Mad, Bad, or Bible…

February 17, 2009 at 3:30 pm 3 comments

trilemmaFrom wikipedia:
Lewis’s Trilemma (or the Lewis Triumvirate) is a syllogism intended to demonstrate the logical inconsistency of both holding Jesus of Nazareth to be a “great moral teacher” while also denying his divinity. … The trilemma is often summarized either as “Lunatic, Liar, or Lord”, or as “Mad, Bad, or God”.

I was thinking about Lewis’ “Trilemma” after a discussion with a friend about the bible, in which I felt I was told in so many words that we really cannot critically examine the texts of the bible to determine if they are reliable and true. Having read of the flawed logic of the trilemma, I felt it applied to this view of the bible in the same way. I actually think it highlights the logical flaws in the trilemma.

With apologies to Mr. Lewis, my paraphrase is below:

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about the bible: I’m ready to accept the bible as a great teacher of morals, but I don’t accept its claim to be the work of God. That is the one thing we must not say. A book which was merely a book and said the sort of things the bible said would not be a great moral book. It would either be the work of a lunatic — on the level with a book that says it is a poached egg — or else it would be the work of the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this book was, and is, the Word of God, or else it is the work of a madman or something worse. You can shut it up for the work of a fool, you can spit on it and burn it as a work of a demon or you can fall at its feet and call it the Work of God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about its being a great bibliographical teacher. It has not left that open to us. It did not intend to. … Now it seems to me obvious that it was neither the work of a lunatic nor of a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that it was and is the Work of God.”


Entry filed under: bible, Uncategorized. Tags: .

a broken bible freedom in a vacuum chamber

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. bk  |  February 20, 2009 at 6:04 pm

    Seems like the work of a fiend to me, pretty much. What kind of morality would allow it to be seen in any other way?

  • 2. atimetorend  |  February 20, 2009 at 6:42 pm

    Yes and no, not accounting for the logical fallacy of the trilemma argument. If you make the assumption that the entire bible is inerrent, and was written by God as one complete unit, then yes, fiend would be an excellent choice. But since I don’t make those assumptions I would choose something else.

    Lewis’ argument for Jesus, or the paraphrased argument for the bible above, assumes that there are no other choices than the ones presented. In this case I would opt for the bible being written by some lunatics, some fiends, and some dreamers, and some misguided, some mistaken, and some ancients without modern worldviews, etc. The argument over-simplifies to the point of creating an logical fallacy.

  • 3. The Rambling Taoist  |  February 23, 2009 at 4:27 pm

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. There are a multiplicity of ways to view or interpret the Bible or ANY supposed sacred document. In fact, for philosophical Taoists, our main book, Tao Te Ching, can be interpreted a billion ways and that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

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