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Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 8: Too Many Witnesses

Defending the Hallucination Theory – Part 8: Too Many Witnesses September 15, 2021

WHERE WE ARE

In Chapter 8 of his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (co-authored with Ronald Tacelli; hereafter: HCA), 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 (see HCA, p.182).  If Kreeft FAILS to disprove the Hallucination Theory, like McDowell FAILED to disprove it (see my series of posts on McDowell’s objections to the Hallucination Theory), then Kreeft’s case for the resurrection of Jesus FAILS.

Kreeft 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)

I started my critical examination of these objections with the first set, the “Witnesses” Objections, specifically with Objection #2: The Witnesses were Qualified.

In Part 4 of this series of posts, I argued that premise (1a) in the argument constituting Objection #2 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.

In Part 7 of this series of posts, I argued that a key inference in the argument constituting Objection #2 is ILLOGICAL.  Clearly, premise (3b) in the argument constituting Objection #2 does NOT FOLLOW from premise (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.

Because Objection #2 is based on a DUBIOUS premise and also relies on an ILLOGICAL inference,  I concluded that we ought to reject Objection #2 against the Hallucination Theory.

OBJECTION #1: TOO MANY WITNESSES

Kreeft states his first objection against the Hallucination Theory in one paragraph:

(1) There were too many witnesses. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective. Christ appeared to Mary Magdalene, to the disciples minus Thomas, to the disciples including Thomas, to the two disciples at Emmaus, to the fishermen on the shore, to James (his “brother” or cousin), and even to five hundred people at once (1 Cor 15:3-8).  Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry; over five hundred is about as public as you can wish.  And Paul says in this passage (v. 6) that most of the five hundred are still alive, inviting any reader to check the truth of the story by questioning the eyewitnesses—he could never have done this and gotten away with it, given the power, resources and numbers of his enemies, if it were not true.   (HCA, p. 186-187)

I have used strikethrough text to indicate parts of this paragraph that are concerned with an alleged group of five hundred witnesses of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.  Kreeft has a separate objection concerning those alleged five hundred witnesses (Objection #3: Five Hundred Witnesses), so he is attempting to use that objection TWICE, which is unfair and unreasonable.  I will consider Objection #3 later, but for now, we should ignore Kreeft’s attempt to insert his third objection as part of presenting his first objection.  The strikethrough text should be considered to be part of his presentation of Objection #3, not part of his presentation of  Objection #1.

Because Objection #2 references the “witnesses” previously mentioned in Objection #1, in my analysis and evaluation of Objection #2 I have previously (in Part 4 of this series) spelled out the people that Kreeft is talking about in Objection #1.  I won’t repeat those lists of names here, because we need to clarify Kreeft’s argument first, and later when we evaluate premises about the “witnesses” we will need to spell out who those people were.

 

KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1

Here are some key claims in Kreeft’s argument that constitutes his first objection against the Hallucination Theory:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2. Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry.

3. There were too many witnesses.

THEREFORE:

A. The Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

As with Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2,  I have provided the conclusion, based on the context.  This is an objection raised against the Hallucination Theory in order to REFUTE the Hallucination Theory, so the context strongly suggests that the UNSTATED conclusion is that “The Hallucination Theory is FALSE.”

Premise (1) makes three general claims about hallucinations.

Premise (2) asserts a general principle concerning situations where there are at least “three different witnesses” of an alleged event.

Premise (3) asserts a factual or historical claim about the quantity of witnesses who allegedly had an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus.

Also, as with Kreeft’s argument constituting Objection #2, this argument is ridiculously brief and VERY UNCLEAR.  What does “psychological trigonometry” mean?  Kreeft does not bother to explain or clarify that idea.  Why are there “too many” witnesses?  What constitutes “too many” and why?  How does the subjectivity of hallucinations support premise (2) about “psychological trigonometry”?  Kreeft makes no effort to explain or clarify this messy and confusing argument.

However, I was able to clarify Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument constituting Objection #2 by referencing the likely source of that objection: a defense of the resurrection of Jesus by Humphrey Ditton, so I will once again identify the likely source of Kreeft’s Objection #1.  That way we can try to make some sense of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument above.

It seems fairly clear to me that Kreeft borrowed his Objection #1 from Josh McDowell.  McDowell presents seven objections against the Hallucination Theory in his book The Resurrection Factor (hereafter: TRF) which was originally published by Here’s Life Publishers in 1981, thirteen years before Kreeft published his Handbook of Christian Apologetics (Intervarsity Press, 1994).

McDowell’s second objection against the Hallucination Theory is the “Very Personal” objection, and that objection references all three of the concepts in premise (1) of Kreeft’s argument above.  Here is Kreeft’s claim:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

Here are similar statements made by McDowell in presenting his “Very Personal” objection:

…hallucinations are linked to an individual’s subconscious and to his particular past experiences(TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

A “hallucination” is a very private event — a purely subjective experience… (TRF, p.85, emphasis added)

The third premise of Kreeft’s argument is also very similar to statements McDowell makes in his “Very Personal” objection.  Here is Kreeft’s third premise:

3. There were too many witnesses.

Here are similar statements made by McDowell in presenting his “Very Personal” objection:

Christ appeared to many people(TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

The many claimed hallucinations would be a far greater miracle than the miracle of the resurrection. (TRF, p.85, emphasis added)

Premise (2) of Kreeft’s argument focuses on the idea of “three different witnesses” having an experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus, and this can be explained in relation to a key statement that McDowell makes in presenting his “Very Personal” objection.  Here is Kreeft’s second premise:

2. Even three different witnesses are enough for a kind of psychological trigonometry.

Here is a key claim McDowell makes in his “Very Personal” objection that is closely related to Kreeft’s second premise:

…making it very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time. (TRF, p.84, emphasis added)

Kreeft has focused on the idea of “three different witnesses” experiencing an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time because that is “more than two persons” having such an experience at the same time, which according to McDowell would be “very unlikely” to occur if these experiences were hallucinations.  Kreeft’s UNCLEAR premise (2) thus appears to be BASED UPON McDowell’s clearer principle concerning hallucinations.

ALL THREE of the key claims in Kreeft’s argument constituting his Objection #1 correspond with statements made by McDowell in the presentation of his “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory, and  McDowell’s book The Resurrection Factor was published 13 years before Kreeft published Handbook of Christian Apologetics, so it is reasonable to conclude that Kreeft borrowed this objection from McDowell.

 

 

CLARIFICATION OF KREEFT’S ARGUMENT CONSTITUTING OBJECTION #1

If we assume that Kreeft’s Objection #1 is basically a shortened and less clear version of McDowell’s “Very Personal” objection against the Hallucination Theory, then we can make sense out of Kreeft’s VERY UNCLEAR argument:

1. Hallucinations are private, individual, subjective.

THEREFORE:

2a. It is very unlikely that more than two persons could have the same hallucination at the same time.

THEREFORE:

B. IF on multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time, THEN it is extremely unlikely that those experiences on ALL of those occasions were hallucinations.

3a. On multiple occasions more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time.

THEREFORE:

C. It is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations.

D. IF it is extremely unlikely that the experiences on ALL of the occasions when more than two persons had the same experience of an alleged appearance of the risen Jesus at the same time were hallucinations, THEN it is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

THEREFORE:

A1.  It is very likely that the Hallucination Theory is FALSE.

Premise (1) is Kreeft’s summary of three key claims made by McDowell in McDowell’s  “Very Personal” objection.

Premise (2a) is McDowell’s claim that apparently was the BASIS for Kreeft’s UNCLEAR premise (2).  So, we can clarify Kreeft’s argument by replacing his UNCLEAR second premise with the clearer related claim from McDowell’s statement of this objection.  Premise (2a) provides the specific “principle” about hallucinations that is essential to this argument.

Premise (B) is an inference from McDowell’s principle to a principle that applies to the circumstances Kreeft has in mind, namely that there are MULTIPLE instances when more than two people had the same experience of an alleged appearance of Jesus at the same time.

Premise (3a) is a significant revision and clarification of Kreeft’s VAGUE and UNCLEAR premise (3), and this clarification is needed so that this key historical premise logically connects with the clarified principle about hallucinations that is asserted in premise (B).  The principle about hallucinations must closely correspond to the historical claim about witnesses to alleged appearances of the risen Jesus so that the logic of the argument will work.

The UNSTATED sub-conclusion (C) is a logical inference from (B) and (3a), and the UNSTATED assumption (D) allows us to infer the desired conclusion (A1), which is a qualified version of our initial interpretation of Kreeft’s UNSTATED conclusion.

Here is a diagram of the logical structure of this argument:

 

 

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

 

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