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The 3 'Ls'

The man. The myth.

The 3 'Ls'

Postby splashen » 07 Jun 2008, 02:10

CS Lewis basically said that Christ Could only be considered one of 3 'Ls.'

Lord, Liar, or Lunatic.

A recent book that I took out of the library at my Church added 2 more 'Ls' to the equasion, & greatly refuted them. They are:


Legend & Light, Fluffy, New Ager.

For Legend, they responded:

The problem with calling Jesus a "legend" is that no reputable historian in the world would ever say Jesus never existed.(They say a whole lot more here, but, it will take too long for me to write down.

For Light, Fluffy, New Ager:

"Well, yes, say some, Jesus DID Claim to be God. But He Meant it in an Eastern or "New Age" way. He Was Merely Asserting His "God Consciousness in us." He Was, in short, a guru to the Jewish people. When He Says He Is the Son of God, He Means we are all children of God & indeed, we are God ourselves if we but realize it."

Their response is thus:

It's an interesting thought, but it's not what Jesus Said. On the contrary, He Affirms that God Is Lord of Heaven & Earth, not that He Is Heaven & Earth. Indeed, He Does not Speak of God as identical with Creation; He Speaks of Him in a thoroughly Jewish sense of a Transcendent Creator, Judge, & Father.(Again they go on, but, felt this was enough to share.

The name of the book is "A Guide To The Passion," subtitled: 100 Questions about The Passion Of The Christ." It is by the Editors of the Catholic Exchange.
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Postby Leslie » 07 Jun 2008, 22:43

What Lewis was actually doing with the trilemma was to refute the notion that one could regard Christ as a great moral teacher, but nothing more. His purpose in proposing the trilemma is, I think, widely misunderstood, and the argument of the trilemma is widely misapplied.
"What are you laughing at?"
"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
--Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede
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Postby splashen » 08 Jun 2008, 15:38

Leslie wrote:What Lewis was actually doing with the trilemma was to refute the notion that one could regard Christ as a great moral teacher, but nothing more. His purpose in proposing the trilemma is, I think, widely misunderstood, and the argument of the trilemma is widely misapplied.


Yes, but, the 2 extra 'Ls' were also for refuting too.

Today, those who would refute the Lord, refute CS Lewis' arguments, hence, the adding on of 2 more 'Ls' to show that his argument still holds strong.
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Postby Leslie » 08 Jun 2008, 19:01

splashen wrote:
Leslie wrote:What Lewis was actually doing with the trilemma was to refute the notion that one could regard Christ as a great moral teacher, but nothing more. His purpose in proposing the trilemma is, I think, widely misunderstood, and the argument of the trilemma is widely misapplied.


Yes, but, the 2 extra 'Ls' were also for refuting too.

Today, those who would refute the Lord, refute CS Lewis' arguments, hence, the adding on of 2 more 'Ls' to show that his argument still holds strong.

Sorry -- I seem to have left too much to be inferred from my remarks, and should have been more explicit. I was meaning to point out that Lewis surely would have encountered the theory (and probably held it himself in his atheist days) that Jesus was merely a legend.

His famous trilemma was not meant to apply to all possible theories about the true nature of Jesus - only to the beliefs of those people who accepted that Jesus was a real historial figure, but who wanted to believe that Jesus was a great moral teacher but not the messiah of God.

The trilemma can't be used in an argument that Jesus was a legendary figure who never really existed, since it is based on what Jesus is reported to have said and done. If one is debating whether or not Jesus actually existed, it is moot to argue about whether he truly was what he is reported to have claimed to be.
"What are you laughing at?"
"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
--Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede
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Postby splashen » 08 Jun 2008, 19:15

Leslie wrote:
splashen wrote:
Leslie wrote:What Lewis was actually doing with the trilemma was to refute the notion that one could regard Christ as a great moral teacher, but nothing more. His purpose in proposing the trilemma is, I think, widely misunderstood, and the argument of the trilemma is widely misapplied.



Sorry -- I seem to have left too much to be inferred from my remarks, and should have been more explicit. I was meaning to point out that Lewis surely would have encountered the theory (and probably held it himself in his atheist days) that Jesus was merely a legend.

His famous trilemma was not meant to apply to all possible theories about the true nature of Jesus - only to the beliefs of those people who accepted that Jesus was a real historial figure, but who wanted to believe that Jesus was a great moral teacher but not the messiah of God.

The trilemma can't be used in an argument that Jesus was a legendary figure who never really existed, since it is based on what Jesus is reported to have said and done. If one is debating whether or not Jesus actually existed, it is moot to argue about whether he truly was what he is reported to have claimed to be.


CS Lewis'Trilemma arguments are as strong today, as they were in his own time, despite what opponents may say.
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Postby Leslie » 08 Jun 2008, 19:46

splashen wrote:
CS Lewis'Trilemma arguments are as strong today, as they were in his own time, despite what opponents may say.

I'm not saying it's not a strong argument, just that it's not a catch-all for any and all arguments about the nature and/or historicity of Jesus, either seventy years ago or now.
"What are you laughing at?"
"At myself. My little puny self," said Phillipa.
--Rumer Godden, In This House of Brede
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Reply to - The 3 'Ls'

Postby Rev H » 01 Apr 2009, 01:06

There is another option, of course, which completely evaded me for years. It neither makes Christ out to be any of the 3 (or 4th of the) L's, but it does say much about the nature of the scriptural accounts themselves - namely that what Jesus said and/or did is not what is written down (and visa versa).

I won't belabor this to a gnat's eyelash, of course, but refer you to the multitude of historical criticisim offered up by years of scholarship in in this area, from Bultmann to the more recent Bart Ehrman of the Univ of N Carolina (Misquoting Jesus, et al).

Thus perhaps the real issue is simply that "Jesus never said that...," since there is enough that appears to be both hyperbalibe and extraneous about John's gospel alone, for instance, to substantiate this difficulty.

What and who Jesus of Nazareth is, no one will truly ever know. Not by reason, nor by text, (whether orthodox or gnostic), nor by 'experience'.

'The Christ' on the other hand is something we can know in the historical sense, to be not much different from any other demi-god or messiah figure, which Lewis himself acknowledges is mirrored in myriad predecessors like Horis, Mithra, Krishna, et al, from centuries before C.E.

I'm not referring to 'The Christ Conspiracy' in which it incorrectly outlines complete literal parallels (born of a virgin; 3 days in the tomb; etc), but to the actual primary sources in which 'messiah' figures from centuries past bear enough resemblance to 'the Christ' of Christianity for us to note the similarities as significant and indeed paramount.

Lewis himself argues (incorrectly, I believe) that while the parallels are real enough, these are but mere longings of the human condition, whereas Christ himself is the fulfillment of these apparently 'wishful' desires, taking place in actual history. This bears no weight to the physical evidence of Jesus' existence, nor as-to his identity as 'the Christ', except from scripture - not the most congruous of texts to begin with.
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PS to Reply to The 3 'Ls'

Postby Rev H » 01 Apr 2009, 01:13

Only one more important thing to add: http://atheism.about.com/od/cslewisnarn ... ralism.htm
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And then there's this...

Postby Rev H » 01 Apr 2009, 22:00

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Re: The 3 'Ls'

Postby larry gilman » 03 Apr 2009, 14:47

I thank Leslie and Rev H for ther cool-minded appraisal of the trilemma and how Lewis used it (in, e.g., “What Are We To Make of Jesus Christ,” collected in God in the Dock).

Christians must beware of overrating weak arguments in favor of our position, such as the ontological argument for God’s existence. The trilemma’s basic weakness is that uses a plausibility type argument based on naive psychology to attempt to force a cosmos-rocking conclusion -- ignoring the commonsense rule that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. The “lunatic” alternative can only be excluded if we make certain rather silly assumptions about the bounds of mental oddity or derangement. There have been many people who thought they were representatives or incarnations of God, at least several of whom have not been “lunatics” in the caricature sense of a person who “think[s they] are a poached egg” (CSL). They are often personally impressive figures, such as Baha’ullah (central figure of the Baha’i Faith) or many of the mainline gurus of south-central Asia, e.g. Kirpal Singh. Taking these facts into acount, Christ’s character as represented in the Gospels is well within the observed range: a charismatic, startling, uncompromising, often enigmatic person who claims divinity of some sort. And how, on Christian premises, can we be surprised that such personalities arise? Are we not images of God? If so, is it so weird that we might mistake the image in ourselves, or in others, for the thing itself?

I’m a Christian. But the trilemma contributes nothing to my faith. I rather wish Lewis had let it lie. But don’t get me wrong -- CSL rocked: it was from him that I first learned to attempt the sort of clear thinking that now leads me to question a few of his arguments.

By the way, Rev H, what is your opinion of CSL’s opinion of the claims of biblical scholarship as given in the essay “Fern-Seed and Elephants”?

Sincerely,

Larry
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Re: The 3 'Ls'

Postby splashen » 04 Apr 2009, 03:38

"They are often personally impressive figures, such as Baha'ullah (central figure of the Bahai Faith) or many of the mainline gurus of south-central Asia, eg Kirpal Singh."

Yes, but, while admittedly, I don't know about any of the Sikh gurus, I know that Bahais do not teach that Baha'ullah did not physically rise from the Dead(point of fact, although they do believe in Our Lord Jesus, they don't believe in His Literal Resurrection either, but rather, teach that it was pure metaphor).

I think that while CS Lewis DID emphasize the 3 "Ls", I believe he also believed that evidence for believing in Our Lord's Divinity matter also, & in fact, played a role in the 3 "Ls".
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Re: The 3 'Ls'

Postby larry gilman » 04 Apr 2009, 18:34

Dear Splashen,

Your description of Baha'i belief is quite accurate. I did not mean to imply that the Baha'i Faith etc. are simply other Christianities, with no great differences. They are indeed distinct religions. At the same time, I did want to emphasize that there is a parallel of sorts: Baha'is believe, if I understand them correctly, that Baha'ullah was a "mirror" of Divine character, a perfect representation of God projected onto human nature. It appears that Baha'ullah himself also believed this, or at least something of the sort. And he was clearly -- it seems clear to me, anyway, glancing at the Baha'i writings -- not clinically insane. So I cite him as one example of how believing oneself divine, or quasi-divine, or a "perfect mirror" of the divine, or a Son of God, or whatnot, can consist with being basically sane, not being a "lunatic" -- which weakens Lewis's trilemma as an argument. Just a matter of logic, Jesus might have been another of these amiable, impressive chaps with an idea that they are God, or nearly so. I don't say he was, but I do say we have no arm-twisting evidence.

I agree that there is something to the argument -- but I think that we should weigh carefully what that something is. Certainly it is not a logical forcing -- like a mathematical proof. It is at best a plausibility argument, a way of looking at the narratives that sheds a certain light on them. It's not that I think the character of Christ as described in the Gospels (and experienced by believers) irrelevant to whether we believe -- on the contrary, I think it's the central point of Christian belief. But our faith is a faith, not a proven thing, not a piece of knowledge like our knowledge of the price of gas or of the boiling point of water. To paraphrase someone I was reading the other day, it remains forever reasonable but never compulsory to the reason. Hmm -- was it Lewis?

Thank you for your reply, and for starting the discussion -- very thought-provoking --

Regards,

Larry
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Re: The 3 'Ls'

Postby splashen » 05 Apr 2009, 02:14

Hello Larry,

Thank you for your kind response to my post.

Yes, Bahais believe that Baha-ullah, the Bab, Christ, & most of the other great religious Founders of the world were Divine Manifestations of the Almighty.

And clearly, Baha-ullah [i]did[i] see himself as such. He underwent intense persecution for claiming to be a Prophet sent By God, as do many of his followers do right to this very day in Iran. He was imprisoned for many years in Haifa Israel. But, did that mean that he was correct? Or does that simply mean that he was strong in his own religious convictions?

I have been posting on message forums for almost 10 years now, & I remember, way back during my first year of posting, I was reading a correspondence between a Bahai & a Christian on a religious forum, where the Bahai poster used the triple "L" formula(originally used by Mr. Lewis)to prove Baha-ullah's revelation. He spoke of the imprisonment that Baha-ullah endured in Haifa, how the stench of this prison was so great, that birds would literally die in flight, had they flown over the prison, etc, & then concluded his story with the "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic" challenge to the Christian. The Christian poster replied, "Lunatic. I would have said 'misguided,' but, that choice wasn't given to me."

Admittedly, I do think that when we are defending our faith in Christ, we shouldn't simply stick with older arguments, when being challenged. Rather, we should learn from them, & be able to defend our Holy faith in our own words.

You see, by sticking with only the older arguments, we are left with very strong possibility that the opponents probably know of these as well(eg: arguments from writings from the Bible, etc), & will still find a way to refute them.

God Bless,

Carolyn.
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Re: The 3 'Ls'

Postby larry gilman » 05 Apr 2009, 17:12

That's a very interesting anecdote about the argument between the Christian and the Baha'i. Sad, in a way. The old rock-em-sock-em religions debate: "My miracle stories are bigger than your miracle stories, nyah!"

The story has a personal aspect for me because my wife was Baha'i when we married (though she has since become a Christian). But we never disputed about the subject of religion, not even once . . .

You're right, one problem about latching on to what seem like slap-bang arguments out of books is that they don't last. In fact, maybe we should pre-empt the whole process (i.e., ingenious invention of argument, zealous deployment of argument, strategic retirement of no-longer-useful argument) and not try to proceed by proofs at all. Maybe go back to Christ's idea -- fruits. By the fruitfulness of a theology shall ye know its worth. By "fruitfulness" I mean: does it illuminate our minds and go on illuminating? Does it keep suggesting new questions that feel like discoveries just being asked? As we live with it, does it bring more and more of life under its sway, does it make more and more kinds of sense out of an ever-widening diversity of things? Does it grow? (This is actually the working test of a good scientific theory, too -- fruitfulness. Absolute, total, all-encompassing accuracy is never obtained, but if a theory has that Energizer Bunny quality, keeps going and going and going, churning out new insights and new questions and new connections the more it is applied, then it is a Good One.)

Regards,

Larry
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Re: The 3 'Ls'

Postby splashen » 06 Apr 2009, 18:36

Yes, you are quite right, Larry.

The best way in which one can witness to their faith(be it Christian. Bahai, etc) is by the Fruits which produced. Not simply by forcing our views down on others.

A perfect example is of course, Mother Teresa of Calcutta. She witnessed to her Holy faith by her works of charity. Not by simply going up to people & telling them "my faith is right, & your faith is wrong, etc."

A great many Christians should learn from her example.
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