The headline quote on my blog is called "The Trilemma": fool, demon, or God. Now, personally, I think most folks fall into one of those or the fourth which Lewis says is not open: great moral teacher. I was over participating in a thread at Common Sense Atheism and someone said
“By and large, [C.S. Lewis's] theology, like his apologetics, is embarrassingly incoherent, unsound, incomplete, and generally bad” I agree. I created a thread on freeratio about and it generated some good discussion. It can be found here:and pointed to this other thread and his opening quote there:
Theres the trilemma, which has been shredded to pieces, even though it was self evidently stupid to being with, . . .Now, I have heard Christians say the same about the Trilemma, but since it is still my banner quote - obviously no one has convinced me yet it is "shredded" or "self-evidently stupid" (I think more of myself than that). So, I invited folks over to shred it for me and perhaps make me change my banner quote
So, here is the entire passage of Mere Christianity the Trilemma is a part of - and I am going to break it into pieces (numbered for easy reference in the comments) so that folks can shred more capably. It is from Chapter 8 - "The Shocking Alternative"
1. That is the key to history. Terrific energy is expended-civilisations are built up--excellent institutions devised; but each time something goes wrong. Some fatal flaw always brings the selfish and cruel people to the top and it all slides back into misery and ruin. In fact, the machine conks. It seems to start up all right and runs a few yards, and then it breaks down. They are trying to run it on the wrong juice. That is what Satan has done to us humans.Other than the Satan part, which my rationalist invitees (and many of my Christian brethren) won't buy, is there any disagreement about this being true of historical (and current) human social and political institutions and systems?
2. And what did God do? First of all He left us conscience, the sense of right and wrong: and all through history there have been people trying (some of them very hard) to obey it. None of them ever quite succeeded.Any disagreement yet? I truly hope not.
3. Secondly, He sent the human race what I call good dreams: I mean those queer stories scattered all through the heathen religions about a god who dies and comes to life again and by his death, has somehow given new life to men.I have been told so many times about this by so many pagans I think it is unassailable
4. Thirdly, He selected one particular people and spent several centuries hammering into their heads the sort of God He was--that there was only one of Him and that He cared about right conduct. Those people were the Jews, and the Old Testament gives an account of the hammering process.Now, we are into a Christian theological view - whether or not you agree you have to grant this for the sake of the discussion. The criticism is that Lewis is incoherant as a Christian, and that this is self-evidently wrong for a Christian to say.
5. Then come the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time.Now, Jesus Seminar aside, any disagreement that the Bible presents Jesus saying this about Himself? Again, whatever you think of the Bible, this is internally consistant, isn't it? [I will be happy to provide chapter and verse if you think he did not claim any of that in the Gospel accounts]
6. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it.Problem yet?
7. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else.That is right, correct?
8. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.It got him crucified, right?
9. Now the core of the argument: One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toe and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men's toes and stealing other men's money? Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct.If you are going to derail this, that is the first key point you have to derail - is it "asinine fatuity" for you to forgive Fred for a sin he committed against Joe. But, there is more.
10. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences.That is correct, right? Not only that, he could forgive those sins and Fred could be instantly healed of some illness - and not be told to go tell Joe he was sorry.
11. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin.I cannot argue with that
12. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history.True isn't it? Now, you might try to come up with people more conceited than this - but besides being really hard, it would be really pointless in the discussion, wouldn't it?
13. Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less so unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is 'humble and meek' and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.If you are going to say he is "a great moral teacher" - then you have to jump in there. This is the standard "meek and mild teacher of truth" basis for the "great moral teacher - but not God" view of Christ.
14. 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.Would he?
15. He would either be a lunatic-on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell.Especially, since he demonstrated the power to heal along with his "conceit" to forgive sin. I am not sure lunatic is actually a choice there - maybe only demon or God.
16. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.Actually, that really is a dilemma as stated by Lewis. Shred away now.
17. 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.I too agree, that along with the Resurrection, this choice was really not left open to us. Son of God and great moral teacher, but not the second without the first.