Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Why Dead People Matter Part 3 - Lord, Liar, Lunatic, and Legend

This is the last article in our series on the reported finding of the Apostle Philip's tomb.

In the next few weeks, FOCUS missionaries and student leaders will be asking students into Bible studies on campus. A typical response by some students will be that Jesus was a great philosophical teacher or a good man, but not God.

What is our response to this?

For the past seventy years or so, one of the key Christian arguments for the divinity of Jesus Christ has been what has been labeled as the Trilemma by C.S. Lewis (pictured left). Trilemma is a similar to a dilemma, but with three options instead of two. Based on the words of Jesus, Lewis believes that Jesus can only be three things: Lord, a Liar, or a Lunatic.

The argument usually goes something like this:

"Jesus claims to be much more than merely a good man. And if he is not who he claims to be, then he cannot be a good man...Jesus claims to be God, so either he is God or he is not. If he's not God, then we are left with two options: he either knows that he is not God and is a liar, or he mistakenly thinks he is God and is a lunatic. The one thing he most certainly is not is merely a good man" (Curtis Martin, Made for More, p. 22).

In the last few years, a new argument against Jesus' divinity has come about in response to the Trilemma. A fourth L has been added to the argument--Legend. The claim is that Jesus was a good man who did good things, but after He died, His followers made Him into something He never claimed to be--God.

Was Jesus a Legend?

Some of the weight of this argument fall on the followers of Jesus just after His death. What was in it for them to claim that Jesus rose from the dead if He didn't? The biggest evidence against the disciples making Jesus into a legend is their own martyrdoms. Why would they die for a lie? It is believed that 10 of the 11 original Apostles (subtracting Judas out of the equation) were martyred for their faith in Jesus Christ (all but the Apostle John). Some will dispute this claim because there are conflicting reports about the Apostles' deaths.

This is where the finding of St. Philip's tomb is so important. It is another concrete and physical reminder that St. Philip was willing to die for what he believed--that Jesus was the Son of God who rose from the dead. (We also believe that we have the tombs of other Apostles as well, for instance, Sts. Peter and Paul in Rome).

Articulating this argument will probably not convert someone on the spot. But, the hope is that it will remove a barrier in their mind and allow them to encounter the person of Jesus with a more open heart--something that can bring about conversion.

Much more could go into this argument to help remove some of these barriers. There are other historical records that point to the existence of Jesus and even to his miracles. Also, the New Testament manuscripts that hold Jesus' words about His divinity are more reliable than any other ancient text. But, this is just one blog post, so I will stop here. For more, check out Made for More by Curtis Martin.

Any questions on the Lord, Liar, Lunatic, Legend argument?

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