Trilemma

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    Davis, Stephen T.

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    The Mad/Bad/God Trilemma: A Reply to Daniel Howard-Snyder

    "The present paper is a response to Daniel Howard-Snyder’s essay, 'Was Jesus Mad, Bad, or God?...Or Merely Mistaken?'...Professor Daniel Howard-Snyder has subjected the MBG argument to a rigorous critique...Let us then consider the case that Howard-Snyder makes. I will focus on just two of his arguments: (1) his use of the 'dwindling probabilities' argument (the DPA); and (2) the stories he uses to rationalize the possibility that Jesus was neither mad nor bad but merely mistaken in claiming to be divine."
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    Davis, Stephen T.

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    Was Jesus Mad, Bad, or God?

    "The argument that Jesus was either ‘mad, bad, or God’ (let’s call it the MBG argument) is sometimes used by popular Christian apologists as a way of defending the incarnation. Since Jesus claimed to be the divine Son of God—so the argument goes—then if he was not in fact divine, he must have been either a lunatic or a moral monster. No sane and righteous person can wrongly claim to be divine. But since Jesus was evidently neither a lunatic nor a moral monster—so the argument concludes—he must indeed have been divine...The present paper constitutes a qualified defence of one version of the argument."
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    Holding, J. P.

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    On the Trail of the Trilemma: Choosing Your Path on the Identity of Jesus

    "Was Jesus who He claimed to be? The so-called 'trilemma' question has been grossly abused by all sides of the discussion. On the one hand, it is often presented without any consideration of the titles and claims of Jesus, merely assuming that a mere claim 'Jesus said...' is enough. But it isn't: We have to give good reason to suppose that Jesus DID say what He did; otherwise, the argument goes nowhere...At the same time, arguing that the trilemma is refuted by showing that there are more than three possibilities simply turns it from a bothersome trilemma into a bothersome tetralemma. Skeptics who continually say that the trilemma is 'refuted' whenever another option is added miss the point."
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    Howard-Snyder, Daniel

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    Was Jesus Mad, Bad, or God?...Or Merely Mistaken?

    "A popular argument for the divinity of Jesus goes like this. Jesus claimed to be divine, but if his claim was false, then either he was insane (mad) or lying (bad), both of which are very unlikely; so, he was divine. I present two objections to this argument. The first, the dwindling probabilities objection, contends that even if we make generous probability assignments to the relevant pieces of evidence for Jesus’ divinity, the probability calculus tell us to suspend judgement on the matter. The second, and more telling objection in my opinion, the merely mistaken objection, contends that it is no less plausible to suppose that Jesus was neither mad nor bad but merely mistaken than that he was divine."
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    Kreeft, Peter

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    The Divinity of Christ

    "When the first Christian apologists began to give a reason for the faith that was in them to unbelievers, this doctrine of Christ's divinity naturally came under attack, for it was almost as incredible to Gentiles as it was scandalous to Jews...The argument the early apologists used to defend this apparently indefensible doctrine has become a classic one. C.S. Lewis used it often, e.g. in Mere Christianity...The argument, like all effective arguments, is extremely simple: Christ was either God or a bad man...Josh McDowell summarized the argument simply and memorably in the trilemma 'Lord, liar, or lunatic?' Those are the only options."
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    McDowell, Josh

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    "Lord, Liar, or Lunatic?", chapter 2 of More than a Carpenter

    Though lacking in detailed analysis compared to some of the other essays in this section, we include this essay as it is one of the most popular apologetic presentations of the Trilemma argument. McDowell argues that "The distinct claims of Jesus to be God eliminate the popular ploy of skeptics who regard Jesus as just a good moral man or a prophet who said a lot of profound things. So often that conclusion is passed off as the only one acceptable to scholars or as the obvious result of the intellectual process. The trouble is, many people nod their heads in agreement and never see the fallacy of such reasoning...To say what Jesus said and to claim what he claimed about himself, one couldn't conclude he was just a good moral man or prophet. That alternative isn't open to an individual, and Jesus never intended it to be."