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Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 7: More Problems with Objection #2

Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 7: More Problems with Objection #2 September 10, 2021

WHERE WE ARE

Here is my clarified version of Peter Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

2a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

B1. IF the testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible, THEN the Hallucination Theory is false.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is false.

In Part 4 of this series of posts, I argued that premise (1a) is DUBIOUS because it implies 102 historical claims about various people who lived 2,000 years ago and yet Kreeft provided NO HISTORICAL EVIDENCE in support of ANY of those 102 historical claims.

Six of those historical claims are about Mary Magdalene.  Kreeft’s most important claim about Mary Magdalene is that she had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  In Part 5 of this series of posts, I argued that the available HISTORICAL EVIDENCE not only FAILS to prove or establish this key historical claim about Mary Magdalene but that a careful and critical examination of the relevant HISTORICAL EVIDENCE indicates that this key historical claim is probably FALSE.

In Part 6 of this series of posts, I pointed out that 66 of the 102 historical claims implied by premise (1a) are about “the eleven” disciples and I argued that we know very little about eight of those eleven disciples so that any attempt to prove the truth of the 48 historical claims Kreeft implies about those eight disciples is doomed to FAILURE.  Thus, most of Kreeft’s historical claims about “the eleven” cannot be shown to be true because there is insufficient HISTORICAL EVIDENCE to rationally evaluate 48 historical claims out of the 66 historical claims that he implies about “the eleven” disciples in premise (1a).

In the light of these serious problems, we are fully justified in REJECTING premise (1a) as being DUBIOUS, and unworthy of belief and acceptance.  Objection #2 FAILS because premise (1a) is DUBIOUS.

 

PREMISE (2a) IS REDUNDANT

Premise (2a) of Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #2 goes like this:

2a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus had firsthand knowledge of the facts.

If someone was a “witness” that implies (in this context) that he or she had an EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

Anyone who had such an EXPERIENCE would clearly have “firsthand knowledge of the facts”.  That is to say, such a person would be in a position to provide an accurate description of what his or her EXPERIENCE of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus was like, and would be in a position to provide an accurate description of his or her circumstances at the time that this EXPERIENCE took place.

Thus premise (2a) merely spells out explicitly an implication of premise (1a), and it does not ADD any further information beyond what premise (1a) already contains.  The truth of premise (1a) would logically imply the truth of premise (2a), so we don’t need to consider the question of whether premise (2a) is true or false.  We only need to evaluate the truth or falsehood of premise (1a).

 

 THE INFERENCE FROM PREMISE (1a) to PREMISE (3b)

So, the main question to consider next is whether (1a) logically implies that sub-conclusion (3b) is TRUE (or whether (1a) provides a strong reason that makes (3b) highly probable):

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

 

Although I have made a significant effort to clarify the third premise of Kreeft’s argument, it would be helpful to clarify what is now the most important term in this premise: “credible”.

The first and most basic point to note about “credible” testimony, is that it can be FALSE.  In other words, “credible testimony” does NOT MEAN “true testimony”.

What does it MEAN for testimony to be “credible”?    We should try to answer this question BEFORE we attempt to evaluate the inference from (1a) to (3b).

 

WHAT DOES “CREDIBLE TESTIMONY” MEAN?

My American Heritage College Dictionary (4th edition) gives two definitions of the word “credible”:

credible…adj. 1. Capable of being believed; plausible. …2. Worthy of confidence; reliable.

The first definition seems more descriptive than evaluative, and the second definition is clearly evaluative.

Obviously, the Christian movement grew in the second and third centuries, so MANY people in fact believed the claim that Jesus had risen from the dead, and that some of his original followers experienced a living and embodied Jesus in the days and weeks following his crucifixion.   So, the alleged “testimony” of some of Jesus’ followers was clearly “Capable of being believed”.   The main problem with this descriptive definition of “credible” is that MANY PEOPLE ARE FOOLS, especially uneducated religious believers living in Palestine in the 1st Century, especially when it comes to SUPERNATURAL or MIRACLE claims.  It is no surprise, for example, that MANY people in that time and place believed that demons were a cause of various sorts of diseases.

Educated people in the 21st century believe that diseases have physical causes, like parasites, microscopic organisms, injuries, toxins, and genetic mutations.  Most of us do not accept SUPERNATURAL explanations of diseases.   The MIRACLE claim that “God raised Jesus from the dead” is something that uneducated religious Jews living in superstitious and pre-scientific age would be inclined to accept without any firm factual evidence.  Therefore, the fact that this MIRACLE claim was “Capable of being believed” by MANY uneducated superstitious religious believers in the 1st Century does NOT help to make the case for the truth of this MIRACLE claim.  If we interpret the word “credible” in terms of the first definition above, then premise (3b) will not help Kreeft to make his case against the Hallucination Theory.

The second definition, which is clearly a positive evaluation, would be more useful for Kreeft’s case.  If the alleged testimony of some of Jesus’ original followers asserted that they saw and spoke with a living and embodied Jesus in the days or weeks following his crucifixion and if that testimony was “Worthy of confidence”, then that testimony might well give us a good reason to think that Jesus had in fact risen physically from the dead.  So, in order for Kreeft’s argument to have any chance of success, we need to interpret the word “credible” in premise (3b) in terms of the evaluative definition, the second definition given above:

The testimony T of person P is credible IF AND ONLY IF  the testimony T of person P is worthy of confidence.

But we still need to figure out what makes a given instance of testimony “worthy of confidence”.

 

TWO WAYS TESTIMONY CAN BE UNWORTHY OF CONFIDENCE

It seems easier to start with the opposite idea: testimony that is UNWORTHY of our confidence.  Christian apologists have traditionally focused on two different ways that the testimony of a person can be UNWORTHY of our confidence:

  • DECEIVER
  • DECEIVED

Christian apologists argue that the eleven disciples who were members of “the twelve”, his inner circle of followers, were neither DECEIVERS nor were they DECEIVED.  Clearly, these are two different ways that the testimony of an original follower of Jesus about an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus might reasonably be set aside as being UNWORTHY of our confidence.  If we have reason to believe that a person is a DECEIVER on the subject at hand, then the credibility of his/her testimony is damaged or destroyed.  If we have reason to believe that a person is DECEIVED on the subject at hand, then the credibility of his/her testimony is damaged or destroyed.

Why might a follower of Jesus intentionally give FALSE testimony about an alleged experience of an appearance of the risen Jesus?  What motivation could someone have for doing this?  Here are some possible motivations for intentionally giving FALSE testimony about such an experience:

DECEIVER

  • PEER PRESSURE
  • THREATS/BRIBES
  • ATTENTION/ADMIRATION
  • SOCIAL STATUS/AUTHORITY
  • LOVE/FRIENDSHIP
  • FOOD /MONEY /PROPERTY

People who give FALSE or INACCURATE testimony about an event have different motivations for doing this.  One thing we do to determine whether the testimony of T by person P is worthy of our confidence is to examine their interests and possible motivations that might influence them to give a FALSE or INACCURATE account of the event in question.

Another way in which testimony can be UNWORTHY of our confidence is if we have reason to believe that the person giving the testimony was DECEIVED concerning the subject about which they are testifying.  There are different possible causes of deception or error in the case of testimony about an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus:

DECEIVED

  • FOOLED/MISLED/GULLIBLE/SUPERSTITIOUS
  • INTOXICATED/DRUGGED
  • MISTAKEN IDENTITY
  • POOR EYESIGHT/POOR HEARING
  • UNRELIABLE MEMORY/FALSE OR DISTORTED MEMORY
  • HALLUCINATION/DREAM
  • MENTAL ILLNESS/PHYSICAL STRESS/EMOTIONAL STRESS

People who give FALSE or INACCURATE testimony about an event sometimes honestly and sincerely believe that their testimony is TRUE and ACCURATE, but they are mistaken.  One thing we do to determine whether the testimony of T by person P is worthy of our confidence is to examine their behavior and character and their circumstances and state of mind at the time of the event in question to see if there is reason to believe that one of these possible causes of deception or error was operative in his/or her case, reason to believe he/she was DECEIVED or mistaken in relation to the subject of the testimony.

If a person’s motivations do NOT appear to push them towards giving a FALSE or INACCURATE description of the event in question, and if that person’s motivations appear to push them towards giving a TRUE and ACCURATE description of the event in question, then that gives us reason to view his/her testimony about that event to be worthy of our confidence.  If a person’s behavior, character, and circumstances do NOT appear to provide a cause for their being DECEIVED or mistaken about the event in question and appear to indicate that their sincere and honest beliefs about the event are TRUE and ACCURATE, then that gives us reason to view his/her testimony about that event to be worthy of our confidence.

I don’t intend to investigate the behavior, character, and circumstances of each of the eleven disciples (of whom Kreeft claims that they all testified about having had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus) to determine whether alleged testimony by any of these disciples is worthy of our confidence.  I have argued previously that we have little or no knowledge about eight of the eleven, so we are clearly in no position to make a reasonable evaluation of any alleged testimony by most of the eleven disciples concerning experiences of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  There is simply not enough INFORMATION to make any sort of confident judgment about whether they might have been DECEIVERS or might have been DECEIVED.  For all we know they were all DECEIVERS, or all DECEIVED, or some were DECEIVERS and others were DECEIVED.

Most importantly, however, we don’t actually have TESTIMONY about their supposed experiences of alleged appearances of the risen Jesus.  The only first-hand account of an alleged appearance of Jesus that we have is from Paul, who wrote most of the New Testament.  But Paul was not one of the eleven, nor was Paul a disciple of Jesus, nor did Paul know Jesus when Jesus was a preacher and faith healer in Palestine.   Because Paul never met the historical Jesus, Paul would not be in a position to IDENTIFY anyone as being the historical Jesus.  So, the only first-hand account of an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus was written by a person who was in no position to IDENTIFY anyone as being Jesus.

 

THE MAIN PROBLEM WITH THE INFERENCE FROM (1a) to (3b)

 

Here again, is the inference from (1a) to (3b) in Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory:

 

1a. The witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus were simple, honest, moral people.

THEREFORE:

3b . The testimony of the witnesses who testified about alleged appearances of the risen Jesus is credible.

 

Suppose that (1a) were true (even though there is good reason to doubt this), would premise (3b) follow from that assumption? Clearly, (3b) does NOT FOLLOW from (1a), because (1a) only addresses one KIND of reason why the testimony of a person might be UNWORTHY of our confidence.  Premise (1a) only addresses the possibility of the witness being dishonest or deceptive; it only (at most) eliminates the possibility that the witness is a DECEIVER.  Premise (1a) does NOT eliminate the possibility that the witness was DECEIVED or MISTAKEN concerning his/her experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Simple, honest, and moral people can be DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, and premise (1a) does NOT rule out ANY of the various potential causes of deception or error listed above.

Furthermore, just as we have insufficient evidence to conclude that all of “the eleven” disciples were “simple, honest, moral people”, so we also have insufficient evidence to conclude that all of “the eleven” disciples were free from any of the potential causes of deception or error  INCLUDING HALLUCINATIONS.  Because of our IGNORANCE about most of “the eleven” we simply don’t have enough information to make a reasonable evaluation about whether they were subject to being DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, just as our IGNORANCE about most of “the eleven” means that we don’t have enough information to make a reasonable evaluation about their honesty and moral character.

 

EVALUATION OF OBJECTION #2

We have good reason to REJECT Objection #2, because premise (1a) is clearly DUBIOUS, and because premise (3b)  clearly DOES NOT FOLLOW from the premise (1a).  Premise (1a) only deals with the potential issue of the witnesses being DECEIVERS but does not deal with the equally important potential issue of the witnesses being DECEIVED or MISTAKEN.  Because Objection #2 is based on a DUBIOUS premise and also relies on an ILLOGICAL inference, we ought to reject Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.

NOTE: The inference from (1a) to (3b) could (theoretically) be repaired by the addition of further factual premises.  However, in order for this inference to be solid, those additional factual premises would have to rule out HALLUCINATION as a potential source of ERROR in each testimony by each relevant witness.  But in that case, Kreeft would be REFUTING the Hallucination Theory in order to make this inference work.  But the point of the inference is to be the first step towards a refutation of the Hallucination Theory.  In other words, it appears to me that the argument that constitutes Objection #2 BEGS THE QUESTION, and does so unavoidably.  Before Kreeft, or any other Christian apologist can fix this argument, they will have to FIRST REFUTE the Hallucination Theory!  But the purpose of the argument is to do just that.  So, this argument CANNOT BE FIXED even with the addition of more factual premises.  In other words, to make the inference in this argument work, one must eliminate the possibility that the witnesses were DECEIVED or MISTAKEN, but in order to do this one must FIRST show that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

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