Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Day 6: 'Liar, Lunatic or Lord'...or...

This is nothing new. I think I've even talked about it before, but when I was channel surfing on the radio on my way into work this morning it came up on the Catholic radio station during an interview.

People will most often quote it by saying Christ was either a liar, a lunatic or Lord. What they're doing is boiling down a quote from C.S. Lewis:

"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. ... Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God." - Mere Christianity

I should think that the problem with this set up, the 'trilemma' (new word!) as I've seen it called, is pretty obvious. There are other options that Lewis ignores or has discounted in his own opinion and so left off of the table. But that doesn't mean that those options don't exist.

This maxim became, after Lewis made it popular, an important part of Christian apologetics for a long time. I know that some popular Christian apologists even today call it 'the most important argument in Christian apologetics'. And I have to wonder how they can say that, given how weak an argument it actually is. Even other Christian apologists point out the flaws in Lewis' argument.

It annoys me that so many people continue to use this line because it makes a quick sound bite.


  1. Has CS Lewis not heard of using metaphor or symbolism? Cause you know Christ may not have been speaking literally as he did ALL THE TIME in the Bible. His conclusion has too many holes for me. But the book "Mere Christianity" is full of this and thus had too many holes in general.

    1. I was disappointed in Mere Christianity when I read it. :(

      It's only metaphor or symbolism when it suits, of course. :p

  2. Mere Christianity actually made me angry. I didn't like it at all. I was told to read it and it would give me a new spin on Christianity and I may finally understand. It didn't do any of that. It made Christianity more confusing instead lol

    1. I was unimpressed, though not angry with it. I think if you were already convinced of the truth of Christianity that it would help reinforce your beliefs. But for people who have studied and have serious doubts it falls far short.


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