Paulogia’s First Rebuttal vs. Dr Loke

Written Debate Between Dr. Andrew Loke and Paulogia

Previous Entries:

Despite the fact that — at my interlocutor’s sole behest – Dr Loke and I are engaged in a debate in written format, he confusingly chose to open his first rebuttal with an embedded video. While I haven’t been working with any content creators to try to popularize my arguments on alternate platforms and insert here to bypass format restrictions, I did stumble across this video that you might enjoy.

Back to writing now? OK, cool.

The topic for this debate is “Is there Good Evidence for Group Appearances of Risen Jesus?” and I’m eager to explore Dr Loke’s novel strategy of watering-down what “good evidence” means rather than demonstrating that his evidence is of high quality.

But before we get to that, Dr Loke’s opening statement and first rebuttal pursued a few side-topic distractions that are best addressed up-front before we delve into the substantive discussion.

Preamble and Procedures

Debate Format

Suppose you are strapped into your seat on a long flight, and a flight attendant asks you if you would like something to drink. You would very much enjoy a Coke. “We don’t have Coke. Is Pepsi ok?”, the attendant replies. Your head slumps in disappointment, but you pragmatically agree to the Pepsi knowing that no Coke will be offered.

It is in this same sense that I agreed to a written-format debate rather than what I would have preferred – a one-time live discussion. You see, Dr Loke has a completely arbitrary, self-imposed personal policy that he will not have live debates or conversations with anyone without a Ph D. Dr Loke would simply never, ever offer my preference.

Sure, Dr Loke came up with what he thought might be some enticements for me to agree, but none of those mattered or resonated with me. Despite putting myself at a potential disadvantage, I want to maximally impact as many people as possible, and a written debate will simply not be read by as many people would watch a video of us. Orders of magnitude fewer.

Dr Loke’s opening seems to affirm his desire to reach the most people. “The engagement with Paulogia does not reflect the academic significance of his view (which remains a fringe theory). Rather, it is warranted by the significant number of people who have been misled by his view.

So why not reach the most people? In our private email exchange, I reiterated my preference to merely have a conversation. I wrote, 

Of course, we could limit the impact to our lives to just a few hours by having a live conversation. I know that’s not your preference, but I’m putting it out there as an option.

His reply? A SINGLE reason. His commitment to his personal policy.

Why not just quote Dr Loke’s reply directly or show the screenshot to prove this? Well, since it was a private conversation, I would want to have permission from Dr Loke first. So I asked him,

Do I have your permission to include screenshots of this email conversation in my rebuttal? The attached screenshot is the portion of the conversation I want to quote, though I’m open to posting the entire conversation if there remain disputes about the path to arrival at the current format. Is this OK with you?

His reply? No. He would not give permission.

So now we’re in an awkward Paul-said-Andrew-said situation over Dr Loke’s stubbornness to simply admit that his personal policy against talking to non-PhD-holders prevents us from having a live conversation, regardless of whatever additional justification he may put forth. My non-credentials are the final barrier.

If Dr Loke is willing to exclude this matter from his future debate entries, I too will leave it here. However, if he presses further, I may be forced to reconsider my courtesies.

Debate Etiquette and Logistics

In most formal debates, the structure includes an opening statement (constructive) by the person taking the affirmative, followed by an opening statement by the person taking the negative. This is the section designated for the debaters to “construct” their cases by presenting initial positions and arguments. After this is complete, the next round invites the affirmative and negative to directly address the opponent’s opening constructive.

Now despite reminding Dr Loke of this in our private email exchange, and also using a portion of my constructive to remind him of this structure, Dr Loke was so eager for my rebuttal that he somehow became confused and expected it during my opening.[1]

Paulogia didn’t challenge my definition in his opening statement.” “Paulogia commits a non-sequitur and missed the point I made in my opening statement.” “Which fail to rebut the specific reasons I gave in my Opening Statement.” And so on and so on.

But fortunately, the appropriate time for my rebuttal has arrived, so Dr Loke need not worry about adhering to elementary debate rules or expectations until his conclusion.

Whataboutism – A Hypothesis Not in Question

If you happen to be familiar with my YouTube channel, you might be aware that I sometimes present a simple observation that the verifiable evidence we have for the start of Christianity is entirely consistent with as few as two people claiming to have seen resurrected Jesus.

As interesting as that thought experiment is, it is not the topic of this debate. We are not arguing the relative merits of two competing ideas. We’re debating if there’s sufficient justification for the positive claim of group appearances of resurrected Jesus.

Nowhere in my opening did I mention my tangentially related notion, and I had no intention of discussing it in this exchange. It’s irrelevant to the core topic. And yet, Dr Loke seems quite distracted and takes every opportunity to repeatedly denigrate this observation as “fringe” with “the false impression that his view has scholarly credibility” and “no historian accepts it”.

He frequently uses this flagrant whataboutism to deflect from criticism of his position: “Let me remind the reader that it is nowhere as minority a position as Paulogia’s own fringe theory.” Classic “I’m-rubber-and-you’re-glue” playground antics.

Of course, if you watched the video embedded above, you heard world-renowned resurrection scholar (and one of Dr Loke’s sources) Dr Gary Habermas asked what he thinks about Paulogia’s theory. He replied, “That’s not new. That view has been held by Don Cupitt, the early Skillebekk Danish philosophers, it’s held by Billy Markson the Bultmann-ian New Testament scholar, that’s held by John Shelby Spong.”[2]

Now, I can’t vouch for the accuracy of Dr Habermas’ comparisons… but it sure sounds like Dr Loke’s more-respected, more-credentialed source doesn’t dismiss my thoughts as fringe or non-scholarly. Instead, Habermas affirms the scholarly history of this thinking and then proceeds to reflect upon the ideological merits in good faith. This is the way of commendable argumentation among adults.

Of course, the easiest way to completely falsify my hypothesis would be to demonstrate that there were group appearances of risen Jesus. Coincidentally, that’s the topic of the debate we’re here to discuss. Perhaps if Dr Loke would spend more of his focus and word-count on affirming the actual debate topic, then he could destroy my hypothesis once-and-for-all on the merits and not just hurl shallow, childish insults.

Re-Litigation

Under false pretenses, Dr Loke would like to lure me into dozens of side debates on topics that are not in question here and have been addressed already in a series of YouTube videos from each party.

Now I understand that not everyone will want to look at our previous interactions,” Loke acknowledges.

Please count me among the disinterested in rehashing previous interactions. Dr Loke’s appendix presents no new information, just renewed already-addressed objections. See my videos for my responses to these petulant complaints. If they are unsatisfying to you, then I guess they are unsatisfying to you. This isn’t the time or place.

Once again, I observe that none of these grievances would be relevant if Dr Loke could simply, adequately defend the proposition at hand. He should focus on this.

Failure to Convince

Over and over in Dr Loke’s opening and reply (I grew weary of counting after several dozen), he says that I “fail to note”, “fail to understand”, “fail to consider”, “fail to take into account”, “fail to grasp”, “fail to recognize” or “fail to distinguish”.

What Dr Loke fails to understand is that simply disagreeing with his conclusions is in no way a failure to note, understand, consider, take into account, grasp, recognize or distinguish. I might just as equally posit that Dr Loke has failed to communicate, failed to persuade, failed to influence, failed to look beyond his own bias, and failed to convince. Does saying so make it so? No.

Instead, I will simply present my arguments directly and allow you – the reader – to decide who has failed and who has succeeded.

When you read “Paulogia has failed”, the truth is actually that “Paulogia is unconvinced” (with a dash of bewilderment as to how Dr Loke could be).

What were we here for again? Oh yeah…

The Debate

Legal vs Historical – Good for the Goose is Good for the Gander

The proposition we are here to debate is “Is there good evidence for group appearances of resurrected Jesus?” and most of the word-count of my opening statement was dedicated to the discussion of what makes evidence of high-quality or value vs low-quality or value.

The legal system is the highest-stake evidence-evaluation machine that exists in humanity. No process or profession has dedicated more money, more time, or more brain-power to refining the principles by which we determine the quality of evidence. And where the field of science has notable differences to history, criminal justice is perfectly analogous to historical evaluation… because criminal justice IS LITERALLY HISTORICAL EVALUATION. Just over a shorter term.

I demonstrated that while lawyers and historians sometimes use different vocabulary to describe the same concepts, they agree about where the ordering on the quality spectrum that the type of evidence lies. For example, both fields agree that primary sources (i.e. eye-witnesses) are better than secondary sources (i.e. hearsay).

The fact that ancient historians will sometimes lend modest consideration to a secondary source (a fact I first brought to the debate’s attention, not Dr Loke) while the legal profession generally considers them so poor as to be inadmissible does nothing to change the complete agreement that there is a spectrum of evidential quality and that secondary sources (hearsay) are of lower quality.

The point to take away is that historians and lawyers absolutely agree on what lies where in the evidential quality spectrum – what makes evidence more or less useful — even when they use different labels and vary on how broad a range to consider.

But Dr Loke was so ravenous to enumerate so-called errors in my opening, he embarrassingly mistook the openly-acknowledged difference in evidential-handling (“‘inadmissible’ is different from ‘less valuable’”) as a “fallacy of self-contradiction” (so-called error #1) for a point I wasn’t making, while simultaneously affirming (“in the latter case it is acceptable, even if less valuable”) the point I was making… the legal evidential spectrum and historical evidential spectrum use the same relative weighting.

Lest that was unclear, let’s simply affirm what lawyers, historians, Dr Loke and myself all agree upon here: secondary sources (hearsay) are LESS VALUABLE than primary sources (eye-witness testimony) in all situations.

And Dr Loke’s sources are secondary… at best. I’m not sure in what universe someone would argue that occasionally “acceptable” qualifies as “good”, but here we are.

Legal vs Historical – Difference in Purpose, Not in Evidential Standard

In an attempt to demonstrate “important differences between legal practices and historical evaluation”, Dr Loke provided this quotation…

‘In terms of social timeliness, there is no time limit for historical study, but the administration of justice has to solve urgent issues. Historians are surprised to find that judges only consider a small amount of “facts” in their convictions so that the trial can be continued. Lagarde believed that judicial evidence is formed in the procedure provided by law and leads to irrevocable conclusions. These are two reasons why they are different from historical evidence.’

Of course, the first rule of evaluating “expert” quotations served up in debates (verbal, written, or even YouTube videos) is to go the source to see if context affirms the point it is being offered up to make. In this case, it was a bit of a trick because the originating 1998 paper called “The Historical Approach versus the Judicial Truth: Judges and Historians” was written in French and this Canadian must sheepishly admit that his French is rusty. Ultimately, my tenacity prevailed.

It was unsurprising to me that the paper quoted by Dr Loke is more about the different societal roles of judges and historians than about evidential standards. Just before the quote, the author takes a shot at the nebulous role of the latter. “If the function of judge is certain, the qualification of the historian remains uncertain.”[3]

The paper does not praise this long-time consideration available to a historian as a “luxury of the hindsight” as Dr Loke advocates. “Everyone knows that history continues, that it is first and foremost a ‘daughter of its time’, continuously changing into ‘historiography’, estimable at best, always revisable.”[4]

In the end, Loke’s source doesn’t suggest that historical and legal methodology are importantly different. Instead, it affirms exactly what my opening statement proffered – that when history is more accurate, it shares best-practices with the law.

“Historical truth stems from the same processes as legal truth, with the same weaknesses but also the same strengths, especially if we are willing to abandon recourse to a cosmic vision of history to make it a science of the social, strong in its research and transmission techniques, effective in understanding the configurations that have shaped us and that we must control.”[5]

Hearsay Exceptions

In my opening, I correctly identified that hearsay is “generally not admissible” in court. Dr Loke must think that “generally” means “always” because he chastises that “Paulogia fails to note that—even within a legal context—there are various exceptions.” Of course, the word “generally” implies exceptions. Now, I researched these handful of legal exceptions prior to my opening, found none of them to be relevant to Dr Loke’s case, and so didn’t waste the reader’s time on a non-sequitur.

Now Dr Loke has not only forced this rabbit trail upon us all, but he didn’t even do us the courtesy of noting what these exceptions are and how they relate in any way to the various hearsay accounts he proffers. His sole connection is “these exceptions are justified on the basis of various inferences”… a sentence more vague than someone explaining human reproduction to a toddler.

Since Dr Loke considered this so important as to make it my so-called error #2, perhaps he will enlighten us all as to which legal exception would somehow elevate his hearsay from inadmissible irrelevance into admissible evidence?

Confusing Standard of Proof and Standard of Evidence

It appears to me that Dr Loke has confused “evidential standards” with “standard of proof”.

The standard of proof is the level to which the overall presentation must convince a judge or jury in a particular scenario. And not all cases are the same. For example, in Canada civil cases have the weakest standard, a “balance of probabilities.” Whereas a criminal trial must be proven “beyond a reasonable doubt.

But this debate is not about “how certain should you be that there were group appearances of risen Jesus?” Nowhere in this debate have I attempted to insist upon a standard of proof for anyone.

But Dr Loke repeatedly accuses me of this. “Paulogia is—once again—guilty of falsely insisting on a particular epistemological standard as the only acceptable standard” and “to insist on it by claiming that it is the only acceptable standard would be silly.” I would be curious as to where I insisted any such thing, rather than merely point out the uncontroversial measures about what kind of evidence is best, and what kind is not.

At the same time, Dr Loke appears to be pushing for a particular standard of proof himself. The lowest possible “balance of probabilities” standard. If Dr Loke thinks that the most important question in life need be held to no higher standard than what is used on Judge Judy, that’s his business.

No. This debate is supposed to be about “good evidence for group appearances of resurrected Jesus”, and so has nothing to say about burden of proof and everything to say about evidential standards. This is why I took time in my opening to lay out the universal standards of weighing evidence… is it materialAdmissible? Have probative value? Is it hearsay? Does it rely on character? Is there collusion? And so on, and so on.

What makes some evidence of better quality than other evidence is non-controversial. As far as I can tell, Dr Loke hasn’t even denied this. I would prefer to see Dr Loke use his remaining time to demonstrate that his evidence is in the best-class category, rather than make excuses for why you should instead ignore these universal comparison standards when Jesus is concerned.

After all, if this matter is of infinite importance, we should be looking for best-of-the-best, not scrounging together a few “acceptable” scraps.

Character Evidence

I noted that, as far as evidence goes, a “person’s character or character trait (Character Evidence) is not admissible to prove that on a particular occasion the person acted in accordance with the character or trait.”[6]

Rational people absolutely take character into consideration,” says Dr Loke.

Meanwhile, the Genetic Fallacy is judging something as either good or bad on the basis of where it comes from, or from whom it came.

The legal system recognizes appeal to character as so poor that it is inadmissible. Formalized logic calls it a fallacy. But Dr Loke thinks it’s good evidence. Who is right?

Special Pleading

Dr Loke accuses me (and people who are reading this) of falsely accusing him of special pleading. (My so-called error #15.) “Special pleading is an informal fallacy wherein one cites something as an exception without justifying the special exception. I justified my position by giving various reasons.”

But perhaps Dr Loke should research beyond the Wikipedia summary to discover that “various reasons” isn’t enough… one needs adequate reasons.[7] When we say that you’re special pleading, we are saying your argument for an exception in your case are inadequate. As with many of Dr Loke’s complaints, he could solve them by simply being more convincing.

Alright, let’s finally get to the heart of the matter…

The Documents

Yes, the 1 Corinthians Creed is Hearsay

The fact that this section is known as a creed should be sufficient to affirm that the author, Paul, is merely repeating the claims of others. He lays it out plainly, “What I received I passed along to you as of first importance.”[8] Paul received this information from other people. He’s telling us what other people told him. That’s literally and unequivocally hearsay.

Dr Loke tried to do a definitional dance of distraction by drawing a distinction between “group(s) of people who truly saw the resurrected Jesus” and “group(s) of people who claimed to have seen something which they thought was the resurrected Jesus”. Sure, Paul would be providing hearsay in regard to what they saw, but can’t he be a first-hand witness of what they claimed?

Theoretically, maybe. If Paul was claiming to have personally heard the claims. But he’s not. As discussed, Paul is passing along the claims of others. He’s reciting a creed. Taken at face value, this is at best a third-hand retelling, and more likely far further removed. The group claims are second-hand (at best) to Paul, keeping this passage firmly in the realm of hearsay under any definition.

Sometimes apologists want to object because Paul had met Peter and John, who would have been a part of one of those groups. So? That makes no difference at all. If I tell you that Sally told me that my mother said that she saw a leopard… does that somehow stop becoming hearsay just because I know my mother? No. No it does not.

Yes, the Gospels are Hearsay 

It is no secret that critical scholarship affirms that we do not know who wrote the gospels, even though there are hold-outs who continue supporting traditional authorship claims. Merely for emphasis, I allowed Dr Loke’s source (Bauckham) to set the scale. “That the texts of our Gospels are close to the eyewitness reports of the words and deeds of Jesus — runs counter to almost all recent New Testament scholarship.”[9]

What is Dr Loke’s response? (Other than some obligatory whataboutisms.) To provide a list of five dissenters (Of course, there are dissenters. That’s why Bauckham said “almost all” instead of “all”. Bauckham himself is a dissenter.) and complain that this might be an overstatement in numbers. This wishy-washy appeal to maybes is my so-called error #3.

But the point here is not an argumentum ad populum (an appeal to popularity), but rather the simple acknowledgement that massive swaths of people who study this for a living – including resurrected-Jesus-affirming Christians – consider the authors to be unknown, non-witnesses.

If significant numbers of expert, scholar, Christian believers (be it 90%, 50%, 49% or even 20%) are unconvinced the gospel writers were eye-witnesses, how good can the evidence be? You haven’t even convinced your own camp.

Did Dr Loke choose to defend the case for traditional authorship with any evidence? No, he chose to quibble with the quantitative acknowledgement of his own source. This follows Dr Loke’s pattern of asking you to lower your standards and simply be more credulous to accept his view.

My fourth so-called error? To not accept Dr Loke’s unfounded assertion. “These communities would have known who the authors were (even if we don’t).” What evidence do we have for this beyond wishful speculation? As far as I know… none at all. I look forward to Dr Loke providing some, preferably not relying on the word “could”.

My fifth so-called error? Dr Loke says that I claimed that “the POST-resurrection group appearances in Matthew, Luke-Acts and John” were “dependent on Mark”. I look forward to Dr Loke providing evidence for this, as I said no such thing and went out of my way to point out that the post-resurrection appearances are not from the shared Mark tradition.

My sixth so-called error? I correctly identified that the gospels contain obvious collusion. Dr Loke doesn’t attempt to deny the collusion, but instead points out that some parts MIGHT NOT be collusion. This is like a student caught cheating on an exam, but wanting credit for a few questions where their answers are unique. Collusion is a poisonous tree that yields poison evidentiary fruit, yet these are the documents Dr Loke thinks you should accept as corroboration even though no court would.

Yes, 1 Clement is Hearsay

Defending his citation of 1 Clement, Dr Loke writes, “Paulogia labels this as hearsay, but as argued above in historical evaluation it is more appropriate to call this secondary source.

As established in my opening, “secondary source” is merely the euphemism that historians give to “hearsay”. Don’t let Dr Loke fool you… they mean exactly the same thing. It’s like saying “vertically challenged” instead of “short”, or “passed away” instead of “died”.

He also threw in some question begging mixed with incredulity. “How could this be unless the apostles… had seen the resurrected Jesus?” Easy. They were mistaken. Mistaken has the same explanatory power as an actual appearance.

Inference of Inference

“Don’t leave inferences to be drawn when evidence can be presented.” – Richard Wright

Setting the Bar Low (on the Ground)

In my opening, I demonstrated that for inference to rise to the level of legal evidence, it must “lead to only one reasonable conclusion – that if A and B are true, then C is.”[10]

I naively assumed that Dr Loke would want to demonstrate that his inferences would qualify as evidence in this strong sense, but I guess I over-estimated his ambition or ability. In his rebuttal, Dr Loke admits that what he calls inferences fall into a less-conclusive category that “even if not deductively valid are still inductively strong.” He’s satisfied with lines of thinking that are “probably correct (even if it is possibly wrong)”. He calls this “probabilistic reasoning” as used in the lowest-levels of civil cases with the weakest evidential standards. 

I trust you will agree, in the end, that Dr Loke does not succeed at even this modest task. But we’ll return to this in a moment.

Steel Man Needs an Oil Can

There was method to my madness when, in my opening, I reformulated Dr Loke’s lines of argumentation into a possible syllogism that could actually hold up to the ideal inferential evidential standard of pointing to a single, reliable conclusion. My purpose was to demonstrate a few of the many ways his wishful speculations fall short.

In order to turn Loke’s ideas into a valid argument (one where it is impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion to be false), I had to add several lines (marked in red in my opening).

In order for the argument to be valid AND sound, the new premises would have to be true. Fortunately for me, Dr Loke spent some of his rebuttal helping me out and demonstrating on his own that the necessary premises are false.

For example…

  • People accept life-or-death matters only for personally-verified, actually-true good reasons. Dr Loke: “I did not claim that; what I argue for is the weaker thesis.
  • People who can check out a life-or-death matter, do check out the matter. Dr Loke: “I did not claim that.
  • The Corinthian church actually spoke to groups of eyewitnesses. Dr Loke: “What I argue was ‘the Corinthians knew at least some of the members of the groups of eyewitnesses and are familiar with their teachings.’
  • The eyewitnesses were not mistaken. Dr Loke: “I did not use the word ‘impossible’, which Paulogia falsely attributed to me.

What was the point of this exercise? To demonstrate clearly that Dr Loke’s notions do not lead to a singular conclusion, as they would if they met the basic requirements for inferential evidence

What I didn’t anticipate is that Dr. Loke would immediately cede this ground and openly retreat to probabilistic speculation that can support multiple contradicting conclusions. Had I known of his easy surrender, I could have saved us the time and not needed my incredibly apt “Jennifer Lawrence twitter account” illustration. (My over-estimation of Loke’s objective was my so-called error #12.)

I did, however, anticipate that “Dr. Loke will not be shy in pointing out where this logic path fails and misrepresents his argument”, and the professor did not disappoint. “This is a misrepresentation; Paulogia has not communicated my argument properly” (my so-called error #14). I’m sorry, but for full transparency I literally color-coded which parts were yours and which parts were my own insertions. If you suffer from monochromacy (color blindness), please let me know privately and I will employ varying font usage in future exchanges.

Loke’s Psychology Arguments

From his book to his videos to this debate, one of the pillars of Dr Loke’s defence of group appearances is this…

Psychological studies have indicated that it is probable that people are careful to form conclusions when 1.1. there is presence of scepticism, 1.2 the topic is important, 1.3. the costs of false confirmation are high, and 1.4. when people are held personally responsible for what they say and care about their reputation among sustained relationships with known audiences (DiFonzo and Bordia 2007, pp. 166, 173–174; cited on p.47 of my book).

By now, you should recognize this as an attempt by Dr Loke to push inconclusive, ineffective and inadmissible character evidence, and we’ll come back to that. But as someone who prides themselves on source methodology, I naturally went on a search for the book referenced to see if it actually says in context what Dr Loke says that it says.

The portion of “Rumor Psychology: Social and Organizational Approaches” cited by Dr Loke is in a section covering the “Motivational Mechanisms”, “Situational Features”, “Group Mechanisms” and “Network Mechanisms” that affect the accuracy of the information disseminated by a rumor-spreader.[11]

To Dr Loke’s credit, the book does indeed contend that topical importance, personal accountability, high confirmation costs and skepticism can increase accuracy motivation. Note that this is a desire by the information-spreader to be accurate, not a predictor that the information is actually accurate. People in such circumstances will tend to be more confident, but said confidence need not be justified by solid epistemology. Any confidence will do.

But in this same section, the authors point out numerous scenarios where information accuracy will be hindered, including…

  • Building and maintaining relationships “fosters inaccurate content by promoting the survival of only socially acceptable rumors that enhance relationships with one’s ingroup.”[12]
    • Paul reenforces the in-group / out-group dynamic. “For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” – 1 Cor 1:18
  • “Despite implicit communication rules to transmit accurate and truthful messages, accurate transmissions may conflict with the goal of sharing a coherent message, that is, one that is understandable, plausible, and acceptable to the hearer.”[13]
    • Paul exhorted the Corinthians to be effective in message communication. (1 Cor 1:18, 1 Cor 2:4-6, 2 Cor 5:19)
  • “Rumor content may change to advance the process of rationalizing and justifying existing beliefs.”[14]
    • 1 Corinthians was written to an existing church of believers.
  • “Situations in which many or all individuals in a situation are anxious—may intensify such effects by increasing suggestibility (distortion of perception) and diminishing critical ability.” [15]
    • This sounds anxious… “We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair;persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.” – 2 Cor 4:8-9
  • “Less stringent norm development is enhanced in close groups rather than in situations that promote communication.” [16]
    • Dr Loke himself argues that “the early Christian movement was a network of close communication”.
  • “False eyewitness perceptions that are unduly trusted” is a situation where veracity checking “may be greatly encumbered.” [17]
    • This creed was obviously well-trusted (perhaps even unduly trusted) by the community.
  • “Once consensus is formed, conformity is demanded… To the extent that such formulations are incorrect, inaccuracy is perpetuated.” [18]
    • In order for the 1 Corinthians creed to have been formalized into a creed, consensus would have been formed, and creeds are recited to enforce conformity through repetition.
    • “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.” – 1 Cor 1:10

Now perhaps you’re thinking, “But Paul, you can’t just take some Bible verses describing an ancient group and link that to psychological factors that increase inaccuracy and have that be good evidence that the Corinthians were inaccurate.”

And you would be right. Yet that’s most of Dr Loke’s argument in favor of accuracy. If you accept his, you should accept mine. We’re using the same psychology book and the same ancient letters… yet coming to opposite conclusions.

Is that a characteristic of good evidence? No. No it is not.

Would it help if I lump a number of them together and call it a “cumulative case”? No. No it would not.

Motif isn’t Corroboration

Imagine appearing before a jury an arguing that while individual alien abduction stories can’t be corroborated, that we should put stock in them because there are similar details… a light pulling, a bright room, grey creatures with big black eyes, and indelicate probing. This is Dr Loke’s argument from resurrection motif.

None of the group resurrection appearance stories found in the gospels attempt to describe the same event, so they obviously do not corroborate any given group appearance event. Dr Loke quotes Dr Mike Licona rationalizing that “appearance to the Twelve in 1 Corinthians 15:5 is clearly narrated by Luke and John” as if the gospels weren’t merely attempting to put narrative-flesh on decades-old creedal-bones in a manner that cannot be harmonized into one event.

Aware of this lack of corroboration, Dr Loke appeals to Dr Dale Allison’s observation of “sequential similarities…death, burial, resurrection on third day, appearance to individuals, appearance to 11 or 12 disciples” to assert an “‘appearance to group’ motif”. Note these repeating details are the very details found in the 1 Corinthians 15 creed that the communities would have been dramatizing for decades.

What does Dr Allison himself think we can conclude from this appeal to motif? In discussing this very argument with Dr Licona recently, Dr Allison said, “I don’t know what to do with what you call multiple attestation of a motif here. I do work with that method sometimes, but in the present case I am no longer sure that John hasn’t heard the gospel of Luke, so I recently published an article explaining my repentance.”[19]

If Dr Loke hasn’t convinced the very source of his data that this motif argument is compelling, should you consider it compelling? Just like the alien abduction stories, the converging similarities are better explained by social phenomenon than actual events.

Like, Solid, Man

Finally, Loke posits that “in order to generate widespread and persistent belief in BODILY resurrection among Jesus’ followers in the context of persecution, it is probable that ‘“solid” evidence involving group(s) of people would have been required.

What evidence backs this premise? Why, Dr Loke’s personal experience. “I have had bereavement experience myself of my deceased father, but I (and the rest of my family) do not therefore believe that my father’s solid physical body resurrected and came to me.” While that’s an interesting story to be sure, it’s quite irrelevant as evidence for what happened in the first century.

To succeed here, Dr Loke would need to demonstrate, among other options…

  • How individual resurrection appearances are insufficient to explain the widespread belief in bodily resurrection
  • How convincing legends about resurrection appearances are insufficient
  • How being merely mistaken about resurrection appearances is insufficient
  • How spiritual experiences are good enough to convince every other generation of humanity of resurrected Jesus (per Dr William Lane Craig[20]), but were somehow insufficient to convince that first generation of Corinthians. (Not being convinced merely by Loke’s intuition here was my so-called error #16.)

False things become widely believed all the time. Is this one of those instances of special pleading?

Miscellany 

Do they though?

Dr Loke claims that “almost all historians (whether Christians or non-Christians) accept this conclusion” that “there is good evidence for group appearance(s) of the risen Jesus”.

I have looked for non-Christian historians who specifically affirm good evidence for group appearances of the risen Jesus. But I have not been able to find any. I would love to be able to add such scholars to my research if Dr Loke can identify some for me.

Humpty Dumpty

If you’ve read this far, I think you should be rewarded with re-living this sentence from Dr. Loke.

Paulogia’s analogy of his recitation of Humpty Dumpty is a False Analogy, for there is no indication that he knew the king’s horses nor any indication that those listening to his recitation knew them too.

Conclusion

Dr Loke takes the ramifications of this debate very seriously, a matter of “eternal fate of other souls in the universe”. He fears my words will “mislead people into eternal perdition (‘Woe to the person through whom the stumbling block comes!’ Matthew 18:7)

While I’m not telling you what standard you should use to ultimately evaluate the evidence, Dr Loke’s import once again reminds me of the Briginshaw Standard: that “more convincing evidence is necessary to meet the standard of proof where an allegation is particularly serious, or unlikely to have occurred.”[21]

This is a matter of eternal importance, but what kind of evidence does Dr Loke bring?

  • hearsay documents
  • speculative character traits that lead to multiple, ambiguous, conflicting conclusions

Probabilistic arguments with multiple possible conclusions can quantify tendencies across a population of events, but they do not and cannot point conclusively to an individual action. Second-third-fourth-fifth-hand information isn’t reliable. These entire categories of argumentation are fundamentally flawed.

This kind of evidence is inadmissible in court. This kind of evidence is unusable to science. This kind of evidence is considered by historians only in the absence of better information, and is treated with lower confidence to draw modest conclusions. 

And yet, in a debate about the quality of evidence, Dr Loke brings only the least-convincing argumentation and calls it good. He puts the burden on you to lower yourself to accept mediocrity on behalf of an all-powerful God who could surely do much, much better if it were actually important.


[1] Paraphrasing Matt Dillahunty here.

[2] Gary Habermas Answers Questions on Near-Death Experiences, Resurrection Appearances, & MORE! 1:13:43

[3] Martin, Jean-Clément. “La démarche historique face à la vérité judiciaire. Juges et historiens.” Droit et société 38.1 (1998): 13-20.

[4] Ibid

[5] Ibid

[6] U.S. Federal Rules of Evidence. Rule 404. Character Evidence

[7] See Fallacy in Logic or Logically Fallacious or anywhere, really.  

[8] 1 Corinthians 15:3

[9] Richard Bauckham. “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses: The Gospels as Eyewitness Testimony (2nd Edition).” Apple Books.

[10] “Inference.” The People’s Law Dictionary. 1981-2005. Gerald N. Hill and Kathleen T. Hill 23

[11] DiFonzo, Nicholas, and Prashant Bordia. Rumor psychology: Social and organizational approaches. American Psychological Association, 2007. p 165 – 175

[12] Ibid, p 167

[13] Ibid, p 167

[14] Ibid, p 168

[15] Ibid, p 170

[16] Ibid, p 170

[17] Ibid, p 171

[18] Ibid, p 173

[19] Dale Allison & Mike Licona Discuss the Resurrection of Jesus Part 4 18:40

[20] Craig, Dr. William Lane. What Role Does the Holy Spirit Play In Apologetics?

[21] Lacey, Andrew. “Still Unsure about Briginshaw?” November 2019.

21 thoughts on “Paulogia’s First Rebuttal vs. Dr Loke

  1. With such bad evidence, does Dr Loke refuse to debate Non PhD holders because he knows the embarrassment awaiting him when he loses to someone he considers less intelligent?

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Reading Loke I am reminded of this quote

    “There is a principle which is a bar against all information, which is proof against all arguments, and which can not fail to keep a man in everlasting ignorance – that principle is contempt prior to investigation.”-Herbert Spencer

    Paul, I didn’t think you could do better than your videos as they are truly wonderful, but this exchange is… well…even better.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. In response to “[T]he verifiable evidence we have for the start of Christianity is entirely consistent with as few as two people claiming to have seen resurrected Jesus”:

    I really like Paul’s stuff but I must confess I have not watched all of it. Can somebody name the two?

    For comparison, Carrier’s count is zero.

    Like

  4. What kind of lousy rebuttal is this? Paulogia fails to respond to so many arguments Dr Loke makes in his Opening Statement and First Rebuttal. I’m sure Dr Loke will tear Paulogia to shreds in his Second Rebuttal just as he did in his First Rebuttal. Look forward to it.

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      1. One example. Paulogia fails to respond to the argument for the traditional authorship of the Gospels which Loke mentions in his First Rebuttal:
        “Hengel is particularly scornful of the repeated assertion that the gospels are ‘anonymous’ documents, to which the names of authors were conjecturally attached sometime in the second century. his study on the titles of the Gospels argues that as soon as more than one written version of the ευαγγελιον was in circulation some label would be necessary in order to distinguish them, and the only such labels we know are the traditional terms κατα Μαθθαιον, κατα Μαρκον, etc. which are found with remarkable unanimity from as early as we can trace the titles of the books. Hengel points out how improbable it is that a late conjectural attribution could have produced such unanimity and left no trace of alternative attributions. He also quotes Tertullian, Adv. Marcion 4.2.3, as typical of the view that a ‘gospel’ not bearing the name of its author could not be accepted as authoritative. It is thus altogether improbable that gospel books could have circulated in the latter part of the first century without titles, and those titles took the form of a statement of authorship.” (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark, pages 39-40, noting in footnote # 80 that “. . . most modern books (including this commentary) are also ‘anonymous’; it is only on the title page and cover that the author is named. And ancient manuscripts regularly carried titles or colophons which might be expected to identify the word contained in them; it was in such titles rather than in the text itself that the author’s name would be found.”)

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    1. I may be pointing out the obvious here – but you’re outing yourself as leader of the choir Dr. Loke is preaching to.

      I enjoy that Paul is trying to stay on topic and is not riding alongside Dr. Loke on every single Gish Gallop (like the debate on traditional authorship you mentioned).
      Paul made a very serious point why the psychological argument doesn’t hold much water and is not necessarily pointing in the direction Dr. Loke wants it to. This alone makes the rebuttal significant as it weakens one of the basic building blocks of Dr. Lokes argument. It shows that Dr. Loke seems to be presenting arguments that might generally point in his desired direction, but are not very specific. Therefore they look like elaborate speculation but not like good evidence – which is the core issue they are debating.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. your screed about traditional authorship seems tiringly familiar, and tiringly impotent. Leaving aside the fact that appealing to the consensus of experts is a reasonable point of evidence that doesn’t really need a laborious and long winded elucidation (and Loke seemed to think that even vaguer and less qualified allusions to unspecified authorities were good enough to make his own case) your rant from Hengel glosses over a very significant point. It doesn’t claim that the assigned authorial name MUST have been the name of the actual persons who wrote the gospels, but merely that it was usual for tracts to quickly have authorial names associated with them. This is of course a trivial and uncontraversial idea, and you’re just posturing as if it’s some clinching piece of evidence that favours accurate authorial certification.
      It doesn’t matter that the very first copy of Mark came with a frontispiece with big lettering that read, “This gospel was written by Mark the eyewitness” – it doesn’t make it true, and the Academy has looked long and hard at the actual content to reach the conclusion that the gospels were not written by the people that later church leaders (who didn’t have the facilities and data we do now, and were far from unbiased academics) claimed they were.

      Loke’s process and content has been a joke so far – and if this gospel authorship business is really the best you can do, you are indeed cut from the same cloth as him. If all you’ve got is an attempt to justify question begging by ignoring all the textual evidence to the contrary – evidence that has satisfied the consensus of scholarship – then you are merely pouring the weakest of weak sauce on a fried turd of an argument.

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  5. When one has to spend most of their response clarifying positions because the other was being dishonest, you have to wonder how the other could expect anything else he says to be honest.

    How Paul has the patience to deal with him amazes me.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Regarding “testimonies”, can they actually be considered as such? A written statement by itself is, I think, only used in court under unusual circumstances. A witness in court is usually open to cross-examination, which is of course impossible in this case. The jury usually gets the opportunity to judge the veracity of the speaker, and hear others address whether or not that person was there, could have seen the event, might have been mistaken, or has his own axe to grind.

    As for the claims of group sightings, large round numbers are suspicious in themselves, and it seems unlikely that five hundred people had a close enough view of Jesus (either pre or post crucifixion) to identify him with any degree of certainty. Add to that the likelihood that he was bearded and robed, and any solid identification becomes questionable.

    Like

    1. God could write the required message on the sky and remove all doubt, and He chooses not to, so it doesn’t seem important to worry about a hypothetical legal process for discovering the truth of this matter.

      If somebody else got resurrected and they couldn’t be distinguished from Jesus because of the beard and robe, that doesn’t change the story all that much – we still would have an inexplicable resurrection to explain. We shouldn’t worry about that much either.

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  7. Everytime I see people like “Dr.” Loke, my heart broke… I mean east Asian spirituality is much more superior in term of morality and social values than the Middle East religions (both in their original forms and their helenized/westernized versions), with their blood-lust, insecure deity. On behalf of Asian people, I apologize for “Dr.” Loke…..

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  8. And yet Atheists scoff at the resurrection while believing ALL LIFE AROSE from a perfectly dead, prebiotic, VIRGINAL, dumb as the rock of Jesus’s tomb, primordial soup, sea vent, tidal pool etc; And they cannot document their belief/ claim is true at present, despite having scientists and sophisticated, technologically advanced laboratories with the simplest cell at hand to copy directly from. And there is plenty of evidence man will never duplicate a existing cell, much less a new unique life form from the chemical elements.. The Catholic church wanted to keep the scriptures out of the lay persons hands. Don’t let the paulogias, dillhuntys or your presuppositions discouraging you from looking at the otherside. I recommend the books: The Stairway to Life: An Origin of Life Reality Check by Han and Stadler and or Michael Dentons, The Miracle of The Cell.

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  9. In reply to Tim Freeman and Ann K, God did choose to write his evidence in the sky, in Fatima in 1917, in the presence of many more eye witnesses, some of whose personal testimonies were recorded. If Dr Loke accepts the rather threadbare evidence for the resurrection, which establishes the basis for the Christian creed, then he presumably accepts, as must all similar Christians accept, the rather better evidence for the sun dancing miracle a little more than a hundred years ago. Of course, I believe in neither, being a simplistic sort of person who tries to look at such things from the starting point of my own ignorance.

    Like

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