Why Should I Believe in Jesus?
Posted by That Other Mike on 11/11/2007
Don’t worry, I haven’t converted. I’m just posting a few bits of an article I wrote some time ago in regards to Christian belief in Jesus; there seems to be the assumption on their part that the historicity and arguments in favour of Christianity are completely rational and unable to be attacked.
The Lord, Liar, or Lunatic Argument
“Did Jesus exist? If not, then there’s not much to talk about. If he did, he called himself Lord. This means that either:
He was Lord,
He was a liar, or
He was a lunatic.
It’s unlikely he was a liar, given his morals as described in the Bible, and his behavior doesn’t sound like that of a lunatic. So surely we must conclude that he was Lord?”
Luckily, no. Firstly: this argument starts with an assumption – that Jesus existed. This is deciding the argument before it starts; by making that claim, it attempts to use circular reasoning. Rather than starting with observed instances, as do almost all logical problems, it starts with an unobserved assumption.
Now to the meat and bones of the argument. This constitutes a logical fallacy called a false trilemma or trifurcation. Essentially, it is trying to make us believe that there are only three possibilities, when there are in fact more. What other options are there? Perhaps he was misquoted, or he never claimed to be lord, and the Gospels were altered by early Christian writers. Perhaps the Gospels were simply created from whole cloth by later generations of believers based on oral traditions. The only place in the Bible where Jesus is alleged to have claimed divinity is John Ch. 10 v. 30, where it says: The Father and I are one (NRSV). There is nothing against this having been altered later on, or even having been created from thin air. Not to mention that at the time, the phrase X and Y are one would have been understood to mean being of one purpose or in harmony.
The possibility that he was a lunatic is not inconceivable. Various different “prophets”, such Sun Myung Moon, David Koresh, and even Rasputin have managed to convince people that they are either divine or have God’s personal phone number. In less-enlightened countries, there can be a hundred different True Messiahs, all saying that they, and only they, have the key.
The LLL argument was first propagated by CS Lewis, author of the Narnia series (noteworthy for their hilariously transparent imagery) and noted Apologist.
Part 2 to follow.