Monday, March 04, 2013

Bungling the Resurrection

Devoted atheist Jeff Lowder left some belated responses to me, so I’ll be picking up where we last left off.

Hays misses the point of the "Atoms" side of the Dilemma here. (Aside: Certainly the Gospels do attribute supernatural abilities to the body of the Risen Jesus! Craig and all the Christian writers on the Resurrection (R) state this themselves repeatedly.

Jeff is committing a popular blunder by confusing the abilities of Jesus with the abilities of a body. For instance, even before his death and resurrection, Jesus could walk on water. That doesn’t mean Matthew, Mark, and John (who record the event) thought he could walk on water because he had a specially-accessorized body with hidden floatation devices. Rather, he could walk on water because he had the ability to perform nature miracles, of which that is one among many.

 Craig states in Assessing the New Testament Evidence... that the body of the Risen Jesus can materialize and dematerialize at will and go into other dimensions. Hays may not like this.

Jeff has an intellectually lazy and logically fallacious habit of citing someone’s opinion, as if that settled the matter. But Craig’s opinion is only as good as his supporting arguments. 

But he's given no argue[sic] that would refute the exegetical arguments of Resurrectionists.)

Demonstrably false.

 The point is that somehow Jesus had to get out of the tomb…

Jeff is being silly. Suppose, before he died and rose again, someone tried to trap Jesus in a cave by blocking the entrance with a boulder. Given what the Gospel writers thought Jesus was capable of doing, does Jeff suppose Jesus would be unable to escape? Remember that according to the Gospels, Jesus performed amazing nature miracles. And that just scratches the surface.

…get into Jerusalem

Since Jesus was entombed in Jerusalem, he didn’t have to “get into Jerusalem” to be there for Easter. He was already there.

…get into Galilee

Why does going to Galilee require a special kind of body? Jesus and the disciples made trips to Galilee before he died and rose again.

…and ascend "up" into "Heaven"

That’s a popular misinterpretation of the Ascension.

i) To begin with, walking on water involves a principle of levitation. Yet that’s something the Gospels say Jesus could do in his premortem body.

ii) Jesus didn’t go up to heaven like a rocket. Rather, he was taken to heaven by the Shekinah. The “cloud” in the Ascension account is the Shekinah (e.g. the pillar of cloud in Exodus). Even liberal commentators like Howard Clark Kee catch the allusion. The Shekinah was the vehicle, not the body of Jesus.

…and appear to Paul in heavenly visions of light.

The premortem body of Jesus could become luminous. Has Jeff forgotten the Transfiguration?

A body made of atoms cannot do these things.

That’s an assertion in search of an argument.

 A body made of atoms cannot be immortal (forgetting about incorruptible). There is no fallacy of composition here. A body of atoms can be taken completely apart. A body that has been taken completely apart is no longer living (and no longer a body); it is mortal.

Jeff keeps confusing what hypothetically can happen with what will happen. Why does he constantly commit that modal fallacy?

Of course, Hays will say that God can step in on a completely ad hoc basis and work a continuous string of special miracles to (1) keep the mortal body of Jesus from being taken apart, e.g., by the same parties who gave him over to be crucified or by the Romans themselves…

Jesus wasn’t crucified because he was unable to defend himself. He always had the divine power to defend himself against any and all physical adversaries. Jesus voluntarily allowed himself to be crucified.

 ...and to (2) get Jesus out of the tomb and "up" into the clouds and then through them into "Heaven." And that is right. But what Hays overlooks is that it will then no longer be R that is doing the explaining of the NT Easter traditions--it will be these myriad of ad hoc auxiliary hypotheses that will be doing all the work. Thus, Hays does nothing to undermine the "Atoms" side of the "Atoms or Schmatoms" Dilemma.

There’s nothing ad hoc about interpreting the phenomena which Jeff cites according to a biblical worldview or the narrative viewpoint of the gospel writers. To the contrary, Jeff is the one who’s imposing an alien grid on the data.

Craig is a scholar of the Resurrection, and has undertaken detailed word-studies and exegesis of the key passages of 1 Cor. 15 in his book Assessing. He also makes extensive use of other Pauline scholars.

His book was published 24 years ago. And his sources are however much older than the publication date–not to mention the lag time between submission of a MSS and eventual publication.

 Hays, in contrast, keeps referring to one book by Eerdmans.

Jeff seems to have difficulty counting higher than 1. Actually, I’ve referred to several books and authors in the course of my debate with Jeff.

It seems as though Hays has found a book -- one favorable to his interpretation versus numerous others which are unfavorable -- to support his point. Hays offers no proof that 1 Cor. 15 is using "raised in power" as a divine passive.

"Sown in weakness" is not a divine (or human) passive.

Be definition, that’s a passive construction, both in English as well as the original Greek verb. Does Jeff not know the rudiments of grammar? Does he not know what the passive voice is?

Hays offers no prove that the divine passive is "standard construction in Biblical usage."

Well, it’s really not my responsibility to compensate for Jeff’s ignorance. The “divine passive” or “theological passive” is standard category in NT Greek grammar, viz. Dan Wallace, Blass-Debrunner-Funk.

 Even if he were right, it would not follow that Paul is following suit here. Hays offers no proof that 1 Cor. 6:14 uses "raised in power" as shorthand for "raise us up by his power."

I’m interpreting Paul by his own usage in the very same letter. And it’s not unusual for a writer to use a more detailed phrase earlier, then use a shorthand phrase later.

Clearly, they do not mean the same thing.

Another fact-free denial.

Note that Hays fails to explain or defend his interpretation.

Jeff keeps issuing patently false denials.

Again, Craig and other experts on the Resurrection disagree in their interpretation of 1 Cor. 15.

Where’s the argument?

 From the fact that "doxa" is contrasted with "dishonor" it hardly follows that it means "honor."

Jeff is irrationally contrarian. Does he not grasp the rhetorical significance of antithetical parallelism? Paul is trading on the honor/shame dialectic at this point in the argument.

Hays is not responding to the point. He is simply trying to be funny: "trotted out that movie." It is clear that Hays here is missing the point of the comment. It's pointing out the low prior probability of Hays' view. I'm sure that the authors of the Eerdmans commentary upon which he relies have never studied inductive reasoning and haven't the faintest idea what prior probabilities are.

i) Jeff is changing his argument in mid-stream. He originally cited the movie to illustrate the difference between resuscitation and resurrection. Now he’s suddenly saying the real point was about prior probabilities.

ii) Moreover, Jeff is merely asserting the low prior probability of my view.

iii) How does Jeff know ahead of time what to place in the prior probability column and what to place in the posterior probability column?

For instance, suppose I ask you the odds of Secretariat winning the Kentucky Derby or the Belmont Stakes? Well, you might say, given his performance record, that the odds are good.

But what if his jockey was bribed to throw the race? What are the odds in that case?

Furthermore, unless you already know whether or not the jockey was bribed, how can you probabilify the outcome? How do you allocate the prior and posterior probabilities given that uncertainty?

Granted, 1 Cor. 15 is silent on much. But it doesn't follow that it is silent on glorification. "Doxa" is not the only term used there. It uses "immortality," "power," "glory," and "imperishability."

And I’ve discussed those terms.

 It says that "flesh and blood," i.e., "human nature," i.e., destructibility, cannot inherit the kingdom of God.

Really? That’s not how I construe 1 Cor 15:50. I take Paul to mean mortal human beings can’t raise themselves to new life. “Flesh and blood” is a Semitic idiom for human mortality. Dead men can’t raise themselves from the dead. Aging, dying men can’t reverse the curse. Only God can raise the dead or lift the curse. 

Ultimately this is a Red Herring. Suppose that Hays is correct in everything he says here. None of it is crucial to the "Atoms" side of the "Atoms or Schmatoms?" Dilemma, for exactly the same reasons as given above.

Whenever I refute Jeff’s arguments, that suddenly becomes a red hearing.

But is Hays right in what he says here? "Aphtharsia" is translated, not as "immortality" (there is a different Greek term for that), but as "imperishability." This word choice was not arbitrary.

Using different synonyms for emphasis or stylistic variation.

Perishability is (like corruptibility) the ability to decompose. When food perishes, that is exactly what it does. When dead flesh perishes, that is precisely what it does. Aging, injury, sickness, and death are all -- equally -- forms of "perishing." "Perishing" (like "corruptibility") is a process that takes place on the organ, tissue, cellular, organelle, and macromolecular level. Thermal energy (which all atoms have) is constantly causing molecules in normal living bodies to decompose -- to perish -- and the body is constantly having to replace these. That's ultimately why we have to eat. It's not that dead bodies decompose and living bodies don't. The truth is that both bodies are constantly undergoing decomposition. The difference is that a living body is also constantly replacing decomposed macromolecules and organelles with newly manufactured ones, whereas dead bodies cannot. Thus, there is no misstep here. Imperishability is a far stronger concept than immortality. That which is imperishable is, ipso facto, immortal; but not vice versa. One hardly needs to consult a Greek lexicon to see this. The translators of the Greek NT already have.

i) Jeff continues to commit the word-concept fallacy. Whenever Jeff encounters an explanation he lacks the know-how to understand, he ignores the objection and presses ahead with his original, uncomprehending objection.

ii) Apropos (i), it’s wildly anachronistic to gloss Paul’s Greek usage in terms of thermal energy, macromolecules and organelles, &c. that’s not exegesis.

iii) Paul is talking about the ways in which people normally die, due to Adam’s fall. Adam died of old age. Abel was murdered.

In a fallen world, some people die of old age or disease. Some people die in war. Some people are murdered. Some people die from famine. That sort of thing.

For different reasons, that won’t happen in the new Eden. Glorified bodies won’t be subject to senescence or terminal illness. There won’t be murder or war causalities.

The saints won’t starve to death. Eschatological prophecies speak of agricultural abundance.

    If, as Hays says, the Risen Jesus is only "immortal" but not "imperishable,"…

I never denied that the imperishability of the Risen Jesus, as Paul understands the term. Rather, I deny Jeff’s anachronistic, unscholarly understanding of the term.

…then, assuming that he is still and will forever be alive, God has had to, is, and will forever have to intervene every femtosecond (or less) to keep the Risen Jesus from dying, aging, etc.

No, it would just mean the glorified body has the capacity to continuously regenerate or rejuvenate. Even our mortal bodies have that capacity to some degree. But we eventually lose that ability due to senescence

At least if He keeps the same laws of nature we have now! This is ad hoc since nothing in the concept of "resurrection," according to Hays, requires that God so act.

Of course, Paul doesn’t frame the resurrection in reference to natural laws, so Jeff is the one who’s guilty of interjecting ad hoc considerations. That’s another one of Jeff’s anachronisms.

Furthermore, to explain the gospel Easter narratives, e.g., Jesus dematerializing/ materializing, or, as Hays idiosyncratically suggests, becoming invisible/visible…

Luke specifically says Jesus become “invisible” (Lk 24:30). That’s what the Greek means. Nothing idiosyncratic about my interpretation. Maybe Jeff can’t read the Greek NT in the original, but that’s not my problem.

…God will have to intervene on an ad hoc basis, since R alone will not do the job.

As I already pointed out, Jesus doesn’t need God to intervene on his behalf. Jesus has divine power in his own right. As the Incarnate Son of God, Jesus is omnipotent. Jesus could make himself invisible before the Resurrection, had he so desired. Indeed, there’s textual evidence that he did so. 

Unfortunately for Hays, the laws of nature, specifically, quantum mechanics, are incompatible with the kind of predestination he has in mind.

Well, that’s monumentally ignorant on Jeff’s part.

i) Jeff is confusing the theory of quantum mechanics with the interpretation of quantum mechanics. But there are competing interpretations of the theory.

ii) For instance, Steven Hawking is a positivist. He favors an antirealist interpretation of quantum mechanics. That would be consistent with predestination. Cf. S. Hawking & R. Penrose, The Nature of Space and Time (Princeton University Press, 2010).

iii) Then you have the many-worlds interpretation. That’s both realistic and deterministic. An Everett universe (i.e. multiverse) is entirely consistent with predestination. In fact, Don Page, who’s a world authority on quantum cosmology, has made that connection explicitly. Cf. D. Page, “The Superb Design,” D. Marshall, ed. Faith Seeking Understanding: Essays in Memory of Paul Brand and Ralph Winter (William Carey Library 2012), chap. 15.

Note, moreover, that the predestination hypothesis is yet another ad hoc device that must be "glued onto" R in order for the (alleged) facts of Easter to be explained.

To the contrary, I was responding to Jeff’s Humean definition of divine protection. That’s an ad hoc definition which Jeff glued onto my counterargument. I was responding to Jeff on his own terms. He’s the one who smuggles auxiliary, suppressed premises into his deceptively simple argument.

All the stuff about being "bitten by a Taipan, eaten by a crocodile, or fell into a lava flow" is just icing on the cake. That Hays focuses on this, instead of the dilemma itself, shows that he fails to understand it.

I focus on Jeff’s objections. Whenever I rebut his objections, Jeff suddenly decides his objections were beside the point.

Again, Hays simply fails to understand the "Atoms or Schmatoms?" Dilemma. It has nothing to do with the biblical "prooftexts." That issue is simply a red herring that Hays is using to divert the attention of those reading this blog from the real issue -- the non-existent explanatory power of R.

Jeff can’t even keep track of his own argument. He’s been prooftexting his model of the Resurrection. Jeff has to have a model of the Resurrection to attack the Resurrection. Otherwise, there’s nothing specific for Jeff’s objections to fasten onto.

It has already been shown above that the fallacy of composition is not being committed here. Hays fails to get the point that because atoms are not indestructible, bodies made out of them cannot be either. Here the properties of the parts -- atoms -- does hold for the whole -- the body. The "atoms" body is made out of organs, themselves composed of tissues, which are, in turn, made of cells, which once again are made of organelles, which, ultimately, are made of macromolecules, molecules, and ions. If the latter are widely separated from one another, the body will die and be decomposed. Furthermore, even if the molecules were not taken apart, they would eventually decay into their sub-atomic constituents, thereby destroying the body.

i) Once again, Jeff is committing the fallacy of composition. I already corrected him on that point. The fact that a body undergoes continues cell replacement doesn’t mean the body is self-destructing.

Jeff is prejudging the nature of physical identity, as if physical identity requires identical constituents rather than identical patterns. Yet the level of physical identity lies, not in the parts, but the whole. Preservation of the same pattern. Organizational continuity.

A body is a particular organization of matter. As long as you preserve the same internal organization over time, the same structural relationships between constituents, it’s the same body.

ii) Moreover, glorification involves discontinuities as well as continuities.

Atoms aren't alive? Duh! Hays misses the metaphor. Say you could transfer the same person to a different body. That wouldn't be RESURRECTION of the body. That would be -- literally -- REINCARNATION! Atoms are defined as "mortal" by contemporary physics.

i) If it’s just a metaphor, then why does Jeff go on to say atoms are “defined” as “mortal” by contemporary physics?

ii) Jeff is also trading on equivocations. For instance, is a duplicate body the same body? If a new body replicates a previous body, that’s quite different from reincarnation.

 "Schmatoms" aren't defined as anything other than not being atoms. They aren't defined as immortal. Hays again misses the point.

Jeff said atoms are mortal. He contrasted that with schmatoms.

Angels don't have bodies? Where does Lk. 20-34-36 say that? This is an eisogetical figment of Hays' imagination.

I didn’t limit my analysis to Lk 20:34-36. There’s also the contrast that Jesus draws between a body and a ghost in Lk 24.

Ask any Christian whether he would serve a "risen" Jesus would can age, get sick, be lanced by the Romans again, be blown to smithereens by an H-bomb, etc. Ask any Christian whether he himself would want such a body. End of argument.

i) Aside from Jeff’s resort to the ad populum fallacy, I never suggested that the risen Jesus can sicken or age.

ii) Conversely, I don’t think that when Mary Magdalene encountered the Risen Lord in the garden, he resembled Ben Grimm / The Thing from the Fantastic Four. That’s not in the Resurrection accounts.

iii) H-bombs pose no threat to God Incarnate, whether in his premortem or postmortem body. 

    Irrelevant response. To say that resurrection bodies (somata pneumatika) are indestructible is not to say that they are made of spirit. Obviously, "pneumatikon" refers to the agency of the Holy Spirit, or, as Craig states, to the adaptation of the bodies for the world of the Spirit.

In which case it doesn’t tell you anything about the composition of the glorified body.

    It is a sound inference. If the Risen Jesus was composed of atoms, then he was either resuscitated, and so still looked like Jesus, or his atoms were rearranged into some other form, so that he no longer looked like the premortem Jesus, e.g., he became Alien-Jesus or Beast-Jesus, the result being that the disciples would no longer recognize him. They might well flee from him as Alien-Jesus or Beast-Jesus. They might hang around him as Jim-Morrison-Jesus, but they wouldn't come to believe that he rose from the dead. Thus, at the very best, "Atoms-Jesus" is a straight resuscitation-Jesus. Otherwise R can't explain the postmortem appearances of the Risen Jesus -- or will need to be supplemented with ad hoc miracles by God.

After all this time, Jeff has done nothing to advance the argument. He recycles the same false dichotomies, in defiance of the counterarguments. Jeff has nothing in reserve. He’s mentally rigid. Unable to adapt to new challenges. He keeps reciting his cue cards, while wearing earplugs to screen out the rebuttals.

    It begs the question to say we've had no experience of those who've returned to life again? Hummm. How many resuscitated or resurrected bodies have Hays, Lowder, Cavin, and Colombetti seen, so that they can study their properties? The answer is ZERO!

That’s utterly unresponsive to what I actually said.

And those NT statements about the postmortem abilities of Jesus are just the point -- they are utterly incompatible with "Atoms-Jesus"!

Jeff continually disregards the premortem abilities of Jesus.

So now Hays is forced, once again, to turn to "Schmatoms," i.e., "X-Man"-Jesus. But we know absolutely nothing about this Jesus! So he cannot be invoked as an explanation for the empty tomb and postmortem appearances of Jesus!

Jeff is spinning like a top. I was never forced to turn to schmatoms.

    Bottom line: It is clear that Hays has not taken the time and trouble to understand what the "Atoms or Schmatoms" Dilemma is saying. His constant appeal to 1 Cor. 15 is a red herring.

I’m not the one who introduced 1 Cor 15 into the discussion. Jeff did that. I’m responding to Jeff’s appeal.

He misunderstands how his "fix it" or "patch-up" jobs on R are equivalent to a host of ad hoc "auxiliary supplementary hypotheses" for R.

One of Jeff’s problems is that he gets caught up in a role. He’s so busy play-acting that he’s forgotten it’s just a role–like a child who imagines he’s safe behind the walls of his cardboard castle.

He acts as though this is a card game, where we make up some artificial rules, then play by the rules. But that has no bearing on reality. Reality isn’t confined to Jeff’s made-up rules.


  1. Jeff Lowder said:

    "Thermal energy (which all atoms have) is constantly causing molecules in normal living bodies to decompose"

    1. I'm afraid Lowder needs to better qualify his statement. It isn't theoretically true for an atom at absolute zero in which thermal disorder completely disappears, where the total energy (kinetic energy and potential energy) is zero, according to the classical interpretation (e.g. absent quantum fluctuations). However, it is true in QM since an atom cannot "completely" come to rest, for if KE = 0 then the atom's position and PE are indeterminate, whereas if PE = 0 then the atom's motion and KE are indeterminate; hence zero point energy.

    2. Besides, referencing thermal energy in the context of "molecules in normal living bodies" like human beings decomposing is a rather vague way to frame the discussion. For starters, it's not as if Lowder has explained how "thermal energy" is the sole or predominate or fundamental factor in the molecular decomposition of humans. At this point, he might as well assert something like the big bang is what has caused humans to exist.

    3. Of course, this is indicative of a broader problem with Lowder: he often makes sloppy statements when careful detail with clear connections is what's needed. This is true when it comes to his theological as well as scientific statements.

  2. Jeff Lowder said:

    "The 'atoms' body is made out of organs, themselves composed of tissues, which are, in turn, made of cells, which once again are made of organelles, which, ultimately, are made of macromolecules, molecules, and ions."

    Once again, this is such sloppy "science". What's more, it's all a bit reductionistic. Anyway, here are just a few examples:

    1. Not all cells are "made of" organelles. For instance, mature erythrocytes do not contain organelles like nuclei or mitochondria. In fact, mature erythrocytes need to rely on anaerobic glycolysis for their energy needs because they do not contain mitochondria. One could say they contain stuff like hemoglobin, cytoskeletal latticework, and a lipid bilayer membrane, but these aren't organelles as such.

    2. Not all organelles are "made of" ions. Cells can contain ions which in turn are separate from organelles which enter and leave the cell itself. For example, K+ or Na+.

    3. Likewise some macromolecules can make organelles in a manner of speaking (e.g. DNA, RNA, proteins). But macromolecules aren't necessarily what make up organelles. Take the macromolecule DNA. Most DNA is contained in a cell's nucleus. But some DNA is contained in the mitochondria. DNA can construct nuclei and mitochondria via RNA, proteins, the various processes involved, and so forth. However this doesn't mean the nucleus or mitochondria are "made of" DNA any more than a house with several chairs (or whatever) is "made of" chairs (or whatever). For one thing, when not replicating, DNA is packed with proteins called histones into chromatins. Chromatins can be constituents within a nucleus but they are not necessarily part of the nucleus itself.

    4. Tissues can be separate from organs. Take connective tissue. Connective tissue can anchor other tissue or protect organs. But not all organs are "made of" connective tissue. For example, cartilage (of which there are several different types) is a type of dense connective tissue wherein cells and fibers themselves are embedded within a matrix. Or take deep fascia in which the walls of our limbs and body are wrapped within a membrane of this fibrous tissue.

    5. All this is just the tip of the iceberg. One could easily go on and provide more examples.