. First, the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John do NOT show that Jesus meant his claim to be God literally. Second, a “NO” answer to the question posed in the SECOND DILEMMA does NOT logically imply that the GURU VIEW is true. Thus, the inference they make in the SECOND DILEMMA is INVALID.

Both the FIRST DILEMMA and the SECOND DILEMMA are logically INVALID, and therefore, there are at least two major problems with the argument that Kreeft and Tacelli have given in support of premise (1A). They have clearly FAILED to provide a good reason to believe premise (1A) of their argument for the divinity of Jesus.

NOTE:

Because the Gospel of John is the least historically reliable Gospel of the four canonical Gospels, especially when it comes to the words and teachings of Jesus, it is unlikely that the six alleged quotations of Jesus pointed to by Kreeft and Tacelli are accurate representations of the words and teachings of the historical Jesus. So, if those quotations had indicated that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, they would still not provide a good reason to believe that the historical Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God.

Even if we assume (for the sake of argument) that the alleged words of Jesus from the Gospel of John were accurate representations of the words of the historical Jesus, they still FAIL to show that Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and they also FAIL to show that the GURU VIEW is TRUE.

Furthermore, since the Gospel of John is an unreliable source of the words and teachings of Jesus, those words also FAIL to show that the GURU VIEW is FALSE. What the words of Jesus in the Gospel of John do show, however, is that we can imagine a Jesus who both did NOT claim to LITERALLY be God and yet who did NOT hold the mystical guru view that all human beings are divine.

This is the view of Jesus presented in the Gospel of John. Whether or not the Gospel of John presents an accurate view of the historical Jesus, it presents a logically possible version of Jesus in which the inference that Kreeft and Tacelli make in the SECOND DILEMMA would be mistaken, and thus the logic of that dilemma is INVALID. In short, the Jesus presented in the Gospel of John provides a CLEAR COUNTEREXAMPLE to the inference made in the SECOND DILEMMA presented by Kreeft and Tacelli.

bookmark_borderHow the Suffering and Death of Billions and Billions of Kids Completely Disproves the Existence of a Good and Loving God – Including Wrecking Free Will Theodicy in the Process

This essay is in association with the June 2022 Biblical Studies Carnival you can check out at https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/test-post-for-june-2022-biblical-studies-carnival

Just the Stat’s Ma’am

I first got a hint of the facts that — as screamingly obvious as they are have gone shockingly ignored — refute the premise presented in the Bible and other scriptures that there is a benign and moral creator deity when I many a decade ago was reading the opening sentences of the preface of my SciFi/futurist hero’s Arthur C. Clarke’s novel version of 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Clarke casually noted that around 100 billion people have been born. That caught my attention because it seemed a high number. Where he got the value from I do not know, but it is correct. All serious calculations agree on the basic figure, plus or minus about 20%. ~10 billion were born in the 1900s alone, and with humans being around for a few hundred thousand years, 10,000 of them since agriculture allowed large populations, it adds up.

The big a/theist debate is usually over whether any gods exist or not. But that is not really the point. What most theists imagine is not only that at least one deity is in charge of the big show, but that it is also a very fine and good creator God. One that according to Christian opinion is for reasons not at all clear all powerful, all knowing, all wise and all good. The goodness is as important as the existence – if the proposed god were not very good or evil that few would be interested in its existence much less adhering to its dictates. 

The simple question of the existence of a deity cannot be scientifically entirely refuted. What can be tested and proven is whether or not a creator power is moral or not. It’s a matter of demographic statistics run through the mill of logic and basic decency.

To wit, eventually it began to occur to me that the birth of a hundred or so of billion people has a dark side to it. One that directly torpedoes and sinks the common conceit believed by billions that God not only exists – itself a big, antiscientific stretch for reasons we shall not go into here – but also happens to be so righteous and wise that is worthy of and requires worship in exchange for the boons that it offers. That is a double super stretch.

The critical issue is clear enough. It’s those demographics. Until the advent of the modern medical science that humans devised after 99+% of our existence of living short and brutal lives, and without the aid of supernatural forces that apparently do not care, the juvenile mortality rate was ~50%. That means that in the area of 50 billion children have died from natural causes. If you have not heard that figure before it is because we live in a society that has covered up the biggest disaster in human history, the Holocaust of the Children.

For reasons that have me scratching my head no one bothered to take the number of those born and divided it by the childhood death rate and published the terrible toll of the children, leaving the global population shockingly ignorant. It has been a demographic and ethical scandal that has been allowing the churches et al. to get away with promoting being religious as moral. So I did the easy math and published it for the first time in 2009 in the academic journal Philosophy and Theology (http://www.gspauldino.com/Philosophy&Theology.pdf), with more recent up dated follow ups in Essays in the Philosophy of Humanism (in two parts https://americanhumanist.org/what-we-do/publications/eph/journals/volume28/paul-1 & http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/07/03_Paul-SkeptoTheoPt2.pdf — these studies contain the majority of the references this little essay is based upon).

Christians and other theists like to go on about how humans cause evil, not God. But only a small percentage of children who have died have been dispatched by adults with bad intent. The greatest kid killer by far is the vast host of diseases that infest the planet and ruthlessly  torture children to death. Microbes and other afflictions that humans had nothing to do with creating and until of late had little ability to defeat. Even today some 15,000 children are lost to natural causes.

That is after birth. Before it is even worse in terms of numbers. The human reproductive complex is very inefficient so there is a lot of wastage, which is a reason why it is rather hard for women to get pregnant and stay that way. Three quarters or more of conceptions naturally fail to come to term, apparently because our genetics are so complicated that they are delicate and prone to malfunction (simpler mice do not have high rates of spontaneous miscarriage). Far from the womb being a safe refuge for the preborn, it is such a death trap that most do not make it out alive. As geneticist William Rice states, accidental abortion is “the predominant outcome of fertilization [and] a natural and inevitable part of human reproduction at all ages.” (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/326485445_The_high_abortion_cost_of_human_reproduction). Doing the again why-had-they-not-been-done-it-before-they-being-easy-to-do calculations, I was the first to publish in the P&T piece that about a third of a trillion pregnancies have failed due to causes beyond human control: note that even modern medicine can do little to bring down the natural abortion rate. There is something of a saving grace to this in that most pregnancies fail before implantation, or shortly after, when the zygote has not the slightest awareness of its existence and no ability to suffer.

Ergo, if there is an all-powerful supernatural creator, then far from being the prolife, children loving beacon of sage morality that all must and should owe loyalty and fealty, it does not give a damn about the comfort, safety and lives of the innocent immature humans from conception on, and has not lifted a cosmic finger to save the lives of the hundreds of billions of youngsters, the great majority of conceptions having died, often under barbarically cruel circumstances, before their preteens due to Mother Nature.

The Great Theodist Evasion 1.0

The alleged font of divine wisdom, the Holy Bible, says nothing about this. Nada. Not once is the massive slaughter by nonhuman means of the young, preborn or born, directly addressed and explained. The Good Book does not even bother to detail what happens to the supposed souls of the little ones after they have died before growing up. Do they go the Hell because they have not accepted the glorious gift of the Grace of Christ? That would be as unfair as it is brazenly cruel. Do they get a free ticket to His Perfect Heaven where only those souls who during their earthly test of worthiness and willingness are allowed to ascend because the Perfect Lord of Paradise refuses to force any to worship Him for eternity without their enthusiastic concurrence? The reason what is purported to be the word of the flawless God avoids the death of children like the plagues that have wacked so many of them off is because it is not in any way possible to explain these massive irresolvable contradictions.

And as I detail in the P&T and EPH papers, the theological community — including the theodists whose insoluble business it is to try to explain how a brutally imperfect world is compatible with a perfect creator — has been dodging the problem of the death of billions of youth for millennia. Not once have the directly addressed much less successfully dealt with the incredible number who have died in the womb or their youth. And the reason is all too obvious, they too have no ability to devise a clever answer because none exists. So they simply sweep it under the rug.

Free Will Theodicy is a Great Big Lie

The primary go-to thesis that Christians intellectual and lay have long been employing is Free-Will and Best of All Possible Worlds theodicy. The not so smart idea is that because the Perfect God only wants willing worshippers in His Perfect Paradise, that the fair and wise creator plops us on this sometimes beautiful and other times horrid planet in order that we can make a free will choice regarding our eternal fate. The gaping problem that notion that has gone unaddressed is that in order to have free will – assuming for the sake of argument such exists at all – one has to survive long enough, say a decade or two, to have the necessary level of mental choice. Plus, adequate information about the all-important choice. Obviously, the proposed creator has allowed the planet to be so kid toxic that it is killing off most of them before they can make the bid decision. That many adults have not heard the word of Christ – half those born lived before 30 CE, and vast swathes of the continents did not hear up it until of late – and a good number are gravely mentally dysfunctional, means that when one runs the calculations that out of the few hundred billion conceived and 100 billion born only about 10 billion have heard the Word of Christ, and only maybe half that become Christians. Not a very successful Divine Utopia Project. Built as it is on the bodies of billions of youngsters denied their free will in order to satisfy the incoherent desires of an all too imperfect entity who craves attention.

To explain the mass natural abortion of the lives and free will of most conceptions requires one of the following. There is no supernatural creator. There is, but it is an amoral incompetent idiot. There is but it is evil to some serious degree. One way or another any creator is guilty of mass negligent or deliberate homicide and crimes against humanity. It is not possible for a powerful deity to be worthy of our loving adoration and obedience.

This is a brief summary of the situation. For the all too grim details and in-depth atheodistic analysis check out the P&T and EPH papers. The latter in particular include why the mode of divine creation, whether it be inept Biblical creationism, premeditated intelligent design theory, or callous Darwinian evolution, does not come close to solving the moral paradox.

The Great Evasion 2.0

After the P&T paper came out in 2009 I sent a PDF to all the major theodists alive at the time who had spent their careers avoiding dealing with death of the children problem – Haught, Hicks, Polkingorn, Plantinga, Swinburne and the like – for their consideration. Not a peep out of them, either one-on-one or in public. Not surprising since what are they going to say? Those who are still alive cynically continue to promote Free Will Theodicy even as they ignore its all too fatal flaws. That was not surprising. Also not paying attention was the news media that has long chronically under covered atheism (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/theocancel-culture-discrimination-by-neglect-the-chronic-news-and-opinion-media-bigotry-against-atheists). That was somewhat surprising because the first study to document the enormous numbers of deceased children was patently news worthy, as was how that overturns classic free will theodicy. And my work on how more atheism tends to correlate with superior national societal conditions had garnered a good deal of international coverage. The news media paid the P&T piece not the slightest mind. Funny thing though. They atheist community too has continued to be perturbingly slack on the issue that should be of great import to nontheism.

It’s the Animals Too

To try to address the continuing attention gap is one of the reasons I produced the EPH follow ups. Which go yet further on the problem of the suffering of the blameless. Immature H. sapiens are not the only innocents that have suffered vastly under the dominion of the perfectly idiotic creator. So have animals for the few hundred millions of years that they have had sufficient brain capacity to feel serious affliction. Notably, some of the same theodists who have avoided trying to excuse the mass slaughter of youthful humans have gone to lengths to try to deal with the enormous problem of animal suffering. In doing so they have expressed profound ignorance of biology via knowledge gaps that interestingly atheist evolutionists often succumb to as well, such as the “Balance of Nature” in which the harsh side of premature mortality is a necessary part of the system. Which it is not, there not being such a thing as the balance of nature that having been discredited way back in the last century. The arguments presented by the loving theodists have an air of self-indulgent casual cruelty that would justify beating your dog.

The Great Moral Challenge

The chronically under-appreciated Megadisasters of the Innocents are not just about disproving the reality of a beneficent creator of good intentions. It is about the problem of those who worship such an evil entity. The subject is covered in Part 2 of the EPH studies. Theists Christians especially love to go on and on with self-indulgent self-praise about how they are doing the selfless thing of worshipping a moral God. In the process they are prone to bash those who do not do so, either by not adoring the correct God i. e. the one they happen to follow, or by not following any deity. That is cynical projection of a high order. Many if not most atheists in turn merely claim that those who choose not to believe in matters supernatural can be as moral as those that do, and demand the respect that theists likewise mandate for themselves. That is not correct in that while atheism is morally neutral and atheists are free to be highly ethical, deity worship in search of boons is inherently morally corrupt. When theists are moral as they often are, it’s despite their religion, not because of it.

Even today 15,000 children die every 24 hours. By historical standards that is a remarkable, science and technology based achievement in mortality percentage terms that shows humanity cares vastly more than any creator who has shown stunning indifference to the fate of the preborn and children. On the other hand in absolute numbers it is a fairly typical per annum toll that has been seen for millennia. In principle humans can drive that number even lower by running a better world, but that will be very difficult to do, and it is not the fault of the children that so many still die like flies.

If there is God as a powerful as billions claim there is without any actual evidence to that effect, then it can put a stop to the death of the children in an instant. But Christians don’t care about that all that much. Seriously, they don’t. What is the priority of a devout Christian? Or Muslim? Is it to save the lives of children? No, that is the side show – would be very nice, but they have dreams much more important in their narcissistic eyes. Their true goal is to get to their god’s paradise. Which requires total obedience, and no criticism of their God lest they lose their ticket to heaven and perhaps get one to hell. So whatever God does is OK. Overseas a planet that causes immense suffering to trillions of animals for millions of years, and aborts billions of preborn and tortures to death billions more tykes? Not a problem, the ways of God being mysterious and all. Because Christians and the like are seeking gifts from God in exchange for looking the other way, they are hypocritical moral relativists and self-aggrandizer of a high order.

Atheists are not that. Not in that regard.

The EPH articles got about as much attention from the news media has had the P&T paper. None. And much the same response from the theologians. After a bluntly stated press release on part one was rejected by Religion News Service, and more cleverly written PR for the second half did the trick (https://religionnews.com/2021/11/22/new-academic-study-on-free-will-theology), not that it resulted in any coverage.

The lack of media coverage of the children’s holocaust in a world swamped with God is good chat is an outrage. As is how for thousands of years theism has flipped the truth by managing to make it out that the creator of a child killing planet is perfect in its morality when such is impossible, while making it seem that the humans who have saved billions of young lives with modern medicine are sinful entities. It is a pernicious scam being pulled off by the religion industry that has enjoyed tremendous success – but is faltering in a world increasingly skeptical of organized theism.

So what to do about it? That is discussed in Part 2 of the EPH work. That atheists have not gotten the news about the mass death of the premature out to the general population is a massive failure that goes way back, should have been done decades ago if not earlier. So time for us nontheists to get our rational and caring about the kids butts in gear and spread the bad news. Go on the moral offensive. Explain the that the vast scale of the Holocaust of the Children and the Brutalization of the Animals leaves no doubt that if there is a creator, it is a nasty piece of work. One unworthy of worship. And that doing so is gravely immoral. Seriously, why not do this? It is the truth, and it may be the moral straw that finally breaks the ethical back of religion that is already crashing in much of the world while a good chunk of what remains goes depraved reactionary.

As per, throw the mass death of the preborn in the laps of the forced birth movements, which is almost entirely an effort by the evangelical and Catholic right to reimpose a conservative Christian culture on Americans in violation of the 1st Amendment (https://secularfrontier.infidels.org/2022/06/the-forced-birth-movement-hates-real-religious-liberty-how-to-use-that-against-them-by-making-abortion-a-religious-and-medical-right). Who are they to claim that induced abortion is sinful murder when the creator whose behind they kiss in their search for a nice afterlife is fine with his nature killing off the unborn at a rate ten times higher than what mothers do by artificial means? If there is a creator then it is the Great Murderer of the Unborn, we humans are just running a little sideshow on that – specifically, during the period of Roe v Wade over 60 million induced abortions occurred, which is dwarfed by the nearly billion natural miscarriages over the same period in the US. If the theoconservatives really think that abortions should be stopped, then they should first demand that their God save the lives of all the over 1 million that miscarry each and every day, about 30,000 of them in these United States. Which would show that there is a God that actually gives a damn about it. But they won’t do that. Why? because they dare not challenge the deity they hope will assign them to His Heaven. So they are as corrupt as they are hypocritical in wanting to make induced abortion a crime. And because deep down a lot of them know it is all a fantasy.

On the larger scale, to the thesits issue the Great Moral Challenge. Tell them to stop selfishly worshipping their gods that they want stuff from until it puts a stop to the deaths of the children. Of course they won’t do it. But it will expose the falsity of their divine morality to a degree not yet seen.

Getting the Information Out to a Secularizing World

Spare me the negative and not all that useful chat about what is the point of the above seeing as how religion just keeps chugging along despite believers being called out on the absurdity and immorality of their beliefs since the classical Greeks. For one thing, religion is in a demographic crisis of a scale it has never seen before in the face of modernity (http://americanhumanist.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/art-1-Paul-The-Great-and-Amazingly-Rapid-Secularization-of-the-Increasingly-Proevolution-United-States.pdf, also see Ronald Inglehart 2021 Religion’s Sudden Decline: What’s Causing Ir, and What Come’s Next). And the religious community has never been faced square on with the scale of the loss of immature humans, and how that wrecks Free Will Theodicy and any possibility of basic decency in a God or in worshipping such a brutal being. Could be a game changer. Or not. The only way to gauge what popularization of the Megadisaster of the Innocents would accomplish is to put it out there big time and see what it does or does not do. Let’s go on moral the offense.

That includes putting the prominent theologians who keep pushing the Good God thesis while ignoring the 50 billion dead kids to at long last directly address the question on the spot to either come up with a compelling answer that actually makes sense. And if and when they can’t do so admit they are wrong. Again not bloody likely to happen but they will have been shown up for the vacuity of their arguments. Again, let’s go on the ethical offense.

It is, after all, what the deceased too soon children deserve. No?

And check out the P&T and EPH papers, and tell your friends. The more the better.