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

Did Jesus Rise from the Dead? Part 3: The “No Expectancy” Objection April 12, 2021

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).

 


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