bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 3: The “No Expectancy” Objection

WHERE WE ARE
I generally argue in defense of the Apparent Death Theory, not in order to prove it to be TRUE, but in order to show that this skeptical theory about the alleged resurrection of Jesus is still viable and that the objections raised against  it by Christian apologists FAIL to refute it.  However, I am now in the process of arguing in defense of the Hallucination Theory and am arguing that the objections raised against this theory by Josh McDowell in his book The Resurrection Factor (1981; herafter: TRF) are weak and defective, and that McDowell FAILS to refute this skeptical theory.
Here are McDowell’s seven objections in TRF against the Hallucination Theory:

  1. Only Certain [kinds of ] People [have Hallucinations, like schizophrenics]. (TRF, p.84)
  2. [Hallucinations are] Very Personal [making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time]. (TRF, p.84-85)
  3. [An hallucination is an erroneous perception or] A False Response [to sense stimulation]. (TRF, p.85)
  4. No Favorable Circumstances [of time and place (to which hallucinations are restricted) apply to the experiences of the risen Jesus that took place after his crucifixion]. (TRF, p.85)
  5. [There was] No Expectancy [among Jesus’ followers that he would rise from the dead, but hallucinations require anticipation or hopeful expectation]. (TRF, p.85-86)
  6. [There was] Not Time Enough [in the period when appearances of Jesus occurred to consider those experiences to be hallucinations, which usually occur over a long period of time].  (TRF, p.86)
  7. [The Hallucination Theory] Doesn’t Match the Facts [because hallucinations of a risen Jesus don’t explain the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and the subsequent actions of the high priests]. (TRF, p.86)

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I argued that Objection 1 (Only Certain People) is clearly defective and FAILS.
In Part 2 of this series I argued that Objection 3 (A False Response) and Objection 6 (Not Time Enough) both FAIL miserably.
 
THE FOUR REMAINING OBJECTIONS
I have quickly eliminated three of McDowell’s seven objections to the Hallucination Theory.  That leaves us with four more objections to consider.  I have plucked the low hanging fruit first, eliminating the most obviously weak and defective objections.  My impression is that McDowell’s remaining four objections are also weak and defective, but they deserve a closer examination than Objection 1, Objection 3, and Objection 6, and I expect that it will require more work on my part to show that the remaining four objections also FAIL to refute the Hallucination Theory.
I think the most important objections, and perhaps the objections that will require the most effort by me to show they FAIL, are Objection 2 (Very Personal), and Objection 7 (Doesn’t Match the Facts).  So, I will deal with those objections last.  I expect Objection 4 (No Favorable Circumstances) and Objection 5 ( No Expectancy) to require a medium level of effort to show that they FAIL, and I suspect that Objection 5 will be the easiest of the remaining objections for me to deal with.
So, the order that I plan to address the remaining four objections is this (I am labelling them “TRF” because I plan to refer to objections from other books as well):

TRF5: No Expectancy

TRF4: No Favorable Circumstances

TRF7: Doesn’t Match the Facts

TRF2: Very Personal

These objections are also presented by Josh McDowell (and his son Sean) in the more recently published book Evidence for the Resurrection (2009, see pages 206-211; hereafter: EFR).  You can see how the objections in EFR line up with the objections in TRF in the following chart:

TRF5: THE “NO EXPECTANCY” OBJECTION
McDowell summarizes a number of his objections against the Hallucination Theory this way:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

 If McDowell is going to make some strong objections to the Hallucination Theory on such grounds, then he will need to provide evidence firmly supporting various specific claims of this form:

Most psychological experts agree that condition X must be present in order for an hallucination to occur.

In order to provide evidence firmly supporting claims of this form, McDowell should consult hundreds, or at least dozens, of peer-reviewed books and journal articles by people who are recognized experts in psychology, preferably by psychologists who have specialized in the scientific study of hallucinations, or in the scientific study of mental diseases or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  But we shall soon see that McDowell (and his fellow Christian apologists) clearly MADE NO EFFORT to investigate such articles and books on this subject.
Here is how McDowell presents the “No Expectancy” objection to the Hallucination Theory in TRF:

A fifth principle is that hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy which causes their wishes to become father of their thoughts and hallucinations.  As we look at the disciples, the last thing they expected was a resurrection.  They thought Christ had been crucified, buried. …That was the end of it.   (TRF, p.85-86, ellipses were in the original text)

This objection against the Hallucination Theory is also presented by McDowell in Evidence For the Resurrection (as objection #4  on page 209), as well as in Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 252 of the Revised Edition), and in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (objection #5 on page 277).
This objection to the Hallucination Theory is used by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Handbook of Christian Apologetics (as objection #7 on page 187), by William Craig in The Son Rises (as objection #3 on pages 120 and 121), and by Gary Habermas in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories” (objection #1 on page 5).  Habermas also uses this objection in his interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ (see page 239).
This objection is also used by J.N.D. Anderson in A Lawyer Among the Theologians (see pages 92 and 93), by Murray Harris in Raised Immortal (see page 61), as well as by Winfried Corduan in No Doubt About It (on page 221), by Hank Hanegraaff in Resurrection (on page 46 he quotes Gary Habermas from the interview by Lee Strobel in The Case for Christ), and by Paul Little in Know Why You Believe (objection #5 on page 56 of the 3rd edition).
McDowell’s reasoning here in TRF can be spelled out in a brief argument:

1. Hallucinations REQUIRE that a person who has an hallucination of circumstance C previously had a hopeful expectation or wish that circumstance C would occur, to which the hallucination provides an imaginary fulfilment (since circumstance C only seems to occur but does not actually occur).

2. After Jesus’ crucifixion, Jesus’ disciples had experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead.

3. After Jesus’ crucifixion and prior to Jesus’ disciples having experiences of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead, his disciples did NOT have a hopeful expectation or wish that Jesus would rise from the dead and be alive again.

THEREFORE:

4. After Jesus’ crucifixion, the experiences of Jesus’ disciples of what seemed to be a living Jesus who had risen from the dead were NOT hallucinations. 

The logic of this argument is fine.  However, I would contend that each one of the premises of this argument is problematic, so TRF5 FAILS.  I will argue that premise (1) is clearly false, that an improved version of premise (1) is dubious, that premise (2) is dubious, and that premise (3) is  dubious.  Furthermore, I will argue that IF premise (3) were true, THEN this would give us a powerful reason to reject the claim that Jesus rose from the dead.
 
PROBLEMS WITH  PREMISE (1)
PROBLEM #1: McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.
Josh McDowell FAILS to provide ANY significant evidence in support of the psychological generalization that he asserts in objection TRF5:

  • In The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence for the Resurrection, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Revised edition), McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.
  • In The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, McDowell provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization that he makes in objection TRF5.

McDowell provides thirteen quotations in support of TRF5 in his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict, and also in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict, but NONE of the quotations is from an expert in psychology.  They are all quotes from ministers, evangelists, theologians, biblical scholars, and Christian apologists.
It is crystal clear that McDowell made NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to read or study scientific articles or books about hallucinations written by psychological experts.  Therefore, his claim that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” that “hallucinations require of people an anticipating spirit of hopeful expectancy” has ABSOLUTELY NO BASIS in fact, as far as the intellectually lazy Josh McDowell is aware.*
Sadly, the same unmitigated ignorance of the scientific literature about hallucinations appears to be the case with McDowell’s fellow Christian apologists.
PROBLEM #2: Other apologists who make this objection also provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5.

  • Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli provide ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics.
  • William Craig provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book The Son Rises.
  • J.N.D. Anderson provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book A Lawyer Among the Theologians.
  • Murray Harris provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Raised Immortal.
  • Winfried Corduan provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book No Doubt About It.
  • Hank Hanegraaff provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Resurrection.
  • Paul Little provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his book Know Why You Believe (3rd edition).
  • Gary Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE from any expert in psychology in support of this psychological generalization in his article “Explaining Away Jesus’ Resurrection: The Recent Revival of Hallucination Theories“.

It should be noted that Gary Habermas, alone among these Christian apologists, does quote from a bona fide psychologist, named Gary Collins, in his interview by Lee Strobel.  However, the quote is NOT from a peer-reviewed article or book, but from personal correspondence from Gary Collins. Furthermore, Gary Collins is a devout Evangelical Christian who was a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, where the Christian apologist Dr. William Craig also taught, so Collins is clearly a biased source of information on this subject.
Furthermore, Gary Collins specializes in Christian Counseling, and he appears to have no particular expertise in the study of hallucinations, nor in the study of mental illnesses or conditions that are associated with hallucinations.  Finally, the quote is about the obvious point that hallucinations are subjective in nature (a point that requires no psychological expertise because this is a conceptual point that requires only a good understanding of the meaning of the word “hallucination” in the English language).  The quotation of Collins by Habermas provides ZERO EVIDENCE in support of the specific psychological generalization asserted as part of objection TRF5.
PROBLEM #3: The psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 is clearly and obviously FALSE.
There is actually no need to consult the scientific literature on hallucinations (which NONE of the above apologists made any effort to do), because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE.  Because this psychological generalization is clearly and obviously FALSE, it is extremely unlikely that “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization.  In any case, even if “most psychiatrists and psychologists agree” with this psychological generalization, that wouldn’t change the fact that the generalization is FALSE.
Frightening Hallucinations
I can only recall one time in my life when I experienced an hallucination.  I was a young child (a toddler?); I was sick and had a fever.  I remember looking around in my room, and being frightened because the whole room was filled with fish and sharks swimming around in it.  This was an hallucination presumably caused by my sickness and fever.  We all know that hallucinations can be frightening, like this hallucination that I experienced as a young child. So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.  As a young child I had no hopeful expectation or wish to spend the night underwater in the presence of large hungry sharks!
We all know that there are such things as “bad trips” that can occur when someone uses a mind-altering drug.  Evangelical Christians have been obsessed with opposition to “sex, drugs, and rock-n-roll” for decades.  Many of them have come to embrace rock-n-roll, but still froth at the mouth when talking about drugs and sex.  So, if anyone is aware that drugs can sometimes cause “bad trips”, it is Evangelical Christians.  But a “bad trip” often includes unpleasant or frightening hallucinations.  For example, the man who discovered LSD relates a “bad trip” experience he had:

One of the earliest documented bad trips was reported by Albert Hofmann, the chemist who discovered LSD. He had started experiencing a bad trip, and in an attempt to soothe himself, requested some milk from his next-door neighbor, who appeared to have become “a malevolent, insidious witch.”  (“What is a Bad Trip?” by Elizabeth Hartney)

We all know that hallucinations can be unpleasant or frightening, because we all know that mind-altering drugs can sometimes result in a “bad trip”.  So, apart from studying the scientific literature on hallucinations, we all know that some hallucinations are NOT produced as the result of “a hopeful expectation or wish” that the event or circumstance that appears in the hallucination would occur.
Evangelical Christians are very well aware of this fact about hallucinations.  So, if Josh McDowell, or any of the Christian apologists who follow him in his complete ignorance about the scientific literature on hallucinations had simply thought seriously about the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 for a few minutes, they probably would have come to the realization that it is CLEARLY and OBVIOUSLY FALSE.  But in addition to being completely ignorant about the scientific literature on hallucinations, McDowell and his fellow Christian apologists apparently were also uninterested in giving any serious thought to the question of whether the psychological generalization asserted in objection TRF5 was true.  So, this objection is not only WITHOUT ANY FACTUAL BASIS, but it also reveals a complete lack of critical thought among Christian apologists, at least on this important issue.
 
CONCLUSION
I have more problems to discuss with objection TRF5, but the above problems are more than sufficient to show that objection TRF5 FAILS, and that this objection does NOT refute, or even significantly damage, the Hallucination Theory.
 
To Be Continued…
 
*McDowell does include ONE reference to ONE book by a psychologist (Outline of Psychiatric Case-Study by Paul William Peru), but he does NOT provide any quotations from that book, and the book was published in 1939, so it does not represent the state of the art in the scientific study of hallucinations.
Furthermore, I have read the three pages of Peru’s book that McDowell references (pages 97 to 99), and in those pages Peru does NOT assert the psychological generalization that PF5 is based on, nor does Peru provide evidence in support of that generalization, and in fact those three pages are filled primarily with QUESTIONS that Peru thinks a psychologist should ask a patient who seems to be experiencing, or seems to have experienced, an hallucination.  Peru does NOT make any relevant psychological generalizations about the causes of hallucinations in those pages.  So, McDowell just made this generalization up (or perhaps he accepted this empirical claim on the basis of the pseudo authority of an evangelist, minister, theologian, bible scholar, or Christian apologist who lacks expertise in the field of psychology).
=========================
Christian Apologetics books referenced in this post:
Norman Anderson, A Lawyer Among the Theologians (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1973, first American edition published February 1974)
Winfried Corduan, No Doubt About It (Nashville, Tennessee: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1997)
William Craig, The Son Rises (Chicago: Moody Press, 1981)
Hank Hanegraaff, Resurrection (Nashville, Tennessee: Word Publishing, 2000)
Murray Harris, Raised Immortal (Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, copyright 1983, this American edition published in 1985)
Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1994)
Paul Little, Know Why You Believe, expanded and updated by Marie Little (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 3rd edition 1988)
Josh McDowell, Evidence that Demands a Verdict, Revised Edition (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1979)
Josh McDowell, The Resurrection Factor (San Bernardino, CA: Here’s Life Publishers, Inc.,1981)
Josh McDowell, The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999)
Josh McDowell and Sean McDowell, Evidence for the Resurrection (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2009)
Lee Strobel, The Case for Christ (Grand Rapids, Michigan: ZondervanPublishingHouse, 1998)

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 2: More Objections to the Hallucination Theory

In The Resurrection Factor (1981; hereafter: TRF), Josh McDowell raises seven objections against the Hallucination Theory, a skeptical theory that explains the origin of the early Christian belief that Jesus rose from the dead in terms of one or more of his followers having an “hallucination” (or non-veridical sensory experience) of Jesus being alive sometime after Jesus was crucified.  The report or reports of this/these experience(s) became, according to the Hallucination Theory, the erroneous source of the Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
Here are his seven objections against the Hallucination Theory in TRF:

  1. Only Certain [kinds of ] People [have Hallucinations, like schizophrenics]. (TRF, p.84)
  2. [Hallucinations are] Very Personal [making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time]. (TRF, p.84-85)
  3. [An hallucination is an erroneous perception or] A False Response [to sense stimulation]. (TRF, p.85)
  4. No Favorable Circumstances [of time and place (to which hallucinations are restricted) apply to the experiences of the risen Jesus that took place after his crucifixion]. (TRF, p.85)
  5. [There was] No Expectancy [among Jesus’ followers that he would rise from the dead, but hallucinations require anticipation or hopeful expectation]. (TRF, p.85-86)
  6. [There was] Not Time Enough [in the period when appearances of Jesus occurred to consider those experiences to be hallucinations, which usually occur over a long period of time].  (TRF, p.86)
  7. [The Hallucination Theory] Doesn’t Match the Facts [because hallucinations of a risen Jesus don’t explain the empty tomb, the broken seal, the guard units, and the subsequent actions of the high priests]. (TRF, p.86)

In Part 1 of this series I argue that McDowell’s first objection against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, because his objection works, at best, against one particular version of the Hallucination Theory, but does NOT work against another important version of the Hallucination Theory (namely, the view that reports of dream experiences of a living Jesus after his crucifixion, resulted in the early Christian belief that Jesus rose physically from the dead).
A second problem with McDowell’s first objection is that he gives NO EVIDENCE WHATSOEVER to support his psychological claim that

…only particular kinds of person have hallucinations–usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals… (TRF, p.84)

He doesn’t quote any psychological expert or any authoritative psychology reference work, nor does he provide even a single footnote pointing to some book or article that supports this claim.  We are just supposed to take this assertion to be a fact because some dimwitted Christian apologist tells us that this is a “fact”. You would think that someone who went to law school would have a clue that psychological generalizations need to be backed up with empirical evidence, not just asserted by someone who has no established expertise in psychology.

The term “schizophrenia” was coined by Eugen Bleuler.

So, McDowell’s first objection against the Hallucination Theory FAILS because (a) it is based on a questionable and baseless factual generalization, and (b) even if the generalization was completely true and accurate it has no relevance to at least one important version of the Hallucination Theory, namely the view that dream experiences of a living Jesus (after his crucifixion) led to the Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
 
TWO MORE REALLY CRAPPY OBJECTIONS
The fact that McDowell’s very first objection FAILS is a sign of the complete FAILURE that is to come as his objections continue.
Two of the remaining objections are particularly crappy.  In fact, they are so crappy that even McDowell was able to eventually see that they were crappy, and toss them out.  In his much more recent book on the resurrection of Jesus, called Evidence for the Resurrection (2009, co-authored with Sean McDowell, Regal Books; hereafter: EFR), McDowell eliminates two of the seven objections from The Resurrection Factor: Objection 3 (A False Response) and Objection 6 (Not Time Enough).  These two objections stink like a steaming pile of dog shit, so I’m not surprised that McDowell tossed them out.
Most of the seven objections in TRF fall under the following general description:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak? 
First, it contradicts various conditions which most psychiatrists and psychologists agree must  be present to have a hallucination. (TRF, p.84)

This seems questionable on its face.  I’m skeptical that most psychological experts agree that “various conditions…must be present” for hallucinations to occur.  If McDowell is going to make some strong objections to the Hallucination Theory based on such grounds, then he will need to provide evidence strongly supporting various specific claims of this form:

Most psychological experts agree that condition X must be present in order for a hallucination to occur.

Would it surprise you to find out that McDowell provides ZERO such evidence?  In other words, he NEVER provides ANY evidence in support of his various psychological generalizations that are the basis of most of his objections against the Hallucination Theory.  I hope that McDowell did not ever actually practice law, because he would have tried to prove the guilt (or innocence) of accused persons without ever bothering to provide factual evidence to support his case.
This problem alone means that McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, or at least that most of his objections against this theory FAIL.
Objection 3 (A False Response) is in even worse shape than his other psychological-generalization objections.  McDowell speaks of this objection as being based on such a psychological generalization:

Another principle is that an illusion is an erroneous perception or a false response to sense stimulation. (TRF, p.85)

McDowell is making a conceptual point here, but is confusing this point with being an empirical psychological generalization.  First of all, he fucks up by using the word “illusion”.  Like dreams, EVERYBODY can see illusions.  Illusions are not generally the result of mental illness.  So, he used the wrong word here. The issue is about “hallucinations” NOT about “illusions”.  So, if he did not have his head up his ass, McDowell would have said “an hallucination is an erroneous perception…”  and that would be a correct statement.
But this is merely an analysis of the meaning of the word “hallucination”; this is NOT a psychological generalization or fact that can help us evaluate the Hallucination Theory.  Clearly McDowell would agree that experiences of a living Jesus had by followers of Jesus after the crucifixion would have been “perceptions”, so he is not rejecting that aspect of the concept of an “hallucination”.  That means that he is rejecting the qualification “erroneous”.  But in doing so, McDowell blatantly BEGS THE QUESTION.
The whole point of the Hallucination Theory is to support the skeptical idea that the early Christian belief that Jesus was literally seen by his followers to be actually and physically alive was FALSE, that is to say “erroneous”.  But to object to the Hallucination Theory because it implies that this Christian belief is wrong is to obviously BEG THE QUESTION against this skeptical theory.
McDowell does not need to provide any factual or empirical evidence to support the “principle” behind Objection 3, because (contrary to his confused thinking) he is NOT asserting a useful psychological generalization in this objection; rather he is merely pointing to a reasonable analysis or definition of the term “hallucination”, and then objecting to applying this term to early Christian experiences, because that implies those experiences to be FALSE or “erroneous”.  We should toss Objection 3 aside, just like McDowell himself did, because it clearly BEGS THE QUESTION, and is therefore an intellectual piece of dogshit that we must scrape off our shoes.
Objection 6 (Not Enough Time), unlike Objection 3, does rely on a psychological generalization or principle:

Hallucinations usually occur over a long period of time with noticeable regularity. (TRF, p.86)

First, this is an UNCLEAR generalization.  The term “usually” is VAGUE, and the phrase “a long period of time” is VAGUE, as is the phrase “noticeable regularity”.
Does “usually” mean “more than 50% of the time” or “more than 60% of the time” or “more than 70% of the time” or…?
Is an hour a “long period of time”? Is a day a “long period of time”? a week? a month? a year? a decade?
What kind of “noticeable regularity” is McDowell talking about?

  • Time of day? (Does the experience always happen just after 5pm?)
  • Physical circumstances? (Does the experience always happen when the person is hungry? or sleepy? or cold?)
  • Emotional circumstances? (Does the experience always happen when the person is angry? or sad? or anxious? or joyous?)
  • Sensory content of the experience? (Does the experience always include a bright flash? a blue tint? a loud noise? the sound of a door creaking?)
  • Significance of the experience? (Does the experience always include seeing your mother smile? hearing your sister sing? seeing someone you love be injured or killed?).

This VAGUE and UNCLEAR principle is worthless for evaluating the Hallucination Theory.
A second problem here is that McDowell provides ZERO evidence in support of this psychological generalization.  There is no good reason to believe that this principle is a fact or that it is a generalization that is widely accepted by psychological experts.
A third problem, is that this psychological generalization seems dubious on its face.  It seems like similar hallucinations sometimes occur only once or twice to a person in one day or one week, sometimes similar hallucinations occur several times for a few weeks and then stop, and sometimes similar hallucinations occur over and over again for a period of months.  It is very questionable that similar hallucinations “usually occur over a long period of time”, particularly if “usually” means “more than 80% of the time”. (If “usually” here means only “more than 50% of the time” or “more than 60% of the time”, then this objection would be extremely weak).
Finally, McDowell provides ZERO evidence that the experiences of early Christians of Jesus being alive (after the crucifixion) did NOT “occur over a long period of time”.  The NT might not report the occurrence of such experiences as happening several months after the crucifixion of Jesus, but that does NOT mean that no such experiences happened several months after the crucifixion of Jesus (duh!).
How would one provide strong evidence for this negative claim?  Suppose the author of Acts boldly asserts:  “There were no more appearances of the risen Jesus that occurred more than two months after the crucifixion.”  Why should we believe this assertion to be true?  Even if we take the author of Acts to be honest and to be aware of many events in the Jerusalem community of the first generation of Christians in the months following the crucifixion, how could one person have exhaustive knowledge of the personal experiences of hundreds or thousands of early Christian believers?
Objection 6 is about as crappy and as worthless as Objection 3.  We should toss Objection 6 aside, just like McDowell himself did, because it is so weak and FAILS so clearly, and is therefore an intellectual piece of dogshit that we must scrape off our shoes.
To Be Continued…

bookmark_borderDid Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 1: The Hallucination Theory

On the issue of the alleged resurrection of Jesus, I usually argue in defense of the Apparent Death Theory.
I do this NOT because I believe that the Apparent Death Theory is true, but in order to show that, contrary to the claim of Christian apologists, the Apparent Death Theory is a viable theory, that there is a significant chance that it is true, and that it has NOT been disproven by Christian apologists.
One cannot prove that Jesus rose from the dead.  But one also cannot prove that Jesus only appeared to die on the cross, and that his being seen alive after the crucifixion was the result of his surviving his crucifixion.  Nor can one prove ANY of the skeptical/naturalistic theories to be true.
The basic problem is that the evidence we have is very sketchy and very dicey,  so it is insufficient to prove ANYTHING about the life, ministry, and death of Jesus:

  • We don’t know if Jesus actually existed.
  • We don’t know who actually wrote the Gospels.
  • The Gospels were probably written decades after the events they describe.
  • The Gospels are written in Greek by literate educated authors, but Jesus and his disciples probably spoke Aramaic, and were probably uneducated and illiterate.
  • The Gospels provide conflicting stories and details in general.
  • The Gospels provide conflicting stories and details about the crucifixion, burial, and resurrection appearances of Jesus.
  • We know very little about the traditional “authors” of the Gospels (i.e. Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John).
  • The Gospels were written by religious Christians who were trying to promote Christian beliefs.
  • The Gospels are at best historically unreliable accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus, and are possibly fictional stories about a fictional character named “Jesus”.

Because of the sketchy and dicey nature of the evidence we possess concerning Jesus, it cannot be proven that Jesus existed, and it cannot be proven that Jesus died on the cross.  However, IF we assume that Jesus existed, and IF we assume that the Gospels are not purely fictional but contain some historical information that can be gleaned by means of careful critical analysis, THEN it would be possible to show that one of the skeptical theories was probable, or that one of the skeptical theories was improbable.  It might also be possible to show that a disjunction of various skeptical theories was probable (“Either skeptical theory A or B or C is true.”), or that such a disjunction of skeptical theories was improbable.
Christian apologists attempt to “refute” skeptical theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus on the basis of questionable historical claims and assumptions.  They interpret some particular Gospel passage in a way that supports a particular historical claim, and they assume not only that their interpretation of that passage is correct, but that the author of that passage was merely recording an historical event that the author observed first hand, or that some reliable eyewitness conveyed that observation directly to the author.  Such assumptions are gratuitous and dubious, and there are often good reasons to reject these assumptions.  As a result, every attempted “refutation” by every Christian apologist of every skeptical theory FAILS.  Or, at least every attempted “refutation” that I have read of every skeptical theory FAILS, and I have read many such attempted refutations, so I have good reason to believe that no such attempts have ever been successful.
I have focused my attention on the defense of the Apparent Death Theory, but attempts by Christian apologists to refute other skeptical theories are as weak and defective as their attempts to refute the Apparent Death Theory.  So, for this particular post (or series of posts), I will focus in on a different skeptical theory: the Hallucination Theory.
The basic idea of the Hallucination Theory is that one or more of Jesus’ followers had some sort of experience after the crucifixion of Jesus that they took to be an experience of a living Jesus.  This experience, when reported to others then became the basis for the belief among followers of Jesus that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.  The Hallucination Theory further claims that the original experience or experiences of this sort were NOT actually experiences of a risen Jesus, but were dreams or hallucinations or mistaken or misleading experiences of someone other than Jesus.

My Eyes at the Moment of the Apparitions by German artist August Natterer

I have described this theory in a fairly broad and general way here, which favors the truth of this theory.   Strictly speaking, a dream is NOT an hallucination, but a dream of Jesus being alive that is interpreted by the person who had the dream to be a real experience of an actual living Jesus is very similar to the idea of a person experiencing an hallucination of Jesus and then interpreting that to be a real experience of an actual living Jesus.  So, it makes sense to include “dreams” of Jesus under the same category as “hallucinations” of Jesus, so long as such experiences were (a) interpreted as being real experiences of an actual living Jesus, and (b) reports of such experiences became the basis for the early Christian belief that Jesus had physically risen from the dead.
Christian apologists, however, tend to interpret the Hallucination Theory more narrowly, in order to make it easier to “refute” this theory.  It is in some ways better to define a theory narrowly, because then it is easier to think about and evaluate such a theory.  We don’t have to worry about various different possibilities and variations that are encompassed by a broader interpretation of the theory.   However, if one defines the Hallucination Theory narrowly, as Christian apologists tend to do, then this opens the door to OTHER alternative skeptical theories that are similar to the narrowly defined Hallucination Theory.  
For example, if we distinguish dreams from hallucinations, and exclude dreams of Jesus from counting as potential examples of the Hallucination Theory, then a refutation of the Hallucination Theory might well FAIL as a refutation of the alternative skeptical view that dreams of Jesus after the crucifixion became the basis of the early Christian belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus.  So, narrow definitions of the Hallucination Theory might make it easier for Christian apologists to “refute” this theory, but this comes at a significant cost to their defense of the resurrection: this opens the door to MORE skeptical theories about how belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus came about.
We can see a related problem of ambiguity in Josh McDowell’s defense of the resurrection in The Resurrection Factor (1981, Here’s Life Publishers, Inc. ; hereafter: TRF).  On the one hand, McDowell defines “hallucination” in a fairly broad way:

The American Psychiatric Association’s official glossary defines a “hallucination” as “a false sensory perception in the absence of an actual external stimulus.” The Psychiatric Dictionary defines it as “an apparent perception of an external object when no such object is present.”  (TRF, p.83)

Notice that visual experiences in dreams fit these definitions.  So, based on these broad definitions of “hallucination”, visual experiences in a dream constitute hallucinations.  Based on these broad definitions given by McDowell, the Hallucination Theory would include dream experiences of Jesus (after the crucifixion) by followers of Jesus that (a) were interpreted as being real experiences of an actual living Jesus, and (b) became the basis for the early Christian belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus.
However, as McDowell begins his attempted refutation of this theory, he immediately attacks a narrower interpretation of the Hallucination Theory:

Why is the hallucination theory so weak?
[…]
…only particular kinds of people have hallucinations–usually only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals, with schizophrenics being the most susceptible.  (TRF, p.84)

This objection only works against a very narrowly defined interpretation of the Hallucination Theory.  It clearly does NOT work against the theory that dream experiences of Jesus led to belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus.  EVERYBODY has dreams.  Dreams are NOT exclusively experienced by “only paranoid or schizophrenic individuals”.  So, although McDowell begins his discussion of the Hallucination Theory with a very broad definition of what constitutes an “hallucination”, his very first objection against this theory assumes a much narrower interpretation of what constitutes an “hallucination”, and therefore his objection only applies to some versions of the Hallucination Theory but not to others.
McDowell’s defense of the resurrection FAILS, because his attempted refutation of the Hallucination Theory FAILS.  His attempted refutation of the Hallucination Theory FAILS because some of his objections DO NOT APPLY to versions of the Hallucination Theory that claim that dream experiences of Jesus were the basis for the early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus.
McDowell commits the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION, and the STRAW MAN fallacy here.  He initially defines the Hallucination Theory in a way that is fairly broad (and that includes dream experiences of Jesus), and then proceeds to raise objections that apply only to some particular versions of Hallucination Theory but not to others (e.g. not to versions about dream experiences of Jesus).
This is the fallacy of EQUIVOCATION because the term “Hallucination Theory” is used ambiguously by McDowell.  He attempts to refute the “Hallucination Theory” in one (narrow) sense of that term, but he claims to have refuted the “Hallucination Theory” in a different (broader) sense of the term.  This is the STAW MAN fallacy, because it is EASIER to attempt a refutation of the Hallucination Theory that is based on a narrow definition of what constitutes an “hallucination” than it is to attempt a refutation of this theory that is based on a broader definition of what constitutes an “hallucination”.
Furthermore, it is clear in the overall LOGIC of McDowell’s case that he needs to refute the Hallucination Theory that is based on his broader definition of what constitutes an “hallucination”.  McDowell categorizes some skeptical theories as being “Occupied Tomb” theories.  His complete list of “Occupied Tomb” theories includes the following five theories (see the diagram in TRF on page 83):

  1. Unknown Tomb
  2. Wrong Tomb
  3. Legend
  4. Spiritual Resurrection
  5. Hallucinations

Note that there is no Dream Theory in this list.  So, if the Hallucination Theory  is interpreted narrowly, and thus EXCLUDES dream experiences of Jesus as a possible explanation for early Christian belief in the physical resurrection of Jesus, then he has left out an important skeptical theory in this list of “Occupied Tomb” theories, and thus he has FAILED to refute all of the skeptical theories in the general category of  “Occupied Tomb” theories, and thus FAILED to refute all of the major skeptical theories.
In order for McDowell’s LOGIC to work, he must interpret the Hallucination Theory in a broad way that includes dream experiences of Jesus as an explanation for early Christian belief in the resurrection.  McDowell FAILED to present his case against the Hallucination Theory in a way that was consistent with his own broad definition of “hallucination”, and thus he FAILED to refute the Hallucination Theory, understood in this broad sense, and thus he FAILED to defend the belief that Jesus actually rose from the dead.

bookmark_borderEvaluation of the Christian Answer to Worldview Question #2 – Part 2: Does Sin Exist?

WHERE WE ARE
There are four basic questions that can be used to analyze a worldview. In this post, I will begin to evaluate the Christian answer to worldview question #2.
 
CHRISTIAN ANSWERS TO THE FIRST TWO WORLDVIEW QUESTIONS 
The following is a short version of what I take to be the Christian answers to the first two worldview questions:

Q1. What are the most important problems of human life? (Symptoms of Disease)
Alienation or separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and in the next life: divine eternal punishment.

Q2. What is the root-cause problem of what are (allegedly) the most important problems of human life? (Diagnosis of the Disease)
Sin (disobedience to God) is the root cause problem of separation from God, conflict and disharmony between people, mental and physical suffering, disease, death, and ultimately results in eternal divine punishment.

 
FURTHER ANALYSIS OF THE CHRISTIAN ANSWER TO WORLDVIEW QUESTION #2
The Christian answer to worldview question #2 can be analyzed into four categories: spiritual, physical, mental, and social (click on the image below for a clearer view of the chart):  
 
WHAT DOES THE WORD “SIN” MEAN?
In Part 1 of this series of posts, I clarified the meaning of the word “sin” as being purposeful or intentional disobedience to the will of God.  Here is a formal definition of “sin”:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

Conditions (c) and (d) are needed to restrict the concept of “sin” to purposeful or intentional violations of the will of God.  One must be aware that God has issued a particular command or law in order for one’s violation of that command or law to be an intentional violation of the will of God.
In Part 1 of this series I also pointed out that the Bible indicates that there are two different ways a person can sin, or two different ways a person can be aware of the laws or commands of God.  First, one can know that a command or law comes from God, because the command or law was revealed by God through one of his prophets.  For example, according to the Bible, God revealed the Ten Commandments through the prophet Moses.
Second, one can know of a command or law of God because of one’s conscience, because God has “hardwired” some of his commands or laws into the minds of human beings, as a bit of innate knowledge, knowledge that we don’t have to learn from a parent or teacher or prophet or priest.
 
HAS ANY HUMAN BEING EVER SINNED?
If there is no such thing as SIN, then the occurrence of sins by human beings CANNOT be used as an explanation for anything.  If sin does not exist, then sin cannot be said to be the CAUSE of any human problem.
In my view, there is no such thing as SIN.  No human being has ever committed a SIN.  This is because there is no God.  If there is no God, then it follows that there are no laws or commands that come from God.  Any laws or commands that exist must come from humans or from other intelligent beings who are not God.  If there are no laws or commands that come from God, then it is NOT POSSIBLE for any person to ever violate a law or command of God, and thus the first two necessary conditions for the occurrence of a sin cannot be met by the actions of any person.  Therefore, if there is no God, then there never has been and never will be any human actions that violate a law or command of God.  Thus, if there is no God, then there never has been or ever will be any human actions that are SINs.
Of course, Christians, Jews, and Muslims are convinced that God does exist, so this argument won’t persuade them to believe that SIN does not exist, unless one can persuade such a believer that God does not exist, which is difficult to do.
There are, however, other reasons for believing that SIN does not exist.  Another necessary condition for the existence of SIN is human KNOWLEDGE that a particular law or command comes from God:

Person  P commits a sin S by doing action A IF AND ONLY IF:

(a) person P’s doing action A violates a law or command L,
(b)  L is a law or command of God to persons (or to some sub-set of persons of which P is a member),
(c) P KNOWS that (a) is the case when P does A,
AND
(d) P KNOWS that (b) is the case when P does A.  

In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must KNOW that God exists. Even if we assume that God exists, this leaves open the question of whether any human being KNOWS that God exists.  There are very good reasons for doubting that any human being KNOWS that God exists.
Most contemporary philosophers, for example, do NOT believe that the existence of God has ever been proven.  Many contemporary philosophers believe that some arguments provide evidence that supports the existence of God, but that this evidence is not sufficient to establish that anyone KNOWS that God exists.  One can believe in the existence of God while also admitting that this belief does NOT constitute KNOWING that God exists.  Since it is doubtful that anyone KNOWS that God exists, it is also doubtful that any human action has ever met the necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.
In order for a person to KNOW that (b) is the case, that person must also KNOW that a particular law or command came from God.  It is not sufficient to KNOW that God exists or even to KNOW that God has at some time issued some sort of laws or commands.  One must KNOW that some particular law or particular command (having clear and specific content that is KNOWN to the person in question) came from God.
This is even more difficult to KNOW, and it is highly dubious that any human being has ever had such KNOWLEDGE.  To the extent that it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, it is dubious that any actions by any humans have ever satisfied necessary condition (d) for the occurrence of a SIN.  If it is dubious that any humans have KNOWN that some law or command came from God, then it is dubious that any human actions have ever constituted a SIN.
One of the main ways of humans becoming aware of a law or command of God, according to the Bible, is for God to reveal a law or command through a prophet.  For example, the Bible teaches that God revealed the Ten Commandments to humans through the prophet Moses.  But how do we KNOW that Moses is a true prophet, and that God in fact communicated to humans through Moses?
One key reason given for believing that Moses was a true prophet is that Moses allegedly performed some amazing miracles.  But most scholars who study the Old Testament have serious doubts about whether Moses actually existed.  So, obviously, most scholars who study the Old Testament also doubt that Moses performed the various miracles that are found in Old Testament stories about Moses.  This way of establishing the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet will not work.
One could try to establish the divine authority of Moses as a true prophet of God, by appealing to the sayings and teachings of Jesus.  The existence of Jesus can reasonably be questioned, but most NT scholars believe that Jesus existed.  However, there are a couple of problems with this approach to establishing the divine authority of Moses.
First, most NT scholars do not view the Gospel accounts of the life and teachings of Jesus as being historically reliable.  Although most NT scholars believe Jesus existed, they are often very skeptical about specific historical claims about what Jesus said or did.  Thus, intelligent and educated readers of the NT cannot simply assume that because a Gospel claims that “Jesus said X” that the historical Jesus did in fact say X.  NT scholars generally believe that we can only infer probabilities about what Jesus said or did.  We cannot KNOW that “Jesus said X” and we cannot KNOW that “Jesus did Y”.  So, using the teachings of Jesus to confirm the divine authority of Moses cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Moses was a true prophet.
Furthermore, even if we could somehow KNOW that “Jesus said X” and that this implies that Jesus believed that Moses was a true prophet of God, it doesn’t follow logically that Moses was in fact a true prophet of God.  Jesus could be mistaken.  Why should we accept what Jesus said about Moses as being the absolute truth?
Christians believe that Jesus is the divine Son of God, that Jesus is God incarnate.  But we are trying to evaluate the truth of the Christian worldview here, so it would beg the question to simply assume that this basic theological belief of Christianity was true.  In order to establish that Moses is a true prophet on the basis of the teachings of Jesus, one must FIRST prove that Jesus is the divine Son of God, or God incarnate.   This is NOT an easy thing for Christians to do.
How can we KNOW that Jesus is the divine Son of God or God incarnate?  One key reason given in support of this claim is that Jesus performed miracles and that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God.  But many NT scholars doubt both of these claims.  Although NT scholars generally believe that Jesus existed, they are often skeptical about miracle stories in the Gospels, and they are often skeptical about claims in the Gospels that “Jesus said X”, especially when Jesus saying X implies that Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God or God incarnate.
Many, perhaps most, NT scholars believe that these theological views about Jesus evolved AFTER Jesus died on the cross, and AFTER the belief that Jesus rose from the dead became widespread among the followers of Jesus.  So, the two main assumptions supporting the view that Jesus is the divine Son of God are assumptions that many or most NT scholar doubt or do not accept.  This sort of dubious argument cannot produce KNOWLEDGE that Jesus was the divine Son of God.
There is a further problem with these lines of argument used to support the claim that Moses was a true prophet of God.  In order to identify an event as being a “miracle” one must first KNOW some of the plans and purposes of God.  We cannot see, touch, hear, smell, or taste God’s presence or activity.  God is, by definition, a bodiless person, so God does not interact with the world using a physical body.  Thus our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event do NOT apply to God.
The only aspect of our normal ways of KNOWING that a particular person caused an event  that seems to apply to God is that of MOTIVATION.  Part of how a detective identifies a murder suspect is by figuring out who had a MOTIVE to kill the victim.  This method seems like one that can be applied to God, but only if we KNOW some of God’s plans and purposes. But we don’t even KNOW that God exists, so KNOWING God’s plans and purposes is pretty much out of the question.
Again, a Christian will be tempted to point to the Bible or “divine revelation” for information about the plans and purposes of God.  But the Bible in general, just like Moses and Jesus in particular, cannot simply be assumed to be absolutely true.  Why should we accept what the Bible has to say about God?  Why should we accept what Moses has to say about God in the first five books of the Bible?  Why should we accept what Jesus has to say about God in the Gospels?
The key reason generally given by Christians is to point to miracles as evidence of the divine inspiration of the Bible.  But this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Moses to prove that Moses was a true prophet of God.  And this means, for example, pointing to the alleged miracles of Jesus to prove that Jesus was the divine Son of God.  We have already seen that such a line of reasoning cannot produce KNOWLEDGE about the alleged divine authority of Moses or Jesus.
Furthermore, none of the alleged miracles of Moses or Jesus can be proven to be miracles UNLESS someone FIRST proves some claims about the purposes and plans of God.  But the source of information that Christians point us to, to find out about the plans and purposes of God is the Bible, the teachings of Moses, and the teachings of Jesus.  So, they are now REASONING in a CIRCLE.
One cannot determine that a miracle has occurred unless and until one proves some specific claims about the plans and purposes of God, but this requires that one establish some person or some book as having divine authority, but in order to establish that some person or some book has divine authority, one must first prove that a miracle has occurred.  Thus, it is not possible to prove that a miracle has in fact occurred.  Therefore, no person or book can be proven to have divine authority.
 
CONCLUSION
For the above reasons, it is doubtful that one can KNOW that some particular law or command came from God, and therefore it is doubtful that a necessary condition of SIN, namely condition (d), has ever been satisfied by any action of any human being.  Therefore, it is doubtful that any human being has ever performed an action that is a SIN.
The reason that I have not concluded that it is clearly the case that no human has ever committed a SIN, is that I have not yet examined the second possible way that a human can allegedly KNOW that a particular law or command is from God (i.e. conscience or innate knowledge of laws or commands of God).

bookmark_borderIf Jesus Rose from the Dead, then God does NOT Exist

The following are two central beliefs of Christianity:

(1) Jesus is the divine Son of God.

(2) God raised Jesus from the dead to show that (1) is true.

If (1) is FALSE, then that implies that (2) is FALSE as well.  If Jesus was NOT the divine Son of God, then God would NOT have raised him from the dead.
If Jesus was an ordinary and morally flawed human, God would NOT have raised Jesus from the dead, because that would be a GREAT DECEPTION.  God being all-knowing would see that raising Jesus from the dead would lead his initial followers to reasonably but wrongly conclude that Jesus was the divine Son of God, and that billions of human beings would be influenced by Jesus’ initial followers to adopt this FALSE and UNHEALTHY belief.
If Jesus was an ordinary morally flawed human being, then the belief that Jesus is the divine Son of God is a FALSE belief. The claim that Jesus is the divine Son of God implies that Jesus possesses the perfections of God. This claim is clearly FALSE because Jesus was a mortal, subject to death, but God is eternal and immortal, so Jesus clearly cannot be God, nor possess all the perfections of God.
Also, Jesus had a physical body, but God is eternally an omnipresent spirit, so God is a person who has no physical body, so Jesus cannot be God nor possess all of the perfections of God.
However, there are some characteristics and perfections of God that it was possible for Jesus to possess. It seems logically possible for a human being to be all-powerful, and all-knowing, and to be a perfectly morally good person. So, although it is clearly NOT the case that Jesus was God, and clearly NOT the case that Jesus possessed all of the divine attributes and perfections, it was possible for Jesus to possess at least a few of the most important divine attributes and perfections. If so, then the belief that Jesus is the divine Son of God would be partially true (as well as partially false).
But if Jesus was an ordinary morally flawed human being, then the belief that Jesus is divine Son of God would NOT even be partially true, but would be clearly and fully FALSE, because then not only would Jesus NOT be an omnipresent bodiless spirit, and NOT be an eternal and immortal person, but Jesus would also lack three other important divine attributes or perfections: omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect moral goodness.
It is clear and certain that Jesus was a morally flawed human being, so we can eliminate perfect moral goodness from the list of potential divine attributes of Jesus. This still leaves open the possibility that Jesus possessed two of the most important divine attributes or perfections: omnipotence (all-powerful) and omniscience (all-knowing).
The Gospels provide sufficient evidence that Jesus was neither omnipotent nor omniscient. However, I’m not going to argue that point here. Instead, my argument is that a morally flawed human who was all-powerful and all-knowing would be a MONSTER, a great threat to humanity and to the existence of planet Earth and the entire universe.
A morally flawed all-powerful person could become angry or depressed and with a single thought could annihilate the entire human race, or even the entire universe in an instant. Such a MONSTER could NOT with any justice be called “the divine Son of God”. Thus, if Jesus was a morally flawed human being, then it would clearly be FALSE to claim that Jesus was the divine Son of God, even if Jesus did possess the divine attributes of omnipotence and omniscience.
I would not argue that Jesus was an evil person. Jesus was a person who showed concern about truth and justice and love and kindness. There is much to admire about Jesus. But Jesus was clearly a morally flawed human being who lacked the divine attribute of being a perfectly morally good person.

Joshua Commanding the Sun to Stand Still upon Gibeon by John Martin

 
Let’s start with his NAME.  If Jesus was a perfectly morally good person, then he would have rejected his own name and chosen a new name for himself. But Jesus did not do this, so he was a morally flawed person.

The word Jesus is the Latin form of the Greek Iesous, which in turn is the transliteration of the Hebrew  Jeshua, or Joshua, or again Jehoshua, meaning “Jehovah is salvation.”  (Catholic Encylopedia: “Origin of the name Jesus Christ“)

The name Yeshua derives from the Hebrew name Yehoshua, a name that belonged to a very famous Old Testament warrior of  Israel.  In English translations of the Old Testament, this very famous warrior is called Joshua.  So, Jesus was named after Joshua, one of the most famous warriors of Israel.
Joshua was the Old Testament version of Adolf Hitler.  Joshua was a bloodthirsty bigot who, according to the OT, led the army of Israel to mercilessly slaughter thousands of men, women, teenagers, children, elderly people, in genocidal warfare.  As soon as Jesus learned that he was named after this bloodthirsty murderer, he would have rejected his name and chosen a new name IF Jesus was a perfectly morally good person.
If a perfectly morally good person was born to German parents in the 1940s and given the name “Adolf” by his parents, then as soon as that boy learned that he was named after a bloodthirsty bigot who led the German people to mercilessly slaughter millions of men, women, teenagers, children, and elderly people in a genocidal program, he would reject that name, and choose a new name for himself.
The same reasoning applies to Jesus. Since Jesus never changed his name, and since Jesus, to the best of our knowledge, never criticized the grossly immoral behavior of Joshua, the very famous warrior of the Hebrew nation, we can conclude that Jesus was NOT a perfectly morally good person.
There are other reasons based on the NT for the conclusion that Jesus was NOT a perfectly morally good person.  There is plenty of  evidence to support this conclusion.  Because Jesus lacked that basic divine attribute, it is both a FALSE and UNHEALTHY belief that Jesus was the divine Son of God.  Thus, it is also the case that God, if God exists, would NOT raise Jesus from the dead, because doing so would involve God in a GREAT DECEPTION.
TO BE CONTINUED…

bookmark_borderDoes God Exist? Part 4: Engage in Religious Activities

In my humble opinion, the question “Does God exist?” is best answered by taking a ride on the PHILOSOPHY BUS:

We should answer this question by means of philosophical investigation, especially by critical examination of philosophical arguments for and against the existence of God.

However, this is NOT the only way to approach the question “Does God exist?”. There are alternative ways of answering this question that involve engaging in religious activities:

4. Try praying to God, to see if God answers your prayers.

5. Try prayer, meditation, and worship, to see if you feel the presence of God or hear the voice of God.

6. Try reading the sacred texts of various religions, to see if you sense divine wisdom in any of them.

Part of the idea here is that skeptics and atheists don’t come across evidence for God because they don’t engage in religious activities, activities that would provide them with experiences and evidence that support the existence of God. Prayer to God, worship of God, and study of the (supposed) words of God are religious activities that many people think provide them with experiences of God and evidence for God.
 
APPROACH #4: ASK GOD TO DO SOMETHING FOR YOU
This appears to be a simple and straightforward test for the existence of God. God, by definition, is all-knowing, so if you pray to God and ask God to do something for you, say to heal an illness or injury that you have or that someone you care about has, then God, if God exists, KNOWS that you have asked God to do this. God, by definition, is all-powerful, so God can heal any disease or injury completely and instantaneously.

Jesus praying in Gethsemane. Depicted by Heinrich Hofmann.

 
Answering your prayer by doing what you asked God to do would be a very easy thing for God to do, and if God does instantly grant your request, then you would have some dramatic evidence for the existence of God.
 
 
If you pray asking God to do something for you, say to heal an illness or injury that you have or that someone you care about has, and nothing happens (i.e. the illness or injury gets worse or takes the usual amount of time to run its course or to heal up), then you have evidence that God does NOT exist.
 
PROBLEMS WITH ANSWERED PRAYER AS CONFIRMATION OF GOD’S EXISTENCE
However, as with the previously considered practical approaches, the use of prayer requests to determine whether God exists is not as simple and straightforward as it initially seems.
One problem is that confirmation of the existence of God by means of an answered prayer involves the POST HOC FALLACY:

First X happened, then Y happened so X must have caused Y.

First I prayed for John to get well, then John got well, so my prayer for John must have (through God’s response to my prayer) caused John to get well.
This is a very dubious way of reasoning about cause and effect. Perhaps John has a strong immune system which can fight off diseases rapidly, and your prayer had NOTHING to do with John’s recovery. Perhaps John took a prescribed medication (like an antibiotic), and that was what caused him to get well, not your prayer for John. Perhaps John was just lucky and got over this particular illness quickly, but not because of any supernatural intervention by God, not because of your prayer for John.
How can we know whether a particular instance of getting well quickly is the result of divine intervention as opposed to being a coincidence or as opposed to being caused by an ordinary means, such as the activity of a person’s immune system or the influence of a prescribed medication?
An “answered” prayer does not provide clear proof or confirmation of the existence of God. Other causes and explanations could account for the event in question. This approach is NOT as simple and as easy as it initially seems.
We should think of prayer as similar to a drug that is being tested for safety and effectiveness. It is unreasonable to infer that drug X is a safe and effective way to treat disease Y just because one person took a large dose of drug X for a week, and then their disease Y went away. No medical scientist would accept this as anything close to being confirmation that drug X is a safe and effective treatment for disease Y.
We expect there to be double-blind experiments where hundreds or thousands of people who have disease Y are randomly assigned to either take drug X or to take a placebo pill, and to carefully monitor and measure and record the results of this experiment. We expect that a careful mathematical analysis be performed on the results to confirm that, if the people who took drug X tended to get well more often or more quickly than the people who took the placebo pill, this result was very unlikely to be a chance coincidence. That is what reasonable intelligent people expect to be persuaded that drug X is an effective treatment for disease Y (and similar evidence is required to show that drug X is safe to take).
An “answered” prayer might well be the result of an ordinary physical cause, such as the activity of a person’s immune system. But if we are to allow for the possibility of a supernatural cause (such as God intervening and directly causing a person to be healed), then we must allow for all sorts of different possible supernatural causes:

  • psychic healing power of the person who prayed
  • psychic healing power of the person who was sick
  • a fairy healed the sick person
  • a witch or wizard healed the sick person
  • an angel or demon healed the sick person
  • a finite deity (Zeus, Venus, or Neptune) healed the person who was sick
  • astrological forces connected to the current position of the sun, moon, and stars caused the sick person to be healed

In ordinary scientific investigation of the efficacy of drug X to treat disease Y nobody is concerned with eliminating various supernatural causes or forces. The assumption is that the cause of people who have disease Y getting well is some sort of physical or biological cause. But in the case of investigating the existence of God by means of prayer, we have opened the door to a huge number of possible supernatural causes and forces.
This means that prayer works as confirmation of the existence of God only AFTER we have eliminated a large number of potential alternative SUPERNATURAL causes. It seems to me that there is no established scientific way of doing this. So, in order for prayer to provide confirmation of the existence of God, we must first engage in METAPHYSICS:

  • What sorts of supernatural beings and forces besides God exist or are likely to exist?
  • What sorts of knowledge and power do these beings have?
  • Could any of these other beings or forces be the cause of the healings in question?

In short, in order to use prayer as a means to confirm the existence of God one must FIRST take a ride on the PHILOSOPHY BUS and arrive at various conclusions about the likelihood of various supernatural beings and forces and the likelihood of those beings and forces causing observable effects in human lives.
The prayer test is clearly NOT a simple and straightforward way to confirm the existence of God, but requires a degree of intellectual sophistication and some philosophical investigation in order to have any chance of being successful.
 
PROBLEMS WITH UNANSWERED PRAYER AS DISCONFIRMATION OF THE EXISTENCE OF GOD
The same is true of using UNANSWERED prayer as a way to DISCONFIRM the existence of God. It seems unreasonable to expect that God would act like a magic Genie in a bottle and grant whatever request anyone asks. What about evil prayer requests? What if a Nazi asks God to annihilate the entire Jewish population of a city, or nation, or of the entire planet? Surely, a perfectly morally good creator would NOT grant such an evil request.
Also, there are common circumstances where it would be logically impossible for God to grant BOTH a prayer request by one person AND an opposing request by another person. For example, Tom is a player on his high school’s basketball team, and he prays for God to make his team win the game tonight against the team of another high school. Jack is a player on the basketball team of the other high school, and he prays for God to make them win the game tonight against the team that Tom is on. God cannot make both teams win. Only ONE TEAM can win the game, so God cannot grant these two opposing prayer requests.
Furthermore, if God were to grant every prayer request (at least those that were not evil, and not contrary to some other prayer request), then this would remove all incentive for people to work, to take care of their children, to take care of themselves, to take care of their possessions. If you lose your job, you could just ask God to pay all of your bills or to fill you bank accounts with thousands of dollars. If you don’t feel like feeding your children, you could just ask God to feed them, and to take them to school. If you smoke a pack of cigarettes a day for ten years and then get lung cancer, you could ask God to heal your lungs and go right back to smoking a pack a day. If you don’t change the oil in you car and the engine breaks down, you could just ask God to fix the engine or make you a brand new car.
These are the sorts of considerations that arise when philosophers discuss the PROBLEM OF EVIL, a basic question in the philosophy of religion. Before the failure of God to answer a prayer by granting the prayer request can be viewed as DISCONFIRMATION of the existence of God, one must engage in some challenging philosophical investigation into the PROBLEM OF EVIL, and make some reasonable conclusions about what it would be reasonable to expect out of an all-powerful, all-knowing, and perfectly morally good creator of the universe.
In short, in order for prayer to be used as a means to DISCONFIRM the existence of God, one must take a trip on the PHILOSOPHY BUS. Approach #4 is thus NOT as simple and straightforward as it seemed initially to be. For this approach to have any significant chance of success, one must FIRST engage in some serious philosophical investigation.
So, just as with the two practical approaches discussed in Part 3 of this series, this approach is NOT an alternative that will allow one to proceed without engaging in philosophical investigation, investigation that requires a degree of intellectual sophistication and skill in critical thinking.

bookmark_borderThe Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection – Part 2: MANY Skeptical Theories

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 8 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft identifies FIVE Theories concerned about “what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday…” :

1. Christianity: “the resurrection really happened”
2. Hallucination: “the apostles were deceived by a hallucination”
3. Myth: “the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally”
4. Conspiracy: “the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history”
5. Swoon:  “Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected”

(HCA, p.182)
According to Kreeft all he needs to do is to refute the four skeptical theories that are alternatives to the Christian view:

If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1).

(HCA, p.182)
In Part 1 of this series of posts, I pointed out that there are at least THREE serious problems with Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus:

  • Kreeft FAILED to refute the Conspiracy Theory.
  • Kreeft FAILED to refute the Swoon Theory.
  • There are OTHER skeptical theories that Kreeft has NOT even attempted to refute.

Each one of these serious problems by itself provides us with sufficient reason to conclude that Kreeft’s case for the resurrection is a FAILURE.  The combination of all three serious problems shows that Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus is a complete FAILURE.
Kreeft raises seven objections against the Conspiracy Theory.  I wrote a series of blog posts showing various problems, errors, and weaknesses with Kreeft’s arguments against the Conspiracy Theory, and I concluded that each of those seven objections FAILS to refute the Conspiracy Theory.
Kreeft raises nine objections against the Swoon TheoryI wrote a series of blog posts showing various problems, errors, and weaknesses with Kreeft’s arguments against the Swoon Theory, and I concluded that each of those nine objections FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory.
Kreeft uses a bit of logic in order to try to make it appear that the four skeptical theories in his list cover ALL of the logical possibilities.  But if you examine that logic more closely, it becomes clear that there are MANY OTHER skeptical theories that he has neglected to mention or to consider, and this problem is sufficient by itself to SINK Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus.
In Part 1, I pointed out various problems and gaps in Kreeft’s logical analysis of the possibilities concerning the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and I showed that there are at least TWENTY-SEVEN different skeptical theories, not just the four that Kreeft identifies in his list.
The chart below summarizes most of my efforts in Part 1 to improve upon Kreeft’s analysis of the possibilities (click on image below for a clearer view of the diagram):
 

 

CONTINUING MY CRITIQUE AND REVISION OF KREEFT’S ANALYSIS

The diagram below ignores the earlier dilemmas (and the skeptical theories associated with them), in order to simplify the diagram and to focus attention on the last two dilemmas that I discussed (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):

 
As you can see from this second diagram, there are at least 27 possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and we have not even finished clarifying and revising Kreeft’s analysis of the possibilities.  So, with the addition of a couple of more dilemmas, we would probably exceed 30 possible theories, and get close to about 40 possible theories, far more than the meager list of five theories in Kreeft’s list.  So, my effort to clarify and revise Kreeft’s analysis of the logical possibilities reveals that there are MANY OTHER skeptical theories besides the four skeptical theories that Kreeft identifies and considers:

  • There are OTHER skeptical theories that Kreeft has NOT even attempted to refute.

This third serious problem with Kreeft’s case provides us with sufficient reason to conclude that Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus is a FAILURE.  This serious problem adds to two other serious problems with Kreeft’s case:

  • Kreeft FAILED to refute the Conspiracy Theory.
  • Kreeft FAILED to refute the Swoon Theory.

In combination with these two other serious problems, Kreeft’s case is shown to be a COMPLETE FAILURE.
 

COMBINATION THEORIES DRAMATICALLY INCREASE THE NUMBER OF POSSIBILITIES 

I am now going to introduce two simplifying assumptions, which will allow me to show that there are not just dozens of skeptical theories, but billions of them (Dr. Evil says: “Give me BILLIONS of skeptical theories!”):

  • There were ELEVEN men who were part of the inner-circle of Jesus’ disciples who remained in the Jesus movement after Jesus was crucified.
  • If a disciple was DECEIVED into believing that Jesus rose from the dead, then that disciple did not DECEIVE others into believing that Jesus rose from the dead.

It is NOT an established fact that there were exactly TWELVE disciples in the inner-circle of the followers of Jesus, nor that exactly ONE of those TWELVE disciples (i.e. Judas) ceased to be a follower of Jesus and left the Jesus movement after the crucifixion.  So, it is possible that there were more than ELEVEN men from the inner-circle of Jesus’ disciples who remained followers of Jesus after the crucifixion.  If so, that would just allow for even more possible skeptical theories.  The first assumption is in keeping with the NT, and with traditional Christian belief.
I can imagine circumstances in which one of the disciples was DECEIVED into believing that Jesus rose from the dead, but nevertheless became a DECEIVER of others, who persuaded others to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead.  For example, a disciple might have been DECEIVED by meeting a person (after the crucifixion) who looked and acted like Jesus, but who was not actually Jesus.  This could have produced an honest and sincere belief in that disciple that Jesus had risen from the dead, and then that disciple could have begun preaching that he had personally seen the risen Jesus.
But suppose that some weeks or months later that disciple runs into the Jesus-look-alike person and has a long conversation with that person, and becomes persuaded that (a) this person is NOT Jesus, and that (b) this is the same person that the disciple had previously believed was the risen Jesus.  In that case, this disciple would cease to believe that he had personally seen the risen Jesus.  If that disciple, however, continued to participate in the Jesus movement, and continued to preach that he had seen the risen Jesus, then that disciple would become a DECEIVER.
But apart from such an unusual set of circumstances, if someone is DECEIVED into having a sincere and honest belief that Jesus rose from the dead, then that person would, in most cases, NOT be involved in DECEIVING others into believing that Jesus rose from the dead, because he or she would sincerely believe this was the truth.  People do sometimes LIE to and DECEIVE others in the service of a belief they honestly and sincerely hold, but that is not usually how things go.
In any case, although it is possible to imagine circumstances in which a disciple was DECEIVED into believing that Jesus rose from the dead and yet became a DECEIVER of others about Jesus rising from the dead, it will simplify our determination of the number of possible theories by assuming that a particular disciple can be either DECEIVED or a DECEIVER but not both.  Rejection of this assumption would only INCREASE the number of possible skeptical theories.
Now there is an obvious and very important point that Kreeft either did not notice or that he ignored:

Some of the disciples could have been DECEIVED while other disciples were DECEIVERS.

Kreeft only presents two skeptical theories related to the DECEIVED vs DECEIVER distinction:

  • ALL ELEVEN DISCIPLES were DECEIVED into believing Jesus rose from the dead.
  • ALL ELEVEN DISCIPLES were DECEIVERS who persuaded others into believing Jesus rose from the dead.

The first possibility Kreeft mistakenly identifies with the Hallucination Theory.  Although having a hallucination is ONE WAY in which the disciples could have been deceived, there are several other ways that they could have been DECEIVED.
In any case, it is clearly possible for different disciples to have different experiences and different beliefs and different motivations.  It is clearly possible that some of Jesus’ disciples were DECEIVED and others were DECEIVERS.
It is also possible that some of the disciples were neither DECEIVED nor DECEIVERS.  Kreeft himself points out the possibility of a disciple being a “myth-maker”, telling stories about Jesus rising from the dead, but having no intention of claiming that these stories were about actual, observable, historical events.  Thus, such a disciple doesn’t believe that Jesus literally rose from the dead, nor is such a disciple trying to fool others into believing that Jesus literally rose from the dead.
Any one of the disciples could have been either DECEIVED or a DECEIVER or a MYTH-MAKER.  There is no reason to assume that ALL ELEVEN DISCIPLES must fall into the same category.  This means that there can be COMBINATION THEORIES, skeptical theories that combine two or more different skeptical explanations, especially putting different disciples into different categories.
Furthermore, experiencing an hallucination of the risen Jesus is only ONE WAY that a disciple could have been DECEIVED; there are at least EIGHT different ways that a particular disciple could have been DECEIVED into believing Jesus rose from the dead:

  • Hallucinations – of seeing, and talking to, Jesus
  • Vivid dreams – of seeing, and talking to, Jesus
  • Mistaken Identity – seeing a person who happened to look and act like Jesus
  • Intentionally Fooled – by an actor wearing make-up and/or disguised to look like Jesus
  • Intentionally Fooled – by a person who naturally (without make-up or disguise) looked like Jesus
  • False Memories – implanted by hypnosis or suggestion, of having seen, or spoken with, the risen Jesus
  • False Memories – implanted by the Devil, of having seen, or spoken with, the risen Jesus
  • Visions of Jesus in heaven – leading to the mistaken belief that Jesus had a new resurrected body

It is possible that different disciples were DECEIVED in different ways, and it is possible that some or all of the disciples were not DECEIVED but were DECEIVERS or MYTH-MAKERS.
OK.  So, we have determined that any particular disciple among the ELEVEN disciples could have been DECEIVED in one of the eight ways listed above, or could have been a DECEIVER, or could have been a MYTH-MAKER.  Each disciple thus could fall into one of TEN different categories.
As we increase the number of disciples, the number of skeptical COMBINATION THEORIES increases exponentially:

  • If there was only ONE disciple, then there would be TEN different possible skeptical theories regarding that ONE disciple and the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
  • If there were only TWO disciples, then there would be ONE HUNDRED different possible skeptical theories regarding those TWO disciples and the alleged resurrection of Jesus (ten possible categorizations of the first disciple TIMES ten possible categorizations of the second disciple).
  • If there were only THREE disciples, then there would be ONE THOUSAND different possible skeptical theories regarding those THREE disciples and the alleged resurrection of Jesus (one hundred possibilities for the first two disciples TIMES ten possibilities for the third).

So, in order to determine the number of possible skeptical theories related to the assumption that “It is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead” in my revised and improved analysis (see above diagrams), we must multiply ten times itself ELEVEN times, for ELEVEN DISCIPLES, each of whom might fall under any one of the TEN categories:

10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 x 10 =   100,000,000,000

Thus, there are at least 100 BILLION different possible skeptical theories related to the lemma in my analysis (and in Kreeft’s analysis) “It is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead”.
I would NOT claim that Kreeft needs to refute every one of these 100 BILLION skeptical theories, particularly one at a time.  Perhaps he could separate them into categories and refute millions or  billions of similar skeptical theories all at once (?).  But I can confidently claim, at this point, that the idea that he could refute just four skeptical theories and then claim victory, is laughable, and pathetic.
 

A MORE CONSERVATIVE ESTIMATE OF THE NUMBER OF SKEPTICAL THEORIES

I arrived at the astounding number of 100 BILLION skeptical theories based on two basic assumptions:

There are TEN different categories that each disciple could fall under (given the assumptions that Jesus was dead when removed from the cross and that it is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead).

There were ELEVEN disciples from the inner-circle of Jesus’ followers who remained involved in the Jesus movement after the crucifixion.

If there were fewer disciples from the inner-circle of Jesus’ followers, then that would reduce the number of skeptical possibilities, but the traditional Christian belief is that there were 12 disciples in the inner-circle of Jesus’ followers, and that exactly 1 of those disciples left the Jesus movement about the time that Jesus was crucified (namely: Judas).
Someone might take issue with there being TEN different categories that each disciple could fall under.  I expanded the category of being DECEIVED into EIGHT different WAYS of being deceived.  Since the only skeptical theory among those EIGHT WAYS that Kreeft considers is the Hallucination Theory, it is clear that Kreeft focused on just ONE particular WAY that the disciples could have been DECEIVED, and ignored various OTHER WAYS that this could have happened.
Since the very name of the theory Kreeft considered (“the Hallucination Theory”) specifies the WAY that the disciples could have been DECEIVED, it is perfectly reasonable to consider theories that propose OTHER WAYS that disciples could have been DECEIVED as being distinct alternative theories.  For example, consider the view that sometime after the crucifixion the disciples saw a person who looked and acted like Jesus and then mistakenly concluded that Jesus had risen from the dead.  It would make no sense to call that theory “the Hallucination Theory”, because no hallucinations are involved or required for that theory to be true.
Nevertheless, let’s set aside my expansion of the category of being DECEIVED into EIGHT different WAYS of being DECEIVED, and instead stick strictly to the categorizations that Kreeft himself proposed be applied to the disciples:

  • DECEIVED
  • DECEIVERS
  • MYTH-MAKERS

Since different disciples could fall under different categories, we still need to multiply these THREE possible explanations repeatedly to arrive at a total number of possible COMBINATION THEORIES:

  • If there was only ONE disciple, then there would be THREE different possible skeptical theories regarding that ONE disciple and the alleged resurrection of Jesus.
  • If there were only TWO disciples, then there would be NINE different possible skeptical theories regarding those TWO disciples and the alleged resurrection of Jesus (three possible categorizations of the first disciple TIMES three possible categorizations of the second disciple).
  • If there were only THREE disciples, then there would be TWENTY-SEVEN different possible skeptical theories regarding those THREE disciples and the alleged resurrection of Jesus (nine possibilities for the first two disciples TIMES three possibilities for the third).

Since we are assuming, along with most Christian believers, that there were ELEVEN disciples from the inner-circle of Jesus’ followers who remained in the Jesus movement after the crucifixion, we must multiple the THREE basic possibilities eleven times:

3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3 x 3   =  177,147  different skeptical theories

Even if we ignore the fact that the claim that a disciple was DECEIVED into believing that Jesus rose from the dead encompasses several different possible explanations of HOW that could have happened, even if we just lump all of those significantly different explanations into one general category (being DECEIVED), we still end up with a very large number (over 170,000) of different possible skeptical theories.
Therefore, Kreeft’s view that he only needs to refute four skeptical theories in order to prove the Christian theory that God raised Jesus from the dead,  is clearly ridiculous.

bookmark_borderThe Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection – Part 1: Three Serious Problems

FIVE THEORIES ABOUT JESUS’ ALLEGED RESURRECTION

In Chapter 8 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Peter Kreeft identifies Five Theories concerned about “what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday…” :

1. Christianity: “the resurrection really happened”
2. Hallucination: “the apostles were deceived by a hallucination”
3. Myth: “the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally”
4. Conspiracy: “the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history”
5. Swoon:  “Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected”

(HCA, p.182)
According to Kreeft all he needs to do is to refute the four skeptical theories that are alternatives to the Christian view:

If we can refute all other theories (2-5), we will have proved the truth of the resurrection (1).

(HCA, p.182)
 

TWO SERIOUS PROBLEMS WITH KREEFT’S CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION

There are at least two serious problems with Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus that I have previously discussed in my blog posts:

  • Kreeft FAILED to refute the Conspiracy Theory.
  • Kreeft FAILED to refute the Swoon Theory.

Kreeft raises seven objections against the Conspiracy Theory.  I wrote a series of blog posts showing various problems, errors, and weaknesses with Kreeft’s arguments against the Conspiracy Theory, and I concluded that each of those seven objections FAILS to refute the Conspiracy Theory.
Kreeft raises nine objections against the Swoon TheoryI wrote a series of blog posts showing various problems, errors, and weaknesses with Kreeft’s arguments against the Swoon Theory, and I concluded that each of those nine objections FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory.

  • Kreeft’s FAILURE to refute the Conspiracy Theory is sufficient by itself to SINK his case for the resurrection of Jesus.
  • Kreeft’s FAILURE to refute the Swoon Theory is sufficient by itself to SINK his case for the resurrection of Jesus.

Given that Kreeft has FAILED to refute at least two of the four skeptical theories in his list, his case for the resurrection is a complete FAILURE.  Kreeft has FAILED to prove that Jesus rose from the dead.
 

A THIRD SERIOUS PROBLEM WITH KREEFT’S CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION

But there is another serious problem with Kreeft’s case for the resurrection.  His list of skeptical theories is INCOMPLETE:

  • There are OTHER skeptical theories (besides the four that Kreeft lists) that Kreeft has NOT even attempted to refute.

Kreeft uses a bit of logic in order to try to make it appear that the four skeptical theories in his list cover ALL of the logical possibilities.  But if you examine that logic more closely, it becomes clear that there are MANY OTHER skeptical theories that he has neglected to mention or to consider, and this problem is sufficient by itself to SINK Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus.
 

THE INITIAL DILEMMA IN KREEFT’S ANALYSIS OF THE LOGICAL POSSIBILITIES

There is a diagram in Chapter 8 that is an important part of Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):

 
On the left side of the diagram, we see a dilemma between two alternatives:

Jesus died

OR

Jesus didn’t die

There are problems in Kreeft’s logic right away, problems with this initial dilemma.  These two alternatives are VAGUE and in need of clarification.  Taken literally, these alternatives are not relevant to the question about whether Jesus rose from the dead:

Jesus died eventually (at some point in the past).

OR

Jesus didn’t ever die (and is now a human being who is over 2,000 years old).

Those are NOT the two alternatives that Kreeft had in mind.
In relation to the question of whether Jesus rose from the dead, the first alternative can be stated more carefully and precisely:

Jesus died before he was removed from the cross.

OR

Jesus didn’t die before he was removed from the cross.

These alternatives are clearer and are relevant to the question of the resurrection, but this is NOT a true dilemma, because these two alternatives do NOT comprehend ALL logical possibilities.
Both of these statements ASSUME that there was a point in time in which Jesus “was removed from the cross”.  So, both of these statements make the following three assumptions:

  • Jesus was an actual historical person.
  • Jesus was crucified.
  • At some point in time after Jesus was crucified, Jesus was removed from his cross.

The so-called “dilemma” that occurs at the beginning of the chart about alternative theories does NOT encompass ALL logical possibilities.  It excludes, for example, the following three skeptical possibilities:

  • Jesus was NOT an actual historical person.
  • Jesus was an actual historical person, but Jesus was never crucified.
  • Jesus was an actual historical person who was crucified, but his body was never removed from his cross.

These are more extreme skeptical theories, compared to the four skeptical theories that Kreeft considers, but that is no excuse for failing to consider them, and for failing to attempt to refute them.  If Kreeft thinks that these theories are silly or ridiculous, then from that point of view it should be very easy to refute these theories, so Kreeft has no excuse for failing to attempt to refute these three additional skeptical theories, but Kreeft makes no attempt to refute any of those three theories.
 

A TRUE INITIAL DILEMMA FOR THE ANALYSIS OF THE LOGICAL POSSIBILITIES

In order to begin the logical breakdown with a true dilemma, we need to consider the following alternatives:

Jesus was an actual historical person.

OR

It is NOT the case that Jesus was an actual historical person.

The second alternative above reflects at least one skeptical theory, or one category of skeptical theories.  Kreeft makes no effort to disprove the skeptical theory that Jesus was a legend or fictional character.  So, if we add this skeptical theory to the four that Kreeft has identified, there are at least FIVE skeptical theories that need to be refuted in order for Kreeft’s case for the resurrection to be successful.
 

A SECOND NEW DILEMMA

The first alternative above (Jesus was an actual historical person) needs to be divided by another true dilemma:

Jesus was crucified.

OR

It is NOT the case that Jesus was crucified.

Again the second alternative here reflects at least one more skeptical theory, or one category of skeptical theories.  One example of such a theory is this:

There was a case of mistaken identity and someone who looked like Jesus was arrested and crucified by Roman soldiers because they thought this person was Jesus of Nazareth.  Some of the followers of Jesus saw this man crucified, and they too believed that the crucified man was Jesus.  Jesus had left Jerusalem about the same time that this other man who looked like Jesus was crucified, so when Jesus’ disciples heard that Jesus had been arrested, crucified, and buried, they believed that Jesus had in fact been arrested, crucified, and buried.  Later, when they met up with Jesus again, they sincerely but mistakenly inferred that Jesus must have risen from the dead.

This is a significant skeptical theory that Kreeft never mentions, and that Kreeft made no effort to disprove.  So, we now see that there are at least SIX skeptical theories that need to be refuted in order for Kreeft’s case for the resurrection to be successful. But Kreeft only attempted to refute FOUR skeptical theories, and he FAILED to refute at least TWO of those theories.
 

A THIRD DILEMMA, SIMILAR TO THE FIRST DILEMMA IN KREEFT’S ANALYSIS

The first alternative (Jesus was crucified) needs to be divided into two possibilities by another dilemma:

Jesus was dead when his body was removed from the cross.

OR

It is NOT the case that Jesus was dead when his body was removed from the cross.

This is similar to the original dilemma that Kreeft used to begin his analysis:

Jesus died

OR

Jesus didn’t die

But the 3rd Dilemma that I’m proposing in this revised analysis is clearer and is relevant to the issue of the resurrection.
The most obvious skeptical theory related to the second alternative of the 3rd dilemma (It is NOT the case that Jesus was dead when his body was removed from the cross) is, as Kreeft’s diagram indicates, the Swoon Theory.
However, other skeptical theories could also be related to the second alternative of the 3rd dilemma.  In Part 1 of my series “Defending the Swoon Theory”, I show that the Swoon Theory involves a claim or assumption about WHY the Roman soldiers allowed Jesus’ body to be removed from the cross (Jesus Appeared to be Dead):

(JAD) Jesus had swooned (or was unconscious) and he appeared to be dead, so the Roman soldiers mistakenly believed that he was already dead, and for that reason they allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross, even though Jesus was actually still alive.

But there are MANY different possible explanations for WHY the Roman soldiers might have allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross, even though he was still alive.
Here are six alternatives to (JAD), which would, if we define the Swoon Theory in terms of (JAD), mean that these possibilities represent SIX MORE skeptical theories in addition to the Swoon Theory:

  • The Roman soldiers allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross while he was still alive because they were bribed to do so.
  • The Roman soldiers allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross while he was still alive because they were threatened to make them do this.
  • The Roman soldiers allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross while he was still alive because they got drunk and fell asleep.
  • The Roman soldiers allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross while he was still alive because they were followers of Jesus and wanted to help Jesus to survive.
  • The Roman soldiers allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross while he was still alive because they were ordered by a superior officer to do so.
  • The Roman soldiers allowed Jesus to be removed from the cross while he was still alive because they were overpowered and killed by some anti-Roman Jewish Zealots who were angered by the crucifixion of Jesus.

So, if “the Swoon Theory” is understood as asserting (JAD), then it follows logically that there are at least SIX more alternative skeptical theories to add to our collection of SIX skeptical theories, meaning that at least TWELVE different skeptical theories would need to be refuted in order for Kreeft’s case for the resurrection to be successful.  But Kreeft has only attempted to refute FOUR skeptical theories, and he FAILED to refute at least TWO of those theories.
 

A FOURTH DILEMMA, VERY SIMILAR TO THE SECOND DILEMMA IN KREEFT’S ANALYSIS

The first alternative (Jesus was dead when his body was removed from the cross) needs to be divided into two possibilities by another dilemma.  We can use a dilemma that is basically the same as one used in Kreeft’s analysis:

Jesus rose from the dead.

OR

It is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead.

Kreeft identifies the first alternative with “Christianity” or the Christian theory.  But there are also skeptical theories that are associated with this first alternative:

  • The devil raised Jesus from the dead.
  • A demon raised Jesus from the dead.
  • An angel raised Jesus from the dead (on his own initiative, without God’s approval).
  • A witch or wizard used magic to raise Jesus from the dead.
  • A finite deity (like Zeus or Venus) raised Jesus from the dead.
  • A fairy raised Jesus from the dead.
  • Jesus rose from the dead by the power of a philosopher’s stone.

There are many other such skeptical theories that are possible.   Skeptics often reject belief in supernatural beings and forces, so most skeptics would not endorse such supernatural theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus.  However, there are many people who do believe in supernatural beings or forces who are not Christians, and who might well challenge the Christian theory about Jesus’ death and alleged resurrection.  They might not call themselves “skeptics”, but they are nevertheless skeptical about the Christian theory.
Kreeft has not considered any such skeptical theories, nor has Kreeft made any attempt to refute such theories.  There are at least SEVEN such theories, and we have previously identified at least TWELVE skeptical theories, so there are at least NINETEEN skeptical theories that need to be refuted in order for Kreeft’s case for the resurrection to be successful.  But Kreeft only attempted to refute FOUR skeptical theories, and he FAILED to refute at least TWO of those theories.
 

THE FAILURE OF KREEFT’S TRILEMMA

Most of the skeptical theories that Kreeft does consider are related to the second alternative above (It is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead).  Kreeft divides this possibility into a “trilemma”, into three different categories, each of which corresponds to one skeptical theory:

The apostles were deceived—-> Hallucination Theory

OR

The apostles were myth-makers—-> Myth Theory

OR

The apostles were deceivers—-> Conspiracy Theory

But this is NOT a true trilemma, because this logical analysis FAILS to encompass ALL of the skeptical theories that are associated with the second alternative above (It is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead, and Jesus was dead when his body was removed from the cross).
For example, the stories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus could have developed AFTER “the apostles” (i.e. the inner-circle of disciples of Jesus) had all died.  The “deceivers” or “myth-makers” could have been the next generation of followers of Jesus (i.e. the disciples of the eleven disciples).  [This skeptical theory was mentioned in a comment by “Carstonio” in response to my Defending the Swoon Theory – INDEX post.]  There may be some significant problems with this theory, but it is clearly a skeptical theory that does NOT FIT under any of the above three categories.  Therefore, it is clear that those three categories FAIL to encompass ALL of the skeptical theories that are associated with the second alternative above (It is NOT the case that Jesus rose from the dead, and Jesus was dead when his body was removed from the cross).
This new skeptical theory means that there are now at least TWENTY different skeptical theories that Kreeft needs to refute in order for his case for the resurrection to be successful.  But Kreeft only attempted to refute FOUR skeptical theories, and he FAILED to refute at least TWO of those theories.
 

A FIFTH DILEMMA, BASED ON A LEMMA FROM KREEFT’S FAILED TRILEMMA

The existence of this added skeptical theory also means that we should revise and improve Kreeft’s logical analysis of possible theories.  I suggest we stick to using dilemmas, to make sure that we cover ALL possible theories.  Let’s start with the first lemma that Kreeft used in his FAILED trilemma:

the apostles were deceived

I prefer the clearer designation “the eleven disciples of Jesus” instead of unclear phrase “the apostles”, and we also need to be more specific about the deception involved here:

The eleven disciples of Jesus were deceived into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead

OR

It is NOT the case that the eleven disciples of Jesus were deceived into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead

Kreeft associates the first alternative with the Hallucination theory.  Experiencing hallucinations of Jesus would indeed be a way that the eleven disciples of Jesus could have been DECEIVED into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead.  But there are clearly OTHER WAYS that they could have been deceived into accepting this belief:

  • Vivid dreams – of seeing, and talking to, Jesus
  • Mistaken Identity – seeing a person who happened to look and act like Jesus
  • Intentionally Fooled – by an actor wearing make-up and/or disguised to look like Jesus
  • Intentionally Fooled – by a person who naturally (without make-up or disguise) looked like Jesus
  • False Memories – implanted by hypnosis or suggestion, of having seen, or spoken with, the risen Jesus
  • False Memories – implanted by the Devil, of having seen, or spoken with, the risen Jesus
  • Visions of Jesus in heaven – leading to the mistaken belief that Jesus had a new resurrected body

There are at least SEVEN other ways that the disciples could have been DECEIVED into believing that Jesus had risen from the dead, so if we add those skeptical theories to our existing pile of TWENTY skeptical theories, it follows that there are at least TWENTY-SEVEN skeptical theories that need to be refuted in order for Kreeft’s case for the resurrection to be successful.  But Kreeft only attempted to refute FOUR skeptical theories, and he FAILED to refute at least TWO of those theories.
I have not completed my revision of Peter Kreeft’s analysis of the logical possibilities concerning alternative skeptical theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, but so far I have identified a number of gaps and problems with Kreeft’s analysis, and I have shown that there are at least TWENTY-SEVEN alternative skeptical theories, which means that Kreeft needs to refute at least TWENTY-SEVEN skeptical theories, not just the FOUR skeptical theories that he attempted to refute in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics.
TO BE CONTINUED…
 
 
 
 

bookmark_borderDefending the Swoon Theory – INDEX

OVERVIEW

In Chapter 8 of his book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA),  Peter Kreeft (and his co-author Ronald Tacelli), makes a case for the resurrection of Jesus.  He does so by attempting to “refute” or “disprove” four skeptical theories that are alternatives to the Christian view that God raised Jesus from the dead:

Hallucination: “the apostles were deceived by a hallucination”
Myth: “the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally”
Conspiracy: “the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history”
Swoon:  “Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected”

(from HCA, p.182)
One of the four skeptical theories is the Swoon Theory.  In Chapter 8 of HCA, Kreeft raises nine objections against the Swoon Theory.  Those objections were also published in a blog post by Peter Kreeft.

 
Recently, I completed a series of twenty-two blog posts showing various problems, errors, and weaknesses with Kreeft’s arguments against the Swoon Theory, and I concluded that each of those nine objections FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory.
 
Since Kreeft has FAILED to refute the Swoon Theory, we have sufficient reason to conclude that his case for the resurrection of Jesus is also a FAILURE.  Kreeft claimed that he would prove that Jesus rose from the dead, but that turns out to be just another bit of FALSE ADVERTISING for Christianity by a Christian apologist.  Kreeft is thus like a used car salesman, full of hype and big claims, but unwilling or unable to tell us the honest truth about the serious problems and defects in the product he wants to sell to us.
 

INTRODUCTORY POSTS FOR MY DEFENSE OF THE SWOON THEORY

In Part 1  I argue that if we accept Kreeft’s narrow conception of the Swoon Theory, then his case for the resurrection immediately FAILS, because there are clearly several alternative skeptical theories to the Swoon Theory that are similar to that theory, but that Kreeft never even attempts to refute.  So, on Kreeft’s understanding of what the Swoon Theory implies, his case for the resurrection FAILS, because he leaves several skeptical theories completely UNTOUCHED, and thus he FAILS to refute several alternative skeptical theories.
In Part 2 I continue to argue that Kreeft’s narrow conception of the Swoon Theory should be rejected in favor of a broader more general theory, that I call the Survival Theory.  I also argue that seven out of Kreeft’s nine objections against the Swoon Theory are problematic because they are based on the questionable assumption that the Gospels are historically reliable (or that various passages in the Gospels are historically reliable).
Kreeft recognizes that his use of Gospel passages as proof of his historical claims is problematic and he makes an attempt to defend his use of those Gospel passages.  Kreeft makes two points in defense of his use of Gospel passages, and I argue that the first point is IRRELEVANT, and that second point is AMBIGUOUS between a false claim and an insignificant claim.  So, right off the bat, we can see that seven out of Kreeft’s nine objections are dubious, because they are based on historical claims that are are supported by dubious Gospel passages.
 

TWO OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE SWOON THEORY THAT ARE NOT BASED ON THE GOSPELS

In Part 3  I analyze and clarify Kreeft’s Objection #1 The “Deadliness of Roman Crucifixion” Objection:

1. Roman procedures were very careful to eliminate the possibility of a person surviving crucifixion.

2. Roman law even laid the death penalty on any Roman soldier who let a capital prisoner escape in any way, including bungling a crucifixion.

3. No Roman soldier ever let a capital prisoner escape or ever bungled a crucifixion.

THEREFORE:

4. Jesus could not have survived Roman crucifixion.

I argue that Objection #1 FAILS, because the combination of premises (1) and (2) provide only a weak reason in support of (3) and in support of (4), and because premise (3) taken literally begs the question at issue, and because (3) when interpreted to make a non-question-begging claim is still a very strong historical claim for which Kreeft has provided ZERO historical evidence, an historical claim which is very dubious and likely to be FALSE.
In Part 4 I examine Kreeft’s Objection #8The “Where Did Jesus Go?” Objection:

1a. It is NOT the case that there is some historical data about Jesus’ life on Earth after the alleged forty days of his post-crucifixion appearances to his apostles.

A1. IF Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross), THEN there would be some historical data about Jesus’ life on Earth after the alleged forty days of his post-crucifixion appearances to his apostles.

THEREFORE:

B. It is NOT the case that Jesus survived his crucifixion (i.e. it is NOT the case that Jesus was still alive when removed from the cross and lived for at least a few days or weeks after being removed from the cross).

[Note: I jump from Objection #1 to Objection #8, because those are the only two objections that appear to NOT be based on dubious Gospel passages.]
In Part 5 I argue that the original version of this argument was UNSOUND because premise (1) was clearly and obviously FALSE.  The first premise of the revised version of Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #8, namely (1a) appears to be TRUE, but the second premise of the revised argument, namely (A1), appears to be FALSE.  I argue that we have good reason to conclude that premise (A1) is FALSE, and thus that the revised argument is UNSOUND.  Whether we consider the original version or the improved revised version, Kreeft’s Objection #8 FAILS.
 

FOUR OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE SWOON THEORY THAT ARE BASED ON THE 4TH GOSPEL

In Part 6 I point out that four of Kreeft’s objections to the Swoon Theory  (Objections #2, #3, #4,and #5) are based on dubious passages from the 4th Gospel:

  • Objection #2 assumes that John 19:31-33 asserts TRUE historical claims.
  • Objection #3 assumes that John 19:34-35 asserts TRUE historical claims.
  • Objection #4 assumes that John 19:36-42 asserts TRUE historical claims.
  • Objection #5 assumes that John 20:19-29 asserts TRUE historical claims.

(The above bullet points are from Part 2)
I argue that the 4th Gospel is the least reliable of the four gospels, and that it was probably NOT written by John the disciple of Jesus.
In Part 7 I examine Kreeft’s Objection #2The “Break their Legs” Objection:

1. A Roman soldier decided to NOT break Jesus’ legs while Jesus was hanging on the cross because the soldier was firmly convinced that Jesus was already dead.

2. IF a Roman soldier decided to NOT break Jesus’ legs while Jesus was hanging on the cross because the soldier was firmly convinced that Jesus was already dead, THEN it is virtually certain that Jesus died on the cross.

THEREFORE:

3. It is virtually certain that Jesus died on the cross.

Premise (1) is probably FALSE because it rests on two questionable assumptions: (a) that the story in the 4th Gospel of the Roman soldier deciding to NOT break Jesus’ legs while Jesus was on the cross is a reliable and accurate account of historical events, and (b) that this story shows that the Roman soldier was firmly convinced that Jesus was already dead.
Premise (2) is FALSE, because Roman soldiers were NOT modern medical doctors; they did NOT have modern medical knowledge, and they did not have modern medical technology, and they did not receive modern medical training.  So, Roman soldiers were quite capable of making an incorrect diagnosis of death.
Because premise (1) is probably FALSE, and because premise (2) is clearly FALSE, Objection #2 is based on an UNSOUND argument, and thus is a complete FAILURE.
In Part 7 I point out three problems with Objection #2:

  1. Roman Soldiers were NOT Medical Doctors
  2. The Same Passage Implies the Soldiers were NOT Sure Jesus was Dead
  3. The Key Historical Claims Made by Kreeft are DUBIOUS

I explained that the key historical claims in Objection #2 are clearly NOT historical facts.  They are questionable inferences based on the unreasonable assumption that the 4th Gospel provides us with reliable historical information about the ministry and crucifixion of Jesus.  I pointed out ten good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.
In Part 6 I provide some evidence and reasoning supporting Point #1 and Point #2 of those ten good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.
In Part 8 I provide some evidence and reasoning supporting Point #3, Point #4, and Point #5 of those ten good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.
In Part 9 I provide some evidence and reasoning supporting the remaining five good reasons to doubt the historical reliability of the passage from the 4th Gospel used by Kreeft as the basis for Objection #2.
In Part 10 I analyze and evaluate the argument that constitutes Kreeft’s Objection #3The “Blood and Water” Objection:

4A. Liquid that looked like blood and liquid that looked like water came from the wound in Jesus’ side while Jesus was hanging on the cross.

5A. IF liquid that looked like blood and liquid that looked like water came from the wound in Jesus’ side while Jesus was hanging on the cross, THEN it is virtually certain that Jesus had already died of asphyxiation while he was hanging on the cross.

THEREFORE:

6. It is virtually certain that Jesus had already died of asphyxiation while he was hanging on the cross.

I argue that it is very likely that this argument is UNSOUND:
Premise (5A) is very dubious because it is based upon a number of questionable assumptions for which Kreeft makes NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to justify.  So, we are reasonable in rejecting this premise as a highly questionable claim, completely lacking rational justification.
The premise that appeared initially to be more plausible, namely premise (4A),  is also highly dubious, and probably FALSE, because it is based on the highly dubious assumption that a particular passage from the 4th Gospel provides an accurate and reliable account of historical events.  This is the SAME PASSAGE (John 19: 31-37) that Kreeft relied on to support his Objection #2, and, as I argued in previous posts, there are at least ten good reasons for doubting the reliability and historicity of that passage from the 4th Gospel.
Because premise (5A) is very dubious and completely lacking in rational justification, and because premise (4A) is probably FALSE because it rests on a very dubious passage from the 4th Gospel, it is very likely that the argument supporting Objection #3 is based on at least one, and possibly two, FALSE PREMISES, and thus is an UNSOUND ARGUMENT.
In Part 11 I analyze and begin to evaluate Kreeft’s Objection #4The “Winding Sheets” Objection:

1. When Jesus’ body was removed from the cross, the body was totally encased in winding sheets and placed in a stone tomb.

A. IF when Jesus’ body was removed from the cross, the body was totally encased in winding sheets and placed in a stone tomb, THEN it is virtually certain that the Survival Theory is false.

THEREFORE: 

2. It is virtually certain that The Survival Theory is false.

In Part 11 I argue that there are a number of historical and factual issues that can be raised against the first premise of Objection #4:

  • It is NOT a fact that Jesus’ body was removed from the cross. 
  • It is NOT a fact that Jesus’ body was totally encased in winding sheets. 
  • It is NOT a fact that Jesus’ body was placed in a stone tomb. 

That Jesus’ body was removed from the cross is, however, assumed by the Swoon Theory, so both the Christian theory and the Swoon Theory make that assumption.  But the Swoon Theory does NOT assume the truth of the other two historical claims.
All of these are historical hypotheses that must be evaluated in terms of historical facts and evidence.  And this is something that Peter Kreeft NEVER DOES, on almost any important historical issue related to Jesus and Christianity.  So, Kreeft’s Objection #4 is a FAILURE because he makes NO EFFORT WHATSOEVER to show that any of his historical claims and assumptions supporting premise (1) are actually TRUE.
Kreeft’s Objection #4 has two basic elements:  the winding sheets and the entombment.
In Part 11  I consider three different versions of the Winding Sheets Objection, and find all three to be WEAK objections against the Swoon Theory (the third version actually supports the Swoon Theory).
In Part 12 I examine a reasonable interpretation of the second element of Objection #4 (i.e. the Entombment Objection), and show this to also be a WEAK objection against the Swoon Theory, because (a) the basic assumption that Jesus remained in the tomb for 36 hours is dubious, and (b) each of the three bullet points of the Entombment Objection has a number of other problems that further weaken that objection.
Because Kreeft makes no effort whatsoever to show that the historical assumptions upon which premise (1) of the argument rests are actually true, Objection #4 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.   Also, because Objection #4 includes two elements, the Winding Sheets Objections and the Entombment Objection, and because these are all WEAK objections, Kreeft’s Objection #4 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.
In Part 13 I analyze and evaluate Objection #5The Sickly Jesus Objection:

The post-resurrection appearances convinced the disciples, even “doubting Thomas,” that Jesus was gloriously alive (Jn 20:19-29). It is psychologically impossible for the disciples to have been so transformed and confident if Jesus had merely struggled out of a swoon, badly in need of a doctor. A half-dead, staggering sick man who has just had a narrow escape is not worshiped fearlessly as divine lord and conqueror of death.

(HCA, p. 183)

This is one of the most common objections raised against The Swoon Theory.  I call it the “Sickly Jesus Objection” or SJO.
The strength of SJO depends upon a number of ASSUMPTIONS made by Christian apologists.  One key ASSUMPTION concerns the timing of the first “appearances” of the “risen” Jesus to his disciples:

The first “appearances” of the “risen” Jesus took place less than 48 hours after Jesus was crucified. 

I argue that this key assumption is PROBABLY FALSE, and thus that SJO is a weak objection.
Other ASSUMPTIONS about Jesus’ alleged wounds are required in order for SJO to be a strong objection:

  • Jesus was severely whipped with a Roman scourge prior to being crucified
  • a harmful crown of thorns (with long sharp thorns pointing inward) was shoved forcefully onto Jesus’ scalp prior to his crucifixion
  • both of Jesus’ hands were nailed to the cross
  • both of Jesus’ feet were nailed to the cross
  • Jesus received a deep and severe spear wound to his side while he was still on the cross

Because NONE of these assumptions about the alleged wounds of Jesus is an established historical FACT, and because all of these assumptions are questionable, SJO is a weak objection.
We have multiple good reasons to conclude that SJO is a weak objection, thus it is clear that SJO FAILS to disprove or refute the Swoon Theory.
 

THREE OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE SWOON THEORY BASED ON OTHER GOSPELS

In Part 14 I analyze Objection #6 – The “Who Overpowered the Guards?” Objection, as making four main points:

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

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

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

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

I also point out various problems with these four main points.
NOTE:  Objection #9 is based on the idea that the Swoon Theory implies that either the Conspiracy Theory or the Hallucination theory are true.  So, my evaluation of Objection #9 also provides a response to (P3) and (P4) from Objection #6.
In Part 15 I interpret the first two points, (P1) and (P2), as being combined to form a key premise in an argument against the Swoon Theory, namely premise (1):

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

In order to construct a logically valid argument for the conclusion (2), we must add the unstated assumption (A) to premise (1).
I show that this argument FAILS to make a solid objection against the Swoon Theory, because premise (A) constitutes a FALSE DILEMMA.  There are many different ways that Jesus could have left the tomb (or been taken from the tomb) without being detained or killed by the Roman guards, not just the two particular possibilities that Kreeft focuses upon (Jesus overpowered ALL the guards by himself OR some of the Twelve disciples overpowered ALL the guards), so premise (A) is FALSE, making this argument against the Swoon Theory an UNSOUND argument.  Thus, Kreeft’s Objection #6 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory.
In Part 16 I point out that in Objection #6  Kreeft assumes the following historical claim, without making any effort to provide historical evidence to prove this key claim:

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

In Part 16 and in Part 17 I argue that it is probable that (RG) is FALSE, and thus that we have a second good reason to conclude that premise (A) is FALSE (in addition to the fact that this premise asserts a FALSE DILEMMA ), and that the above argument by Kreeft against the Swoon Theory  is UNSOUND.  Therefore, it is clear that Kreeft’s Objection #6 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.
In Part 18 I argue that although premise (1) of the argument constituting Objection #6 is probably true, it is NOT true for the reason that Kreeft believes it to be true.  Rather (1) is probably true, because there probably were no Roman soldiers guarding the tomb of Jesus.
In Part 19 I analyze the logical structure of the core argument in Kreeft’s Objection # 7The “Who Moved the Stone?” Objection:

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE: 

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

THEREFORE:

A. The Swoon Theory is FALSE.

I also analyze the sub-arguments that Kreeft provides in support of the basic premises of the core argument: (B), (C), (D), and (E).
In Part 20 I evaluate the sub-arguments supporting premises (B), (C), and (D).  I show that the three sub-arguments supporting key premises (B), (C), and (D) are all FAILURES.  If just one of these sub-arguments FAILS, then Objection #7 FAILS to prove that the Swoon Theory is false.  Thus, I conclude that Kreeft’s Objection #7 FAILS, and that it is clear and certain that this objection FAILS.
In Part 21 I evaluate the three sub-arguments that Kreeft gives to support the key premise (E), and all three of those arguments FAIL to establish (E), giving us another good and sufficient reason to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS.  Because there are at least FOUR good and sufficient reasons to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory, it is clear that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.
In Part 22 I point out two more good and sufficient reasons why Objection #7 FAILS.  First, the inference from the four key premises to the sub-conclusion (1) is a HASTY CONCLUSION, and thus a dubious inference.  Second, the inference from the sub-conclusion (1) to the ultimate conclusion (A) is INVALID, so there can be no doubt that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.
In Part 22 I also analyze and evaluate Objection #9The “Swoon Theory implies False Theories” Objection:

1. Jesus’ disciples testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.

THEREFORE:

2. If the Swoon Theory is true, then either the Conspiracy Theory or the Hallucination Theory is also true.

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

4.It is NOT the case that the Hallucination Theory is true.

THEREFORE:

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

I argue that premise (1) cannot be supported by the available historical evidence, and is thus dubious, and I argue that (2) does NOT follow from (1), and I point to a whole series of posts about Kreeft’s attempts to disprove the Conspiracy Theory, where I showed that each of his objections against that skeptical theory are miserable FAILURES.  So, there is no good reason to believe premise (3), so that premise is dubious.  I conclude that Objection #9 is a miserable FAILURE; it does not disprove the Swoon Theory.
 

CONCLUSION ABOUT KREEFT’S ATTEMPT TO DISPROVE THE SWOON THEORY

Every single one of Kreeft’s nine objections against the Swoon Theory FAIL.  None of those objections refute or disprove the Swoon Theory.  Kreeft appears to be incapable of producing a single strong and solid argument against the Swoon Theory.  His arguments are all WEAK or UNSOUND.  He has put forward so many crappy arguments, that I suspect he is incapable of telling the difference between a STRONG argument and a WEAK one, between a SOUND argument and an UNSOUND one.  His attempt to refute the Swoon Theory is an unmitigated, pathetic, miserable FAILURE.

bookmark_borderDefending the Swoon Theory – Part 22: Swoon Theory Implies Other False Theories

WHERE WE ARE
Kreeft provides six sub-arguments in Objection #7. Three sub-arguments are given to support the key premises (B), (C), and (D), and in Part 20 I showed that those three sub-arguments FAIL to establish either (B) or (C) or (D), giving us three good and sufficient reasons to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS.
The remaining three sub-arguments are given to support the key premise (E), and in Part 21 I showed that all three of those arguments FAIL to establish (E), giving us another good and sufficient reason to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS. We now have at least FOUR good and sufficient reasons to conclude that Objection #7 FAILS to refute the Swoon Theory, so it is clear that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.
Actually, there are two more good reasons to conclude that Objection #7 is a FAILURE.  The core argument involves the key premises (B), (C), (D), and (E), but it also involves an inference from those four key premises to a sub-conclusion, and another inference from the sub-conclusion to the ultimate conclusion of this objection.
Here is the logical structure of the core argument of Objection #7 (click on the image below for a clearer view of the diagram):

 
 
 
 
 
 

Here is the core argument of Objection #7:

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

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

THEREFORE:

A. The Swoon Theory is FALSE. 

In Part 19  I argued that (1) does NOT FOLLOW from the four key premises, because there are several OTHER groups of people that Kreeft has not eliminated as potential movers-of-the-stone:

  • Other Roman soldiers who were not guarding the tomb.
  • Romans who lived in Jerusalem who were not Roman soldiers.
  • Jews who lived in Jerusalem who were not part of the Jewish authorities.
  • Followers of Jesus who were not among the inner-circle of twelve disciples.
  • Jewish people visiting from Africa.
  • Jewish people visiting from Egypt.
  • Jewish people visiting from Greece.
  • Non-Jewish people visiting from Africa.
  • Non-Jewish people visiting from Egypt.
  • Non-Jewish people visiting from Greece.
  • etc., etc.

The inference from the four key premises to the sub-conclusion (1) is clearly a HASTY CONCLUSION, so Kreeft has FAILED to show that claim (1) is true, even if all four key premises are assumed to be true.
Furthermore, the ultimate conclusion (A) DOES NOT FOLLOW from (1).  Even granting, for the sake of argument, that there was some sort of supernatural cause that moved the stone from the entrance of the tomb, this does NOT show that God (or an angel sent by God) moved the stone, because there are OTHER possible supernatural explanations (e.g. ghosts, demons, wizards, finite gods, dragons, fairies, people with telekinetic powers, etc.).
Finally, even if God (or an angel) was the cause of the movement of the stone, it DOES NOT FOLLOW that God (or an angel) raised Jesus from the dead.  Jesus could have survived crucifixion without any supernatural assistance and then God (or an angel) provided supernatural assistance just to help Jesus escape from the tomb.   The movement of the stone by God (or an angel) is compatible with the Swoon Theory being TRUE.
Thus, every single aspect of the core argument of Objection #7 FAILS.  Kreeft has failed to establish ANY of the four key premises of this argument, and the two inferences in the core argument are DUBIOUS or INVALID inferences.  We thus have a total of SIX good and sufficient reasons to conclude that Objection #7 is a complete and miserable FAILURE.
 
KREEFT’S FINAL OBJECTION – OBJECTION #9

Kreeft’s final objection against the Swoon Theory is that it implies other false theories:

Most simply, the swoon theory necessarily turns into the conspiracy theory or the hallucination theory, for the disciples testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.

(Handbook of Christian Apologetics, p.184)
Here is the argument that constitutes Kreeft’s Objection #9:

1. Jesus’ disciples testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.

THEREFORE:

2. If the Swoon Theory is true, then either the Conspiracy Theory or the Hallucination Theory is also true.

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

4.It is NOT the case that the Hallucination Theory is true.

THEREFORE:

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

Because we already know that at least eight out of Kreeft’s nine objections FAIL (at least 89% of Kreeft’s objections FAIL), it is reasonable to infer that his Objection #9 will probably FAIL too.  So, I’m not going to go into great detail in my evaluation of this final crappy objection.  Kreeft has repeatedly shown that he is intellectually incapable of providing a strong and solid argument for anything, and the problems with Objection #9 are fairly obvious, so I’m going to dispatch this objection quickly.
The inference from premises (2), (3), and (4) to the conclusion (5) is a valid deductive inference, so that inference in this argument is fine.  However, every premise in this argument is FALSE or DUBIOUS, so this argument FAILS, like every other argument Kreeft has made against the Swoon Theory.
Premise (1) implies several historical claims about the twelve disciples (eleven, after the betrayal by Judas), and Kreeft, as usual, makes absolutely no effort whatsoever to provide historical evidence in support of these various historical claims:

  • Peter testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.
  • James testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.
  • Andrew testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.
  • John testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.
  • Thomas testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.
  • Matthew testified that Jesus did not swoon but really died and really rose.
  • etc., etc.

As a matter of fact, there is very little information in the New Testament about what Jesus’ disciples said or did after the crucifixion of Jesus. The book of Acts focuses mainly on Peter and on Paul (who was not one of Jesus’ disciples), and has a few mentions of John, but has very little to say about the other disciples of Jesus.  The available historical evidence tells us very little about what Jesus’s disciples did after the crucifixion of Jesus.  So, the available historical evidence is insufficient to establish the basic premise of this argument, premise (1).
The inference from (1) to (2) is INVALID.  I have previously described a scenario in which the Swoon Theory is TRUE and yet Jesus’ disciples honestly and sincerely believed that God had raised Jesus from the dead:

 Jesus’ disciples could have heard from the women who observed the burial of Jesus, that there were signs of life, and that Jesus appeared to be alive.  They could have then gone to the tomb of Jesus and found Jesus alive in the tomb, and then taken Jesus to a house in Jerusalem where he could hide out from the Romans and from the Jewish authorities.  If this is what happened, then the disciples might well have assumed that Jesus had died on the cross, and that God had brought Jesus back to life when Jesus was buried (or finished bringing Jesus back to life after his body was placed in the tomb).  In that case the Conspiracy Theory would be FALSE, because Jesus’ disciples would honestly and sincerely believe that Jesus had risen from the dead, even though they had helped Jesus to get out of the stone tomb.

As I have previously argued, there probably were no Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, and even if there were three or four Roman soldiers guarding the tomb, they could have been overpowered by ten or eleven of Jesus’ disciples.
The scenario I described above makes no mention of, and has no reliance upon, the theory that some of Jesus disciples had hallucinations that they took to be experiences of the risen Jesus.  So, it is clear that we can imagine a realistic scenario in which (1) is true, but (2) is false.  So, even if (1) were true, that would NOT PROVE that (2) was true.  The first inference in this argument thus FAILS.
Kreeft has raised some objections against the Conspiracy Theory, but I have examined each objection, and I concluded that every objection Kreeft made against the Conspiracy Theory FAILS.  Kreeft fails to show that the Conspiracy Theory is false.  Kreeft has no strong and solid argument in support of premise (3).  Thus premise (3) remains questionable and dubious.
Kreeft’s Objection #9 FAILS because (a) the main factual premise (1) cannot be established on the basis of available historical evidence, and (b) the inference from premise (1) to premise (2) is INVALID, and (c) premise (3) is dubious because Kreeft has not offered even one solid argument for (3); he has no strong and solid objection against the Conspiracy Theory.
I strongly suspect that Kreeft has no strong and solid argument against the Hallucination Theory either, based on the fact that every single one of his objections against the Swoon Theory and the Conspiracy Theory FAIL.  So, it is very likely that his objections against the Hallucination Theory are just as crappy as all of his other objections have been.  We are justified in being skeptical about the truth of premise (4).
 
CONCLUSION ABOUT KREEFT’S ATTEMPT TO REFUTE THE SWOON THEORY
Every single one of Kreeft’s nine objections against the Swoon Theory FAIL.  None of those objections refute or disprove the Swoon Theory.  Kreeft appears to be incapable of producing a single strong and solid argument against the Swoon Theory.  His arguments are all WEAK or UNSOUND.  He has put forward so many crappy arguments, that I suspect he is incapable of telling the difference between a STRONG argument and a WEAK one, between a SOUND argument and an UNSOUND one.  His attempt to refute the Swoon Theory is an unmitigated, pathetic, miserable FAILURE.
Furthermore, Kreeft’s complete indifference to FACTS, especially his consistent apathy about EVIDENCE concerning the historical claims and assumptions needed for his arguments to work, not only makes his arguments consistently FAIL, but provides Christians with a horrible example of intellectual sloth.
One reason why the Senate of the United States refused to subpoena any witnesses or documents in the Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump is that the GOP senators believed they could count on their constituents, who are mostly Christian believers, to be UNTROUBLED by the Senate refusing to obtain FACTS and EVIDENCE relevant to the issues before them in the trial.
One important reason why their constituents don’t give a damn about the consideration of FACTS or EVIDENCE in Trump’s trial is that they have horrible examples of “education” and “rationality” like Peter Kreeft,  a Christian philosopher and apologist who doesn’t give a damn about FACTS or EVIDENCE, at least not when he is discussing the question “Did Jesus rise from the dead?”.