Instigator / Con

Lewis' Trilemma


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Three days
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Two weeks
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=== Full Description ==

Resolved: Lewis' trilemma is a sound argument for Jesus' divinity.

=== Definitions ===

Lewis' trilemma states that Jesus was either a liar, lunatic, or Lord. Because he was neither a liar or a lunatic, he must be Lord. In other words

If Jesus were not Lord, he would be a liar or a lunatic.
Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic.
Therefore, Jesus is Lord.

I will be taken the con position and arguing that this is an unsound argument and does not prove jesus' divinity nor does it prove christianity.

=== Debate Structure ===

R1. Con waives; Pro's Case
R2. Con's Case; Pro generic Rebuttal
R3. Con generic Rebuttal; Pro generic Rebuttal
R4. Con generic Rebuttal and Summary; Pro waives

Con will waive round 1 and pro will waive the last round.

=== Rules ===

1. No forfeits
2. Citations must be provided in the text of the debate
3. No new arguments in the final speeches
4. Observe good sportsmanship and maintain a civil and decorous atmosphere
5. No trolling
6. No "kritiks" of the topic (challenging assumptions in the resolution)
7. For all undefined resolutional terms, individuals should use commonplace understandings that fit within the logical context of the resolution and this debate
8. The BOP is evenly shared
9. Rebuttals of new points raised in an adversary's immediately preceding speech may be permissible at the judges' discretion even in the final round (debaters may debate their appropriateness)
10. Con must waive in R1 and Pro must waive in R5
11. Violation of any of these rules, or of any of the description's set-up, merits a loss

=== Addendum ===

I would prefer that whomever accepts this debate be a Christian who supports this argument.

Round 1
As per the rules, I waive this round. 
If one misunderstands what Jesus is saying, it would be easy to dismiss him as a liar or a lunatic. However, to call Jesus Lord is to actually call The Supreme and Ultimate Reality, Lord. The Truth Lord. This is God. 

So I will let the man speak for himself. All quotes from Authorized King James as it is public domain..

John 1:10-14

He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

John 3:14-15

And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have eternal life. 

John 5:43

 I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.

John 7:16-18

Jesus answered them, and said, My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me. If any man will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself. He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but he that seeketh his glory that sent him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in him.

John 8:28-29

Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lifted up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. And he that sent me is with me: the Father hath not left me alone; for I do always those things that please him.

John 8:45-47

And because I tell you the truth, ye believe me not. Which of you convinceth me of sin? And if I say the truth, why do ye not believe me? He that is of God heareth God’s words: ye therefore hear them not, because ye are not of God.

John 10:25-30

Jesus answered them, I told you, and ye believed not: the works that I do in my Father’s name, they bear witness of me. But ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you. My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me: 28 and I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand. My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father’s hand. I and my Father are one.

John 10:37-38

If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.

John 11:25-26

Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: and whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.

John 12:44-50

Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on me, believeth not on me, but on him that sent me. And he that seeth me seeth him that sent me. I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on me should not abide in darkness. And if any man hear my words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world. He that rejecteth me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day. For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak.

John 13:31-32

Therefore, when he was gone out, Jesus said, Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God be glorified in him, God shall also glorify him in himself, and shall straightway glorify him. 

John 14:6-7

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7 If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also

John 14:10-11

Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake.

John 14:15-21

If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. Yet a little while, and the world seeth me no more; but ye see me: because I live, ye shall live also. At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you. He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.

John 14:23-26

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 17:1-5

These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent. I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do. And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.

John 17:11

And now I am no more in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to thee. Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are.

John 17:17

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth.

John 17:19

And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth.

John 17:21-26

 that they all may be one; as thou, Father, artin me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am; that they may behold my glory, which thou hast given me: for thou lovedst me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world hath not known thee: but I have known thee, and these have known that thou hast sent me. And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.

John 18:37

To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Every one that is of the truth heareth my voice.
Round 2
Thank you for your opening arguments!


This debate asks us to look at the Lewis' Trilema argument as defined in the description of this debate.

If Jesus were not Lord, he would be a liar or a lunatic.
Jesus was neither a liar nor a lunatic.
Therefore, Jesus is Lord.

It's important to note that this is the only argument this debate is centered around. Any other outside arguments for Jesus' divinity will be ignored. For pro to win this debate he must prove that this argument is sound. The definition of an argument soundness is (1):

A deductive argument is said to be valid if and only if it takes a form that makes it impossible for the premises to be true and the conclusion nevertheless to be false. Otherwise, a deductive argument is said to be invalid.

A deductive argument is sound if and only if it is both valid, and all of its premises are actually true. Otherwise, a deductive argument is unsound.
In short, a deductive argument must be evaluated in two ways. First, one must ask if the premises provide support for the conclusion by examing the form of the argument. If they do, then the argument is valid. Then, one must ask whether the premises are true or false in actuality. Only if an argument passes both these tests is it sound. However, if an argument does not pass these tests, its conclusion may still be true, despite that no support for its truth is given by the argument.

This in order to win this debate pro must prove that both premises are true.

1. Problem 1: False trilemma 

The biggest problem with this argument is that it only presents us with three possible choices. There is, however, a fourth choice: Jesus was a legend. The argument centers around the assumption that the Gospel's accurately record Jesus' teachings and that the miracles he allegedly performed are historical facts. Unless pro proves those things, pro cannot win this debate. As noted here (2):

The plausible natural explanation for the Jesus stories is that they were told orally for decades, and they grew with the retelling, changing to fulfill prophecy from the Law or to ensure that Jesus took on the traits of competing religions. Remember that Palestine was the crossroads of Greek, Egyptian, and Mesopotamian cultures.
Thus the argument is not even valid because it fails to take into account the fourth possibility.

2. Jesus was a liar 

There are several instances in the Gospels where Jesus very clearly lied to his followers.

A. The Claim to be God

If Jesus claimed to be God, as Christians believe, then he is most certainly a liar. Any man who claims to be God can be dismissed as a liar without any further examinations of his claims or miracles that he does or does not perform as Scripture states:

“God is not a man that He should lie, nor a mortal that He should change His mind.”
-Bamidbar 23:19 

“You came near and stood at the foot of the mountain while it blazed with fire to the very heavens, with black clouds and deep darkness. Then the Lord spoke to you out of the fire. You heard the sound of words but saw no image; there was only a voice.”
“You are the ones who have been shown, so that you will know that God is the Supreme Being, and there is none other besides Him!”
“Know therefore today, and take it to your heart, that the Lord, He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other!”
-Devarim 4:11-12;35;39

“The Eternal One of Israel will not lie nor change His mind: for He is not a man that He should change His mind.”
-Shmuel Aleph 15:29

“You are My witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and My servant whom I have chosen, so that you may know and believe Me and understand that I am He. Before Me no god was formed, nor will there be one after Me. I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no Savior.”
-Yeshayahu 43:10-11

“…And My honor I will not give to another.”
-Yeshayahu 48:11
B. Jesus lied about his teachings

In several cases in the Gospels where Jesus very clearly lies. When questioned by the Jewish authorities Jesus states:

 “I have spoken openly to the world; I always taught in a synagogue and in the Temple, where all the Jews come together; and I spoke nothing in secret. Why do you Question me?
Question those who have heard what I spoke to them; behold, these know what I said” .
- John 18:20-21

Yet in truth Jesus purposefully veiled his teachings and very few actually knew what Jesus was actually saying.

 “To you has been given the mystery of the kingdom of God; but those who are outside get every thing in parables, in order that while seeing, they may see and not perceive; and while hearing, they may hear and not understand lest they return again and be forgiven
(Mark 4:11-12; see also Matthew 13:13-15)

Thus Jesus lied to the Jewish authorities.

3. Jesus was a lunatic 

Any man who claims to be God is a liar and very probably a lunatic. The Gospels record an interesting exchange where his own family believes Jesus is insane! 

And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, “He is out of his mind.”
-Mark 3:21
4. Conclusion

it should be plainly obvious that the trilemma that Lewis presents is not even valid, let alone sound.If pro wants to win this debate here is what he must do:
(1) establish the validity of the argument;
(2) establish the truth of the premise
(3) prove the gospels are accurate in their description of Jesus' teachings and acts. 

Until he does these things we can easily dismiss this argument.

5. Sources


Thank you for giving me the opportunity to debate, I hope something is learned here.

1. Problem 1: False trilemma

Con's first argument is that the argument itself is false, that Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord, but Jesus could be something else.. The example he gives is that Jesus is simply a legend. Con claims that I would need to prove that Jesus was not a legend in order to avoid this problem.

While I could without doubt make a historical case that Jesus the man existed not only with historical documents surrounding Jesus as well as his apostles, I dispute my opponent's claim that there being a 4th possibility negates this argument, and I believe that is made clear by my opening case. Jesus' words are not simply interchangeable with any words, the words he says are integral to this argument. If you pay attention to what Jesus is actually saying, calling Jesus Lord is in fact calling God Lord. So when Jesus is being called Lord, it isn't the same thing as calling any human being Lord, or even calling a legend Lord.

But Jesus certainly fulfills the definition of being a legend, and that does not in any way shape or form negate the argument.

Merriam-Webster defines a legend as...

"a story coming down from the past especially one popularly regarded as historical although not verifiable"

Now, a legend is simply a story that comes down from the past. It usually refers to a story that is regarded as history but not verifiable. Could the gospel accounts fall into this category? Absolutely. And the truth is, most history falls into this category as well. History is not a hard science. However, just because something is a legend does not mean that something is false.

Another definition of legend to compliment this case...

"the subject of a legend"

Jesus Christ certainly can be said to be a legend who is the subject of a legend. 

The thing is, even if Jesus is a Legend, it does not negate the truth that to call Jesus Lord is to call God Lord.

Merriam-Webster defines God...

"capitalized the supreme or ultimate reality"

So to make it very clear, if you believe what Jesus is saying, to call Jesus Lord is to call God Lord.

2. Jesus was a liar 

Con claims that Jesus is a liar through the following arguments...

A. The Claim to be God

Jesus, as my opponent states claims to be God, and this makes him a liar, because God is not a man.

Con is right, God is not a man. The Jesus that Christians recognize is The Word of God made flesh. The Word of God being "God's Salvation". If Con denies The Word of God coming in the flesh, he is also denying the prophets who are all examples of The Word of God coming in the flesh. What is a prophet doing when they say, "Thus sayeth The Lord?".

The point here is mistaken identity. Jesus the man was crucified even because his accusers were not able to get past the fact that these words of God proceeded from a man. This is why they mocked him, spat on him, demanded miracles, and crucified him. However, Jesus, like all of the prophets before him, preached reconciliation to The Lord.

As it is written in James 1:16-18...

"Do not err, my beloved brethren. Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures."

This Word of Truth spoken of here is Jesus. This is The Word of God, who is God. THE TRUTH.

B. Jesus lied about his teachings

Con claims that Jesus lied to the authorities when he claimed that everything he taught he taught openly, nothing in secret when he told his disciples that they have been given the mystery of the Kingdom of God while those on the outside are given parables.

I will quote what is written in Matthew 13:10-13 to make it clear why this is not a case of Jesus lying...

"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given....Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand."

This is not an example of Jesus being deceptive, he is saying that he speaks in parables because the people who he is talking to are not capable of understanding what he is saying. For this reason, he speaks in parables. The Greek word "parabolē", literally means a comparison or proverb. What does Jesus usually start a parable with? "What can the Kingdom of God be likened to?"

So Jesus' use of parables is actually not an example of him being mystifying, nor is this is not an example of Jesus lying.

3. Jesus was a lunatic

Con claims that since Jesus claimed to be God he was a lunatic, but I believe I already addressed this argument very thoroughly.

However, Con also quotes Mark 3:21

The translation he is using is using is not accurate to what the original Greek says. The King James is actually more accurate in how it translates this particular scripture....

"And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself."

However, even though this translation is more accurate, I think it should be noted that the word that translates into "friends" actually comes from the Greek word


Which actually is closer to meaning that those who were in the presence of. That is, not friends or family, simply those who are in his presence. 

So it is really saying, "When those who were in the presence of him heard of it....."

The word that gets translated to "Is out of his mind" or "is beside himself" is the word "ἐξίστημι"

which literally means to be put out of place or to be displaced. I can be used to describe being amazed, stupefied or even overwhelmed.

I'd also like to point out that in Acts 1:14 Mary the mother of Jesus is with the disciples praying, and that the letter of James is ascribed to "James, the brother of Jesus", who was actually martyred for confessing Jesus in front of the temple while being urged by the Jews there, as recorded in several early Christian writings. You can find the account of his martyrdom in the writings of Eusebius here...

4. Conclusion

Con claims that I must do the following in order to win the debate.....

(1) establish the validity of the argument;

The validity of the argument is clear if you understand that we are not just talking about any person or any person's claims. I hope that I have demonstrated in my original post through the quotations of Jesus in the gospel of John that to accept what Jesus says and to call Jesus Lord is to actually call God Lord, and not a man.

Otherwise, why is it written even in The New Testament in Romans 1:22-23..

"Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man"?


(2) establish the truth of the premise

I believe that the truth of the premise is also established in this, as The Truth is God, and God is clearly Lord over all creation. Jesus is not a liar or a lunatic, and if you believe what he is saying, you are calling God Lord. 

(3) prove the gospels are accurate in their description of Jesus' teachings and acts. 

I don't believe that I need to prove this at all, however, I will say that the rest of The New Testament makes it very clear that belief in Jesus Christ is belief in God. How I am presenting the faith is accurate, and there are thousands of years worth of theological writings that back me up on this. I don't believe that there is any good reason to doubt that the teachings of Jesus can't be grasped through a study of the gospels. 

Round 3
Thanks for your reply

=== Pro's Case ===

In round 1 pro simply just quotes a few scripture verses. None of these verses actually prove the soundness of the trilemma. 

I should also note here that if Lewis' trilemma is proven false, it does not falsify Christianity because this is the only argument this debate is about.

=== My Case ===

1. False trilemma

I don't think pro quite grasps what this argument is. Simply because a fourth option exists the argument is not valid, let alone sound, because Lewis has us choosing from only 3 option when more are available.

Con claims that the scriptures I posted do not support the Trilemma argument. I disagree for the simple reason that the argument only makes sense in context of what it actually is that Jesus said.

What do the scriptures establish? When we are talking about Jesus, we are not talking about a man or even a legend, but The Truth itself. The man can be said to be a legend. The gospels can even be said to be legends. In fact, all of history and the subjects of histories can be said to be legends. However, Jesus Christ is not a legend because Jesus Christ is The Truth. 

Now to make this very clear, I am not saying that a man is The Truth. I am saying that Jesus Christ is The Truth. The Word of God.

It is written in the first chapter of The Gospel of John...

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made....the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us."

It is written in the first chapter of The Epistle of James...

"Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth"

It is written in the first chapter of The Epistle to the Ephesians...

"ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise"

It is written in the first chapter of The First Epistle of Peter...

"For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: but the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you."

The point here is that Jesus Christ is The Word of God, and that Word is Truth, the very Truth that all things were created by and through. Jesus taught in parables, that is, comparisons, because as was shown in an earlier argument, the people did not understand. Likewise, the ministry of Jesus and the gospels themselves are a parable on a grander scale. What we see is how even though The Truth is here in the world, the world sacrifices The Truth to it's idols. 

Con states that because I acknowledge that you could claim Jesus is a legend, that means there is a 4th option in this Trilemma. I do not believe this is a legitimate argument against the trilemma, because this is not actually a legitimate 4th option in the context of what it actually means to call Jesus Lord. Even if Jesus is a legend, it does not change the fact that Jesus is Lord. Why? Because The Truth is not a legend, and to call Jesus Lord is to call The Truth Lord.

What is really the issue here? Is whether or not you believe Jesus is who he says he is. If you do not believe Jesus is who he says he is, you are calling him a liar or a lunatic. If you believe that Jesus is who he says he is, you are not simply believing a man or a legend but The Truth, and The Truth is something that goes beyond created things we use to express and point to it.

To call Jesus Christ Lord is not to call a man God, but to call God Lord. To call God Lord is to admit that there is nothing greater than The Truth, and that there is nothing that can truly overcome The Truth. Even if you bury a truth in lies or if a truth dies, The Truth doesn't die, The Truth is eternal. There is no weapon formed against The Truth that can prosper. If everyone in the entire world denied The Truth, The Truth would still be what it is. If everyone in the entire world was destroyed, The Truth would still be there, as it was before mankind and as it is for all eternity.

The Truth is God, and to call Jesus Christ Lord is to acknowledge this.

I would like to thank Virtuoso for giving me an opportunity to take part in this debate, if for no other reason that to preach the Good News, that God is Salvation and The Truth is what sets you free!

Peace be with you, brudda

Round 4
Thank you for this debate.

As for the voters: I strongly urge a vote for CON. Pro has completely ignored and has failed to rebut the fourth option and has failed to show the validity, let alone the soundness, of this argument. 
I disagree with con that I have not addressed his argument, but I must waive this round as per the rules.