Over at the Gospel Coalition, there is some debate over an old argument about the claims of Jesus made by C.S Lewis. The argument presents a trilemma: Jesus Christ’s claims to be God are believable (or not) depending on whether Christ is Lord, a lunatic who doesn’t really know what he’s talking about or he is masterful con artist.
Apparently, William Lane Craig argues that there is another possibility: Christ’s non-existence. If Christ didn’t exist then no one really claimed anything. Justin Taylor claims that this makes the argument unsound. I disagree. Tell me what you think (any Lewis experts should chime in either here or over at Justin Taylor’s blog).
Here’s why I disagree: The argument is not about Christ’s existence but the believability of his claim to be God (Lord). It goes something like this:
- If Jesus is not who he says he is, then he is either deluded or a con man.
- Jesus is not deluded and he is not a con man.
- Therefore, he is who he says he is: the Lord.
The argument essentially says “if anything in the universe is a J, then if J is not an L, then it is either a D or a C.” The truth conditions do not imply existence of any J nor the claims he made. Jesus does not have to have actually said anything at all. Consider the parallel argument:
- If Lucy did not see Aslan, then she is either deluded or lying.
- Lucy is not deluded and she is not lying.
- Therefore, Lucy saw Aslan.
Now, in this case, we know that Lucy (of Narnia, not my daughter who is called Lucy and does exist) and Aslan do not exist, but that doesn’t alter the truth of the statement. Does it? There is a lot tied up in that if.
One might want to make a separate argument for the existence of the historical Jesus, but the trilemma holds because it is not making any claims about existence.
See Patrick Hurley, A Concise Introduction to Logic, p. 454–461.