Monday, April 7, 2014

A Course of Miracles (ACIM), the Urantia Book and other new age sources on "I am the light of the world" statement of Jesus and Marcus Borg's criterion of non-historicity.




In a previous post, I discussed liberal scholar Marcus Borg's psychologistic criterion of non-historicity according to which if a putative utterance of Jesus suggests a psychological disorder which a sane, normal person cannot have uttered, then such expression never came from Jesus and we have to conclude (with "most mainline scholars" = liberals?) which such saying was put into Jesus' lips by others.

We could formulate this liberal criterion of non-historicity like this: 

If a given saying of Jesus  is improper of a psychologically sane or normal person, such saying probably didn't come from Jesus. It was a mere invention of his followers and we're entitled to conclude that such saying NEVER came from Jesus.

Note carefully that Borg's criterion is NOT merely a criterion for doubting a given saying. It is a criterion for positively DENYING such saying.

Borg explicitly mentions as example the saying in the Gospel of John in which Jesus says "I am the light of the world".

Since psychologically normal, sane people don't say such things about themselves, it follows that Jesus didn't ever say that.

Let's apply Borg's liberal criterion to non-Christian, new age, paranormal sources about Jesus like a Course in Miracles (ACIM) and The Urantia Book, and see what we get.

A Course in Miracles (ACIM)

In ACIM, an ENTIRE section (Lesson 61) is entitled "I am the light of the world".

Now, look carefully what ACIM misleadingly tries to do. The linguistically and semantically "self-statement" I'm the light of the world (it is a self statement since "I" is a personal pronoun about oneself) tries to CHANGE the meaning in order to make it a statement about the ACIM's readers, not about Jesus alone (=religious pluralism!):

Who is the light of the world except God's Son? 2 This, then, is merely a statement of the truth about yourself. 3 It is the opposite of a statement of pride, of arrogance, or of self-deception. 4 It does not describe the self-concept you have made. 5 It does not refer to any of the characteristics with which you have endowed your idols. 6 It refers to you as you were created by God. 7 It simply states the truth

Note how misleading is to talk of God's Son and then say that it is a statement about the readers of ACIM (and by extension, of all of us). Son is a singular term, not a plural one. God's Son refers to one individual, not to many, and certainly this is the way in which Jesus uses "The Son" in Q, in which he differentiates the Son (Jesus) from the Father (God) and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal the Father (= human beings).

Even the most stupid reader of the Gospels would clearly see that.

But the ACIM, wholly arbitrarily, contrary to the Gospels' evidence, contrary to the English language as commonly used in the 20th century (remember that the ACIM's Jesus is talking to 20th century readers) and without any rational explanation, just change the meaning of the singular pronoun "I" into something entirely contrary, namely "you". (If Jesus wanted to refer to YOU, instead of himself, why the hell did he use the first-person pronoun "I"? In first-century Judaism, it was common to use third person expressions to refer  solemnly to oneself, as when Jesus used "Son of Man". But using "I" as meaning "you", specially by a putative 20th century Jesus who has revealed himself in United States, is clearly absurd).

But this hermeneutical or exegetical question is beside the point. Here, we're interested in history.

The interesting point here (for purposes of historical investigation) is to note that that Jesus in ACIM NEVER denies the utterance "I am the light of the world" in the John's Goslpel. In other words, the difference between ACIM and John's Gospel is not about the historicity of such utterance as coming from Jesus, but only about its true meaning. But the historicity or actuality of the saying as authentic and coming from Jesus is agreed by both sources.

Now I ask truth-seekers out there: If such statement, interpreted about one person alone is insane, is the same statement LESS insane if interpreted as referring to the readers of ACIM, by the readers themselves? Why exactly? How exactly if Jesus said "I am the light of the world" referring to himself,  is the such expression less insane when every reader of ACIM repeats daily "I am the light of the world" as a phrase used to herself?

Consider this prescription in ACIM in the same section in which "Jesus" says that you "should" apply such saying to yourself:

As many practice periods as possible should be undertaken today, although each one need not exceed a minute or two. 2 They should begin with telling yourself:

3 I am the light of the world. 4 That is my only function. 5 That is why I am here.

Since as a reader of ACIM I have to repeat (=telling myself) that "I'm the light of the world and thats my only function and thats is why I'm here", I'm using such statements as statements referring to MYSELF.

But according to Borg, only psychologically challenged and deluled people say things like that about themselves. (I guess the readers of ACIM, who see themselves as the light of the world, are seriously considering to visit a psychiatrist after reading and agreeing with Borg).

If a believer in ACIM thinks that Borg's argument is plain ridiculous when applied to themselves (and moreover, to Jesus!), then (if consistent) he MUST reject such Borg's argument as a valid objection against John's Gospel too (unless he has positive evidence that John actually invented such statement, which presses the problem of why exactly the same utterance appeared 19 centuries later in ACIM put in Jesus' lips too = independent attestation!).

The ACIM partisan may clap and condescendely smile when he see liberals dismissing John's Gospel with such arguments like Borg's, but it only exposes the partisan's own methodological inconsistency, obvious double standard, self-deception, intellectual superficiality and egregious disregarding for the truth.

Emotion and wishful thinking seem to have priority here. 

Otherwise, he would see that the main arguments and methodology used by liberals like Borg (specially extremistic ones like those in the Jesus Seminar) against John's Gospel would ALSO destroy the credibility of ACIM.

Since Borg's criterion is NOT a criterion of meaning, hemeneutics or biblical exegesis, but a criterion about what's historical, Borg's objection cannot be sympathetically accepted by the ACIM partisan as applied to John, but skip it entirely if applied to ACIM.

Fact is that, if ACIM actually comes from Jesus, it provides independent attestation of such saying in John, and hence Borg's speculative objection cannot be accepted by a consistent believer in ACIM.

The URANTIA BOOK (UB)

So far, we have gotten independent attestation in ACIM supporting John's Gospel regarding the historicity of the specific utterance or saying "I am the light of the world".

But The Urantia Book, which also claims to provide independent information about Jesus, ALSO includes the saying "I'm the light of the world" and hence provides further independent support of such saying.

So, we can read in such source:

I am the light of the world. He who follows me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life. Presuming to place me on trial and assuming to sit as my judges, you declare that, if I bear witness of myself, my witness cannot be true. But never can the creature sit in judgment on the Creator. Even if I do bear witness about myself, my witness is everlastingly true, for I know whence I came, who I am, and whither I go. 

So, we have another independent attestation, by a putative independent source, confirming the utterance in John's Gospel. 

Note that, contrary to ACIM, the Jesus of UB claims "I am the light of the world" about HIMSELF, not just about the readers of the UB book. 

But according to Marcus Borg, such Jesus of the Urantia Book is so crazy, megalomanic or insane (or somehow psychologically disturbed) as the Jesus in John and ACIM.

 CONCLUSION

Borg's argument is not a plausible historical argument to deny the authenticity of such saying in John and hence, no good reason has been given to reject such utterance.

At most, historically speaking, we're left with a position of agnosticism regarding such utterance in John. But there is not ONE, single piece of positive historical evidence which such saying didn't come from Jesus.

Borg's argument is particularly unconvincing. It is a sheer question begging speculation about what Jesus must be according to the liberal (atheistic-naturalistic) framework which, by a priori philosophical reasons, says that Jesus cannot be divine (hence, any "self" utterance implying some divine, more-than-human status by him is psychotic, insane and cannot be accepted).

But why exactly Jesus' nature must fit Borg's (or any other liberal scholar) naturalistic-atheistic framework? (The same question applies, of course, to the framework of Christians, Jews, Muslims and others... precisely for this reason we have to examine the EVIDENCE regarding Jesus in the New Testament).

But the partisans of ACIM and UB have a serious problem here: Their own sources CONFIRM the utterance in John's Gospel, providing multiple, independent attestation of such utterance and hence make it likely to be authentic.

Hence, partisans of ACIM and UB, if consistent, must accept on historical grounds that John correctly reported Jesus' words when he says "I'm the light of the world". 

The only issue to be debated is the exact meaning of such words, not the historicity of them. The historicity itself (if ACIM or UB are accepted) is supported by the criterion o multiple, independent attestation, and this evidence cannot be refuted by liberal self-serving and question-begging speculations about Jesus' psychology.

On the other hand, if the ACIM or UB partisan rejects the historicity of such saying in John, then not only it undermines these new age sources (because not independent attestation in the earliest sources is available), but moreover he owns us an explanation of why such new-age sources PUT in Jesus' lips precisely the same WORDS (even if with a different meaning) than those found in John.

And if he (in an unheard exercise of consistency) also rejects such saying in ACIM or UB, then he is recognizing that his own new age sources ALSO are unreliable (specially  ACIM since an ENTIRE lesson of the book carries such title) and he must explain to us which criteria of authenticity he uses to determine what is historical from what is fictional in such new age sources.

As you can see, some partisans of new age sources tend to affect the position of tough-minded, independent, scientific scholarship and rigorous critical thinking when it comes to the first-century New Testament materials, but such pretended intellectual rigour apparently dissapears and becomes "soft" when assessing the extremely late, 20th century new age putative sources about Jesus.

This is called a DOUBLE STANDARD, which is used to favour the extremely late, 20th century new-age paranormal sources over the earliest, 1st century historical sources used by mainstream professional scholars.

This is kind pseudo-intellectualism and self-deception is possible only in America...

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Marcus Borg's psychologistic denialism of Jesus' "I am" statements in the Gospel of John


In the book The Meaning of Jesus, Marcus Borg suggests that the "I am" phrases of Jesus in the Gospel of John are not historical because they're suggestive of a person with mental or psychological disorders, and since Jesus was not mad, such phrases couldn't come from him, but which were put back into Jesus' lips by the early Church:

I and most mainline scholars do not think Jesus said these things. He did not speak like this... I find these statements as the voice of the community than if I were to think of them as claims of Jesus about himself. To explain,  what we would think of a person who solemnly said about himself: "I'm the light of the world" or "Whoever has seen me has seen God"?... As self-statements, these are highly problematic. Indeed, we have categories of psychological diagnosis for people who talk like this about themselves. (p.149)

How does Borg know how exactly Jesus spoke? What we know about Jesus is what the Gospels reveal, and in ALL the Gospels we find Jesus using expressions implying his divine self-perception or exalted status. (Jesus called God "Abba", or dear father; regarded himself as the in-breaking of God's Kingdom on Earth; modified on his own authority some laws given by Yahve in the Old Testament; said that the fate of human beings would depend on their reaction to the Son of Man, etc.)

But let's consider Borg's argument in face value. He says that "to explain" his skeptical position, we have to consider what we WOULD THINK of a person who solemnly made such "I am" statements, and that we would REGARD such persons as having psychological problems. Since Jesus didn't have such problems, such expressions cannot come from him.

I ask truth-seekers out there: Do you think Borg's psychologistic argument is a good historical reason to DENY (note that it is not simply "doubt") that such utterances came from Jesus himself? How do you exclude what a historical person said, just because in your opinion, certain statements, if uttered by such person, are suggestive of mental disorders (e.g. megalomany)?

Personally, I find such psychologistic argument not only to be extremely weak, but also ridiculous and contrary to the historical evidence.

In the synoptics, we find a lot of "self-statements" by Jesus which, if uttered by any other person, we would think he's a megalomanic or mad or having some psychological disorder too. However, such statements pass the criteria of authenticity and hence are likely to be historical.

Historical evidence in the Synoptics and Thomas' Gospel which, if Borg's psychologistic argument were right, we would have to DENY (because they're suggestive of psychological disorders if uttered by any normal, sane person).

1-This early Q saying (Mattew 11: 27/Luke 10: 22) in which Jesus says that he's the only Son of God and the only revelation of God to humankind: 

"All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him"

If Borg's argument were sound, then we would have to DENY such saying in Q, since normal people don't regard themselves as the chosen ones to "reveal God to men", let alone to having exclusive prerrogatives to know God (=No one knows the Father except the Son).
 
2-In this "Son of Man" saying in Luke 12:8-9 ( in general, such "Son of Man" traditions are likely to be authentic since such expression were used almost exclusively by Jesus, not by his later followers, so passing the criterion of dissimilarity regarding the mode of expression of the early Church), Jesus says:

I tell you, whoever publicly acknowledges me before others, the Son of Man will also acknowledge before the angels of God. But whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God

Since such saying passes the criterion of dissimilarity and is in the synoptics (not in John), it is likely to be authentic.

Now, if Borg's argument were sound, we would have to DENY such saying because normal, sane people don't say "whoever disowns me before others will be disowned before the angels of God".

3-This another "Son of Man" saying in Mark 2: 10-11 in which we read:

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he said to the paralytic— 11 “I say to you, stand up, take your mat and go to your home.

If Borg's argument were right, we'd have to DENY such saying, because normal, sane people don't regard themselves as having the power and divine authority on the planet Earth for forgiving the sins of other mortals.

4-Or consider this "Son of Man" saying  in Mark 2: 27-28:

The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath; 28 so the Son of Man is lord even of the sabbath

If Borg's argument were right, we would have to DENY the authenticity of such saying, because normal, sane people don't regard themselves (specially in a strong monotheistic, Jewish context) as the LORD of the Sabbath (which, in Judaism, was the day choosen and imposed by the laws of God!).

5-In the Gospel of Thomas, we read  in Saying 77:  

"Jesus said, "I am the light that is over all things. I am all: from me all came forth, and to me all attained.
Split a piece of wood; I am there.
Lift up the stone, and you will find me there"

For people who accepts the authenticity of the Gospel of Thomas, Borg's argument would imply that such people have to DENY such utterances, because normal, sane people don't say "I'm the light that is over all things", let alone the divine-like (omnipresence) expression "I'm ALL", nor the obviously divine expression "From me all came froth, and to me all attained"

Note that the above saying in Thomas is even STRONGER (in terms of high Christology) than all the other sayings mentioned above, since it attributes to Jesus straightforward features which belong intriniscally to God alone (e.g. omnipresence and aseity = the property of being the source of everything than exists beside himself).

And of such tradition in Thomas is seen as independent, then we have INDEPENDENT ATTESTATION of the High Christology in the Synoptics and John.

Contrary to Borg, Jesus' "self statements" (specially, but not exclusively, in the form "Son of Man") pervade ALL the strata of the tradition, from the earliest Q, through the synoptics, to John, to the Gospel of Thomas.

Moreover (for new agers out there), if you accept A Course in Miracles (ACIM) as an independent source of information about Jesus, then the above argument is reinforced, since ACIM puts in Jesus' lips exactly the same utterance found in John, namely "I'm the light of the world". (And hence, an additional source, namely ACIM, would have to be included in the pool of sources which records "I am" statements of Jesus).

Borg's denialism of "I am" utterances in John are based upon sheer personal speculations, liberal (naturalistic) prejudices and animosity against the Christian theology pervading the Gospels (specially John), and a misreading of the straightforward self-perception statements which, in the synoptics (and external sources, like Thomas and ACIM, if we include them), clearly show Jesus' exalted status and "I am" statements.

Borg's argument has nothing to do with historical evidence nor objective historical methodology nor with consistent application of the criteria of authenticity.

METAMORIS 3: Review of the submission wrestling/grappling re-match between Eddie Bravo vs Royler Gracie


This past Fabruary 29th, I attended the METAMORIS 3 event, an excellent submission grappling tournament. (For outsiders, this is not fake "professional wrestling", but an actual, real submission grappling tournament with seasoned, professional martial artists and experts in submission grappling).

The most expected match of the night was the rematch between two of my grappling idols, namely, Eddie Bravo and Royler Gracie.

In 2003, in what some consider to be the greatest upset in the grappling community in that time, a brown belt Eddie Bravo defeated by submission the legendary black belt and member of the Gracie Family, Royler Gracie, with a leg triangle choke.

Royler defeated by Bravo in 2003

Eddie Bravo has a kind of unorthodox and innovative grappling style which tends to get his opponents off guard. Using such innovative moves, he caught Royler in a triangle choke.

From that time, people speculated and wished to see a rematch between both formidable opponents.

The dream has come true: In METAMORIS 3, both grapplers met again for a rematch.

REVIEW OF THE MATCH:

The rules of the match determined that win can only be attained by submission or unconscious (or referee's stopage), not by points (i.e. not decided by judges on the grounds of points). If not one of the grapplers force the other to submit, the match is a draw.

And that was exactly what happened: the match was declared a DRAW.

However, after watching the match in situ, and re-watching it several times in video,  I'm convinced that Eddie Bravo was, technically, clearly superior than Royler Gracie.

Bravo put Royler in several inmovilizations, holds and risky positions, for example:

Note there that Bravo has full control of Royler's head and arms, and a partial control of his legs too, leaving Royler almost fully traped. (However, Royler's has a free leg which, eventually and given his extraordinary talent, helped him to break and escape such virtually inescapable hold):


Also, Bravo meticulously set up another of his famous hold on Royler. Interestingly, all who attented the event  EXPECTED that Bravo would attempt such hold, which Bravo was setting up almost from the beginning of the match.

Personally, I believed that Royler would never be caught in such hold, but I was mistaken. Bravo actually GOT the hold on Royler. It only can be plausibly explained by Bravo's technical superiority.

This hold puts tremends pressure on the hips and groin area (stretching you out), making you tap. (Royler didn't tap due to his extreme and particular flexibility).

But the point is that Bravo caught Royler on that hold, showing his technical superiority to put his opponent in vulnerable positions.

It must be said that Royler, after a great deal of effort, also escaped from that hold (although Bravo, eventually would get Royler AGAIN in the same position, and Royler would escape again).

So, when I say that Bravo was clearly superior, it doesn't undermine the merits of Royler of escaping such dangerous holds and, even, niot submitting to them.

Another factor which in my opinion shows Bravo's superiority was the continous frustration of Royler, when trapped in several holds. (When you watch the match, see carefully Royler's hands and face in signal of frustration). 

Another factor, more decisive, showing Bravo's superiority was the fact that, in no moment during the match, Bravo was in danger. On the contrary, virtually in all the fight, Bravo was in control of the match, carefully setting up the next move to trap Royler.

In the end of the match, you see Bravo again trapping Royler in a new hold, this time a set up for a toe/ankle hold. Even though Royler couldn't escape the hold, he partially neutralize it, allowing him to not submit to it either (Royler's flexibility also helped him in this case, by the way).

But again, Bravo was in command of the match.

People who know martial arts, in particular submission grappling, surely can see many other subtle and technically fine aspects of that match which I won't mention in this brief review. 

For grappling fans and practitioners, that match must be watched and studied carefully, since there are a lot of technical and strategical things we can learn from it.

If you have not watch it yet, what are you waiting for?:


Monday, March 31, 2014

Susan Blackmore on the illusion of consciousness and the impersonalistic worldview's location problem for personalistic properties.


In a previous post, I discussed how to test worldviews in the light of the evidence following the same methodology used in science and analytic philosophy. I used as examples theism and metaphysical naturalism, the two most important, developed and sophisticated worldviews in the contemporary scene.

This post is an addendum to the previous one.

The key insight of this discussion is this: Impersonalistic worldviews (worldviews which, ultimately, are grounded on non-personal entities like atoms, particles, natural laws, fields of force, impersonal consciousness, impersonal "Absolute", impersonal "stuff", etc.) face what contemporary atheistic philosopher Crispin Wright calls "A location problem", namely, the problem of localizing "persons" and their properties in a world which is, basically and intrinsically, impersonalistic.

Wright writes:

A central dilemma in contemporary metaphysics is to find a place for certain anthropocentric subject-matters—for instance, semantic, moral, and psychological—in a world as conceived by modern naturalism: a stance which inflates the concepts and categories deployed by (finished) physical science into a metaphysics of the kind of thing the real world essentially and exhaustively is. On one horn, if we embrace this naturalism, it seems we are committed either to reductionism: that is, to a construal of the reference of, for example, semantic, moral and psychological vocabulary as somehow being within the physical domain—or to disputing that the discourses in question involve reference to what is real at all. On the other horn, if we reject this naturalism, then we accept that there is more to the world than can be embraced within a physicalist ontology—and so take on a commitment, it can seem, to a kind of eerie supernaturalism (Conceivability and Possibility, p. 401)

Note that Wright is NOT saying that personalistic properties (or anthropocentric subject-matters) are logically incompatible with naturalism. Rather, his point is that, on naturalism, such properties (e.g. moral ones) don't fit well. They're strange, rare, idiosyncratic, "queer", if you want. 

From a deterministic world, you expect more determinism, not free will.

From a purely physical world, you expect more physical entities, not spiritual ones.

From a mechanical world, you expect more mechanical entities, not entities with reason and intentions.

From a insentient world, you expect more insentient entities, not entities with consciousness.

From a amoral word, you expect more entities which are amoral, not moral entities.

For these obvious reasons, naturalism tends to exert intellectual pressure to embrace a nihilistic position about those personalistic properties.

In other words: You cannot not deduce the existence of moral values from a bunch of physical atoms, fields of forces and natural laws. Moral values (or rationality, or intentionality, or consciousness, etc.) are properties of persons, not of impersonal factors of reality. Therefore, only a personalistic worldview (a worldview based upon PERSONS) would accomodate these factors nicely and comfortably.

In the case of theism, such personalistic factors don't only fit well, they MUST exist (since God already possess them).

This is the decisive metaphysical adventadge of theism over naturalism (and any other impersonalistic, and hence atheistic, worldview).

Naturalist Susan Blackmore, who is an expert in psychology and neuroscience, in her short book "Consciousness: A Very Short Introduction", she has a whole chapter entitled "A Grand Illusion", in which she reports the position held by some contemporary thinkers. She asks:

Is consciousness an illusion? The possibility that we might be seriously wrong about our own minds pops up in many guises – that free will is an illusion, that the Cartesian theatre is an illusion, that self is an illusion, and that the richness of our visual world is a ‘grand illusion’ (p.50)

Note that 3 of the 4 "things" mentioned by Blackmore are "personalistic properties", namely free will, the Cartesian theatre (which see things as an spectator in a cinema) and the "self".

Blackmore explains that such skepticism doesn't deny that we have such illusions, the illusion itself exists. What is false is to take such illusion literally:

In other words, an illusion is not something that does not exist but something that is not the way it seems. (ibid.)

Note that the problem is not simply naturalism, it is impersonalism. Even worldviews which are not naturalists, but are impersonalistic (and hence, to that extension, atheistic), face Wright's location problem.

These worldviews can affirm the existence of personalistic properties, but they cannot GROUND them. They have to consider them brute (inexplicable) facts or "givens" of reality.

In debating contexts, atheists often mislead the public over the plausibly true metaphysical implications of naturalism (and even their own beliefs). 

They try to make naturalism an attractive option for the public, and hence they're forced to conceal their deeper nihilistic implications and Wright's location problem.

Consider atheist Alex Rosenberg. In his writing work, cxplicitly, he DENIES the existence of intentionality. In this article, he writes:

If beliefs are anything they are brain states—physical configurations of matter. But one configuration of matter cannot, in virtue just of its structure, composition, location, or causal relation, be “about” another configuration of matter in the way original intentionality requires (because it cant pass the referential opacity test). So, there are no beliefs

Note that the "so, there are no beliefs" is an EXPLICIT denial of the existence of beliefs and intentionality. Rosenberg has a concrete, explicit, positive, straightforward nihilistic position about  beliefs.

But look what Rosenberg replies to William Lane Craig, when Craig pressed the point about Rosenberg's denialism of intentionality:


Instead of DEFENDING and ARGUING FOR his own naturalistic nihilism, Rosenberg posed a red herring about the philosophical difficulty of explaining intentionality, how Plato and others had struggled with it, how it is a problem for neuroscience, etc. 

Why didn't Rosenberg offer the positive scientific arguments which, in his written work, he has used to deny beliefs and intentionality? If his arguments are so good and scientifically sound, why didn't he refuted Craig's objections? Because Rosenberg KNOWS that people would see his arguments as ridiculous.

In public debates, I've seen again and again and again how the atheists affect a position which they themselves regards as false, just on behalf of not losing the debate or looking as fools.

In their writing work, they deny moral values, consciousness, intentionality, free will, moral responsability, etc. but in debates against theists, they enjoy making moral judgments about Yahve being evil, how religion is bad, how we must be free-thinkers (without free will?) and so forth.

Right, this is suggestive of intellectual dishonesty. But more importantly, this shows the CRISIS of contemporary atheism. In the history of thought, atheism has never look so implausible, counterintuitive and false as in the contemporary scene.

The only reason why these atheists embrace absurd and self-refuting positions is because their aversion to theism is even greater.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Theism vs. Metaphysical Naturalism: Testing such worldviews in the light of the evidence. Some reflections.



In science, you test hypotheses on the grounds of their logical implications. The evidence is then used to see if the implications are correct or not.

Imagine some hypothesis A. If this hypothesis implies (or predicts) B, and when you look for the evidence you find B, then we are entitled to say that "the evidence B supports the hypothesis A".

So, suppose your hypothesis is "Jime is a blogger". If it hypothesis were true, then the implication is I write in some blog. You search on the internet and discover a blog called "Subversive Thinking", which is written by me, and you get evidence for your hypothesis.

The same procedure applies when testing worldviews. We could see worldviews as metaphysical hypotheses with certain implications and the evidence will decide which implications are true or false and hence which worldview is more likely to be correct.

Consider the theistic hypothesis (the hypothesis that a personal, eternal, spiritual God exists and is the creator of the universe):

At least, this hypothesis logically implies:

1-That consciousness exists (since God is conscious).

2-That persons (or at least one person) exist (since God is a person).

3-That spirits (or at least one spirit) exist (since God is a spirit).

4-That other properties related to persons (rationality, intentionality, sentience, intelligence, etc.) also exist, since God is a person.

5-That the universe has been created, and hence is finite in the past (since God is the creator of the universe).

All of these implications are essential to classical theism, i.e., if one of them were false, classical theism would be false. (Consider the contradiction between "God exists and is a person" and "no persons exist").

Consider now, the best atheistic alternative of contemporary thinking, namely the naturalistic hypothesis (the hypothesis which only the natural, physical or material world exists).

This hypothesis logically implies:

1-That a natural, or physical or material world exists.

2-That God doesn't exist.

Note that on naturalism, the existence of the physical or natural world itself is a brute (i.e. non-explicable) fact. It just exists, period.

Note, also, that personal properties like consciousness or rationality are NOT implied by naturalism. Perhaps they're compatible with naturalism in the sense that such properties "could" emerge in natural world, but certainly a natural world without consciousness nor rationaliy is fully compatible with naturalism (and in fact is what, according to naturalists, was the common state of the universe for millions of years BEFORE the emergence of biological life on the Earth).

 Evidence and testing the naturalistic vs the theistic hypotheses:

It is essential to understand that theism IMPLIES the existence of the above 5 features mentioned above, while atheistic naturalism DOES NOT. This is the key of the argument.

Even if naturalism were logically compatible with such 5 features, it does NOT imply them. 

So, the proposition "consciousness exists" is not contradictory with the claim "naturalism is true". But the truth of the latter doesn't imply the truth of the former.

On the contrary, the proposition "consciousness doesn't exist" contradicts the claim "God exists", since God is a conscious being. Therefore, if God exists, consciousness MUST exist.

Can you see the logical and predictive asymmetry between naturalism and theism regarding the above 5 features?

EVIDENCE:

Now, certainly we have at least prima facie evidence supporting:

1-The existence of consciousness.

2-The existence of persons

3-(More controversially) the existence of spirits or a spiritual realm (e.g. paranormal phenomena, NDEs).

4-The existence of properties essential to personality, like rationality, intentionality (the property of thinking about something), etc.

5-The beginning of the universe 13.7 billions of years ago.

Since all of these phenomena are either IMPLIED by  (or at least fit nicely with) theism, we have an independent arguments for God's existence based on them.

Again, the atheist who protests and says "I believe in consciousness and I don't think God exists", simply is claiming that the propositions "consciousness exists" and "atheism is true" are not contradictory. But this is trivial, nobody is claiming such logical contradiction.

Rather, the key question is in which WORLDVIEW such evidence fits better (e.g. which worldview predicts the existence of consciousness or the beginning of the universe), a theistic one or in a atheistic one?. This is the question.

If atheism is defined simply as "God doesn't exist", then it it so general that no logical implication whatsoever (in addition to denying God) is made. No specific factual prediction or implication about consciousness, morality, intentionality, the beginning of the universe, etc. is made by the atheist who says simply "God doesn't exist".

Hence, since not specific implication or factual prediction is made, not evidence is confirmatory or refutatory of such claim. Such atheism is not a worldview tested by the evidence, but a mere personal viewpoint about God.

Since such psychological or autobiographical atheism makes no (non-trivial) predictions, the evidence discussed in this post is neutral and irrelevant regarding its truth or falsity.

Here we're talking about competing worldviews and their logical implications.

 Reflective naturalists tend to deny the above evidence:

Sophisticated naturalists who have reflected on the implications of naturalism, tend to DENY or be skeptical of the above evidence, since they see the tension with naturalism.

Let's see:

1-Regarding consciousness, naturalists have called such phenomenon "the hard problem of consciousness". 

Why is it supposed to be a hard problem? Because physical matter (which is all what exists for naturalists) is NOT conscious. Natural science has no found any evidence of sentient and conscious properties in physical matter.

Atheist neuroscientist and skeptic Susan Blackmore makes the point clear:

How can a physical brain, made purely of material substances and nothing else, give rise to conscious experiences or ineffable qualia?" (Consciousness. A very short introduction. 2005, p. 4)

The emergence of such "conscious experience" becomes a mystery IF we begin with physical matter as the basic aspect of reality.

But on theism, since God is conscious, consciousness itself is necessary: it MUST exist as a part of the fabric of reality. So it is not a mystery, given theism. (It doesn't imply that the connection or precise mechanisms between consciousness and the physical brain are easy to understand).

2-Regarding persons, many naturalists have claimed that "persons", properly speaking, don't exist. There is not "I" which is the center of personality.

So, world's leading scientist and hard-core atheistic naturalist Francis Crick comments:

You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behaviour of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules. As Lewis Carroll's Alice might have phrased: "You're nothing but a pack of neurons" (The Astonishing Hypothesis (p.3)

 3-Regarding "spirits", I think no citation is needed to support the point that naturalists are debunkers of any field which address or is sympathetic to spiritual questions (theology, empirical research on spiritual phenomena, etc.).

Naturalists don't believe any such a thing as "spirits" exist, and consider people who believe in them as a bunch of scientific illiterate and superstitious people.

4-Regarding properties related to persons (rationality, intentionality, free will, intelligence, moral responsability, etc.), Crick's citation mentioned above is typical.

But we could add Alex Rosenberg's view based on a naturalistic (physicalistic) reading of neuroscience:

If beliefs are anything they are brain states—physical configurations of matter. But one configuration of matter cannot, in virtue just of its structure, composition, location, or causal relation, be “about” another configuration of matter in the way original intentionality requires (because it cant pass the referential opacity test). So, there are no beliefs

If physical matter is all what exists and natural science is right, then Rosenberg's argument is sound: Natural science has NOT found in matter ANY evidence of "intentionality" or "aboutness".  Moreover, the evidence known about physical matter positively rule out intentionality.

Hence, if the brain is purely physical (and no spiritual, non-physical substance exist), beliefs "about something" cannot exist.

Now, such view is clearly false. Beliefs certainly exist (e.g. Rosenberg himself "believes" that beliefs don't exist, so his own denial of beliefs is ABOUT beliefs). Hence, what produces such false conclusion is Rosenberg's naturalism.

This philosophical point was made by William Lane Craig in his debate with Rosenberg (note Rosenberg's silly reply in the minute 2:20 of the following brief video):


Rosenberg says that "that question has nothing to do with atheism or theism". But surely it HAS to do with theism and atheism, since on theism God is a conscious and rational being endowned with beliefs. And since God is spiritual, the problem of a "chunk of matter being "about" another chunk of matter" dissapears. The latter is a problem for materialists and naturalists, not for the dualistic theist.

I'm amazed by atheists who don't seem to grasp this basic and elemental point.

5-Regarding the beginning of the universe, atheists have been forced to choose among two (implausible) alternatives:

a-To deny the evidence for the beginning of the universe

b-To claim (more obscurantistically) that the universe "came from nothing". A sheer act of faith.

Note that, on theism, the universe began to exist BECAUSE God created it. So, the theist is happy and confortable with the scientific evidence of the Big Bang.

At least, regarding such evidence, theism seems to be metaphysically superior than naturalism.

Other pieces of evidence could be discussed and added, and other kinds of worldviews could be considered (pantheism, idealism, etc.).

But the above evidence is the most obvious and undeniable ones, and the best and most sophisticated alternative worldview to theism is metaphysical naturalism.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Atheist Jeffrey Lowder educates and corrects the obsucarantism of atheist Keith Parsons on the cosmological argument and the "everything has a cause" straw man. Plus Edward Feser's challenge


Atheist Keith Parsons is a professional philosopher of religion. However, in my opinion, his arguments are largely amateurish and dissapointing. Unfortunately, he is not a sophisticated philosopher.

Like most atheists, Parsons is convinced that the cosmological argument is grounded in the premise "Everything has a cause". Hence, the "What caused God? question is seen as unaswerable and a serious problem for the theist.

In his own words:

I think Bertrand Russell's beautifully succinct critique of all causal arguments holds good: "If everything requires a cause, then God requires a cause. However, if anything can exist without a cause, it might as well be the universe as God."  Exactly.

That that objection looks "sound" and "definitive" for professional atheists, specially philosophers (who should know better), proves the intellectual bankrupt and crisis of contemporary atheism. (This objection is almost so bad as the Euthrypo's Dilemma against the moral argument, which I discuss here).

Amazingly, atheist Jeffrey Lowder corrects and educates Parsons on that point. 

Lowder correctly points out:

no respectable theologian or theistic philosopher has ever made the claim, "everything has a cause." Yet various new atheists have proceeded to attack that straw man of their own making. I remember, when reading The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, where he attacked that straw man and cringing. There are many different cosmological arguments for God's existence and none of them rely upon the stupid claim, "everything has a cause.

You won't find that mistake made by Quentin Smith, Graham Oppy, Paul Draper, or (if we add a theistic critic to the list) Wes Morriston.

It is one of the very exceptionally rare cases in which one atheist correctly recognizes straw men created by his fellows naturalists and protests against such intelelctual obscurantism and charlatanism.

Lowder HAS to be commended by such intellectual honesty. 

In fact, in my reading and surveying of the atheistic literature, I don't remember ANY atheist (with the exception of the ones mentioned by Lowder, plus William Rowe) who have explicitly mentioned that the "everything has a cause" is wholly an invention of atheists and that NO ONE of the leading proponents of the cosmological argument has employed such  "stupid" claim.

A very similar problem affects the moral argument for God's existence, which atheists constantly (and intentionally?) misrepresent as claiming that moral values depend on God's arbitrary will (when actually, the moral argument simply says that objective moral values depend on God's nature, since God, as the greatest possible, holy and perfect being, IS THE GOOD, who in addition is a PERSON,  and hence the ultimate, eternal and fixed ground of all the person-relative properties like consciousness, rationality, intentionality, free will, moral values, etc which cannot be fully explained by mechanistic or ultimately non-personalistic worldviews like naturalism, versions of Eastern mysticism and so forth).

However, you get again and again and againt consistent atheistic misrepresentations of the cosmological argument as claiming that "Everything has a cause".

So, you can see leading atheists like Michael Martin, Sean Harris, Theodore Schick Jr. and many others emplying such straw men.

This is ATHEISTIC OBSUCRANTISM. 

These individuals positively, consistently and deliberately misrepresent the truth (in this case, about the actual formulation of the argument).

Also, I'm astonished by the number of secular and atheist studends in US colleges who have fallen prey of such fallacy, as seen in the question "What caused God?" which they continously pose to theists in debates in colleges and universities.

For example, in the first debate between atheist George Williamson and William Lane Craig, an atheist from the floor posed the typical question "What caused God?" to Craig. Here his answer:

As philosopher Edward Feser has argued:

In fact, not one of the best-known defenders of the Cosmological Argument in the history of philosophy ever gave this stupid “everything has a cause” argument—not Plato, not Aristotle, not al-Ghazali, not Maimonides, not Thomas Aquinas, not John Duns Scotus, not G.W. Leibniz, not Samuel Clarke, not Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, not Mortimer Adler, not William Lane Craig, not Richard Swinburne. And not anyone else either, as far as I know. Perhaps... you think that when trying to refute some of history’s greatest minds, a good strategy would be to attack an argument none of them ever defended.

In a recent exchange, Feser has CHALLENGED Parsons to provide evidence that some of the leading defenders of the cosmological argument grounds such argument in the claim "everything has a cause".

Here is Feser's challenge:

Now it would seem that what Lowder calls a “mistake” is one that you, Keith Parsons, have made.  But is Lowder wrong?  If he is, please tell us exactly which theistic philosophers who defend First Cause arguments – Avicenna? Maimonides? Aquinas? Scotus?  Leibniz? Clarke? Garrigou-Lagrange? Craig? -- actually ever gave the argument Russell was attacking.

See Parsons' even more confused reply here, and Feser's refutation here.

I'm positively sure that atheists like Parsons won't understand. Such intellectual impairment to grasping conceptual distinctions regarding arguments for God probably has spiritual origins, as suggested in religious traditions, for example by Jesus in Matthew 13:13:

Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.

Clearly, the "everything has a cause" type of atheists like Parsons and most atheists don't understand.

A dangerous idea:  In talking with atheists like Parsons, should we follow Jesus and pose the arguments for God in the most criptic and complicated possible way, precisely in order to (and with the intention of) provoking them to misunderstand even more the argument and keep them even more far away from  God? Do such atheists deserve your honest effort of correction of their misrepresentations? Do they deserve your time and good will in dealing with their straw men in their own spiritual benefit?

Just think about it...

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Setting the record straight about the posts about the Historical Jesus plus a spiritual reflection on certain aspects of Jesus' teachings

One of the things that I've learnt in my on-going study of the Historical Jesus is the massive ignorance and egregious confusions which exists about this topic (specially in the paranormal community and New Age circles).

The main confusion consists in conflating the historical Jesus studies (a purely historical discipline which, as such, is studied by Christian, Jews, Muslim, secular and even atheistic naturalist scholars like those in the Jesus Seminar) with Christian theology (the theological reflection about the person, identity and the teachings of Jesus).

The historical Jesus studies try to reconstruct what, given the available historical evidence, is likely to be part of the life of Jesus as a historical person, without any reference to the theological implications of that study.

Christian theology is the rational articulation of the theological doctrines present in (or at least implicitly suggested by) the New Testament about Jesus (ideas like the Trinity, the Incarnation, Atonement, Salvation, etc.).

Note that the historical Jesus studies and Christian theology are DIFFERENT disciplines, but it doesn't imply that they're mutually exclusive or disconnected, since serious theology has to be informed by history (otherwise, such theology is sheer speculation based on fantasy). 

This is why there are many Christian theologians who are ALSO fine New Testament scholars and historians (people like Dale Allison, J.A.T. Robinson, Craig Evans, William Lane Craig, N.T. Wright, Raymond Brown, Gerald O'Collins, etc.). With their personal differences or interpretations, they're convinced that their theology is likely to be true and hence, that it is historically well-founded. (None of them would say "The evidence from history says X, but my theology says non-X, hence to the hell with history"). 

If their conclusions are correct or wrong is besides the point. The point is that they see their theology as rooted in history.

Just read their scholarly works and see by yourself that what I'm reporting here is the truth about them.

In most articles published in this blog about the Historical Jesus, my intention has been to discuss the historical evidence for the life of Jesus, not its theological or spiritual meaning. I have interest in the latter too, but my main interest is the former.

Some readers of this blog, coming from a paranormalist background (and hence, suffering from conceptual confusion mentioned above) have interpreted the posts as a defense of Christian theology instead of a defense of the historical evidence for the Christian view of Jesus (which in my opinion, is best supported by the historical evidence, both about Jesus' teachings and self-perception and the historicity of the resurrection, than the liberal alternatives).

So, when I say that Jesus' self-perception was exclusivistic, I'm making a historical claim: I'm saying that, given the historical evidence (supported by the historical criteria of authenticity), it is more likely than not that the historical Jesus regarded himself as the ultimate, authoritative, definitive and exclusive revelation of God to men. The best evidence supports such conclusion.

I'm NOT making the theological claim that what Jesus was saying is TRUE. Perhaps he was crazy, deluded or megalomanic, and thought (falsely) that he was such ultimate divine authority when, in fact, he was another mere mortal Jew of the first century. 

So, when I receive a bunch of e-mails of people saying "I think Jesus was another teacher among a spectrum of teachers of humankind like Buddha or Confucius", such comments are irrelevent and mere autobiographical opinions about the personal ideology or belief-system of the commenter, which have nothing to do with the historical evidence for Jesus' self-perception.

Such people obviously don't understand the main trust of the argument, confusing a purely historical argumentation with a theological conclusion.

(Partially, one of the several reasons why I don't allow comments in my blog is that: In my experience, many people don't understand even the simplest and basic arguments, specially on fields outside of their expertise; and allowing such misrepresentations of my posts would tend to confuse others, equally ignorant but well-intentioned readers, and forced me constantly to set the record straight refuting such misrepresentations and repeating again and again what I've already published or explained in the main post. And to be honest, I have neither time nor patience to do that).

Since many American people have strong emotional issues related with Jesus, I'm sure the clarifications that I've just made here (which are unnecesary for accurate readers, anyway) also will be misunderstood... so, let's simply continue.

 Spiritual reflecion on one aspect of Jesus' teachings

In this part of the post, I'm going to link the evidence of the historical Jesus with some theological and spiritual reflections. For the purposes of this part of the post, we will ASSUME for the argument's sake that the following teachings of Jesus are SPIRITUALLY true (i.e. they actually and accurately represent our spiritual condition and are true regarding spiritual matters).

My purpose here is to provide food for thinking about Jesus and the possible spiritual implications of some of his (historically well-supported) teachings. 
 
In the following "Q" saying (Mattew 11: 27/Luke 10: 22) , Jesus is explicit about his condition as the only and exclusive Son of God and the ultimate revelation of God for men:

All things have been committed to me by my Father. No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him

In addition to being in "Q", this saying is supported by other criteria of authenticity too as I've explained in other posts, and the main idea in such "Q" saying of Jesus being the exclusive way which connects God with men is independently attested, for example in John 14:6 "No one comes to the Father except through me". So such exclusivistic self-perception is very likely to be a historical teaching of Jesus.
 
What I'd comment here is the last part of the Q saying in which Jesus seems to suggest an ACTIVE role of himself in providing information SELECTIVELY to certain people, and not others.

Jesus says "Those to whom the Son CHOOSES to reveal him" (emphasis added).

Think about it for a minute.

This is astonishing.

If such teaching is spiritually true (i.e. actually represents our spiritual condition), it seems to suggest that it doesn't depend wholly (or totally) of us to know God. On the contrary, and whatever could be our disposition to know God, it is also necessary an ACTIVE intervention of Jesus himself and his "choosing" us (=certain persons) in order to such revelation to be available to us.

People who is not chosen by Jesus, won't receive the revelation of God. Period.

Amazingly, such view seems to be the underlaying motive behind Jesus' use of parables. Consider this saying in Matthew 13: 10-13:

10 And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables?
11 He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given.
12 For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath.
13 Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand.
In other words, it seems Jesus intentionally hide his revelation through parables, in order to prevent certain people to knowing God. It was one method used by Jesus to CHOOSE (remember Q!) the people who will know God and discard the others.

The same idea is conveyed by Mark 4: 10-12:

10 When he was alone, the Twelve and the others around him asked him about the parables. 11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables 12 so that,
“‘they may be ever seeing but never perceiving,
    and ever hearing but never understanding;
otherwise they might turn and be forgiven!’[a]

Think about it for a minute. Spiritually, this is astonishing and very unconfortable. (It is not surprising that religious pluralism is so appealing to people in our culture; but clearly, it is NOT the way Jesus conceived spiritual matters. For Jesus, the spiritual problem is a lot more complex, serious and spiritually more challenging and demanding than the simplistic and largely psychoterapeutical approach of "Smile and be Happy" world painted by religious pluralists and New Age gurus).

Jesus was strongly selective of the people who deserved to be saved, or at least the ones to be saved first.

It is as whether the Kingdom of God, spiritually considered, is such amazing GIFT, that no everyone deserves it. 

This interpretation is confirmed by other sayings in the Synoptics like in Matthew 7:6:

Do not give dogs what is sacred; do not throw your pearls to pigs. If you do, they may trample them under their feet, and turn and tear you to pieces

Since for Jesus the Kingdom of God is the ultimate and most valuable sacred thing, it is not to everybody. They don't deserve it, and to them it is not given. Only certain people will receive such gift.

My basic reaction when reflecting about such hard teachings of Jesus is to feel strong discomfort.

Such view seems to be discriminatory and even unjust and, prima facie, it is hard to make sense of it. 
But when I see people (specially atheists, even thought Jesus is not exclusively talking of atheists there) who, intentionally and willingly reject God, I tend to make sense of the underlaying teaching of Jesus.

Consider the first-rate atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel's opinion about his "disposition" of knowing God:

I want atheism to be true and am made uneasy by the fact that some of the most intelligent and wellinformed people I know are religious believers. It isn’t just that I don’t believe in God and, naturally, hope that I’m right in my belief. It’s that I hope there is no God! I don’t want there to be a God; I don’t want the universe to be like that.
 
Or consider what atheist philosopher of science J.J.C. Smart says regarding the evidence for God:

Suppose that I woke up in the night and saw the stars arranged in shapes that spelt out the Apostle's Creed. I would know that astronomically it is impossible that stars should have changed their position. I don't know what I would think. Perhaps I would think that I was dreaming or that I had gone mad. What if everyone else seemed to me to be telling me that the same had happened? Then I might not only think that I had gone mad-- I would probably go mad" (J.J.C. Smart in his contribution to the book Atheism and Theism, pp.50-51. Emphasis in blue added)

Are these first-rate thinkers really open to God (and hence, open to live eternally in God' Kingdom)? Surely not. They prefer their OWN personal atheistic ideology than to accepting God, whatever the evidence. They WANT to live without God.

In  the light of Jesus' sayings above, Jesus' reply to them probably would be "Go ahead. If you want your eternal life to be without God, it is your choice!"

And surely, confronted with people like Nagel and Smart, Jesus would use the MOST CRIPTIC PARABLE ever in order to prevent them to know the mysteries of God, since Jesus already knew in advance that they WON'T hear.

Certain people prefer to impose their own opinion instead of being really open to the evidence and the truth (they only allow the truths which are palatable to them or which cohere with their prejudices).

Interestingly, it is valid not just for atheists, but for many agnostics and theists too.

When I published my first post about Jesus' resurrection, I received a bunch of e-mails of people trying to explain away the evidence with speculations increidibly absurd and not supported by any historical evidence at all about Jesus. (Speculations which included Jesus not being killed by the crucifixion at all and then, after healing his wounds, he appeared alive again to the disciples; or arguing that Jesus was a master or Yoga or Chi Kung or Pranic Healing and therefore he used such techniques to resuscite himself; or that he had only a clinical death and then resuscited like in cases of some NDE patients, and so forth). 

No one of these speculations is supported by the historical evidence about Jesus. Not one. The evidence goes in the contrary direction.

Also (surprise!) all of these replies came from people belonging to the spiritualistic, paranormal and New Age communities (without exception). (This obscurantism, solid ignorance of the releant literature, extreme arrogance and unwillingness to explore matters seriously and with an open-mind has been instrumental in my progressive dissapointment regarding these communities)

Note that these people are not really open to the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus; on the contrary, they're trying to impose their own personal opinions or beliefs on the evidence, in order to force such evidence into preconceived and rigid conceptual categories with which they're familiar.

They're not open to phenomena and spiritual facts which, if true, could be found outside of their rigid mental categories.

This closed-mindness is, in my opinion, the whole point (and actual secret) of Jesus hiding his teachings from certain people and reinforcing their mistakes. Presumibly (on the assumption of this post that Jesus' teachings mentioned above are spiritually correct), Jesus knew in advance that certain people is like that.

And after reflecting a lot and trying to make sense of what Jesus is saying, I agree: I now believe that certain kind of information (specially certain spiritual teachings and data) are NOT for everyone and NOT should be given to them.

This particular lesson seems valid to me and coheres well with my own experience, even if Jesus's overall teachings were false.

There are certain people which don't deserve spiritual gifts and there is not point in trying to convince them.

Ultimately, this is  SPIRITUAL situation and each of us has to deal with it.