Defending Visions: Matthew Responds to Jason: Part One

During my participation on this blog I can expect Christian apologists to reply to posts that we write on here. The Christians at the blog "Triablogue" are an example of this. After reading a response to something I wrote some time back, a fellow from Triablogue named Steve wrote a response. After I read his response to what I wrote, I responded to him and, subsequently, I decided that I wasn't going to write any responses to Triablogue's contributors because I really didn't see that much point to it. That didn't mean that I wouldn't and doesn't mean I will not make an exception from time to time. I will make exceptions when I feel they are warranted. Well, such an exception I feel is warranted right now but I hope this response to Jason will serve to illustrate why I made a personal rule after having read a post from Steve. I fear it's more of same with Jason.



To begin with- I told John Loftus that I planned on writing a post on visions. I also told John that I would write a review of his book. I submitted my post on visions. It was a fellow blogger, Daniel who believed that the folks from Triablogue were curiously silent. I didn't believe for a second that they would be and a response would be soon underway. The response came from a fellow named Jason Engwer. Jason correctly attributed the post to me but mistakenly thought that I wondered why no one answered it. I regret Daniel's optimism, but I know Christian apologists better than that. They will always have a response to something written by a Skeptic, be it me, Ed, John, or someone else. To write the perfect critique, to make the perfect argument, or to propose the perfect theory, or what-have-you, that will leave Christians speechless, that they will not even attempt to rebut is a pleasant thought to me, but it's absurd. Christians will always have a response and will always attempt one because that is a moral calling for many Christians, especially apologists.

I got the impression from reading Jason's response that he may have misread what I wrote. I wrote to Daniel (not Jason) that I wish Jason had read my post more carefully. Jason wrongly interpreted that as a suggestion by me for him. He is mistaken: I did not intend for it to be a suggestion, or else I would've made the suggestion to him, in a post addressed to him. I don't like making unsolicited suggestions. To do so, I consider to be rude, arrogant, and presumptuous. Jason, in turn, made an unsolicited suggestion to me which I found offensive. I say to Jason: I didn't intend to make a formal suggestion to you to read what I write more carefully. I was expressing a frustrated wish of mine to a fellow skeptic. That was not meant as a formal suggestion to you Jason. I don't like making unsolicited suggestions to people and I would appreciate that you not make unsolicited suggestions to me. If you or anyone else does, my response will be quite vulgar. I usually tell people making unsolicited suggestions to me to "blow it out their asses." Does that sound rude and offensive to anyone? Well, believe it or not but I feel that unsolicited advice and unsought suggestions are just as rude and offensive. Let's go on, shall we?

First of all, I am aware of the objections made by Christians regarding the hypothesis of visions. I am well aware that Dr. William Lane Craig has objected to visions. I recalled a year back or two, rereading a debate between Craig and Gerd Ludemann, in which Craig responded that a hypothesis of visions, or hallucinations, or what-have-you, do not explain the empty tomb. I have known of this objection for some time. Since my original post was not meant as a full-fledged defense of visions (because of my concern for space constraints on this blog), I declined to defend my hypothesis against objections. I have thought carefully through many of the objections and I intend to answer the objections to the best of my ability. I had planned a three-part response but I believe that more space may be needed. I can understand that Jason may have felt that my post wasn't satisfactory, but I am rather offended at what struck me as accusations that my thinking is uninformed and rather sloppy.

Believe it or not, I am well aware of objections made to the hypothesis of visions from a number of sources. Christians critique it with objections like 1.) it doesnt explain the empty tomb, 2.) it doesn't explain the diversity of appearances in the resurrection narratives and the 1st Corinthians: 15 creed, 3.) it doesn't account for a distinction between visions and appearances in the New Testament, and 4.) it doesn't explain how the disciples came to believe that Jesus rose from the dead, especially given that Jewish eschatology held that no one would rise from the dead before the general resurrection. I have known about these objections for some time, and I have been working diligently on answering them to the best of my ability. I leave will leave it to readers to judge for themselves whether I have made my case.

I used the social-science work of Bruce Maline and Richard Rohrbaugh in my post. Jason links to a guest essay hosted at Tekton Apologetics. Believe it or not, but I am aware of the essay. Does Jason know that this same Christian ministry hosts a "Scholarly Diplomacy Series" in which I am currently having discussions with Mr. Holding about Peter Kirby's work and that of Robert M Price? As such, I know of quite a number of guest essays, and of the one written by "Wildcat", I fully intend to respond to it point-by-point as best I can. I ask for patience. Jason writes as though I have never heard any of the rebuttal arguments made in that essay or elsewhere. I say to Jason: let's not jump to any false conclusions. My initial post wasn't intended to be a defense of visions and so it's necessarily incomplete. Please be patient.

I want to everone to know that I have no philosophical objections to accepting an empty tomb or that many disciples of Jesus believed that he appeared to him. I differentiate between core historical facts on one hand and secondary details on the other hand. I am willing to grant that the empty tomb may indeed be a core historical fact as are the postmortem appearances of Jesus. That doesn't mean that I believe that the secondary details are reliable or authentic. In fact, I consider the New Testament to be errant and the gospel resurrection narratives to be quite inconsistent, especially in terms of secondary details, despite whatever core historical facts there may be underlying the stories.

With this said, I wanted to state that I don't accept the resurrection narratives as fully historical descriptions intending to narrate what actually happened. I consider a number of narratives such as the guard story, Jesus eating fish, offering himself to be touched, and overcoming the doubts of disciples to be apologetics, especially against heresies like docetism and whatever other else heretics like the Gnostics taught. In a "Part Two" I will respond to specific points raised by Jason, even if I have to quote him point-by-point.

Matthew

2 comments:

John W. Loftus said...

RA, please find the correct place to post your comment. Try "Bird Brains" below.

Matthew, since it is quite literally impossible to show that we are aware of all the objections and aware of all the important studies in one post, they can assume that we simply lack in knowledge. They seem to believe that if we but understood the issues better, then we'd believe. So this is they comfort themselves in their faith.

However, if it's true that we don't understand some things, then only people who do can be saved. This means only the informed can be saved--on their own terms! Even though God is believed by them not to be a respector of persons, only the informed can be saved.

It just doesn't dawn on them that we really have a good grasp of the issues and objections and we still reject Christianity.

That can't be!

Matthew said...

John,

You may well be right. Perhaps I should've qualified my original post by saying that I intend to answer specific objections raised by Christian apologists in future posts but I was more interested in seeing what you, Ed.B, Daniel, and others thought before I attempted any defense of it.

Also, I agree with you- for some Christians I am convinced that they just cannot accept as a possibility that a Skeptic can have a honestly informed skepticism of Christianity. Either one or the other has to give- either the skeptic is not informed or he is a liar. No skepticism can possibly be both informed and intellectually honest!

Matthew