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Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie

Pentecost

NOTE: Christians around the world celebrated Good Friday and Easter last week, which commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Thus we began a six-part series on these events by Dr. Peter Kreeft in which he examines each of the plausible theories attempting to explain what happened to Jesus at the end of his life, particularly whether he rose from the dead.

Part 1 - 5 Possible Theories that Explain the Resurrection of Jesus
Part 2 - Rejecting the Swoon Theory: 9 Reasons Why Jesus Did Not Faint on the Cross
Part 3 - Debunking the Conspiracy Theory: 7 Arguments Why Jesus’ Disciples Did Not Lie
Part 4 - Refuting the Myth Theory: 6 Reasons Why the Resurrection Accounts are True
Part 5 - Real Visions: 13 Reasons the Disciples Did Not Hallucinate
Part 6 - (Coming soon!)
 


 
On Monday we looked at the so-called "swoon" theory, which suggests Jesus didn't really die on the cross. But supposing he did actually die, why couldn't the disciples have made up the whole story about his resurrection? Here are seven reasons why:

(1) Blaise Pascal gives a simple, psychologically sound proof for why this is unthinkable:

"The apostles were either deceived or deceivers. Either supposition is difficult, for it is not possible to imagine that a man has risen from the dead. While Jesus was with them, he could sustain them; but afterwards, if he did not appear to them, who did make them act? The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus' death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead. This means attacking all the powers that be. The human heart is singularly susceptible to fickleness, to change, to promises, to bribery. One of them had only to deny his story under these inducements, or still more because of possible imprisonment, tortures and death, and they would all have been lost. Follow that out." (Pensees, 322)

The "cruncher" in this argument is the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake, a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ, and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy. For that cat was never in the bag. No Christians believed the resurrection was a conspiracy; if they had, they wouldn't have become Christians.

(2) If they made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history, far surpassing Shakespeare, or Dante, or Tolkien. Fisherman's "fish stories" are never that elaborate, that convincing, that life-changing, and that enduring.

(3) The disciples' character argues strongly against such a conspiracy on the part of all of them, with no dissenters. They were simple, honest, common peasants, not cunning, conniving liars. (They weren't even lawyers!) Their sincerity is proved by their words and deeds. They preached a resurrected Christ and they lived a resurrected Christ. They willingly died for their "conspiracy." Nothing proves sincerity like martyrdom. The change in their lives from fear to faith, despair to confidence, confusion to certitude, runaway cowardice to steadfast boldness under threat and persecution, not only proves their sincerity but testifies to some powerful cause of it. Can a lie cause such a transformation? Are truth and goodness such enemies that the greatest good in history—sanctity—has come from the greatest lie?

Use your imagination and sense of perspective here. Imagine twelve poor, fearful, stupid (read the Gospels!) peasants changing the hard-nosed Roman world with a lie. And not an easily digested, attractive lie either. St. Thomas Aquinas says:

"In the midst of the tyranny of the persecutors, an innumerable throng of people, both simple and learned, flocked to the Christian faith. In this faith there are truths proclaimed that surpass every human intellect; the pleasures of the flesh are curbed; it is taught that the things of the world should be spurned. Now, for the minds of mortal men to assent to these things is the greatest of miracles....This wonderful conversion of the world to the Christian faith is the clearest witness....For it would be truly more wonderful than all signs if the world had been led by simple and humble men to believe such lofty truths, to accomplish such difficult actions, and to have such high hopes." (Summa Contra Gentiles, I, 6)

(4) There could be no possible motive for such a lie. Lies are always told for some selfish advantage. What advantage did the "conspirators" derive from their "lie" ? They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks!

(5) If the resurrection was a lie, the Jews would have produced the corpse and nipped this feared superstition in the bud. All they had to do was go to the tomb and get it. The Roman soldiers and their leaders were on their side, not the Christians'. And if the Jews couldn't get the body because the disciples stole it, how did they do that? The arguments against the swoon theory hold here too: unarmed peasants could not have overpowered Roman soldiers or rolled away a great stone while they slept on duty.

(6) The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem-same time, same place, full of eyewitnesses—if it had been a lie. William Lane Craig says,

"The Gospels were written in such a temporal and geographical proximity to the events they record that it would have been almost impossible to fabricate events....The fact that the disciples were able to proclaim the resurrection in Jerusalem in the face of their enemies a few weeks after the crucifixion shows that what they proclaimed was true, for they could never have proclaimed the resurrection (and been believed) under such circumstances had it not occurred."  (Knowing the Truth About the Resurrection, chapter 6)

(7) If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples' adversaries, who had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed (Craig, ibid).

In conclusion, if the resurrection was a concocted, conspired lie, it violates all known historical and psychological laws of lying. Such a lie is, then, as unscientific, unrepeatable, unique, and untestable as the resurrection itself. But unlike the resurrection, it is also contradicted by things we do know (the above points).

On Friday, we'll examine the "myth" theory, perhaps the most common hypothesis among non-Christians today.
 
 
Excerpted from “Handbook of Catholic Apologetics", copyright 1994, Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, published 2009 Ignatius Press, used with permission of the publisher. Text reproduced from PeterKreeft.com.

(Image credit: Wikimedia)

Dr. Peter Kreeft

Written by

Dr. Peter Kreeft is a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a noted Catholic apologist and philosopher. He is a convert to the Catholic Church from reformed Protestantism. He earned an A.B. degree from Calvin College, an M.A. and Ph.D. from Fordham University, followed by post-doctoral work at Yale University. He is a regular contributor to several Christian publications, is in wide demand as a speaker at conferences, and is the author of over 60 books including Making Sense Out of Suffering (Servant, 1986); Fundamentals of the Faith: Essays in Christian Apologetics (Ignatius, 1988); Catholic Christianity (Ignatius, 2001); The Unaborted Socrates: A Dramatic Debate on the Issues Surrounding Abortion (IVP, 2002); and The Philosophy of Tolkien: The Worldview Behind The Lord of the Rings (Ignatius, 2005). Many of Peter's books are also integrated into the Logos software. Find dozens of audio talks, essays, and book excerpts at his website, PeterKreeft.com.

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  • William Davis

    (2) If they made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history, far surpassing Shakespeare, or Dante, or Tolkien. Fisherman's "fish stories" are never that elaborate, that convincing, that life-changing, and that enduring.

    The stories in the gospels are pretty good, but far surpassing Shakespeare and Tolkien? I disagree completely. It is the psychological value you place on these stories, not the stories themselves, that makes you think that.

    Christians surround themselves with Christians, and have done so (often through immoral means) for 2000 years. This has creates a very powerful status quo bias that we non-believers simply do not share. Status quo bias is a powerful phenomena that must be understood to bridge the gap between our disparate views. My status quo bias is heavily based on my long study of science, math, and my acceptance of humanistic philosophy. There are probably other factors that bias me, but I have at least spent a lot of time thinking about biases and how they get in the way of understanding. For more reading:

    "Status quo bias is a cognitive bias; a preference for the current state of affairs. The current baseline (or status quo) is taken as a reference point, and any change from that baseline is perceived as a loss. Status quo bias should be distinguished from a rational preference for the status quo ante, as when the current state of affairs is objectively superior to the available alternatives, or when imperfect information is a significant problem. A large body of evidence, however, shows that status quo bias frequently affects human decision-making."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Status_quo_bias

    • "The stories in the gospels are pretty good, but far surpassing Shakespeare and Tolkien? I disagree completely. It is the psychological value you place on these stories, not the stories themselves, that makes you think that."

      Look, I'm one of the strongest Tolkien fans around, and I appreciate Shakespeare at least as much as the average layman, but neither author has stirred the imaginations of artists, sculptors, architects, and poets up down the centuries like the biblical writers. Nobody else has captured the minds and hearts of more readers. No other writer has affected entire cultures the way these writers have.

      IF their stories are complete fabrications, then they are certainly the most "creative, clever, intelligent fantasists" ever to put ink to parchment. They've changed the entire world. Could you say the same about Tolkien and Shakespeare?

      "Status quo bias is a powerful phenomena...."

      Most of us are familiar with status quo bias. But simply accusing another person of harboring such bias is not an actual argument against their point. For example, I could accuse you of harboring a status quo bias in favor of democracy because you live in a democratic country. But that's not an argument against democracy. Similarly, even if Dr. Kreeft (or others who agree) are biased in favor of Christianity, that doesn't challenge his assertion--you have to provide good reasons to doubt it, not just attempt to explain why he believes what he does.

      • William Davis

        Tolkien himself was a dedicated Catholic from what I understand, and I'm confident Catholicism inspired many elements present in his novels. That said, the gospels were just the start of what Christianity became and the Christianity as a whole inspired all the art and such that you speak of. I consider the literary worth of the Gospels separate from the religion that spawned from them.
        You can probably tell I'm not trying to slam the gospels, but it is quite common that later works greatly exceed the works that inspired them, this is progress and cultural evolution, at least in my opinion. Sumerian cuneiform inspired all writing, but I have no problem saying modern language is much better than earlier forms.

      • William Davis

        P.S. Tolkien was a major factor in converting C.S. Lewis to Catholicism, a little known historical fact I find fascinating :)

        • Damon

          Actually C.S. Lewis was an Anglican. My understanding is that Tolkien was instrumental in converting him to Christianity, but that Tolkien was disappointed when his friend did not join the Catholic fold.

          • William Davis

            You're right, keeping up with all the factions can be difficult to say the least ;)

        • "P.S. Tolkien was a major factor in converting C.S. Lewis to Catholicism, a little known historical fact I find fascinating :)"

          It's not little known to faithful Catholics ;)

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        I think comparing the art inspired by Tolkien and by the Bible is a bit of an apples/oranges comparison. Tolkien is not a religion, so we should not expect people, even the biggest fans, to invest as much time and energy as they would with a religion. Perhaps comparing art inspired by Hinduism would be more fair.

        In either case, how "elaborate, convincing, and life-changing" a story is, is subjective. Christians understandably find the Bible to excel in those measure, but others may not. To each his own.

        • William Davis

          You're right. Even as a child being taught about the Bible I remember thinking "These are interesting stories, but what is the big deal?"

        • "I think comparing the art inspired by Tolkien and by the Bible is a bit of an apples/oranges comparison. Tolkien is not a religion, so we should not expect people, even the biggest fans, to invest as much time and energy as they would with a religion. "

          I'm not comparing Christianity (a religion) to Tolkien (a writer). Please re-read my comment (along with Dr. Kreeft's original post. If you did, you would see clearly that I'm comparing the Gospel authors with Tolkien, Shakespeare, etc. as authors.

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Ok. I see what you're saying. The Gospel authors, not the religion, inspired the art. Tolkien has not.

            But I do think that the existence of a religion cannot be so easily ignored. I don't think that artists simply said "What a great story, let me paint it!" The fact that there was a religion around the story would certainly cause the artists to invest a bit more energy in the stories.

            But you could fairly say that Tolkien's stories have not created a religion. That would be true.

          • Doug Shaver

            But you could fairly say that Tolkien's stories have not created a religion.

            Neither did the gospels. Some people who read them created a religion. The stories themselves didn't do anything.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        IF their stories are complete fabrications, then they are certainly the most "creative, clever, intelligent fantasists" ever to put ink to parchment. They've unquestionably changed the entire world

        They have changed the Christian West. Large parts of the world has remained relatively unchanged by Christianity.

        Similarly, even if Dr. Kreeft (or others who agree with him) are biased in favor of Christianity, that doesn't challenge his main assertion--you have to provide good reasons to doubt it, not just an attempt to explain why he believes what he does.

        I disagree. Kreeft is implicitly arguing for Christianity by arguing that early Christians believed in it strongly.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        but neither author has stirred the imaginations of artists, sculptors, architects, and poets up down the centuries like the biblical writers. None have captured the minds and hearts of more readers. None have affected entire cultures the way these writers have.

        Myths of the Greeks come pretty close. They only affected the cultures in which Christianity was the dominant religion. Of course the dominant religion will influence art and culture. That is not an argument for the religion's creativity, cleverness, beauty, etc.

        • "Myths of the Greeks come pretty close."

          They don't come close at all to the Christian Gospels in terms of shaping the world. You provide no reason to think otherwise.

          "They only affected the cultures in which Christianity was the dominant religion. Of course the dominant religion will influence art and culture. That is not an argument for the religion's creativity, cleverness, beauty, etc."

          You're missing the point. What's under discussion is whether the Gospel authors, if liars, are the most "creative, clever, intelligent fantasists" we have ever seen -- a question we can determine by judging the effects of their work. We're not asking whether Christianity itself (or Greek mythology) can be described in the same way.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            They don't come close at all to the Christian Gospels in terms of shaping the world. You provide no reason to think otherwise.

            Art: Birth of Venus, Leda and the Swan, and Feast of the Gods are all examples of Greeco-Roman influence. Even the Sistine Chapel has art influenced by Greek myth and culture.

            Literature: Shakespeare, Chaucer, Milton, Racine, Rabelais, Keats, Byron, Tennyson, Elliot, and Joyce were all influenced by Greeco-Roman myths. Indeed, to understand western literature, one should have a knowledge of the bible and Greek myth, as much of the literary canon draws on those sources.

            The myths pervade our philosophy (see Camus' Myth of Sisyphus), and our understanding of ourselves (for those who read them). Greeco-Roman culture affects our concept of virtue, civic duty, governance, and love. The medieval tried to attain the Roman Empire once again.

            Ancient Greece was the beginning of western civilization. They are our intellectual and cultural heritage.

            You're missing the point. What's under discussion is whether the Gospel authors, if liars, are the most "creative, clever, intelligent fantasists" we have ever seen -- a question we can determine by judging the effects of their work. We're not asking whether Christianity itself (or Greek mythology) can be described in the same way.

            We cannot judge an author's cleverness, creativity, or intelligent fantasy by the effect of his works. We are only judging their influence.

            Greek myth has tremendous influence. Christianity has tremendous influence now, but if in 100 years, Christianity was to basically disappear, could we still call the Gospel authors creative, clever, and intelligent? The influence would be historical.

            Is Muhammad a creative, clever, and intelligent fantasist? Certainly his religion has had tremendous influence. Any religion has tremendous religion, especially if it becomes the dominant one. This says nothing about the creativity of the authors compared to other authors. It says more about the intention of the authors (they wanted to make myths rather than fiction) and the gullibility of the first followers.

            Hubbard was one of the least creative of the classic science fiction writers. He started a religion.

          • Papalinton

            Brandon,
            "What's under discussion is whether the Gospel authors, if liars, are the most "creative, clever, intelligent fantasists" we have ever seen -- a question we can determine by judging the effects of their work. "

            All well and good for you respond in this obfuscatory way. BUT, who are the actual gospels authors again? What were their names, where did they live, which communities did they belong to? What revelation are you privy to, that no other biblical scholar seems to know, who in fact the authors of the gospels are?
            THIS might help you.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      There is one useful datum: neither the Greeks nor the Jews had any prior tradition of dead men rising up and walking around. So why make up that particular story? The Neoplatonists did quite well without insisting the Plotinus rose from the dead and walked around. (In fact, they would have found the prospect disgusting.) They did not even claim that, like John Brown, his Spirit went marching on even while his Body lay a-mouldering in its grave.

      • William Davis

        I don't think they made it up personally, but I'd rather save that for the correct theory, don't want to get bogged down here :)

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Osiris. The Cult of Isis was a popular cult in the ancient world. Apuleius was influenced by that cult. There were certainly some motif's in his novel that could be described as Christian.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Osiris was a man? Who knew. In whose reign did he live? Where did he preach?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Judaism:

            Elijah raises a boy from the dead 1 Kings 17: 17-24

            Elisha does the same 2 Kings 4:32-37

            Greek Mythology:

            Asclepius
            Heracles
            Aristeas
            Melicertes

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            In whose reign did Osiris live? Where did he preach?
            In whose reign did Asclepius, Heracles, Aristeas, Melicertes live? Where did they preach?

            What did the boys do after being raised by Elijah or Elisha?

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Reportedly Aristeas lived in the 7th century BC.

            The point is not whether these events are factual. The point is that these cultures had a tradition of resurrection stories.

            This is what you said:

            There is one useful datum: neither the Greeks nor the Jews had any prior tradition of dead men rising up and walking around

            Your questions represent a shifting of goal posts. I don't think Jesus actually rose and walked around, so from my perspective, the Christian myth has that in common with other myths.

          • Papalinton

            All around the Middle East festooned a litany of dead and rising gods to choose or borrow from. Christianity is no less a belief in supernatural superstition than any other of a myriad of belief system traditions with which it competed.

            Those that believe in a three day-old putrescent carcass revivifying to full physical health believe for reasons that are antithetical to fact, reason, evidence or reality.

      • David Nickol

        There is one useful datum: neither the Greeks nor the Jews had any prior tradition of dead men rising up and walking around. So why make up that particular story?

        On the other hand, Christian apologists claim that the Old Testament is chock–full of predictions about Jesus, including predictions of his resurrection, and that Jesus himself foretold his death and resurrection to the apostles. So it is not necessary to credit the apostles with making up the story of the resurrection. According to "conservative" Christian belief, they got the idea from the Old Testament and from Jesus himself.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Except that nobody saw it that way before the events. Golems and zombies just weren't in it.

          • David Nickol

            Except that nobody saw it that way before the events.

            I wonder if Peter Kreeft would acknowledge that all of the "predictions" about Jesus in the Old Testament were only discoverable after the fact, at the time the Gospels were written. I rather suspect he would have to acknowledge that, according to his view of the Bible, the apostles had every reason to suspect the resurrection.

            Golems and zombies just weren't in it.

            I'm not quite sure what you are implying here. Are you scoffing at the resurrection of "the saints" that followed the resurrection of Jesus? Don't Catholics generally believe this actually happened?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I am saying that this is how the Greek and Jewish cultures would have regarded a resurrected corpse: a stumbling block to the Jews and an absurdity to the Gentiles.

          • David Nickol

            As I noted in another message to you, the idea of the resurrection of the dead was a firmly held belief in some sects of Judaism (e.g., the Pharisees) at the time of Jesus, and it was an idea that Jesus himself believed and taught. It was Christ crucified that was a stumbling block to the Jews, not Jesus resurrected.

            The idea of Jesus resurrected was not startlingly new to Jewish thought. The idea that he was the first human to be resurrected, in advance of all the others, was original to Christianity, but the resurrection of the dead was a pre-Christian, Jewish belief.

      • David Nickol

        There is one useful datum: neither the Greeks nor the Jews had any prior tradition of dead men rising up and walking around.

        Another point. The idea of the resurrection of the dead was a Jewish idea and was not invented by Jesus or his followers. The Pharisees at the time of Jesus believed in the resurrection of the dead. The Sadducees did not believe in the resurrection of the dead, and in Matthew 22, the Sadducees test Jesus with a story of a woman who had been married seven times and widowed seven times. Who would be her husband after the resurrection?

        Jesus said to them in reply, “You are misled because you do not know the scriptures or the power of God. At the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage but are like the angels in heaven. And concerning the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you* by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead but of the living.” When the crowds heard this, they were astonished at his teaching.

        So it was a firmly established belief among some factions in first-century Judaism that everyone would be resurrected. You are probably correct insofar as, to the best of my knowledge, there was no tradition of one dead man dying, rising, and spending time among the living. But there was a definite idea of everyone rising (or being risen), and so the only "twist" for the Jesus story was that he was the first to rise from the dead, showing (among other things) that the idea of a general resurrection was sound. The resurrection of Jesus was a clear sign that bodily resurrection was a fact, and that eventually it would happen to everyone, according to existing Jewish belief.

        • William Davis

          Daniel 12:2 is probably the first Bible verse that mentions the general resurrection:

          2 Many of those who sleep in the dust of the earth[a] shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.

          I think the disciples expected (expectation feeds perception) Jesus to rise, even Paul thought he was the "first fruit" of the general resurrection of the dead, and that all of the rest of the dead would be raised soon. I'm waiting until hallucination to get into all this, however, hallucination is my personal view.

  • Zeus Thunderbolt

    Seems silly to posit that all twelve gathered and concocted a conspiracy. It's much more likely that one respected member (Peter?) made the claim and the rest blindly went along with it and sincerely came to believe it.

    The "dying for a lie" argument seems weak to me because it is based solely on church tradition and not on historical evidence. It makes sense the church would say they were martyred for their faith as it gives the story more 'heft'.

    • "It's much more likely that one respected member (Peter?) made the claim and the rest blindly went along with it and sincerely came to believe it."

      There's no reason to think this is true (and many to doubt it.)

      Perhaps I can ask just one question: on this theory, how would you explain the conversion of Saul, who facilitated the murder of Christians and didn't even know Peter?

      • Zeus Thunderbolt

        If we are to believe Paul was converted due to a spiritual visit from Jesus on the road to Damascus, aren't we then obligated to believe Joseph Smith's claim that he was visited by that same spiritual Jesus when he was (allegedly) told to create the one 'true' church?

        Much more likely is that Paul was converted by an early Christian (in a quite normal way) and then created the miraculous 'Road to Damascus' story in an effort to attain what we today would call "street cred".

        To answer your question directly, I am not sure why Paul converted any more than I am sure why someone today would convert from Catholicism to Scientology. Obviously, a Christian contemporary of Paul was able to convert him......plain and simple.

        • Randy Carson

          >>"If we are to believe Paul was converted due to a spiritual visit from Jesus on the road to Damascus, aren't we then obligated to believe Joseph Smith's claim that he was visited by that same spiritual Jesus when he was (allegedly) told to create the one 'true' church?"

          You are not obligated to believe either. Instead, you are encouraged to examine both of these stories to determine whether either of them has any "heft".

          Many people, including many former Mormons, have determined that the Catholic Church has a very compelling case to be made in its favor.

          • Papalinton

            Cite source and provenance.

          • Randy Carson

            Source and provenance of what?

          • Papalinton

            Your claim: "Many people, including many former Mormons, have determined that the Catholic Church has a very compelling case to be made in its favor."

          • Randy Carson

            Are you questioning that there are Mormons who have recognized that Joseph Smith was a charlatan and have converted to the Catholic faith?

          • Doug Shaver

            Instead, you are encouraged to examine both of these stories to determine whether either of them has any "heft".

            I've done that. I found them equally lacking in heft.

            Many people, including many former Mormons, have determined that the Catholic Church has a very compelling case to be made in its favor.

            I used to be a Pentecostal. I knew lots of former Catholics among my fellow Pentecostals, including my pastor.

          • Randy Carson

            I used to be a Pentecostal. I knew lots of former Catholics among my fellow Pentecostals, including my pastor.

            I don't doubt it. The sixties and seventies were especially bad times for Catholic catechesis, and lots of folks were not taught the Catholic faith well.

            Most folks who left Catholicism, however, did so for moral rather than doctrinal reasons. IOW, because they were not taught Catholic doctrine adequately, when divorce and remarriage or some other personal issue arose, it was easy to leave Catholicism because their faith had no solid moorings.

            What you are probably less familiar with is the fact that many of those folks are now finding their way back...including those former pastors...and many of those are not lightweights but "stars" in the Evangelical world. There is even a ministry, Coming Home Network, dedicated to helping those Protestant pastors make the transition into Catholicism.

          • Doug Shaver

            What you are probably less familiar with is the fact that many of those folks are now finding their way back

            I had not heard that specifically, but it comes as no surprise at all. My former pastor's sister also joined the Pentecostals, but after a few years she went back to Catholicism.

            Conversions go both ways, and they're not always permanent in either direction. Some converts return to their original faiths, some move on to other faiths, and a lot of them lose their faith altogether and become atheists.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        There's no reason to think this is true (and many reasons to doubt it.)

        Ordinarily, when someone claims that God is speaking to him and wants him to start a new religion, what is the default reaction? We disregard the claims of Joseph Smith, Muhammad, and Hubbard. We would have doubted Peter, because in our experience, people claiming to speak for God are often lying or deluded. Why is Peter special in this regard?

        What reasons do you have to doubt that Peter could have lied or exaggerated?

        • Randy Carson

          >>What reasons do you have to doubt that Peter could have lied or exaggerated?

          You mean other than the fact that hundreds of people who were also eyewitnesses of the ministry of Jesus would have called him on it if he had? ;-)

          • David Nickol

            You mean other than the fact that hundreds of people who were also eyewitnesses of the ministry of Jesus would have called him on it if he had?

            Doesn't Peter lie three times in the Gospels?

            I don't take the conspiracy seriously, but as I understand Ignatius Reilly's message, any lies about the resurrection would have come after the death of Jesus. Assuming the swoon theory or the conspiracy theory, who were the people who were going to call Peter out on a lie? Absent a body, how is someone going to prove Peter and the apostles didn't see a resurrected Jesus?

          • Randy Carson

            Absent a body, how is someone going to prove Peter and the apostles didn't see a resurrected Jesus?

            Absent a body. Yes, that is the central issue, isn't it? :-)

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Did all of the eyewitnesses see Jesus risen before they believed? Or did they believe the apostle's reports?

            Have you seen Jesus risen, or do you believe based on the testimony of others?

          • Doug Shaver

            Do people always stop lying or exaggerating whenever someone says they're lying or exaggerating?

          • Randy Carson

            Do people always stop lying or exaggerating whenever someone says they're lying or exaggerating?

            When they are also threatened with death? Yes.

          • Doug Shaver

            OK, but the story that says they were threatened with death is the same story that says they were telling the truth.

      • Papalinton

        Paul was an epileptic. It seems clear from his writings he suffered badly from the malaise. A 'grand mal' seizure is known, from many studies, to result in a profound mystical, transcendent experience in which 'one feels at one with the cosmos'.

        A much more plausible explanation than any revelation of intervention by a non-human, non-corporeal entity that lives in the blue beyond, I would suggest.

      • Doug Shaver

        how would you explain the conversion of Saul, who facilitated the murder of Christians and didn't even know Peter?

        Paul said he had a personal revelation from God. That would explain his conversion. He does not say he had any involvement in the murdering of any Christians, so I see nothing to explain about that.

    • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

      I would then suggest that you look up "Diocletianic Persecution", "Eusebius" or even "Christian Martyrs" on Wikipedia. There is a lot of evidence to explain "dying for a lie", specifically to remain true to the Word for the last 2 millennia or so. There is more than just church tradition there.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Diocletian's persecution happened much after the events we are considering.

        • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

          Somehow, my reply to Zeus Thunderbolt's comment ((The "dying for a lie" argument seems weak to me because it is based solely on church tradition and not on historical evidence. It makes sense the church would say they were martyred for their faith as it gives the story more 'heft'.)) was misplaced.

          • Papalinton

            Martyrdom says nothing about the truth or fact of the belief. But it speaks volumes for the intensity of the emotional attachment to the belief. Martyrs have died in the past and continue to die in vane every day. Have a look at ISIS at this moment.

            Martyrdom is stupidity amplified.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            I am sorry for you, Papalinton and Ron, that you have no passion in your lives worthy of life or death action. I will pray for strength for those who love you, however, and would sacrifice themselves for you.

          • Papalinton

            Oh I have mountains of passion Marie but i would not sacrifice my life for an ancient mythos. Life is simply too precious for me to commit it to propagandising and perpetuating an imagined 'virtual reality'. Equally, I would not ever be bothered making the ultimate sacrifice for atheism. There are more compelling and genuine causes for which I would sacrifice my life; freedom, protecting our way of life, democracy, family etc etc. But for religion? No.

            If you wish to pray for those who love me, knock yourself out. In a free secular country you have that right.

          • Marie Van Gompel Alsbergas

            In the freedom of my own thoughts, I will always have that right. Did you know that 100 years ago the concept of "separation of church from state" was known as "Americanism" on other continents and in other cultures? It was not seen as a very good idea. American Secularism seems to insist that such thoughts of deism and eternal life must remain only thoughts and never become words or deeds. A very convoluted sort of freedom.

  • William Davis

    The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem-same time, same place, full of eyewitnesses—if it had been a lie.

    They didn't get away with it, they got kicked out. That is why it was almost all gentiles that converted. Don't take my word for it, try this Catholic historian:

    "My sole aim is to examine the growth of the Christian movement in the first century, and to determine in a general way the numbers of Jews who converted to it. It will be argued that, despite the evidence of Acts to the contrary, the Christian movement made verylittle impression upon the Jewish people. Its Jewish membership probably never exceeded 1 000 at any point in the first century, and by the 50s the Jewish
    members were quite likely exceeded in number by their Gentile counterparts."

    http://www.hts.org.za/index.php/HTS/article/viewFile/430/329

    Christians have held this against the Jews since Christianity came into the being. It is only recently that Catholics have started being "nice" to the Jews.

    • Thanks for the comment, William! I suggest you read Rodney Stark's widely-hailed book, The Rise of Christianity, which debunks most of your comment (and arguments made in Sim's paper).

      Stark spends an entire chapter sketching the reasons why scholars have assumed a low rate of conversion among faithful Jews. Then, in light of new sociological findings, he counters the conventional wisdom and makes the case that large numbers did indeed convert peacefully.

      • William Davis

        I just read some summaries of Stark's work and I like what I see. It is hard to tell who converted, but the use of Hellenized Synagogues in Asia minor makes sense. I think Stark is on board with how few Jews in Israel converted. It was those cities farther from Jerusalem that had higher conversion rates, even though these early converts may have been more Jewish than gentile, it is hard to say.
        One interesting thing about start is how he compares the rise of Christianity to the expansion of the Mormons in the U.S. I agree with his view of the importance of sociological factors with regard to the spread of religion. For reference, here is what I'm basing my response from:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rodney_Stark

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Rise_of_Christianity

        http://notes.utk.edu/Bio/unistudy.nsf/935c0d855156f9e08525738a006f2417/04b4e30c924e96ac8525738a006ec9c2/$FILE/Notes%20on%20Stark%20The%20Rise%20of%20Christianity.pdf

        If you have specifics from the book about conversion in Israel (those closest to the actual miracles and death of Jesus) I'd be interested to see. Some argue that the proximity to the Jewish capital prevented conversion there, but my I think that if the miracles were that powerful, there would have been conversion where they occurred, not where they did not occur.

      • Doug Shaver

        Then, in light of new sociological findings, he counters the conventional wisdom and makes the case that large numbers did indeed convert peacefully.

        I got my first college degree in sociology. I was quite unimpressed by the rigor of typical sociological theorizing.

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    Mormons claim that Joseph Smith found the Golden Plates, upon which was written the Book of Mormon. He translated it from the language of Reformed Egyptian into English. He had assistants help him with translation and others witnesses the Golden Plates

    Critics of Mormonism will say that Joseph Smith made up the whole story of the plates along with the contents of the Book of Mormon, that he is a liar.

    It is interesting how many of Dr. Kreeft's points in this article apply equally as well to Mormonism. I don't think the witnesses ever confessed that it was a lie (Kreeft's point 1), the Book of Mormon is certainly a creative story and Smith was just a farmer with little education (2), Smith and his followers were certainly persecuted (3 and 4), and Mormonism has grown quite rapidly (6).

    So should we conclude that Joseph Smith was not a liar? Will Strange Notions now become a Mormon site?

    • William Davis

      Brandon used Robert Stark as a defense, and Robert Stark thinks the spread of Christianity was much like the spread of Mormonism. Interesting.

  • Damon

    I'm disappointed Dr. Kreeft has not addressed the strongest bit of evidence that supports the theory that a historical Jesus had various miracles falsely attributed to him by overzealous followers - the existence of the apocryphal gospels.

    Both Catholics and atheists already agree that the vast majority of the apocryphal gospels are false - including the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Judas, the Infancy Gospels, the Gospel of the Hebrews, and many others. These texts tend to take the earlier Gospels and stories and then add several implausible miracles to them that even Christians don't believe happened. So based on the existence of these texts alone, we know that the temptation to write embellished Gospels laden with miracles was there.

    Dr. Kreeft might argue that the four canonical Gospels were written earlier and are more authentic than the apocryphal Gospels, and I agree, but given the
    existence of a known tendency for people to record made up events, and a set of
    books that sound made-up, I think the difference is more one of degree than
    of kind.

    • Roger

      This just doesnt follow. Just because people have written false stories about Jesus does not mean that all or most or any other stories about Jesus are false. Also the difference in time period that you are mentioning makes all the difference in the world since it completely differentiates the tendencies of Jesus´ followers at a much later date to those that are much closer to the actual events in question.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Aren't most stories written about deities false? If I take away all the stories in the bible, are there any stories about deities that you consider true?

        • Roger

          No, most stories about dieties are not false. Most stories about dieties make reference to a supernatural existence that is also influenced by the cultural and societal realities of a specific era. This is a very ignorant Richard Dawkins way of thinking about god that says that Christians are atheists when it comes to all other depictions of the divine. This fails to acknowledge that you dont have to share the specific details of a narative in order to accept that such narrative is trying to describe something real.

          So no, I dont think most stories written about deities is false.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The stories aren't false? So all of this is historical?

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perseus

            Edit: You consider the Gospels to be largely historical? If so, you do not believe in Greek myth like you believe in the Gospels.

      • Damon

        Just because people have written false stories about Jesus does not mean that all or most or any other stories about Jesus are false.

        It means that by as early as the second century, early Christians were embellishing their Gospel accounts with made-up miracles. Given that we have, at least by the second century, a known tendency of Christian Gospel writers to make up stories, I think it is far more likely that the canonical Gospel writers similarly embellished their writings (though perhaps to a lesser degree) than that the implausible miracles recorded in the canonical Gospels actually happened.

        Regarding your point about the earlier time period, the dates of all the Gospels are uncertain but around 60 - 90 AD for the synoptics seems to be a fair estimate. The life expectancy for those that survived childhood living in Judea at that time was roughly 40 - 50 years old, so by the time the first Gospel was written members of Jesus' generation would have been long gone. Those who were teenagers at the time of Jesus' death would have been dying off by that time. This means the likelihood of any individuals close to the events of Jesus' life and death being around to call the Gospel writers out on their embellishments is very low.

        But supposing there were some surviving individuals who could refute the earliest Gospels, few individuals around this time were literate, and among those who were, I doubt many would have had the time or interest to pen a response to what was still a minor cult at the time. Even if someone did, there's no reason why their account would have spread in a time when writings had to be laboriously copied by hand in order to be widely distributed. But even supposing that a refutation was penned and widely distributed, there's no reason why we would expect to know about it since many of the popular writings of that age have been lost to us.

        So in summary, we have a demonstrated tendency of Gospel writers embellishing their accounts by as early as the second century, making it plausible that these embellishments started earlier with the canonical authors. Combined with the low probability that anyone would call out the canonical authors on their embellishments (or that if they were called out, we would know about it) makes the embellishment hypothesis far more probable than the Resurrection hypothesis.

        • Sylvain Aubé

          Four thoughts for you, Damon:

          (1) The first Christians and those of the second century had a very different social background. The first ones were rejected by everyone; both by Jews and by the Roman world. They had absolutely no social bias in favor of them; in fact, all bias were against them. Also, since they were Jews expecting a political Messiah who would liberate Israel from Roman domination, the crucifixion should have completely disheartened the apostles; the Gospels actually report that it did. Over one hundred years later, when Christianity had become an established religious network even though it was still a minor cult, the people belonging to it and having grown up into it had social reasons to embellish it.

          (2) There is a huge difference between the invention of an event upon which a belief is founded and the invention of events which embellish a belief already held. The second case is to be expected, as you point out, while the first case is outright absurd; only the most deranged people would invent an event on which they found their whole new belief-system.

          (3) The first Christians could not be called out as liars only after they wrote down the Gospels; they could be called out as soon as they started preaching. If I preach to you that a guy recently resurrected in front of hundreds of people a few miles away from where you live, it would be quite easy to make some verifications about it. If nobody at all ever witnessed such a thing, it should have been a major handicap for the spreading of the faith but it seems to have been on fire from the beginning.

          (4) Dr Kreeft does not cover this issue but, when we compare the relative probability of various historical events, our philosophical position logically determines that relative probability. If you believe that miracles are totally impossible, the most improbable natural explanation will remain more likely than any supernatural explanation, regardless of the amount of historical evidence in its favor. I do not wish to make a specific point here; just to raise this issue in order to put the value of historical evidence in perspective.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            The first Christians could not be called out as liars only after they
            wrote down the Gospels; they could be called out as soon as they started
            preaching. If I preach to you that a guy recently resurrected in front
            of hundreds of people a few miles away from where you live, it would be
            quite easy to make some verifications about it. If nobody at all ever
            witnessed such a thing, it should have been a major handicap for the
            spreading of the faith but it seems to have been on fire from the
            beginning.

            Some people would still believe. It is not like everyone was super diligent fact-checkers in the ancient world. You only need a few early believers and most of them were so far from Jerusalem that they could not have necessarily traveled and played detective. Early Christians were the equivalent of Scientologists today.

            There is a huge difference between the invention of an event upon which a
            belief is founded and the invention of events which embellish a belief
            already held. The second case is to be expected, as you point out, while
            the first case is outright absurd; only the most deranged people would
            invent an event on which they found their whole new belief-system.

            Perhaps the physical resurrection was the embellishment. Maybe the early Christians believed in a spiritual resurrection and a physical second coming, but that story was embellished.

          • David Nickol

            If I preach to you that a guy recently resurrected in front of hundreds of people a few miles away from where you live, it would be quite easy to make some verifications about it.

            The problem is that we have no contemporaneous accounts of the resurrection and its immediate aftermath. So we do not know whether the resurrection accounts in the Gospels were preached immediately after the resurrection (allegedly) happened, or whether they evolved over decades.

            Even in this day and age of 24/7 news coverage and ubiquitous cell phone cameras, it can be difficult or impossible to pin down the truth of events. For example, the Rolling Stone article "A Rape on Campus" about UVA has been retracted, and although I have not followed the matter very closely, it seems clear that something happened on the UVA campus, and although the Rolling Stone story has been seriously discredited in a number of ways, nobody really knows exactly what happened.

          • Damon

            Sylvain, my thoughts on your thoughts:

            1) We know from Paul's letters that by around 50 AD there were
            flourishing churches all across the eastern Mediterranean, so by the time the authors of the canonical Gospels got around to writing their accounts, we would expect to see the same sort of embellishments we see in the later apocryphal writings, for the same social reasons that you mention.

            2) This is a fair point, and I think it is highly unlikely that the original Resurrection tale was invented out of whole cloth. It seems far more likely that a small number of Jesus' followers hallucinated seeing him in the days and weeks following his death (while they were likely in great distress and in hiding), that they sincerely believed to have seen the risen Jesus, and that their sincerity convinced others, who then embellished the accounts as they were retold.

            3) I think it was a major handicap to spreading the message to Jews in Jerusalem, which I suspect is partially why early Christianity really took off once the early evangelists branched out and spread the message to cities across the Eastern Mediterranean, whose skeptical residents would have had a more difficult time fact checking their story.

            4) I agree, this is why prior probabilities are so important in properly formed Bayesian beliefs. But as long as both atheists and Christians can agree that the prior probability of someone rising from the dead is very, very low, yet still greater than zero, we should be in a better position to examine the evidence at our disposal.

          • Sylvain Aubé

            Damon: thoughts about your thoughts on my thoughts (adding that Strange Notions is one of the very few places on the web where believers and skeptics have respectful and meaningful exchanges, which is most agreeable!)

            1) The flourishing churches of 50 AD were fledgling social entities (fewer than 20 years had passed since the crucifixion) which barely had time to create confirmation bias leading to embellishment of beliefs. The probability that all of the four Gospels (which contain significant differences; hence were not rigorously elaborated in order to fit each other) put focus on the same recent embellishment (which most early Christians ought to have known to be an embellishment) therefore seems “very, very low”, as you say about resurrection itself.

            2) Such a collective hallucination seems most improbable. Are you aware of any other example of such a thing? I am not saying that collective hallucinations are unheard of, but rather that a collective hallucination which lasts for days or weeks, experienced by dozens of people who appeared mentally sane enough to persuade many other people that their perception was reliable, is far beyond everything I ever heard about collective experiences which were proved to be hallucinations.

            3) I was not aware of any correlation between distance from Jerusalem and credulity to Christian preaching. Wasn’t there a church in Jerusalem just like there were churches in other cities of the eastern Mediterranean? If such a correlation exists, it would indeed fit the theory that people who believed early Christian preaching were mainly those who couldn’t verify the facts; that is, if the correlation couldn’t be explained by a more intense repression in Jerusalem. Otherwise, it is unlikely that being close to Jerusalem was no handicap for preaching a revelation based of a false claim that is easily verifiable.

            4) If we are in agreement that, however low it is, the probability of a resurrection is greater than zero, discussions about historical resurrection is at least worth engaging. This is not the case with materialists who exclude this possibility even before looking at historical evidence. But I suspect that, even if we agree that resurrection is both possible and highly improbable, our belief that it is more probable than various improbable natural explanations is largely due to our philosophical position about the intrinsic probability of any supernatural event.

          • Damon

            Sylvain, my thoughts on your thoughts about my thoughts on your thoughts (Quite the back and forth we have already!)

            1) I think you vastly underestimate the speed at which a story being retold orally becomes corrupted (similar to a game of "telephone") as well as people's propensity to simply make up evidence to convince others of their beliefs. I also do not understand why you think most early Christians around 50 AD and later would be in a position to know what was an embellishment and what was not. If you are an early Christian in Corinth and Paul mentions in his letter that Jesus appeared to more than 500 people at once, most of whom are still living, are you going to go out of you way to confirm what Paul says? Are you really going to hunt down a few of these surviving 500 witnesses? Or are you going to just take him at his word?

            2) I doubt the details of the original hallucination resembled any of the stories of Jesus' appearances as recorded in the Gospels. Perhaps only Peter hallucinated at first, but he was still able to convince others that what he saw was real, or perhaps telling the others of Jesus appearing to him was enough to trigger later hallucinations in similarly distressed minds. All this is very speculative and we have no way of knowing what actually happened. But if I had to guess I'd say some form of mass hysteria likely played a role in the days and weeks following Jesus' execution.

            3) There was a church in Jerusalem, but as I understand it the early church leaders had a difficult time converting Jews. Christianity really took off in more Hellenistic places such as Antioch and Greece, places where it would have been difficult to confirm or refute the stories of Jesus rising from the dead and appearing to people.

            4) Well, what would you consider the intrinsic probability of any supernatural event?

          • Sylvain Aubé

            Damon: Our back and forth is not over yet! (but I stop the accumulation of "thoughts on thoughts", even though it was amusing)

            1) It is true that I may underestimate the speed at which a story being retold orally may become corrupted. Christians corrupting their story within a few decades is a possibility, but it is a far less probable possibility than that of their story being corrupted by Gnostics over a century later, as you referred about the apocryphal Gospels. Also, my wife (an Hellenist who studied the ancient texts with academic rigor) tells me that the miracles related in the apocryphal Gospels are very different from a literary point of view; they are told in a flamboyant style which fits an embellishment while the miracles related in the Gospels are very laconic in their style. As for the early Christians knowing about supernatural resurrection being a recent embellishment, I mean that, if the first version of the story excluded it, the early Christians must have noticed that something was added to the original story as they first knew it: something added at the very center of the story as its fundamental belief. And then, these early Christians would have put focus on that same recent embellishment in all four Gospels despite the fact that they contain significant differences about other events? This is why supernatural resurrection being a later embellishment seems most improbable to me.

            2) You have elaborated the hypothesis of hallucination, but still we have no example of an hallucination achieving such widespread acceptance against all social odds. This is even more extraordinary because this is not a mere belief about one thing in particular; this is a foundational belief which drastically alters how its adherents view the world. I am not saying that your hypothesis is impossible; I am saying that, even if it is considered to be more likely than supernatural resurrection, it nevertheless remains very improbable in itself since there is no proved example of such a thing in human history (unless we presuppose that all miracles were hallucinations, which begs the question).

            3) I read that, for the first few decades of its existence, Christianity had most of its converts among Jews and that Pagans joined the wagon a bit later. But, as I said, I am no scholar on this question. We ought to consult reliable historical analysis in order to clear it out.

            4) As much as I deem the intrinsic probability of any supernatural event to be the most important question at hand, it is a question about which I can barely say anything in a clear, synthetic manner because it is, all at once, so wide, complex and intimate. As I grew up in a family of skeptics, I used to hold of worldview which excluded miracles. Over the course of many years of readings, discussions and personal experiences, I came to see miracles as less unlikely than I used to see them. Discussions and personal experiences can hardly be shared through a virtual exchange such as ours, but I would gladly provide you with two or three book suggestions if you are interested. One of the most interesting (and yet insufficient on its own) argument in favor of the likelihood of supernatural event is this extract from C.S. Lewis' book "Miracles" (my presentation is in French but the extract is in English). http://www.raisonchretienne.com/2014/04/argument-de-la-raison.html

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Gnosticism was a problem not only to Christians, but also Jews and pagans. Writing fanfic is much easier once you have some originals in play.

      • Damon

        I'm not referring just to the Gnostic texts, I'm referring to all of the apocryphal gospels:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Testament_apocrypha

        I like your fanfic analogy, by the way, though I'm not sure you realized that fan fiction is typically written by fans of, and featuring characters from, an already established fictional medium.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Try not to strain the analogy too much. One can write fanfic about almost anything. It's mostly over popular fiction precisely because it is popular</i? fiction.

          In any case, anyone reading the various canonical and non-canonical gospels is immediately struck by the vast difference in tone and content. The Gospel of Thomas, perhaps the earliest of the gnostic gospels, is entirely a series of wink-wink, nudge-nudge sayings arranged as supposedly told to the select Inner Circle of Knowers. Some of them are indeed cribbed from the canonical gospels, but out of context. Others are almost like Zen koans. In the Infancy Gospel of Thomas we read of pointless "miracles." In one instance, a childhood companion of Jesus accidentally touches him and in consequence is struck dead. The implication is that the corporeal Jesus is an illusion and touching "godstuff" is fatal to mere mortals. Again, a common gnostic trope.

          The canonical gospels are unique in this company in being not only much earlier in composition, but also simple biographies of a human preacher set in time, who performed certain marvels all of which had a lesson to impart. Perhaps the Gospel of Peter comes closest to this model, but Peter was the source of the gospel of Mark, so this too is a later add-on. (Some gospels were rejected not only for being late compositions, but simply for adding nothing to the canonical ones. Pope Clement's letter to the Corinthians appears in some early Bibles, but its content, while orthodox, adds nothing not said in the earlier epistles of Paul and others.)

    • Indeed, not only that, but as I understand it, it was not uncommon for people to write under the names of other people. It is pretty well accepted by historians that some of the letters of Paul are forgeries. (I learned so much from Dale Martin's intro to New Testament studies.)

  • Ignatius Reilly

    The "cruncher" in this argument is the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake, a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ, and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy. For that cat was never in the bag. No Christians believed the resurrection was a conspiracy; if they had, they wouldn't have become Christians.

    Obviously only a few people new that it was a hoax. It wasn't some grand conspiracy.

    (2) If they made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history, far surpassing Shakespeare, or Dante, or Tolkien. Fisherman's "fish stories" are never that elaborate, that convincing, that life-changing, and that enduring.

    Firstly, the Gospels are not particularly elaborate. The stories were also added to over time. John's gospel is different from Mark's gospel. A man preaches, works miracles, is crucified unjustly, and rises from the dead. That is not a particularly elaborate God story. Certainly the Greek myths were far more elaborate.
    Secondly, the accounts are not all that convincing. There is nothing in them to differentiate them from other stories of miracle workers throughout time, except in this case, the followers of the miracle worker deified him. This is also not the first time a person was deified. I think you have to be a Christian or be around a lot of Christians to find the gospels convincing.

    Thirdly, the accounts in and of themselves can be life changing, but without the institutions built around the accounts, I do not think the accounts would have reached as many people. There are some films and essays and novels that can be life changing, but they do not reach as many people as Christianity does, nor are they held with the same passion as Christianity does.

    Fourthly, the gospels are enduring, because many people believe that the gospels are the word of God. This does not make them more clever than other authors. Nor does it make them more insightful. The gospels lack the poetry of Shakespeare, the depth of Tolkien, or the insights of Montaigne. The later are all better reading than the scriptures, but nobody thinks they are divinely inspired.

    Finally, many humans finds the Koran, the Vedas, the Book of Mormon, or the Dianetics more life changing and convincing than the Bible. At this present time of Christian dominance in parts of the West, it may seem that the Bible is the most enduring of all the religious texts, but that is falsely believing that the religion that is important in one time and place will also be important in all times and places.
    Kreeft fails to argue for the Gospels truth. He also fails to argue that they were not recording the lies and embellishments of early Christians.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    (3) The disciples' character argues strongly against such a conspiracy on the part of all of them, with no dissenters. They were simple, honest, common peasants, not cunning, conniving liars. (They weren't even lawyers!) Their sincerity is proved by their words and deeds. They preached a resurrected Christ and they lived a resurrected Christ. They willingly died for their "conspiracy." Nothing proves sincerity like martyrdom. The change in their lives from fear to faith, despair to confidence, confusion to certitude, runaway cowardice to steadfast boldness under threat and persecution, not only proves their sincerity but testifies to some powerful cause of it. Can a lie cause such a transformation? Are truth and goodness such enemies that the greatest good in history—sanctity—has come from the greatest lie?

    We know very little about the disciples and their character without referencing New Testament texts. Every statement in this paragraph relies on the New Testament. We do not know if they died, but people have died for conspiracies. Lies can have tremendous affect on people. People will often lie for an apparent good.

    Kreeft, how do you know so much about the disciples character and motivations?

    Use your imagination and sense of perspective here. Imagine twelve poor, fearful, stupid (read the Gospels!) peasants changing the hard-nosed Roman world with a lie. And not an easily digested, attractive lie either.

    Others have changed the world with similar backgrounds. This argument relies on a class bias. Because the fisherman were nothing but poor fisherman, they must have been ignorant, foolish, unintelligent and without cleverness. It also forgets Paul, who was certainly clever, intelligent, and well educated.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    (4) There could be no possible motive for such a lie. Lies are always told for some selfish advantage. What advantage did the "conspirators" derive from their "lie" ? They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks!

    Lies are not always told for a selfish advantage. Sometimes they are told for a greater good. Perhaps the early disciples of Jesus thought there was a lot of good that came from Jesus's message and they embellished the story so people would believe.

    Maybe the early disciples were looking for earthly gain as leader of a religious cult.
    You actually have to produce evidence that bad things happened to all of the religious leaders. That could have been Christian myth making in later centuries.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    If the resurrection was a lie, the Jews would have produced the corpse and nipped this feared superstition in the bud. All they had to do was go to the tomb and get it. The Roman soldiers and their leaders were on their side, not the Christians'. And if the Jews couldn't get the body because the disciples stole it, how did they do that? The arguments against the swoon theory hold here too: unarmed peasants could not have overpowered Roman soldiers or rolled away a great stone while they slept on duty.

    Why should we assume that there was a tomb to begin with?

    The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem-same time, same place, full of eyewitnesses—if it had been a lie

    They didn't. Most converts were outside of Jerusalem.

    • Roger

      Why should we assume that there was a crucifixion to begin with? We could play this game all day.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        You tell me.

        Your question is not an answer to my question.

        • Roger

          It is an answer. The author is taking claims made about this event that most people believe and showing why naturalistic explanations are implausible. If we are disregarding these events because they are in the bible, then why stop at the tomb? If you deny that there was a tomb, you might as well deny the resurection as the justification for both is the same.

          If your refutation is ¨there was no tomb¨ then you are barking up the wrong tree.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Kreeft claims that he can prove that Jesus's resurrection is a historical fact on the level of the destruction of Pompeii and the sacking of Jerusalem. He says the only thing he needs to prove his hypothesis is the existence of Christianity and the existence of the New Testament, without assuming that the New Testament is true. He also assumes that we cannot say that miracles are impossible. These are Kreeft's starting assumptions.

            He then smuggles in an assumption about an empty tomb, which I am asking him to ground.

            What most people believe is not the issue. Kreeft claims he can prove the historicity of the resurrection without additional assumptions.

            As an aside, most people nearest to the "resurrection event" in time and place did not become Christian.

      • David

        Why should we assume that there was a crucifixion to begin with?

        You shouldn't. It probably didn't happen.

      • Doug Shaver

        We're not assuming it. We're inferring that Jesus was crucified from the same evidence we use to infer his existence.

  • Ignatius Reilly

    (7) If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples' adversaries, who had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud. Common experience shows that such intrigues are inevitably exposed

    There are all sorts of conspiracies that have been exposed as fraudulent. People still believe them.

    • Roger

      The word ¨exposed¨ is the key word here. Yes people still believe consipracy theories after they have been exposed, but there is almost no written attempt by biblical contemporaries to expose the resurection as a fraud the same way that other conspiracy theories have been exposed in the past.

      • Ignatius Reilly

        Exactly what writing do we have on the resurrection event in the immediate decades following? From Christian or secular sources.

      • Doug Shaver

        there is almost no written attempt by biblical contemporaries to expose the resurection as a fraud

        So, if we don't have contemporary records of it happening, then we're entitled to assume it didn't happen? Is that your argument?

  • Luc Regis

    In conclusion, if the resurrection was a concocted, conspired lie, it
    violates all known historical and psychological laws of lying.

    I don't think that the original gospel writers deliberately lied or purposely tried to foist a hoax of any kind, but may have been somewhat confused about what actually did take place, given that said confusion shows up in the differing gospel accounts of the death and resurrection of Jesus. These are not simply minor details, which can be hand waved away. Considering that the gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, and were the result of the reworking of oral accounts, it is no wonder that they contain contradictions and error. If there were any concocted changes made to the original texts, I suspect they would have been made after after the first century A.D.

    Comparison of Resurrection accounts by Bart Ehrman, a leading expert in the field of New Testament textual criticism.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OQ2wyCxb59E

  • David Nickol

    The disciples' character argues strongly against such a conspiracy on the part of all of them, with no dissenters. They were simple, honest, common peasants, not cunning, conniving liars. (They weren't even lawyers!) Their sincerity is proved by their words and deeds. They preached a resurrected Christ and they lived a resurrected Christ. They willingly died for their "conspiracy."

    One of the problems with this, it seems to me, is that we know very little about the original followers of Jesus and especially what they did after his death. They disappear very quickly from the New Testament, and all we have is "tradition" (with a small t).

    Probably most people with some familiarity with the New Testament could come up with something said or done by Peter and Judas. But who can (from memory) name one of the other original ten Apostles and quote something he said? The New Testament records the death of only two of the original twelve (Judas and James).

  • Ron

    If the resurrection was a lie, the Jews would have produced the corpse and nipped this feared superstition in the bud. All they had to do was go to the tomb and get it.

    Perhaps they did produce the corpse but the believers simply refused to accept that their beloved messiah was dead. And decomposition would have made identifying the remains impossible after three or more days anyways.

    unarmed peasants could not have overpowered Roman soldiers or rolled away a great stone while they slept on duty.

    According to Matthew, the stone was placed in front of the tomb the following day. That left plenty of time for the disciples or grave robbers to remove the body during the night.

    • David Nickol

      Peter Kreeft began by saying we would not have to assume the truth of the Gospel accounts in order to be convinced by his arguments, and yet he brings up the Roman guards here, attested to by only one of the four Gospels, and considered by many contemporary biblical scholars to be of doubtful historicity.

      For many readers here, I am guessing, and not just atheists and skeptics, Kreeft's acceptance of the Gospel accounts as historically reliable in every detail weakens his argument. Kraft comes across as something close to a fundamentalist.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        I was noticing that too. He uses the gospels as evidence when he said he would not.

        He quotes William Lane Craig saying that the gospel was openly preached weeks after the crucifixion in Jerusalem. But do we know that this happened from any sources other than Acts? The earliest Christian writing we have is from Paul, writing 20 years later very much outside of Jerusalem. Perhaps there is some other source that I am unaware of that says that the disciples preached openly in Jerusalem, but I don't think so...

        • The book of Acts is not included as part of the Gospels...

          • OverlappingMagisteria

            Well if we want to split hairs... sure. But it seems that Dr. Kreeft's intention is to not have to assume the Bible is historically accurate. In fact, it seems I misspoke when I said "gospels" because from the first article, Kreeft says: "We do not need to presuppose that the New Testament is infallible, or divinely inspired or even true." So Dr. Kreeft does say that he won't use Acts as historically accurate.

            And anyway, the consensus is that Acts is written by the same author as Luke and is a continuation of it. So though I agree, it's not categorized as a gospel, you gotta put it right along with Luke.

      • "Peter Kreeft began by saying we would not have to assume the truth of the Gospel accounts in order to be convinced by his arguments, and yet he brings up the Roman guards here, attested to by only one of the four Gospels, and considered by many contemporary biblical scholars to be of doubtful historicity."

        I think you're missing a key distinction. For the sake of argument, Dr. Kreeft is not assuming the truth of the account which describes the Roman guards, only that the author of Matthew's Gospel indeed recorded such an account. Kreeft's point is that if you theorize that Jesus' disciples lied about the resurrection, this account about the Roman guards would internally contradict the theory.

        As for the "doubtful historicity" of the Roman guard accounts, I commend this thorough article by one of the preeminent resurrection scholars, William Lane Craig, on the topic:

        http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/docs/guard.html

        "For many readers here, I am guessing, and not just atheists and skeptics, Kreeft's acceptance of the Gospel accounts as historically reliable in every detail weakens his argument. Kraft comes across as something close to a fundamentalist."

        This is nothing other than a personal smear. First, you make a broad assumption that Kreeft accepts the Gospels "as historically reliable in every detail". He has neither affirmed this nor insinuated it in these articles. And even if these articles did suggest he believed in the historical reliability of the resurrection accounts, that says nothing about his thoughts concerning the Gospels in general. So your charge is either demonstrably false or gratuitously broad.

        Saying he's "close to a fundamentalist" (when he's anything but, as anyone who knows him can confirm) is simply an attempt to cast doubt on his points by smearing his reputation.

        • Ignatius Reilly

          For the sake of argument, Dr. Kreeft is not assuming the truth of the account which describes the Roman guards, only that the author of Matthew's Gospel indeed recorded such an account. Kreeft's point is that if you theorize that Jesus' disciples lied about the resurrection, this account about the Roman guards would internally contradict the theory.

          If the disciples lied, how would the account of the guards contradict that theory? It would be part of the lie or a latter embellishment.

          If we do not assume the truth of the Gospel accounts, any and all facts can be ahistorical. Kreeft would have to give reason for Jesus being buried in a tomb and the tomb being guarded, if he is serious about his preliminary assumptions.

          As for the "doubtful historicity" of the Roman guard accounts, I commend this thorough article by one of the preeminent resurrection scholars, William Lane Craig, on the topic

          I don't think William Lane Craig will be taken very seriously by atheists and skeptics.

          • Doug Shaver

            I don't think William Lane Craig will be taken very seriously by atheists and skeptics.

            He won't. Some apologists, even evangelicals, do get some respect from skeptics, but Craig isn't one of them.

        • David Nickol

          Saying he's "close to a fundamentalist" (when he's anything but, as anyone who knows him can confirm) is simply an attempt to cast doubt on his points by smearing his reputation.

          I am astonished and appalled to discover you deem it a "smear" to consider a person a fundamentalist Christian! Why are fundamentalists less deserving of respect than any other Christians? I objected recently when a fellow poster referred to fundamentalist Christians as "fundies."

          This was the exchange:

          HIM: The fundies' knickers are always in a knot over "extra-Biblical" doctrines in the Catholic Church.

          ME: That doesn't seem to me to be a respectful way to speak of fellow Christians.

          HIM: So what?

          Is this the official Strange Notions line?

        • David Nickol

          As for the "doubtful historicity" of the Roman guard accounts, I commend this thorough article by one of the preeminent resurrection scholars, William Lane Craig . . .

          Thanks for the reference. I did not read the entire article with great care, as it is a bit long to read on a computer screen. But I do note Craig says near the end:

          So although there are reasons to doubt the existence of the guard at the tomb, there are also weighty considerations in its favor. It seems best to leave it an open question.

          It seems to me, based on reading Kreeft here so far, that to the extent we doubt anything in the resurrection accounts, to that same extent we must suspect that the disciples lied. Perhaps Kreeft's position will become clearer when he deals with the arguments about the resurrection being a matter of myth.

        • Doug Shaver

          Kreeft's point is that if you theorize that Jesus' disciples lied about the resurrection, this account about the Roman guards would internally contradict the theory.

          I don't see how. The theory that the disciples lied presupposes that the gospels cannot be trusted. That presupposition cannot be contradicted by quoting anything in the gospels.

          Of all the theories on Kreeft's list, only the swoon theory assumes that the gospels are (in a sense) wholly true, and so it's the only one that can be rebutted using statements in the gospels.

  • Mike

    Still the most amazing part of the story to me is that its hero is a poor guy with no status from an obscure part of the roman empire who doesn't get rich or become king or produce books upon books of natural philosophy who doesn't rise up politically to dominate who doesn't conquer but who humbles himself on a cross, like a lamb to the slaughter. If that's what they thought would get the masses to follow them then they were either delusional or telling the absolute truth.

  • David Nickol

    There is another general problem with most of Kreeft's arguments that is common in other apologetic accounts of this time. It is generally assumed (and the Gospel accounts more or less imply this) that everything that happened involving Jesus was the equivalent of "front page news" throughout at least first-century Palestine, that everybody knew all the details of what happened to Jesus, and that anyone who was mistaken about something would have immediately been corrected. We tend to look back on all New Testament events as momentous, and if they really happened, they were! But it is a mistake to assume that the high priests, the Pharisees, Pilate, and even the Apostles looked upon themselves as players in a momentous story that we would still be arguing about today.

    I think we must view Jesus at the time of his ministry and death as a fairly minor local figure—in John P. Meier's phrase, "a marginal Jew." He had made just enough trouble to get himself executed, and yet his followers let off scot-free. We think of the story of Jesus and the crucifixion (and resurrection) as happening on an epic scale, but the Jesus movement at its inception was quite small.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      A great many contra arguments also rely on the "front-page news" delusion, and ask why other, pagan writers of the period make no reference to these events.

  • Randy Carson

    This is off-topic, but if I'm going to chat, I need to know how to use the forum software.

    When I hit reply, all I get is an empty box that I can type in, but the original post I'm responding to is not there.

    How do I reply to a post with the original post quoted with the blue bar next to the original text?

    Thanks.

    • David Nickol

      How do I reply to a post with the original post quoted with the blue bar next to the original text?

      Disqus does not automatically quote messages when you reply to them. You have to copy the part you want to quote and enclose it in beginning and end tags. I coded the above as follows:

      <How do I reply to a post with the original post quoted with the blue bar next to the original text?&gr;

      • Randy Carson

        Disqus does not automatically quote messages when you reply to them. You have to copy the part you want to quote and enclose it in beginning and end tags. I coded the above as follows:

        [blockquote]How do I reply to a post with the original post quoted with the blue bar next to the original text?[/blockquote]

        Thanks.

    • William Davis

      Most of us use blockquote html tag

      http://webdesign.about.com/od/htmltags/f/blfaqblockquote.htm

      I think all html tags work in disqus, here's a list

      http://www.w3schools.com/html/html_formatting.asp

  • Peter

    Now that we've recently found organic compounds throughout the galaxy and billions of planets, the prospect of aliens existing is quite real and, given the age of the universe, even of super-advanced aliens who are millions of years old.

    One reason the disciples did not lie about the Resurrection is that it actually took place. Ironically, its taking place is even more plausible from a materialist standpoint. The possible existence of super-advanced aliens capable of restoring the dead make that prospect very likely.

    Jesus was killed on the cross and three days later was raised from the dead. His renewed body was capable of altering appearance, teleporting and levitating. If advanced technology can do an extraordinary thing like restore life and memory to a corpse, it can also provide that body with other extraordinary powers. These powers are well documented in the narratives.

    It looks like atheists not only have no excuse to disbelief the Resurrection but actually have reason to believe it more than most. From their own purely materialist standpoint, the plausibility of the Resurrection becomes unavoidable.

    • Luke C.

      Unavoidable? No excuse? No, not at all. Re-read Michael Murray's replies to you. I still don't think you understand the argument. And we're only saying that, if the resurrection did happen, it wouldn't be attributable to the supernatural in this case; hence, no God needed. A naturalistic explanation, even if performed by advanced aliens, is still more plausible to me than the Biblical account.

      Edit: Added a few minor words for clarity.

      • Peter

        Atheist can no longer deny the Resurrection in principle because they now consider it to be plausible whereas before they considered it to be impossible. They cannot escape the fact that the Resurrection is no longer impossible which makes their attempts at proving it to be impossible futile.

        • Luke C.

          I don't find any resurrection scenario plausible, but I do find some explanations to be slightly more probable than others. Also, I can't disprove lots of things that may not exist or that may not have happened; that doesn't mean I therefore believe by default.

          • Peter

            No one is asking you to believe that the Resurrection is true, but the emerging facts prevent you from proclaiming that it is impossible.

          • Luke C.

            And "You can't disprove it!" is hardly a convincing argument. If your only point is to get an epistemically humble atheist to admit that I can't prove it's impossible, you've won!

          • Peter

            If it's not impossible it's possible, and if it's possible the question is how likely is it? That likelihood is increasing all the time as evidence which suggests extraterrestrial life continually emerges.

          • Luke C.

            Then the likelihood that alien activity can explain the resurrection is increasing all of the time; the likelihood that central tenets of Christianity is true is not.

          • Peter

            One cannot ignore the mounting evidence that extraterrestrial life is likely, and so I admit that alien activity would indeed be a competing hypothesis to the Christian belief. But I have responded to this issue above.

            Up to now atheists have denied the resurrection because the historical evidence, no matter how strong, would never be sufficient to justify something unnatural as a miracle.

            Now that an alternative explanation exists, however, rendering the resurrection a potentially natural event, the historical evidence of the resurrection ought to be so compelling as to convince even the most obstinate observer.

            An honest appraisal by atheists would be to admit the strong likelihood that Jesus genuinely was raised from the dead but to argue a naturalistic cause, After all, time is on their side as evidence mounts in favour of extraterrestrial life.

          • Luke C.

            An honest appraisal by atheists would be to admit the strong likelihood that Jesus genuinely was raised from the dead

            Peter, no. I don't understand how you're still trying to make this point stick. No resurrection scenario that I've seen is probable, not even the potentially naturalistic one by advanced aliens. Why? Because we don't have evidence of advanced aliens, hence the Fermi paradox. And you're still not seeming to grasp that the advanced aliens scenario undermines all of Christianity, as it wasn't God doing the resurrecting, but aliens with advanced technology.

          • Peter

            On the contrary, I do indeed grasp the implications of an technologically-advanced alien scenario, especially since Jesus was not only raised from the dead but given the ability to change appearance, teleport and levitate which are potential scientific qualities.

            This will be an unavoidable challenge that the Church will have to face in the coming decades as the vast and old universe reveals itself to be teeming with life. But, for the second time, I have responded to this issue above.

            The Fermi paradox is no excuse for the non-existence of aliens. If aliens are advanced enough to get here, they are advanced enough to be undetectable and to leave us alone.

            I am resigned to the fact that no amount of historical evidence, no matter how compelling or convincing, will persuade materialists to admit to the occurrence of what they consider to be a miracle.

            However, what does surprise me is how desperate materialists are to prevent the Resurrection from having a naturalistic explanation, and how keen they are to maintain it as a miracle, so that they can continue to justify their disbelief in it.

          • Luke C.

            These dialogues have also been an eye-opener for me, to see just how little evidence you need to believe in sensational claims.

          • Peter

            Let's assume it's several decades in the future. Our super telescopes have spectrographically detected signs of a technological civilisation in the atmosphere of a distant planet. Intelligent life in the cosmos is confirmed and with it the likelihood that we have been visited in the past.

            In that event, the claim of the raising of Jesus from the dead, of his ability to alter appearance and teleport and to ascend into the sky would not be so sensational. The universe, old and vast as it is, could contain unimaginably advanced civilisations capable of such feats.

            Now, while I have admitted that the discovery of advanced alien worlds would be a challenge for the Church, what is also true is that it will be a major challenge for the sceptics.

            The resurrection and ascension of Jesus would have a potentially natural explanation. The evidence hitherto inadmissible for something supernatural would suddenly become admissible for something natural.

            This would be incredibly embarrassing for sceptics who devoted endless time and effort in dismissing the resurrection and ascension as impossible supernatural myths only to find that they could have occurred after all.

          • Luke C.

            The resurrection still would not be supernatural in such a scenario, which would be an even bigger embarrassment for theists who would have been worshipping and praying to the wrong, possibly imaginary deity all along.

          • Peter

            Not so. Advanced aliens, although competing with it, would not falsify Christian belief in the Resurrection. They would, however, falsify the materialist claim that the Resurrection is impossible.

          • Luke C.

            If you say so.

          • Spot on, Luke, at least insofar as the evidence doesn't compel assent, in which case it would be knowledge rather than faith, coerced rather than free.

            https://www.scribd.com/doc/261566045/Knowledge-vs-Faith

          • William Davis

            Here's a weird question for you. I've been surrounded by Christians most of my life that think the resurrection is proven, and claim they are Christians because of their knowledge. These often turn out to be very poorly behaving Christians, at least in my personal experience. Would it be reasonable to say that these Christians do not have faith since they look at their belief as knowledge? Would that be a problem for God if he actually is concerned about a persons faith or lack thereof? Obviously no one knows the mind of God, but I've never seen anyone tackle this specific question.

          • I suspect God's concerned with performative matters, i.e. how we treat one another, our planet, even ourselves, and not informative undecidables, i.e. propositions that cannot compel assent. Not even the most fundamentalistic catholics could hold that unbelievers cannot be saved without going heterodox. As for myself, I'm a practical universalist, so don't suspect that God has quite as many such problems as many others seem to imagine.

            Now, regarding how one looks at one's belief would no more make it knowledge rather than faith than looking at an apple and calling it a banana would make it a banana. The fast and frugal heuristics gifted us per evolutionary epistemology account for common sense, intuition and such and they work quite well, a great deal of the time, even for those who misunderstand how it is they work. I suppose this is to say that many beliefs can be correct even if we wrongfully imagine how they're justified.

          • William Davis

            Now, regarding how one looks at one's belief would no more make it knowledge rather than faith than looking at an apple and calling it a banana would make it a banana.

            Personally, faith feels very different than knowledge, though there isn't a sharp line between the two, but more of a continuum. I'll be honest that I have faith in God at this point, but that faith is incredibly vague. That's ok, though because it is more like trust than belief. Whatever is the truth, I simply trust it, and work to understand it the best I can. This seems better than having faith in specific ideas that can be pulled out from under you. I have trouble with faith in things that stray too far from knowledge, but I suppose this at the core of being a skeptic. I make it a point to be skeptic, not a cynic. I spent a few years as a cynic, that didn't work out very well. I think a lot (obviously not all) do struggle with cynicism, of course living in the Bible belt where Christian often is exactly equal to Republican political views doesn't help much. Someone who is the opposite of me (completely non-skeptical) often allows their faith to be exploited for nefarious purposes. Finding the right balance is the problem, isn't it?

          • Hans Kung speaks of faith as a justified fundamental trust in uncertain reality. That maps to your approach it seems, both regarding trust & vagueness.

          • Finding the right balance is the problem, isn't it?

            Much to the chagrin of fundamentalists, historically, jurisprudence tends toward getting this right. Courts seem to have most often drawn, at least implicitly, a distinction between matters of conscience regarding faith-based vs moral realities. In the latter, we have a justifiable bias against allowing folks to coerce others or to limit their prerogatives based on extraordinary faith rather than ordinary reason. The greater the degree of coercion, the higher the burden of proof, even as the rules of evidence remain the same.

          • Luke C.

            I really can't fault people for wanting to believe that the gist of the NT is historically true (e.g., Jesus as God making a sacrifice for the forgiveness of our faults and conquering death so that we have the opportunity to live forever in a blissful afterlife). When I was a Christian, believing that there was a loving God that cared for me and would never leave me was very comforting (see, e.g., God as the ultimate attachment figure); add in that I thought I could communicate with God through prayers that I believed could result in real-world changes if granting them were God's will, and it was a very difficult belief system to lose. So I realize why Christians almost psychologically need the resurrection story to be true.

            Where I do feel comfortable pushing back on people's beliefs is when their beliefs move from personal beliefs that are meaningful and/or beneficial to them without affecting others (which I'm totally fine with), to personal beliefs influencing public policies that affect others who do not share the same personal beliefs or cause harm. In this case, I also feel comfortable pushing back when people expect me to agree with them that the reasons / evidence they use to support their personal beliefs should be good enough for everyone else to believe, too.

            All that to say: Thank you for reinforcing that I should not feel compelled to assent to such sensational assertions made with such little evidence. I don't necessarily want to convince Peter, for example, that his beliefs are wrong; it's more so to convince him that I'm not being irrational for not believing what he believes about the historicity of the resurrection. (I know that you already understood this--I'm just fleshing it out for myself, haha).

            Edit: A few minor changes.

          • That was very well put, Luke. And wholly consistent with the tone, tenor, style and substance of your engagements here. Beyond the distinctions that William and I discussed, such as between faith-based and moral realities, and how jurisprudence has, for the most part and eventually, ordinarily, constrained undue religious-based coercive influences vis a vis public (moral) policy, there can even be an offensive type of coercion (harassment) associated with proselytizing (no less offensive when well-intended).

          • The philosopher Bertrand Russell put it best. The whole problem with the world, he wrote, is that “the stupid are cocksure while the intelligent are full of doubt.”

            from:
            http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/09/26/opinion/julia-baird-doubt-as-a-sign-of-faith.html

            Even then, to an extent, I wouldn't necessarily receive Russell's remarks as a critique of faith, in and of itself, only of the rationalistic way so many seem to conceive worldviews, in general. I am not afflicted with doubt, performatively, but have a confident assurance and conviction that practicing my faith suitably advances what I most value, properly orients me to whom I must and most love.

          • Luke C.

            Ah, yes. More modernly known as the Dunning-Kruger effect :)

            I'm completely fine with such a faith as yours! I wish that more believed the same. One of my more controversial beliefs is that irrational beliefs are not necessarily harmful (though, like many of my beliefs, it's open to revision, haha). While some would call your faith irrational, I think that all would admit that we have beliefs that are probably irrational, but nonetheless beneficial to our day-to-day functioning (e.g., belief in a just world).

          • Yes, a lot of folks misinterpret William James' will to believe in irrational terms but it doesn't really map well to irrationalist approaches when dutifully parsed. Even less so would Pierce's pragMATICism (vs James' pragMATism) with which I most resonate. It's not easy to categorize these epistemologies as purely foundational or nonfoundational but they are definitely fallibilist. There's a neoclassical pragmatism called foundherentism, which, oversimplifying, basically means we hold to a correspondence theory of truth and a coherentist theory of knowledge. More particularly, I hold to a semiotic theory of truth. It does, however, not give undue emphasis to irrational, nonrational and prerational furnishings in our epistemic suite, as they spiral hermeneutically and integrally with our rational faculties (inferential reasoning, participatory imaginations, etc). This isn't a religious epistemology, just an epistemology. :)

          • Luke C.

            I have heard about foundherentism. That's the crossword-puzzle one, right? Haha. From what I know, it seems pretty consistent with how I view my epistemology.

          • That's it. Susan Haack.

          • Doug Shaver

            Huh? A belief compelled by evidence is a coerced belief?

          • as in logically coerced

          • Doug Shaver

            It could possibly work as a metaphor, but I'd never use it. The connotations are inappropriate. The word's literal meaning involves physical force or the threat thereof.

          • While I certainly have my own personal inventory of neologisms and idiosyncratic usages, this isn't one of them. I understand your confusion, but reckon most properly gathered my meaning from the context, as we were discussing evidence and assent. In addition to the physical type, of course, there's also the psycho-logical. It has a widespread employment, too, in computational and lexical semantics, in statistics, and in both mathematical and philosophical logic.

            For those interested, one of the most interesting references of logical coercion was made by one of Tarski's collaborators, Jan Łukasiewicz, who developed a fuzzy logic, somewhat protesting an overuse or misuse of Aristotelian logic, which, in combination with Euclidean geometry, he believed misled many into deterministic interpretations of reality. Aristotle had already acknowledged that his laws didn't all apply to future events, although he didn't work out a many valued logic of his own.

            Of course, what's at stake in all of this is the law of excluded middle, which "forces" (not literally) an either-or choice, a disjunction. James' point was that, whatever else was going on logically and evidentially, that faith included a practical or existential disjunction. That's consonant with the Thomistic account, where intellect and will thus interact.

          • Doug Shaver

            I understand your confusion, but reckon most properly gathered my meaning from the context, as we were discussing evidence and assent.

            We were discussing evidence and assent in the context of Christian apologetics. In the years I've been doing that, coerced belief is not nearly the strangest idea I've heard put forth.

          • For those interested in how the notion of logical, as well as physical and psychological, coercion has figured in the context of Christian apologetics, in addition to the secular realms I mentioned, just Google the following syntax:

            1) william james faith coerced
            2) aquinas faith coerced

            Now, I haven't fully gathered whether you're saying 1) you're unfamiliar with the terminology, in general, or it's use in the apologetics context, in particular, suggesting my historical descriptive proposition is inapt, which I'd find strange ... or whether 2) you're offering a generally applicable normative proposition, suggesting that --not only you, but -- no one else should use it, which, by virtue of the fact that it's use is long-established and widespread, also in Christian apologetics, few would find compelling ... or 3) you just mean to suggest that you don't like it and find it strange, which, as an evaluative disposition, I'd duly note but without push-back.

          • Doug Shaver

            I haven't fully gathered whether you're saying 1) you're unfamiliar with the terminology, in general, or it's use in the apologetics context, in particular, or are suggesting my historical descriptive proposition (that it's long established) is inapt, which I'd find strange …

            I have not previously seen the word "coerced" used as you have used it. If you say others have used it the same way, I'm not disputing that, but just saying I was unaware of it.

            That noted, it strongly reminds me of a claim that I have seen made by a few apologists, to the effect that God would have violated our free will if he had provided incontrovertible evidence of Christianity's core teachings such as his existence and the divinity of Jesus. If that claim were true, then the provision of such evidence would indeed be, at least metaphorically, a kind of coercion.

            or whether 2) you're offering a generally applicable normative proposition, suggesting that --not only you, but -- no one else should use it, which, by virtue of the fact that it's use is long-established and widespread, also in Christian apologetics, few would find compelling …

            Few people find anything I say compelling, regardless of the subject, unless they already agree with me. I've gotten used to that.

            or 3) you just mean to suggest that you don't like it and find it strange, which, as an evaluative disposition, I'd duly note but without push-back.

            It's true that I don't like it, and I've tried to explain why. And it does seem strange to me, insofar as it tracks the aforementioned apologetic claim that our free will is violated whenever we're confronted with evidence sufficient to change our minds about something.

          • Gotcha. Yes, I've come across that apologetic claim but haven't given it much thought. I do recall thinking about it years ago, but can't recall the context. But, no, my account amounts to nothing more than a descriptive exercise about HOW an axiological epistemology works --- not just vis a vis ultimate or primal realities, but ---for our encounters of proximate realities, whenever probabilistic methods yield merely plausibilistic interpretations. I don't presume to suggest WHY it must work this way from a theologic perspective, for that too closely tracks that form of apologetics known as a theodicy, to which I don't much cotton.

            As always, thanks for your thoughtful input and patient clarification.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you Johnboy. I note the category Creative Wiring in the link below. I am aware that it is possible to put oneself in a 'creative state' through the intentional juxtaposition of 'incompatible concepts' within the mind. I have called this state 'a chaos of ideas'. From this 'state of mind' however, I find it is possible to generate many ideas, some fantastic and some potentially fruitful within a 'material context'. This I associate with the concept of judgment, which may or may not possibly be put within the context of the universal. This has been a relevant exploration for me within the context of the Resurrection debate as a possible explanation for many of the perceptions imagined or real, occurring at the time or during later regurgitation of the events. More relevant for me is the attempt to understand the 'subjective state of mind. Such thought can be controlled and more directly channeled of course through rules of logic, (and language) But such control can, I agree, also be thought of a form of coercion, for rules of logic can limit the scope of possibilities considered. I believe I will be considering this distinction for some time. With respect to identifying any category of freedom within the area of such explorative judgments, I fully understand that such 'fantastic ideas' certainly contrast with the evidence and assent that are demanded within the contexts of language and logic.
            I am writing this to convey or support for this distinction, as I have made several attempts to understand or at least be aware of the mental activity within my mind within the assessment of such areas of choice. Is judgment however, directly identifiable as 'will'. I have explored ways to attempt to identify what Christians associate with 'the Holy Ghost' within this context. Crazy pursuits, I grant you, leading to long wandering considerations which unfortunately have oppressed some.readers. Yes indeed -can such 'incoherence of thought' be related in any way to the concepts of freedom and will? In any case, I believe this is an element within thought, perhaps unconscious, perhaps a quantum like modal like activity of neurons not yet 'identified'. Perhaps even with a more abstract context - the Holy Ghost. The latter idea certainly, for me, has efficacy in that these 'ideas' seem to introduce possibility that comes from beyond the range of 'normal' consideration. Like all those bible stories we are reading about in this post!!! But I go on again. Hope I have at least obtained some degree of 'coherence' here!!!

          • My epistemology is axiological, addressing human value-realizations from a pragmatic perspective that's consistent with evolutionary epistemology. Although
            the furnishings of our human epistemic suite get variously defined, such as via memory, understanding and will, or as empirical, evidential, aesthetical, logical, moral, practical, existential, volitional, etc, I employ 5 categories. Integrally related, each aspect necessary, none, alone, sufficient, in order to be, as you say: potentially fruitful within a material context, I suggest a hermeneutical spiral whereby we 1) describe 2) evaluate 3) norm 4) interpret and 5) transcend reality. While each of these modes are methodologically autonomous, probing reality and asking distinctly different questions, they are axiologically integral, which is to say, they must be taken together to yield practical fruit or pragmatic cash value.

            Meta-methodological considerations present, n'est pas? You, yourself, hereinabove, refer to scopes, boundaries, judgments, incompatibilities, normalcy, coherence, demands, rules, context, oppression, choice, control and such. All such references might cohere in a web of meaning along with notions of freedom and coercion, both broadly not narrowly conceived, both realizable/avoidable in terms of degrees. Further, these meta-methodological considerations apply to each piece of furniture in our epistemic suite?

            Note: I am still composing but need to post and edit to avoid losing my work.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you for the presentation of alternative paradigms. I benefit considerably from the abstractions you present, and believe I do attempt to confirm/or disconfirm possible references within my 'explorative creativity'. So as you can see, I am attempting to 'connect' the concept with an 'experience' of mind. I suppose then that this pursuit could also be described as an attempt to place the 'epistemic' within an 'ontological' context.

            The terms 'story' or 'narrative' are thus useful to this study, as a means of providing a central focus, in that I am making the assumption that this 'way of looking at 'things'' can contain such diversity as to include both religion and science.

            With respect to the word 'things', these considerations have come from what I have been able to understand of Heidegger. I have, I must advise, rejected much of his philosophy, particularly the schemata or organizing principle of the 'Fourfold', as I consider it primarily dualistic, and therefore potentially 'static'. The important 'thing' for me is to test these concepts within my experience, with the possibility that understanding the processes within my own subjectivity are the means to understand others. This statement however may conflict with the concept of 'objectivity'. I'm not there yet. Thanks for the reply. Hopefully, we can stay in touch for I appreciate your conceptual acumen.

          • The terms 'story' or 'narrative' are thus useful to this study, as a means of providing a central focus, in that I am making the assumption that this 'way of looking at 'things'' can contain such diversity as to include both religion and science.

            I cannot begin to say how much I resonate with this, on many levels, in many ways. Humans are storytellers. Our everyday common sense and common sensibilities rely far more on what's called our </participatory imagination</i< than on our cognitive map-making. Informal approaches and formal approaches work together, each with strengths and weaknesses, neither of which should be unduly over- or under-emphasized.

            The way of looking at things, as you say, enjoys diversity, which, in my view, means that epistemology is epistemology is epistemology. There's no religious epistemology
            or scientific epistemology.

            I precisely endorse and meant to mention previously, that, as you suggested, test these notions in your experience. One needn't try to grapple with these notions in a wholly abstract way regarding primal and ultimate realities, but can concretely experience them in proximate realities. Ask yourself what you have done, in the past, when you had to act on what you felt was inadequate information or insufficient evidence and your action or inaction was unavoidably consequential, of significant existential import.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you JohnBoy. You alone have provided a supportive understanding of what is behind those ongoing comments that many have regarded as incoherent, gibberish, and an inappropriate use of their time.

            In balancing many competing theories and ideas, in an attempt to find relations between them, I have indeed given justifiable cause for such remarks.

            Initially the juxtaposition of concepts produced what I expected a chaotic kind of process of comparison, which however I had confidence would settle down as the connections became more explicit. I have been looking back at this process attempting to identify concepts I have learned from you with this process.

            Quote: 1) describe 2) evaluate 3) norm 4) interpret and 5) transcend reality. While each of these modes are methodologically autonomous, probing reality and asking distinctly different questions, they are axiologically integral, which is to say, they must be taken together to yield practical fruit or pragmatic cash value.

            Could the 'taking them together' explain my consciousness of the 'vagueness', etc. that I previously mentioned. If, so it explains for me much that I have learned from study of psychological disturbances, etc. In any case, the relation between the aesthetic, (poetic thought, judgment rather than universalized logic) is related to ethos as you suggested. I thus am aware that this describes what Heidegger means as a creative approach to discovery, learning, which if it is true that this inhibits the 'rational' processes of logic, would explain some of the reactions from readers. Thanks.

          • Could the 'taking them together' explain my consciousness of the 'vagueness', etc.

            In the modal ontology of probabilities, where we have prescinded from the invocation of metaphysical necessities, ontological vagueness requires a semantic logic where noncontradiction holds but excluded middle folds, which means we are experiencing a reality that lends itself to a limited range of competing interpretations but have no present warrant to choose either this one or that one. For example, is this experience of uniformity best accounted for as a mere regularity or a clear nomicity (law-likeness)?
            If a nomicity, is the law-like nature emergent and contingent or eternal and necessary?

            An interpretation includes informative and performative dynamics, evidential and existential. What does one do, performatively and existentially, when ontological undecidability confronts one, informatively and evidentially. Well, the answer must be guided, normatively, which is to say, based on moral and practical considerations. If what one chooses to do will affect others' rights, privileges and prerogatives, their burden of proof ramps WAY up!

          • Loreen Lee

            Dear Johnboy: It will take awhile to absorb this response. However: quote: If what one chooses to do will affect others' rights, privileges and prerogatives, their burden of proof ramps WAY up! This suggests there is a possibility that it would be prudent to cease posting my 'experiments'. There is the acceptance however, that no one is obligated to read my musings. I am still considering the possibility that this has involved using people as means rather than ends, as suggested, although this was not a conscious motivation on my part. I could be thought to be using you as a means to and end for instance in my request for your feedback.

            Your analysis I feel, however er, does not describe sufficiently the process of attempted development of awareness.It essentially began with wondering what Heidegger meant when he said we had to develop a poetic awareness, the ability to question, and as a summary of these two concepts 'learn 'how' to think'.
            I have thus succeeded in interpretating the poetic to an internal examination, which seeks order, (beauty) rather than law, (reason and logic). I have also concluded that 'understanding' is a personal thing, and therefore I would not categorize it within the demarcation in which logic is the only criteria. These thoughts have also prompted me to wonder whether I have perhaps understood the consistent purpose of post modern thought to eliminate in some way the logos, (as possibly representative of universalization as the primary controlling element, perhaps). In its stead the emphasis is on nous, (understanding) which might require acknowledgment of the internal processes of many alternatives, which I was exploring. (However, in this case, the external, evidential was the conceptual analysis within these series of possible alternatives falsely offered to counter belief in resurrection, - a concept that for me at this point remains undefined.). I never have met before with what I understand to be the scope of the term 'existential'. Interesting. That should give me about as much work as the term 'resurrection' within the context of testing alternative possibilities of interpretation and possible consequences.
            That is all I continue to do. Attempt to make 'connections'. To make the 'abstract' more 'concrete' as they say. And I would describe it at this point as more of a personal than a philosophical pursuit. Again, I certainly appreciate the concept you offer for my consideration. It will take me awhile however to absorb the meaning of your e-mail. The my purpose in these is to develop awareness of integration, a process which I have adopted in my exploration of what could be meant, referred to as 'consciousness'. Thank you.

          • Your analysis I feel, however, does not describe sufficiently the process of attempted development of awareness.

            You see, Loreen, your intuitions are clearly coherent. If one takes Lonergan's imperatives: be attentive, be intelligent, be reasonable, be responsible, be in love, my hereinabove synopsis of my axiological epistemology (and recent discussions on other threads, regarding authenticity and sustained authenticity) addresses all of Lonergan's imperatives but, insufficiently, describes be attentive vis a vis cultivating awareness.

            Awareness is integral to axiological epistemology, especially insofar it is so very intertwined with our experience of inner freedom, which is what I refer to in our hermeneutical spiral as to transcend. This awareness can be cultivated, I propose, especially by our nondual, contemplative approaches (ubiquitous in our religious and secular traditions, both East & West) but also by many other asceticisms, practices and disciplines (e.g. Zen koans).

            I develop that contemplative stance here:
            http://www.academia.edu/7739396/With_John_Sobert_Sylvest_Reasons_and_Values_of_the_Heart_in_a_Pluralistic_World_Toward_a_Contemplative_Phenomenology_for_Interreligious_Dialogue_Studies_in_Interreligious_Dialogue_20_2_2010_170-93

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you Johnboy. I found your paper a most enjoyable read. I also found my experience, or as I described it on line, another little experiment, were supported theoretically by what I read. The difficulty then, is that I have tended to write on different subjects concurrent with an internal exploration of how they relate to my attempts to make connections within my inner awareness. This 'methodology' if I may call it that, is not always made explicit. It is one of the means that attempts to resolve the tensions that have been 'even purposely' set up.
            I cannot articulate these areas of interest, particularly philosophically, as well as they were within the essay. But please know I found it of great value. It confirmed many decisions I have come to, within the reservation of having a concern with respect to what I now understand to be the results of hesitancy of 'going against' the Catholic instruction of my youth. I am becoming more open with respect stating some of questions of doubt this involves. So it is most helpful to find more evidence of the diversity within Catholicism at the moment, which also answers my question as to whether Scholasticism has indeed rejected or in its entirety developments in philosophy since Aquinas.
            Just one little thing, I found Longernan a most difficult read. He frustrate me. What you said about some four-fold relationship reminded me of Heidegger, except I 'really' don't like the concepts he chose. And I don't understand, or know, what put me off about Rorty. I also never expected to hear that Postmoderns would ever be described as humble. But I did by Derrida's Acts of Religion, and recently became aware that there is indeed quite a 'religious' movement going on within that community. Otherwise I think I agree with and understand most of what you said. Please know that criticism on my long 'rants' has come once again from the EN site. They have me on hold. I find the relationship difficult, as I informed you in the case of another dilemna. I don't know whether I should best describe the relationship as me not understanding them or them not understand me, to make personal but as yet they have not banned me and I have not, nor do I intend to ban them. !! Thanks again, Johnboy.

          • Thanks for the kind review. I am especially gratified if it was of value to you on your personal journey. To some extent, Loreen, I sense a certain commitment on your part to avoid living the unexamined life, not just regarding an inner journey of discovery but also a cosmic sojourn. I overcame a certain restlessness, after earnestly sojourning in a similar way, when it occurred to me that, to some extent, the journey IS our destination and the quest IS our grail. That's partly what we mean by saying, if you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him.

            Relax and enjoy the scenery, for we seek enlightenment --- not for our own sake, but --- out of compassion for those who must otherwise suffer our unenlightened selves.

            The saddest sojourn of all comes when travelers unpack their bags and set up camp, imagining they've already arrived.

            My favorite Peanuts comic strip of all times has Snoopy sitting atop his doghouse with his typewriter. Charlie Brown approaches and asks Snoopy what he's up to. Snoopy allows that he's writing a theology book. Charlie Brown says:"Interesting. What's the tilte?" and Snoopy responds that it's called __Has It Ever Occurred to You That You Might Be Wrong?__.

            Paul Tillich was frustrated with all the freight that the word faith had come to be associated with because people seemed to misunderstand that faith and doubt exist on the continuum of a single polar reality. He thus proposed that faith be reinterpreted as the state of being ultimately concerned, as in concerned with reality's ultimates, like cosmic and human origins and destinies, meanings and values, the human condition, love and relationships, and so on. By that definition, I'm not sure I've ever encountered a person without faith. I've encountered very many people, such as a great many at EN, who don't believe in the same gods that I don't believe in.

          • Loreen Lee

            Thank you Johnboy. This is of course, the first communication from you I have received that is not purely within the framework of what I may cal 'conceptual abstraction. Now that it's morning, please understand my crique of philosophers was not 'exact' - indeed it is difficult!!! to express thought fully I find within the limitations of language, a comment which itself I feel is full of implications which I shall never be able to commit to explicit enunciation. But I look for 'hints'. And indeed I consider everything a 'work in progress' - a phrase I first used with respect to the 'creative fiction' I wrote. A book is never finished - it is abandoned.

            So there are specific instances that direct my live, not generalities. The experience I had with Rorty was the dilemna I found myself in, for instance, when he suggested that cruelty had to be overcome, and the priority of achieving this within the social framework of human reference, had to be a priority, with the resultant elimination of the need for God. As usual hold open on all such statements, because there is really possibly an 'infinite number of interpretations' possible.

            Even with the concept 'gift'!!! as in gifts of the Holy Spirit, for instance. I appreciate you reminding me of the associating of this concept with what is 'hidden'. But for me such searches are more related to 'essence' than it is made with respect to definition. I also continually am amazed by the ever changing association within the context of word 'evaluation', as your previous examination suggested to me was a priority within your vocabulary.
            Within the context of living it is certainly justified that even EN acknowledges the 'confession' that I am indeed an 'eccentric' at least. Indeed I associate 'madness' as within the philosophies of old, with the divine madness, as well as it's more practical associations. I have rejected non of the philosophers I have spoken about in entirety, but as I learned in Buddhism, we only 'learn' what we are ready to learn - whatever this means - grin grin.
            I do not 'want' to be a 'mystic' as placed within the context of the former paragraph. Locke was 'right' I believe in noting that we do not understand the language we speak. Derrida has I believe made incredible discoveries within his examination of language....etc. etc. Perhaps this explains why I can get the idea in my head to follow up on particular details I found within the philosophy of Heidegger for instance, and test it out, for possible coherence within the ongoing project of consolidation and development of my understanding of philosophical concepts.

            In this respect, although Kant remains my primary paradigm, I only 'wish' I could read up on Heidegger's critique, plus that of a scientist Boltzmann, I think his name was, for instance. But as it is no longer possible to be 'Renaissance Man' I have taken the alternative of concentrating on my own limitations.. So this may explain my attempt to place 'madness' within the context of the 'particular'.

            I do not always interpret philosophers according to the academic or even political code. I believe, for instance, that there is a great deal of irony in he writings of Nietzsche. I continually ask - what are they 'getting at'..

            So I warned people last of my intent to go into the 'madness' mode, and to discontinue if they would reading my posts. But even in the writing of my 'novel' I considered the importance to check out what I was writing within the communal context of speaking about same within my cafe friends with whom associated at the time. And so I do appreciate 'the conflict' if I may describe it as that, between EN and SN, and 'in many respects' I am more on estranged possibly than they are.

            Well perhaps that's all the 'hints' I can give you at this time. I am most appreciate may I say again in receiving a 'personal' communication from you, written in 'simple' language.. Good morning.

          • More than a way of thinking about reality, academically or abstractly, philosophy is a way of living in relationship to reality. Some may explicitly articulate a philosophy, but if you want to get at what anyone means, observe how they concretely respond to reality and interact with persons, both their self and others. If that way of living doesn't reveal love, their hidden philosophy is rubbish.

            http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/love/

            Good day, Loreen!

          • Loreen Lee

            What did I say that offended you? Am now going to reread my last comment to you.

          • Nothing! I was trying to affirm your getting after the concrete and practical, offering one criterion, love, among what are others.

          • Loreen Lee

            I thought it might have had something to do with my difficulty in understanding interpretations of secondary causation. I do believe there 'can be' an element of 'The Will to Power', in its 'application'. Thanks Johnboy. I'll give you some rest now.

          • Loreen Lee

            It's OK. I believe. I have faith. Keep giving me those concepts. Thanks.

          • Seems to me, that on sites like SN and EN, where most of the threads, while otherwise diverse in subject matters, boil down to epistemological matters, critiquing rules of evidence, rules of logic, burdens of proof, ontological presuppositions. There's a natural tendency, therefore, for the original narrowly presented focus to boil off in an initial head of steam. Then, all of us ideological kettles start giving off our characteristic whistles as the threads naturally morph into discussions of the same old philosophical disputes. The moderators seem tolerant of this, probably expect it to a degree. At the same time, I get concerned that I may risk being uncharitable by pressing such prerogatives too far, going off topic in varying degrees, so decide to cease and desist on this thread or the next, so as not to press my particular interests or concerns at the expense of others'. Maybe the moderators would wish to consider opening a thread dedicated to general musings, which could serve as a cyberparlor.

            At any rate, prudence and charity suggest I cease & desist any more off topic whistling on this thread. :)

          • Loreen Lee

            I have recently been advised of the existence of such an 'off topic' thread on the EN site. For obvious reasons. But I now have an Heideggerian question: Why do these discussions tend to be the same old same old, and why is there so much blow off steam without fruitful consequence? I'm going to attempt to discipline myself by not becoming over involved, if at all, in the discussion regarding the summary of this thesis. I certainly understand I have a lot to learn.

          • Why assume no fruitful consequences? Some of the steam may well be routed through epistemic condensation tubes, like a still, whereby impurities or lower grade condensates get poured off at different temperatures due to boiling point differentials and fine
            philosophic distillates get preserved, existentially quaffed as exquisite elixirs? Or to change metaphors, it's seldom all heat or all light. Now, of course, some, in our insecurities, seek out echo chambers or ideological bubbles, where our biases can be reinforced, our prejudices defended and sick identity structures preserved. But authentic dialogue changes us even when it doesn't change others.

          • Loreen Lee

            Well, I should remember to confine my remarks only to self observation. May I say, then,that I agree my point is lost with respect to the first metaphor as I am still hopeful to taste the elixir, but that it is possible with respect to the second, unquestionably .as I am certainly aware that it is indeed a most difficult task to make comments without being in some sense confined within the limitations of my subjective pragmatic judgment.

            I've spent the morning reading about Jainism. Like I am aware of Kant's antinomies: specifically the contrast between the basis of 'religious belief' within the west as contrasted with eastern philosophies. So in this sense I respect a non-god basis and thus a partial explanation of my middle-of-the-road position between SN and EN. But these are still 'abstractions'. The arguments in the sense of adversarial positions continue. Where is the love, the fruit???? (P.S. My little crazy period, did result in a little bit of further insight into the meaning of the gifts and fruit of the Holy Ghost, perhaps, something derived from Plato, primarily I understand.)

          • The arguments in the sense of adversarial positions continue. Where is the love, the fruit????

            1) when our posts get dignified with responses
            2) when someone says thanks
            3) upvotes

            Hey, I pratice gratitude regarding small gifts so as not to risk ingratitude, or taking for granted, regarding the big ones, should they come along.

            I like to imagine a few might happen by and find consolation in realizing, for example, that their doubts don't mean they're necessarily faith-less. Or, worse, that they're in jeopardy of eternal damnation ... because they might come to realize that a practical universalism makes more sense than any hellfire and brimstone for a God of Mercy.

          • Loreen Lee

            Johnboy. Please know I am most grateful for your friendship and advice. And this is not merely a pragmatic statement. I meant it also in the sense of a developmental change. We're similar in that both of us have been pushing philosophy. Not necessarily in complete accord with the assumed agenda, so yes an occasional upvote is certainly encouraging. Did you notice on today's post that someone has actually thanked Brandon, and then continued at the end, ...something like, and now we must continue in our criticism of Kreeft's argument. As if to reinstate an initial premise that indeed the 'arguments' must continue. ....But you will note the humor in both cases.?Now that has to be a sign of 'bearing fruit'.

            What is the saying of Jesus, something like the plant has to die before bearing fruit or something? Whether you prefer to take this literally, first, then either allegorically, analogically, and/or morally, I certainly 'know' that I have indeed learned much, much, much from the posts on SN, and I even believe those on EN will recover completely from the 'ban', and indeed their website can be understood to be bearing more fruit than they could otherwise have expected.. Soon indeed, I expect, by-gones will be by gones. On practical universalism: yesterday was the celebration of the God of Mercy - developed from a vision I understand. What is it: by their fruit they shall be known????Reap what you sow???? The image of fruit is indeed a powerful one.

          • Luke C.

            I have conceded. Now, are you willing to concede that the alien scenario is also not impossible?

          • Peter

            The point I am trying to make is that before the discovery of exoplanets and organic compounds in space, the notion of aliens causing the Resurrection was pure fantasy. The Resurrection as an historical event was considered to be naturalistically impossible which justified attempts by atheists to demonstrate it as such.

            Now, however, thanks to recent discoveries, the Resurrection as an historical event is no longer impossible but naturalistically quite plausible. This means that atheists can no longer claim unequivocally that the Resurrection did not take place, but are driven by their own reasoning to concede that it is possible.

            As for me, while I do concede that the alien scenario is possible given the mounting evidence from terrestrial and orbital telescopes, I believe that a direct intervention from God is more likely. The age-old teachings of the Church have been scientifically vindicated on too many occasions for me to doubt the Church's teachings in general, including those on the Resurrection.

          • Luke C.

            This means that atheists can no longer claim unequivocally that the Resurrection did not take place

            I don't deny that a person we refer to as Jesus existed and could have been crucified, but the lack of extra-Biblical contemporary documentation is quite strong evidence against the resurrection for me. I don't believe the resurrection happened, but I can't prove that it didn't. Simple as that.

          • Peter

            You are entitled to your opinion that Jesus did not rise from the dead, but without any hard facts to back up your opinion, no-one is going to take you seriously. Such hard facts would include eliminating without question any means other than supernatural means by which Jesus could be restored to life.

          • Luke C.

            How do you propose that I falsify your nearly 2000 year old resurrection event claim without any known contemporary extra-Biblical accounts? A time machine? Haven't you heard of the concept of burden of proof? My default is to not believe a claim until I see compelling evidence. Your default must be to believe in pretty much everything if your threshold for accepting truth is so low.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            Now, however, thanks to recent discoveries, the Resurrection as an historical event is no longer impossible but naturalistically quite plausible

            What recent discoveries are you talking about?

          • Peter
          • Ignatius Reilly

            Which is not evidence for super advanced aliens able to resurrect corpses. According to our current knowledge, it seems unlikely it is possible to resurrect a person three days after he died. I have no reason to believe such a feat is plausible. I do have a reason to think that super advanced aliens can do it. I do not have reason to believe that super advanced aliens care very much about what happens on earth.

          • Doug Shaver

            [Posted by mistake, so deleted.]

          • Doug Shaver

            No one is asking you to believe that the Resurrection is true,

            If you say you're not, I'll take your word for it. But if you think no one is, you are mistaken.

          • Peter

            Of course I'd like you to believe it - I wouldn't be a Catholic otherwise - but I respect your right to disbelieve once all the arguments have been presented. What I do not respect, however, are claims that the raising of Jesus from the dead is not true. There is no evidence to justify the claim that Jesus being raised from the dead is false.

          • Doug Shaver

            There is no evidence to justify the claim that Jesus being raised from the dead is false.

            I believe that people who die stay dead. Will you say that I have no evidence for that belief?

          • Peter

            Not where Jesus is concerned.

          • Doug Shaver

            Not what I asked.

        • George

          You are running ahead so fast you've forgotten that a natural/material-resurrection is not The Resurrection. The Alien Resurrection (not the Joss Whedon one) in this context means Christianity still isn't true. So no sin, no salvation, not something you'd prefer.

          Or would you actually say that Yahweh still created the universe, still hates sin, still wants to save his favorite apes from it, but he needed the help of some aliens to pull off his plan?

          • Peter

            What we are talking about here is the raising of Jesus from the dead. Is it an historical fact or not regardless of how it occurred? If not, prove it.

      • William Davis

        Wow, he's taking this aliens thing seriously...

        • Peter

          So are the ESA. They're spending well over a billion euros on the E-ELT to look for them.

          • William Davis

            I don't doubt there is life on other planets, but I do doubt that we have been visited by extraterrestrial life. War of the Worlds made a serious point, extraterrestrial life would likely be slaughtered by the microbes in our atmosphere. They would send robots if anything.

    • George

      "Ironically, its taking place is even more plausible from a materialist standpoint. The possible existence of super-advanced aliens capable of restoring the dead make that prospect very likely."

      You just jumped from possible to very likely. Slow down and read over what you say.

      "If advanced technology can do an extraordinary thing like restore life and memory to a corpse, it can also provide that body with other extraordinary powers. These powers are well documented in the narratives."

      You are completely backwards. The critics have not granted that it happened. It goes like this: IF something like a resurrection happened, technology is more likely. We don't KNOW yet if technology actually can do those things. We are doing the HONEST thing and saying "we don't have evidence that something like a resurrection occurred".

      • Peter

        "We don't KNOW yet if technology actually can do those things."

        Nor do we know that it could not have done those things 2000 years ago. Therefore we cannot rule it out and claim the raising of Jesus from the dead to be impossible.

        If you are not satisfied with the evidence presented by Christians, that's your prerogative, but you can no longer claim that it was an impossible event.

    • Doug Shaver

      It looks like atheists not only have no excuse to disbelieve the Resurrection but actually have reason to believe it more than most.

      Lack of good evidence is all the excuse I need. The existence of some ancient books saying it happened is not good enough evidence.

      From their own purely materialist standpoint, the plausibility of the Resurrection becomes unavoidable.

      The distinction between plausibility and probability is kind of important.

      And besides, the plausibility of "Jesus was resurrected by aliens" doesn't do a thing for the plausibility of anything else Christianity has to say about him.

      • Peter

        The issue here is whether Jesus being raised from the dead is a historical fact. What you believe is your business but don't go around saying it's impossible.

        • Doug Shaver

          don't go around saying it's impossible.

          Do you tell everyone who disagrees with you about anything "Don't go around saying that"? Or do you say it only when they disagree with your religious beliefs?

          Besides, I have never said that the resurrection was impossible. I don't believe it happened, but there are countless possible events that I don't believe really happened. Just about every conspiracy theory I've ever heard is in that category.

          • Peter

            Perhaps you've never done so explicitly, but implicit in all materialist scepticism of the Resurrection is the presupposition that miracles are impossible.

          • Doug Shaver

            I am a materialist. I know what presuppositions are implicit in materialism. You may say you know better, but that's like a Protestant saying that they know better than Catholics whether Catholics worship Mary.

  • Okay, the first argument here is that the "no one would die for a lie theory". The problem with this is that there is zero evidence that anyone was ever given the option to live for confessing they were lying about the resurection.

    We do not have accounts of how all of the disciples died, in none of the accounts we do have is there any indication that they were given the option of living if they admitted they were lying about the resurection, or even killed for saying Jesus resurrected. http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2013/05/03/episode-114-the-myth-of-martyrdom-part-2-who-would-die-for-a-lie/

    Of course these accounts are in the Gospels and by relying on them, Kreeft is doing exactly what he said he wouldn't, relying on the truth of the Gospels.

  • There was nothing especially creative in the stories of Jesus resurrecting. Such stories existed in Norse, Egyptian, and Persian traditions. The Jesus story is tame and unimaginative compared to the mythology of Greece, Rome, well just about anywhere.

  • Kreeft's third point is that it was out of character for the disciples to lie. And how do we know what their character was? The Gospels. Again he is relying iron what he said he would not. And of course, if the Gospels are lies, we would expect them to portray themselves as honest.

    There is no need for a conspiracy here, by the way. The historical understanding of the Gospels is that they were not written by disciples, but were written by other people at least 40 years after the events they describe, for various theological purposes. Someone may have lied in the days after the crucifixion that they met Jesus. This could easily have led to rumours and dreams that he was alive. It is not implausible to think that within days or weeks we have a these stories arise. Years later, people write down "accounts" anonymously, some of which are accepted by the emerging church as cannon.

  • 4) what motive? There could be all kinds of motives. The movement started by Jesus would need a way to deal with the fact that this leader, or divine person, or god himself was easily tortured and killed. Lying that he actually was re-born and so on allows the movement to continue.

  • 5) that the Jews or others could have just produced the body to disprove the lie. This presumes a number of things that require Gospel accounts to be true. That there was a tomb, that the Jews cared about these stories of resurection, that even if they did, they would have any interest in exhuming the body to disprove it,(we don't dig up Elvis' corpse to simply disprove ridiculous stories that he is still alive) that these stories arose at the time of the crucifixion and not years later.

  • 6) again this depends on the Gospels being true, and written around the time of the crucifixion. This is in dispute.

  • 7) again this assumes Christianity or the stories of Jesus' resurection were of concern. In the Roman Empire there were all kinds of fantastic beliefs and cults. this is an empire that contained the Egyptians, Jews and the Celts. generally it was accepted that people could believe what they wanted to. the Christians became of concern, only significantly later, when they had grown in numbers and refused to sacrifice to the Imperial cult which was felt to be dangerous.

    Where is the evidence that shows at that anyone other than some Jewish clergy cared at all about what early Christians were saying?

  • Doug Shaver

    Well, I'm a day late and don't have a lot to say that others haven't already said, but here it is.

    The hypothesis that the Apostles were knaves is quite absurd. Follow it out to the end, and imagine these twelve men meeting after Jesus' death and conspiring to say that he has risen from the dead.

    I don't accept the theory, but not because it is absurd. I reject it because there is no good evidence for it. The hypothesis that all of the disciples who said that Jesus had risen from the dead were lying requires a fact-based demonstration that (1) they knew it was untrue and (2) they intended to deceive those to whom they said it was true. But we have no reliable evidence for what any of the disciples actually believed. We have no documents credibly attributable to them. The only potential second-hand source is Paul, and he does not identify any of his acquaintances as a disciple of Jesus.

    Of course, on the historicist assumption, Paul did meet some disciples, and he does say that the risen Christ had appeared to them. It might be reasonable to assume that Paul said so because those disciples had told him so. However, Paul also denied that any of his own teachings was based on anything that any man had told him, and if that was so, then he did not believe in the resurrection just because he had heard about it from some of Jesus' disciples.

    The "cruncher" in this argument is the historical fact that no one, weak or strong, saint or sinner, Christian or heretic, ever confessed, freely or under pressure, bribe or even torture, that the whole story of the resurrection was a fake, a lie, a deliberate deception. Even when people broke under torture, denied Christ, and worshiped Caesar, they never let that cat out of the bag, never revealed that the resurrection was their conspiracy.

    That alleged historical fact is nothing of the sort, or at least has not been established as such. We do not have, even from Paul, any contemporary report of an interrogation of any person who was in a position to know whether Jesus had risen from the dead. We know nothing from any reliable source about how any disciple of Jesus actually died. Christians may think that their church's tradition is as reliable as any source needs to be. The rest of us beg to differ.

    If they made up the story, they were the most creative, clever, intelligent fantasists in history, far surpassing Shakespeare, or Dante, or Tolkien.

    This objection requires some odd notions about the nature of creativity, cleverness, and intelligence.

    Fisherman's "fish stories" are never that elaborate, that convincing, that life-changing, and that enduring.

    No, they aren't. But Joseph Smith spun a yarn that was much more elaborate, and it has convinced millions of Mormons and, they will tell you, has changed their lives. Whether it will prove to be as enduring, nobody will know for another 2,000 years.

    The disciples' character argues strongly against such a conspiracy on the part of all of them, with no dissenters.

    This objection presupposes the truth of the New Testament writings. Kreeft said he wasn't going to do that.

    There could be no possible motive for such a lie.

    Not even a possible motive? Nonsense.

    If you can convince people that a man you knew was God incarnate, and that he had proved it by rising from the dead, and that you remember everything he taught you, then you can convince those people that they had better do whatever you tell them to do. That is some awesome power, and there is your motive.

    They were hated, scorned, persecuted, excommunicated, imprisoned, tortured, exiled, crucified, boiled alive, roasted, beheaded, disemboweled and fed to lions—hardly a catalog of perks!

    If they were not expecting those things to happen, then this objection is irrelevant. We have no reason to think they expected any of it, and for the reason previously noted, we have no reason to believe that any of it actually did happen to any of the people who would have told the lie in the beginning. And of course, whatever might have happened to certain people who believed those lies is also irrelevant.

    If the resurrection was a lie, the Jews would have produced the corpse and nipped this feared superstition in the bud.

    This assumes two things that are both extremely unlikely. One is that when the disciples starting spreading their story, the location of the corpse was still known to the Jewish authorities. The other is that it would still have been recognizable. They didn't have DNA testing back in those days.

    The disciples could not have gotten away with proclaiming the resurrection in Jerusalem-same time, same place, full of eyewitnesses—if it had been a lie.

    We don't know that they did get away with it, unless we assume that Acts is a true narrative.

    If there had been a conspiracy, it would certainly have been unearthed by the disciples' adversaries, who had both the interest and the power to expose any fraud.

    They might have had the interest, but their power was ineffectual. Once the corpse had rotted beyond recognition, they had no way to prove that Jesus was still dead.

  • I think the Mormonism example is pretty good too. Here is a convicted fraudster, who makes up a tale that he has found golden plates that can decode buried tablets of another testament of the Bible.

    He is NOT unquestionably believed. He is tested and fails. His religion takes hold anyway. The text is lost and Smith is asked to do it again. He can't, rather he has to start over with new people.

    In a recent interview James Randi tells the story of a hoax he played on researchers. He got people to trick investigators into believing they had psychic powers. They didn't they were playing tricks. This was revealed to the researchers, some of whom refused to believe they were not psychic.

    People want to believe. They are very open to stories that God survived his death and you can too, and live forever in bliss. We're willing to believe we are celestial beings who will become Gods of our own planets after death. The new documentary "going clear" about Scientology is a great study in just how gullible we are.

  • norman ravitch

    Faith cannot be proven or disproven. If this were understood a lot of nonsense would never have been written.

    • Doug Shaver

      Faith cannot be proven or disproven.

      How about if I judge it to be more or less probable?

  • Dhaniele

    I think it is worth noting that the gospels were written at different places and different times for different readers. Their harmony itself is a witness to their faithfulness to the facts. If the gospel events weren't true, on Pentecost Sunday no one would have signed up for the new religion based on a murdered Messiah. The listeners already knew enough about Jesus of Nazareth to sign up for the new Jewish movement in spite of the opposition of those in power. To deny all this is pure fantasy born from a flight from the truth which is perceived (wrongly) as a threat rather than true liberation.

    • Doug Shaver

      Their harmony itself is a witness to their faithfulness to the facts.

      Could I trouble you to explain what you mean by their harmony?