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Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 1: Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection

Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 1: Kreeft’s Case for the Resurrection July 14, 2021

MCDOWELL’S CASE AGAINST THE HALLUCINATION THEORY

I recently examined Josh McDowell’s case against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF), and I showed that each one of the seven objections that McDowell raised against this skeptical theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.

The Hallucination Theory is the view that one or more of the disciples of Jesus had a hallucination (or dream or some sort of false or distorted experience) that seemed to be an experience of a physical living Jesus, an experience that took place sometime after Jesus had died on the cross.  This theory also asserts that this experience had by one or more disciples led to the mistaken but sincere conviction that Jesus had risen from the dead, and to the preaching of this belief by some of Jesus’ disciples in the first century, not long after Jesus was crucified.

In the most recent version of his book Evidence that Demands a Verdict (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2017, co-authored with his son Sean; hereafter: EDV), McDowell appears to largely abandon his previous case against the Hallucination Theory and instead points us to Peter Kreeft’s case against this theory (see EDV pages 291-292).

However, Kreeft’s case in his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (1994; hereafter: HCA) has thirteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, many of which seem very similar to McDowell’s seven objections in The Resurrection Factor.  Since the first publication of TRF was in 1981 and HCA was published in 1994, it seems likely that McDowell’s objections in TRF strongly influenced Kreeft’s objections in HCA.  McDowell also presented a similar list of six objections against the Hallucination Theory in an early version of EDV, which was published in 1979 (see EDV pages 247-255).  Since Kreeft appears to have borrowed heavily from McDowell on this subject, Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory is probably not much different than McDowell’s case against it.

 

KREEFT’S CASE FOR THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS

The logic of Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus is given in Chapter 8 of HCA.

Dr. Peter Kreeft believes there are only five possible theories about the alleged resurrection of Jesus, and the Hallucination Theory is one of those theories:



In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli), Peter Kreeft attempts to disprove the Hallucination Theory, as part of an elimination-of-alternatives argument for the resurrection of Jesus.  Kreeft thinks that by disproving four skeptical theories, he can show that the Christian theory is true, that Jesus actually rose from the dead:

The question is this: Which theory about what really happened in Jerusalem on that first Easter Sunday can account for the data?

There are only five possible theories: Christianity, hallucination, myth, conspiracy and swoon.

[…]

Thus either (1) the resurrection really happened, (2) the apostles were deceived by a hallucination, (3) the apostles created a myth, not meaning it literally, (4) the apostles were deceivers who conspired to foist on the world the most famous and successful lie in history, or (5) Jesus only swooned and was resuscitated, not resurrected.

[…]

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

(HCA, p.182)

If Kreeft FAILS to disprove the Hallucination Theory, like McDowell FAILED to disprove it, then Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus also FAILS.

 

KREEFT’S CASE SMELLS LIKE FAILURE

Because Kreeft’s objections against the Hallucination Theory are very similar to the objections raised by McDowell, I strongly suspect that all thirteen of these objections will FAIL, just like all seven of McDowell’s objections against the Hallucination Theory FAILED.  But Kreeft’s objections are not identical to the seven objections raised by McDowell, and McDowell apparently believes that Kreeft has done a better job of making a case against the Hallucination Theory than he had previously done, so perhaps some of Kreeft’s objections are strong and solid, in spite of their being inspired by McDowell’s pathetic objections.

It is not merely the fact that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory seems to be based largely on McDowell’s FAILED case against that skeptical theory that leads me to believe Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL.  I suspect that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory will FAIL, because Kreeft’s case against the Swoon Theory FAILED completely and because Kreeft’s case against the Conspiracy Theory FAILED completely.   Kreeft has already demonstrated that he has no intellectual ability to distinguish between a strong and solid objection to a theory and a weak and faulty objection and that he is capable of presenting collections of several objections all of which are weak or illogical or dubious.

Furthermore, a brief glance at Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory reveals that it suffers from the same basic problems as McDowell’s case. First, it is ridiculously short.  Kreeft presents his thirteen objections in less than two (full) pages of text (see HCA, p.186-188).  This results in two major intellectual problems:

(1) empirical claims about the nature of hallucinations are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate scientific evidence and scientific reasoning, and

(2) historical claims about Jesus and his disciples are often UNCLEAR and are NOT supported with appropriate historical evidence and historical reasoning

McDowell and Kreeft both generally make many factual claims and assumptions, and they almost never back them up with appropriate evidence and reasoning, even when those claims are crucial to their case.

 

FIVE SETS OF OBJECTIONS

Kreeft actually presents fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory (although his own numbering of the objections ends at Objection #13).  I have divided those objections into five groups, based on key problems or aspects of the objections:

I. The “Witnesses” Objections (Objection #1, #2, and #3)

II.  The Equivocation Objections  (Objection #4 and #5)

III. The Dubious-Hallucination-Principles Objections (Objection #6, #8, #9, and #10)

IV. The Self-Defeating Objections (Objection #7 and #14)

V. The Empty-Tomb Objections (Objection #11, #12, and #13)

Having examined these fourteen objections against the Hallucination Theory, I am now convinced that they all FAIL to refute that skeptical theory, and that Kreeft’s case against the Hallucination Theory FAILS, and thus that his case for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.  For the remaining posts in this series I will work my way through the five groups of objections, and will argue that each of the fourteen objections FAILS.

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