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

The Complete FAILURE of Peter Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection – Part 2: MANY Skeptical Theories February 22, 2020

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.


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