Trilemma Revisited

My old friend J. P. Holding thinks I have committed a category mistake and provides a counter-argument of his own:

Peter claims that Jesus was God incarnate. He makes this claim based upon what he considers to be justifiable evidence. Jesus told him that He was God incarnate. Further, Jesus has fond memories of being God and when asked, His mother supports Jesus’s claim. Jesus even passes a lie-detector test when asked whether or not He is God. Peter is also convinced that Jesus is a sane person and not prone to telling lies. Therefore, Peter’s third-person claim to knowledge demonstrates that Jesus is (1) telling the truth, (2) not purposefully lying, and it is clear that (3) he does not misunderstand Jesus’s assertion. Unfortunately, Jesus was actually Zeus incarnate rather than God incarnate. Jesus was actually descended from Zeus and His mother does not want Him to learn of His true origins.

Thus the analogy does not hold, and the problem remains: How could one be mistaken about being God incarnate? The very thing that needs to be answered is not even touched upon! The character and nature of the claims of Jesus are such that proof of being mistaken would all too easily come to pass! Still’s comparison is completely irrelevant.

Incredibly Holding cannot imagine that someone with aspirations of divinity could be mistaken. Presumably they must either be lying through their teeth or certifiably insane. Was David Koresh insane to believe himself to be the Messiah? I wouldn’t say so. Sadly mistaken with visions of grandeur certainly but not insane. There’s also the late Grand Rabbi Menachem Schneerson who behaved the way the messiah should and did nothing to dissuade the Chabad-Lubavitch community in Brooklyn and around the world from believing otherwise. Or how about Sun Myung Moon who proclaimed in the 2002 Clouds of Witnesses statement that he is the “Savior, Messiah, Second Coming and True Parent,” i.e., God, of all humanity? These are just three of our contemporaries. There have been dozens of such figures throughout history–just like these three and Jesus–who believed themselves to be sons of gods, messiahs, demi-gods, or the Big Guy himself. I’m quite sure that many of these characters really were con-artists or just plain wacky. These are the people that C. S. Lewis no doubt had in mind when he formulated the trilemma. Like Holding and many others, Lewis gave too much benefit of the doubt to Jesus and too little to all others. But the truth is not so simple. Among the very devout there have been numerous serious, committed, sober and sane religious leaders who firmly believe themselves to be divine incarnations of one or another deity. Jesus joins that proud line of would-be saviors.

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About Bradley Bowen