bookmark_border(Part 1) The Cosmological Argument; or, Blogging Through “Out of Time: A Philosophical Study of Timelessness (2022)” by

Samuel Baron (Author), Kristie Miller (Author), Jonathan Tallant (Author)  Format: Kindle Edition

Out of Time: A Philosophical Study of Timelessness by [Samuel Baron, Kristie Miller, Jonathan Tallant]

I’m going to be blogging through this new book “Out Of Time” about whether time exists from the point of view of philosophy and physics, and what that can teach us about the cosmological argument.

BACKGROUND

One current popular argument by theists is the cosmological argument, and its reasoning is fairly straightforward. To explain it to a child, you might give the prompt: I am your parent, and my parents had parents, and their parents had parents, … so where does this lead us? Obviously, we keep going back in the chain of causes and effects to a first cause that did not itself, so to speak, have parents. It simply was. Now, this might be called Being, or God, or the eternal stomach vomiting up the universe into existence, but something along those lines is “obviously” the case. Now this may be obvious, but is it true? Derrida pointed out the history of philosophy has been the overturning of foundations once thought to be self-evident.

One thing that was interesting in the history of philosophy and physics in the last century is that fundamental concepts such as Time and Substance With Properties started becoming more problematic when applied to the most fundamental levels of reality: the extremely small.

In traditional Philosophy, a fundamental distinction in Being is made between “what” something is, its essentia, and “how” or the manner in which something appears to us, its existentia.  For example, a tv may be brown and hard in terms of “what” it is, and badly positioned or boring (in the sense of Langeweile: the stretching out of time) in terms of “how” or the manner in which it appears to us.  Initially and to begin with, time doesn’t seem to have to do with the “what” of things, since as Heidegger says, a lecture, for instance, has the same “what” or content regardless of whether it was given three days ago in our memory of it, is being given right now in our making-present of it, or will be given later next week as we anticipate it.  So, initially a being’s intra-temporality or being-in-time seems to do with “how” a being appears to us.

We certainly experience “something” with time, such as a subtle drawing/stretching out and flow, and in fact REALLY experience this in certain cases like a child’s fidgety Time-Out punishment facing the corner, or Cabin Fever in a rainy cottage.  The German word for Boredom conveys this: Langeweile, the stretching out of time.   Likewise, we can severely alter the nature of our experience of time, such as through psychedelic drugs.  This leaves unclear what we are experiencing when we encounter Time.  What do all these have in common?  As a starting point, let’s consider a general overview of some of the modern insights into time from contemporary Physics and physicist Carlo Rovelli, and then see how this approach may help as a framework/context to illumine the historical approach to the phenomenology of time (how time appears or shows itself) in Philosophers like Aristotle.

Perhaps one of the key discoveries of modern physics is that there is no “One Time Thing” that uniformly flows.  For instance, we can measure that time speeds up the higher you go on earth, and slows down the lower you are.  It reflects gravity.  This had to be taken into account when they were developing GPS satellite technology.  Analogously, for instance, the flow of time passes at a significantly slower rate close to the gravity pull near a black hole, as opposed to far away from it.  “Time” actually seems to relate gravity, not a being in itself or structure of reality.  Physicist Carlo Rovelli, in “The Order Of Time (2018)” further points out that all of the important equations describing reality in Physics before the 1960’s described how things change in time (velocity/acceleration, etc), but more recently some equations of quantum gravity (such as the Wheeler–DeWitt equation) can be written without any reference to time at all. 

Rovelli explains that when traditional physics begins by describing the motion of a swinging pendulum while comparing it to a clock, it is a misunderstanding to think the pendulum is really held up to “objective time,” but rather the movement of the pendulum is held up to the movement of the hands on a clock.  Similarly, saying I woke up at 8:00 am really means I woke up when the sun was at such and such a position.  We seem to hold onto the belief of time as an objective entity because we fail to clarify what we mean when we invoke time as an explanation.  And, at the level of the very small (the quantum level), our everyday descriptive category of time doesn’t work well any more to describe reality, because while at the macro level everything seems to move according to one time (though, as I said, it really doesn’t), at the micro level everything doesn’t.

 Rovelli says time isn’t an objective thing, or part of the structure of reality, but rather a useful model for organizing our daily experiences, analogous to the spatial categories of high and low.  And, just as the categories of high and low become meaningless in outer space, so too is time meaningless at the micro level.  Modern physics is beginning to really see the implications of  Einstein’s insight that the past and future are illusions, which makes good sense in light of Husserl’s point that we never can leave the Living Present:  The past is just a past present, and the future a future present, so they may only have “being” in memory and anticipation.  Physicist Rovelli argues that the hypothesis that time is a mind-independent thing, or even part of the structure of reality, will one day be abandoned as so many other concepts and hypotheses have as our philosophical and scientific knowledge has grown and progressed.

Given this basic framework of the phenomenology Time as a way beings show themselves rather than Time as a being-in-itself, or a structure of reality as many, including Einstein, thought, we will now use this as a framework  to phenomenalize Heidegger’s reading of the history of the phenomenology of time with Aristotle.

In his lecture course The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, Heidegger outlines Aristotle’s philosophy of time that time is somehow with things, although not the same as them: time is everywhere (pantachou), not in one definite place, and it is not in the moving thing itself but beside it, in some way close by it. Aristotle said Motion and Time differ in how they belong to the moving thing, to that which is in Time, things we call intra-temporal.  However, and importantly, Aristotle said Time is also in the soul.  Time is inherently countable, and counting takes place in the soul.  Heidegger explains the odd sounding point that for Aristotle without the counter to count time there is no time.  This means, for instance, without the person to experience/count the stretching out of time in Langeweile/boredom, there is no boredom/stretching out of time, and in enjoyment/absorption when time vanishes a [lack of] perceiving is required.  Analogously, from one point of view, I experience time as a “now” or “present” flowing forward (Monday, Then Tuesday, etc.), but paradoxically from another point of view I experience it flowing in the opposite direction, as backward flowing out of the future toward me and passing away behind me  (eg Christmas is coming; has arrived; has gone).

As modern thinkers, part of the difficulty in understanding Aristotle’s explanation of time is that we have been thrown into a Philosophical framework that was foreign to Aristotle with an artificial “Self-Other” distinction.  Specifically, there is Descartes’ fundamental distinction between Thinking Substance (res cogitans)  and Extended Substance (res extensa), combined with Heidegger’s teacher Husserl and Husserl’s Cartesian fundamental distinction between Perceiving (intentio) and Perceived (intentum). It was precisely on this issues of Descartes/Husserl’s distinctions here that Heidegger objected that Descartes/Husserl don’t provide us with an adequate framework for understanding what Heidegger called the topic of Attunement, which is what time is, and so Heidegger, to use Derrida’s translation, deconstructed the Self/Other distinction for the sake of what Heidegger called a more fundamental being-in the-world framework/distinction, with which as we shall see, Heidegger meant to bring out the lost ancient Greek context that Aristotle operated in.

 At the foundation of this Heideggerian/Greek approach is thinking more originally than the consciousness/lack of consciousness distinction (because, for instance, we can be asleep but still very aware and absorbed in a dream), with Heidegger’s distinction between Dasein (being-there = being caught-up-in-awareness) and Weg-Sein/ Nicht-Da-Sein (losing absorption and being away, eg., when one’s mind wanders).  This Heideggerian distinction is time-infused, because the relative experience of time changes depending on how caught up or bored we are in a particular awareness.  Heidegger tries to dissolve the rigid modern dichotomy of Self/Other with his concept of Attunement, the original Unity whereby the various poles of an awareness vibrate in tune with one another (so to speak). 

The ancient  Greek poet Homer illustrates and emphasizes this attunement context (which Aristotle assumed) when Homer says “the gods don’t appear to everyone enargeis,” in reference to Odysseus experiencing a woman as though she was an avatar for the presencing of Divine Beauty itself, even though the other person there beside Odysseus didn’t experience the woman in that way.  Experiencing some one or thing “as sexy” is similar, and so a homosexual man isn’t aroused by a gorgeous female movie star, or someone finding a bridge or tower arousing if they have a particular kind of Objectophilia.  I certainly experience/feel sexiness to be a quality of the movie star, even though it really isn’t, since there is no reason to suppose the next person will have a similar experience.  Experiencing something “as beautiful” is similar, like one person experiencing a mansion as “Now that’s a House,” though the next person may not experience the presencing of the category “House” in the same way.  They may experience the mansion “as” gawdy.  Of course, this all is pure will to power as imposing form.

This helps us to understand Aristotle/Heidegger’s point that time is everywhere, but also in the soul, and without the counter there is no counted.  We ”feel” real contact with time as Other, such as (i) in the felt stretching of time in boredom or (ii) the exciting anticipatory flow of time as Christmas approaches, or (iii) the monotonous flow as the work week inches/moves forward.  The usual modern everyday interpretation of time by the common person mis-takes this “felt-contact with something” to be contact with a mind independent objective reality, and so our everyday modern understanding naturally thingifies/reifies time so we see time as a “thing,” like a chair or mountain, or a general and absolute basic feature of reality, because moderns following Descartes and Husserl simply assume as fundamental the twofold Self/Other distinction and so don’t have the framework/concepts/language to interpret the phenomenon of time in all its richness or even accurately.

So, what makes the false usual modern interpretation of time as an objective thing of nature possible to conceive?  Time is experienced in many ways, and one common way is to interpret it spatially.  So, we (1) experience the flow of time as a living present that marches on into the future (Monday, then Tuesday, then Wednesday, etc), which is a spatial schematization often mis-taken to be an Objective-Time-Thing of nature.  But, time experienced as flowing in this way is not simply an objective feature of reality as most everyday moderns assume, but represents a way humans organize/schematize their experience, which is why (2) we can just as easily experience time from a contrary point of view flowing in the opposite direction from out of the future, to arriving in the present, to passing away into the past by (eg., Christmas is coming, has arrived, has gone).  In these two contrary cases, which would be incompossible if time was a single entity that flowed uniformly, the two experienced flows of time are actually ways in which the mind organizes/schematizes spatially, but in different ways: 

(1) For the first case above, we are implicitly assuming an organizing principle the likes of which I would find on a soccer field kicking a ball away from myself = consciously or unconsciously fixing the origination point of my kicking of the ball in memory, and mentally stretching from there with the ball as it rolls away from me, while

(2) in the second case above we are framing the flow like being a goaltender, with a ball being kicked at me from a distance by a friend, the ball arriving at me, and passing away through my legs and into the net. 

Time schematized spatially basically means consciously or unconsciously fixing a point and stretching from that point, spatially schematized temporality being the speed of that stretch.  Number 1 above is what is generally reified/thingified into being “real” or “objective” time by modern people, while in truth it is just a practical way to “calendar-ize” our life.   

To recapitulate, it is extremely problematic to try to argue time is an objective mind-independent reality when it does not flow uniformly but reflects changes in gravity, can be experienced as flowing forward or backward depending on your point of view, and seems to formally include human experiences like boredom and time flying when you are having fun.  Many are shocked when they go under general anesthetics and wake up an hour later in what feels like an instant. The vanishing of time in certain cases of dreamless sleep are common experiences, and the mind seamlessly creates the experience of time in dreaming.  

But do we not also experience objective time in science, such as with rule governed cause and effect in going from cause to effect either from change from one place to another or from one state to another?  This would lead into the question of Kant’s encounter with Hume that Kant said awoke him from his dogmatic slumbers and was the catalyst for his critical period.

NEXT TIME, CHAPTER 1 of “Out Of Time”

bookmark_borderBlogging Through Augustine/Martin’s Anthology “The Myth Of An Afterlife” Part 1

Blog Post 1 on The Myth of an Afterlife (ed Martin and Augustine)

This series of blog posts will look at the question of whether or not there is a afterlife by blogging through the Augustine/Martin anthology “The Myth of an Afterlife”

Steve Stewart-Williams (Foreword)

Stewart-Williams points to the difference between evidence consistent with an afterlife (eg., predicting one’s own death), and evidence of an afterlife.  Such evidences seem to pile upon one another across the world to apparently give credence to the afterlife hypothesis.  Stewart-Williams suggests supernatural interpretations are completely unnecessary given reasonable naturalistic ones, and we wouldn’t even have recourse to supernaturalistic explanation except that we have such traditions from our culture. 

I understand Stewart-Williams  here in the sense that we all know, for instance, it is possible to invoke an invisible, magical leprechaun to explain the mysteries in quantum gravity, but reasonable people prefer naturalistic explanations.  Even Religious Studies scholars, when they have their “historian” hats on, understand that divine explanation are bracketed in principle in historical inquiry, being articles of faith, not scholarship.  For example, liberal Christian scholar Dr. James McGrath explains the possible origin of Jesus resurrection belief in this way:

One can only speculate about what the first post-Easter experience of “seeing Jesus” may have been like. It is alluded to, but ultimately left undescribed, in 1 Corinthians 15:5, where Paul writes simply that he “appeared to Peter.” The challenge to the historian is to reconstruct a plausible scenario that could have given rise to the evidence available in later sources. Perhaps, as we have suggested above, Peter returned to Galilee and to fishing. He wrestled with the failure of his expectations, with his own failure in denying Jesus, and perhaps with questions about whether things might have turned out differently had no one drawn a sword and cut off the ear of the high priest’s servant that fateful night (Mk. 14:47). On one particular day he goes fishing, taking some of Jesus’ other closest followers with him. They catch nothing, and much of the time is spent in silence. Then, they see a figure on the shore. The figure asks if they have caught anything, and they say no. He tells them to try again, and suggests a spot. They lower their net – and catch a huge number of fish. Peter makes a connection. Isn’t this the spot where he first met Jesus, who did something similar on that occasion? He looks up. Perhaps the figure on the shore has already vanished. Perhaps he is still standing there, and they have breakfast without exchanging many words, as suggested in John 21. In either case, at some point after the figure has departed, Peter suddenly has a flash of insight: it was Jesus. He tells the others, but at least initially, they are skeptical, and for a time they remain unpersuaded. Peter spends much of the days that follow in prayer, seeking information and advice from rabbis and experts in the Law. What do the Scriptures in fact say about what the Messiah would be like? Could the Messiah suffer? Could the Messiah return from the dead? Could the Messiah enter the messianic age of the resurrection ahead of everyone else? Were there passages that left open such possibilities, texts that had been neglected but which might allow for such an unthinkable, paradoxical, surprising Messiah? After much reflection, exploration, and soul-searching, Peter contacts the rest of the Twelve, and they gather to hear what Peter has to say. They listen, and when he is done explaining to them what he has come to believe, he leads them in the prayer Jesus had taught them.  “Father…” they begin. When they reach the words “Your will be done,” they mean it as they had never truly meant it before. “Not our will, but yours.” A sense of peace washes over them. A sense of certainty that Peter is right, that Jesus has in fact been raised. And in their dreams, and in glimpses in crowds, in mysterious encounters with unknown individuals, and even in mystical visions, they too experience this phenomenon of “Jesus appearing.” Could this be the way events unfolded, and Christian faith in the resurrection of Jesus arose? What we have written in this section is admittedly speculative. There seems to be little hope of gaining access by means of the extant written sources to the actual experiences that early Christians had, the ones that convinced them Jesus was alive. Even Paul only alludes to his own direction-changing experience, and never describes it. Perhaps this is appropriate: religious experiences are regularly characterized by those who have them as ineffable, as “beyond words.” The Gospel of Mark suggested that Jesus would be seen, but doesn’t describe the experience, at least not in our earliest manuscripts. Our two earliest sources thus leave little for us to work with at this point.

– McGrath, James F. . The Burial of Jesus: What Does History Have to Do with Faith? . Patheos Press. Kindle Edition.

And so, we have a perfectly reasonable naturalistic explanation for the birth of the easter story.  It may be something supernatural happened, but more reasonably we might simply suppose Peter was just distraught and confused.

Stewart-Williams suggests belief in the afterlife can arise from a host of causes such as

Some claim that the belief in an afterlife is wishful thinking; others that it’s a way of promoting socially desirable behavior; and others still that it represents ancient people’s best effort to explain strange phenomena such as dreams. More recently, it has been suggested that religious beliefs, including afterlife beliefs, are the handiwork of evolution by natural selection, or byproducts of various evolved psychological capacities… [and] they might fit together within the overarching framework of a memetic approach.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Stewart-Williams suggests the wishful thinking explanation is best understood in the light of an addiction analogy, not so much that it comforts us, but it’s painful to try to give up.  And, fear of hell, though widely believed is hardly wishful thinking. 

Another explanation is the social glue theory whereby good behavior is rewarded by heaven, and bad behavior with hell.  A variant of this is the social control theory, which I have written an essay about here: https://infidels.org/library/modern/john_macdonald/justified-lie.html .  Stewart-Williams says there is a grain of truth here, but religious beliefs have also torn societies apart, so the whole story isn’t here.

A further explanation for religious belief is honest attempts at explaining things like why you dream, hallucinate, or for the ancient Greeks why the sun goes across the sky.  However, Stewart-Williams reminds us that “it doesn’t explain why, if religious beliefs are primarily explanations for puzzling but commonplace experiences, so many religious beliefs are so completely disconnected from the evidence of human experience. Again, the approach may be a piece of the puzzle, but we must avoid mistaking it for the whole puzzle.”

Some point to evolution and natural selection to explain religious beliefs, but religious beliefs regarding the afterlife vary so drastically between cultures that the culture seems to be the deciding factor, not biology.

Another possibility for origin of belief in the afterlife relates to how we construe the world:

For instance, we construe physical objects, but not mental states, as possessing spatial dimensions. This makes it easy for us to imagine that minds are something distinct from bodies. It doesn’t force this conclusion, and it certainly doesn’t force the further conclusion that the mind could exist independently of the body or survive bodily death. But it does mean that these ideas come naturally to us. They’re easy for us to accept because they fit the natural contours of our minds. Thus, a curious byproduct of theory of mind is that we are prone to believe, falsely, that the mind (or soul) is something distinct from the activity of the brain, and that it could ascend to Heaven, or be reborn into another body, or merge back into some kind of collective consciousness. I’m

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

After going through the various traditional explanations, Stewart-Williams explains a theory that ties the others together:

With each of the earlier approaches, thinkers have identified a psychological or cultural “selection pressure” acting on religious memes. These are: (1) selection for beliefs that comfort us or comfort the people we care about; (2) selection for beliefs that foster social cohesion; (3) selection for beliefs that help us manipulate other people’s behavior; and (4) selection for beliefs that explain (or give the appearance of explaining) the world around us. No doubt there are others as well. As with biological evolution, these selection pressures can come into conflict with one another and pull in different directions. So, for instance, we may want to believe something because it is comforting (selection pressure #1), but be unable to do so because it would clash too violently with the evidence of our own eyes (selection pressure #4). This suggests that one kind of memetically successful religious belief would be a belief that promises to provide comfort and consolation, but which is also not too readily falsified in everyday life. The belief in life after death fits this description perfectly.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

In our history, high intelligence was selected because of its usefulness, but had the side effect that we became aware of our own death, and so religious belief arose to allay that.  Afterlife beliefs may be tens of thousands of years old.

Societal cohesion tends to break down at numbers above 150 people, so societal institutions needed to be in place to fix that:

However, with the advent of agriculture, the selection pressure for memes useful for this purpose might have dramatically increased in strength. Afterlife beliefs (and religious beliefs in general) may have become progressively better adapted for fostering social cohesion in large-scale human societies.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

Over history, we see an evolution of the concept of the afterlife from the tragedy of the Greeks to the bliss of the modern theist as attempts to attract and control became more and more sophisticated.

But this need not just be a decision of people, but a way the memes themselves evolved, and so:

There is no need to suppose that anyone sat down and thought up this tactic for retaining believers. Instead, it may just be that the afterlife beliefs that have survived in our culture are those that happened to get attached to such notions as that, without these beliefs, life would be bleak and unbearable.

– Martin, Michael; Augustine, Keith. The Myth of an Afterlife . Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. Kindle Edition.

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

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

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

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

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

(HCA, p.156)

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

Jesus is God.

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

Jesus claimed to be God.

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

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

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

3. Therefore “Jesus is Lord”…

(HCA, p.158).

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

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

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

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

THEREFORE:

3A. Jesus is God.

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

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

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

3A. Jesus is God.

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

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

(HCA, p.92)

God Is Eternal

(HCA, p.93)

God is the creator and sustainer of all things.

(HCA, p.95)

God Is Omniscient and Omnipotent

(HCA, p.96)

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

(HCA, p.96)

Thus, the claim that

3A. Jesus is God.

has a number of implications, such as the following:

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

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

bookmark_borderDefending the Myth Theory: COMPLETED

After my series of posts on the Hallucination Theory, where I showed that every one of Peter Kreeft’s objections against that theory FAILS, I started another series where I examined each of Kreeft’s objections against the Myth Theory. I also showed that every one of Kreeft’s objections against the Myth Theory FAILS:

Because The Secular Outpost had shut down, I published that entire series of fifteen posts on my own blog:

Thinking Critically about: God, Jesus, and the Bible

I have also published an article that has links to all of the posts where I defended the Myth Theory:

Defending the Myth Theory – INDEX

bookmark_borderThe Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection of Jesus

In Chapter 8 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics (1994, InterVarsity Press, hereafter: HCA), philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli attempt to prove that Jesus really physically rose from the dead.

The idea of trying to prove the resurrection of Jesus in just twenty-two pages (without a single footnote or endnote) is ridiculous, but most Christian apologists believe they can prove just about any extraordinary claim in just a few paragraphs or in a few pages, so the pathetic attempt by Kreeft and Tacelli to prove the resurrection of Jesus in one short chapter is actually above average in terms of intellectual effort typically made by Christian apologists.

Kreeft and Tacelli identify 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”

According to Kreeft and Tacelli, they can PROVE that Jesus rose from the dead by refuting the four skeptical theories above:

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

(HCA, p.182)

Kreeft and Tacelli claim to do just that in their one brief chapter on the resurrection:

Swoon, conspiracy, hallucination, and myth have been shown to be the only alternatives to a real resurrection, and each has been refuted.

(HCA, p.195)

These key claims form the overall argument of Chapter 8:

1. IF Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory, THEN Kreeft and Tacelli have proven that Jesus really rose from the dead.

2. Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory.

THEREFORE:

3. Kreeft and Tacelli have proven that Jesus really rose from the dead.

The logic of this argument is fine. However, there are two serious problems with this argument. First, premise (1) is FALSE. Second, premise (2) is FALSE. So, the overall argument of Chapter 8 is an UNSOUND argument. Or, as we in the philosophy and critical thinking business like to say, this argument is a piece of CRAP.

PREMISE (2) OF THE OVERALL ARGUMENT IN CHAPTER 8 IS FALSE

Here, again, is premise (2) of the overall argument in Chapter 8:

2. Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory.

Kreeft and Tacelli raise fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Hallucination Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Hallucination Theory – Index

Kreeft and Tacelli raise six objections against the Myth Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Myth Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Myth Theory – INDEX

Kreeft and Tacelli raise seven objections against the Conspiracy Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Conspiracy Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Conspiracy Theory – INDEX

Kreeft and Tacelli raise nine objections against the Swoon Theory, but each of these objections FAILS, so they completely FAIL to refute the Swoon Theory, as I have argued in a series of posts on this subject:

Defending the Swoon Theory – INDEX

Since every single objection raised by Kreeft and Tacelli against every one of the four skeptical theories FAILS, it is clearly and obviously the case that they have FAILED to refute ANY of the four skeptical theories. Thus, premise (2) of the overall argument in Chapter 8 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics is FALSE. Therefore, the overall argument in Chapter 8 is UNSOUND and should be rejected.

PREMISE (1) OF THE OVERALL ARGUMENT IN CHAPTER 8 IS FALSE

Here, again, is premise (1) of the overall argument in Chapter 8:

1. IF Kreeft and Tacelli have refuted the Hallucination Theory, and refuted the Myth Theory, and refuted the Conspiracy Theory, and refuted the Swoon Theory, THEN Kreeft and Tacelli have proven that Jesus really rose from the dead.

I have argued that there are MANY MORE skeptical theories in addition to the four theories that Kreeft and Tacelli attempt (but completely FAIL) to refute. Because there are MANY MORE skeptical theories in addition to the four that Kreeft and Tacelli discuss, it is clear that premise (1) is FALSE.

In the following two posts, I show that there are MANY MORE skeptical theories in addition to the four discussed by Kreeft and Tacelli:

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

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

Because Premise (1) of the overall argument in Chapter 8 of Handbook of Christian Apologetics is clearly FALSE, the overall argument in Chapter 8 is UNSOUND and should be rejected. And because it is also clearly the case that premise (2) of that argument is FALSE, there can be no doubt that the overall argument in Chapter 8 is UNSOUND, and should be rejected.

The case for the resurrection of Jesus by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli in Chapter 8 of their Handbook of Christian Apologetics is a COMPLETE FAILURE.

bookmark_borderThe Problem of Easter

If we go back to the earliest statement of Jesus’ resurrection, in the letters of Paul, we find something very problematic. Paul quotes a creed or piece of poetry that says:

That Christ died for our sins

in accordance with the scriptures.

and that he was buried;

That he was raised on the third day

in accordance with the scriptures,

and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.

Why is this a problem? The New Testament thinkers were in the habit of inventing material about Jesus copying Old Testament scriptures. So, for instance, Mark copies material from the story of Elijah to present John the Baptist as the new and greater Elijah. Likewise, Mathew’s story about Jesus recapitulates the story of Moses to present Jesus as the new and greater Moses. That is what the above “Corinthian Creed / poetry” that Paul is quoting seems to be doing with the Old Testament story of Jonah and the huge fish. In Matthew regarding the resurrection we read:

The Sign of Jonah

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation asks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so for three days and three nights the Son of Man will be in the heart of the earth. (Matthew 12:38-40)

So, far from being historical, the Easter resurrection claims are much more likely hallucinations or lies inspired by the story of Jonah.

bookmark_borderSome Good Friday Reflections

One thing I try to argue against is the sin debt/penal substitution interpretation of the cross.

When we think of the wooden cross in Mark, we think of the easily enraged crowd, corrupt religious elite, and indifferent to justice Pilate. When these people saw Jesus on the beams of the cross as a criminal, what they should have been seeing is their own deep rooted flaws for executing him. Matthew and Luke express this sentiment in the following way invoking the image of the wooden beam/plank/log, making us think of the cross:

  • Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:3-5)
  • 37 “Judge not, and you will not be judged; condemn not, and you will not be condemned; forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.” 39 He also told them a parable: “Can a blind man lead a blind man? Will they not both fall into a pit? 40 A disciple is not above his teacher, but everyone when he is fully trained will be like his teacher. 41 Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? 42 How can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me take out the speck that is in your eye,’ when you yourself do not see the log that is in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take out the speck that is in your brother’s eye. (Luke 6:37-42)

Perhaps the issue here is not in seeing the criminal Jesus hung on the beams of the cross, but the people seeing the beam in their own eyes. The one who attempts to regulate his brother often displays the greater blindness and hypocrisy.  A proverb of this sort was familiar to the Jews and appears in numerous other cultures too, such as the Latin proverb of later Roman days referenced by Athenagoras of Athens, meretrix pudicam: Generally translated “The harlot rebuketh the chaste.”

bookmark_borderHi, I’m John MacDonald: Welcome To Secular Frontier

My name is John MacDonald, and I am the President of Internet Infidels/Secular Web.  I am one of the bloggers who will be posting here at the new Secular Frontier blog.  So, some initial thoughts:

The God of the Bible is reported to have done such a poor job in creating mankind that not only did He have to wipe out evil humanity with the flood, the end result of the second attempt was God’s chosen Jewish people were inescapably under the Roman imperial thumb.  In a world of pestilence, famine, natural disaster, etc, which is to say a world so obviously not the effect of a benevolent, wise creator, the Gnostic Christians proposed that the world was created by an evil or stupid demiurge, not the true God.

But there was hope.  In Gnosticism, the Divine Spark is described as the fragmented portion of the divine that resides within each human being; it is the light contained in each individual, the potential of their illumination. Gnostics believe the purpose of life is to illuminate the spark through a process called “gnosis”, the Greek word for “knowledge”

The divine spark is a kind of gnosis or knowledge that Jesus was a catalyst to awaken.  And so lacking knowledge, such as a dog with the intellect of a 2 year old or certain mentally challenged people, they can’t be held accountable for their actions.  Similarly, the capacity for evil is our distinctly human freedom, since a dog can be bad, but not evil.  As Schelling pointed out, only a human can sink below an animal in terms of depravity.

In Gnosticism, the divine spark is the portion of the true God that resides within each human being.  The purpose of life is to enable the Divine Spark to be released from its captivity in matter and reestablish its connection with, or simply return to, God, who is perceived as being the source of the Divine Light. In the Gnostic Christian tradition, Christ is seen as a wholly divine being which has taken human form in order to lead humanity back to the Light.

Jesus was the truth, (a-letheia), the one who dis-closes.  For instance, the disciples knew the Hebrew scripture, but Jesus un-hid or “opened up” the scripture for them to see it foreshadowed him:

44 Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you—that everything written about me in the law of Moses, the prophets, and the psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the scriptures, 46 and he said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Messiah is to suffer and to rise from the dead on the third day, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins is to be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And see, I am sending upon you what my Father promised; so stay here in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high.” (Luke 24:44-49).

Similarly, Jesus’ death awoke what Paul called the Law written on people’s hearts, the Divine Spark of the later Gnostics, by dis-closing their hidden vileness to them.  Bart Ehrman comments

It is easy to see Luke’s own distinctive view by considering what he has to say in the book of Acts, where the apostles give a number of speeches in order to convert others to the faith. What is striking is that in none of these instances (look, e.g., in chapters 3, 4, 13), do the apostles indicate that Jesus’ death brings atonement for sins. It is not that Jesus’ death is unimportant. It’s extremely important for Luke. But not as an atonement. Instead, Jesus death is what makes people realize their guilt before God (since he died even though he was innocent). Once people recognize their guilt, they turn to God in repentance, and then he forgives their sins. (Ehrman, 2017)

So, in Luke, as in Mark, we have the soldier at the cross claiming in realization “Truly this was God’s son / an innocent man.”

I don’t think any of this is real, just ancient superstition, but perhaps it is a new way to begin to think about Christian origins.

So, I hope you join us on this journey.  If you’d like to read more by me, here are a couple of related peer reviewed essays that I wrote

The Justified Lie By The Johannine Jesus In It’s Greco-Roman-Context:

The Justified Lie by the Johannine Jesus in its Greco-Roman-Jewish Context

A Critique Of The Penal Substitution Interpretation Of The Cross of Christ:

A Critique of the Penal Substitution Interpretation of the Cross of Christ

Also, come visit us at Secular Web Kids where new material is being posted all the time:

Secular Web Kids

bookmark_borderDefending the Hallucination Theory: COMPLETED

At the end of November 2021, I published Part 17 in a series of posts defending the Hallucination Theory of the alleged resurrection of Jesus. At that point, The Secular Outpost shut down.

However, I continued to write and publish further posts in that series over at my own blog:

THINKING CRITICALLY ABOUT: GOD, JESUS, AND THE BIBLE

I published Part 18 of this series on December 9, 2021, and then continued to publish posts in this series until I completed refuting every objection raised against the Hallucination Theory by Peter Kreeft. In Part 45, which was published on February 10th 2022, I finished refuting Kreeft’s final objection.

I also published an INDEX article that has links to the first 17 posts published at The Secular Outpost, and also links to the rest of the posts (Part 18 to Part 45) that I published on my own blog:

Defending the Hallucination Theory – INDEX

bookmark_borderBack in Business!

The Secular Outpost shut down (publication of new posts ceased) in December of 2021. The Internet Infidels have started a new skeptical blog called The Secular Frontier. Posts previously published at The Secular Outpost will still be available here at The Secular Frontier.