What we're about

Please join in our thoughtful, fun and open discussions on Christianity and a sceptical response to Christianity. Be prepared to have your worldview challenged as you listen and then give your reasons for what you believe. We avoid ‘us and them’ antagonism as we discuss science, history, psychology, philosophy and even a little theology.

The emphasis of the evening is discussion and introductory talks are kept to minimum length. Discussion is both within the whole group and round small tables.

A pub setting aims to keep the evening away from debate and closer to genuine discussion where we learn from each other and ask questions.

The group is inspired by the weekly radio show and podcast “Unbelievable?” hosted by Justin Brierley which usually has a Christian and unbeliever engaging in respectful discussion.

Upcoming events (1)

CS Lewis’s Trilemma Argument for Christianity and a divine Jesus

Link visible for attendees

In recent months we have been discussing the classical arguments for theism and we then moved on to discuss some major arguments in favour of Christianity. Tonight we will discuss the “Lunatic, Liar or Lord” argument. Wikipedia reports that the argument has been used in various forms throughout church history, for example it was used by the American preacher Mark Hopkins in lectures delivered in 1844. But it was CS Lewis who made the argument famous. His Trilemma was presented as follows, from Mere Christianity:

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

The response from detractors usually jumps to a fourth option “Legend”. The idea is that Jesus was a good preacher and the claims he made for himself are legendary additions to the tradition about Jesus. In other words, Jesus didn't make those claims and the idea that he did is just a Legend of the church.

The situation after Jesus's death and especially among people who believed in his resurrection is thought to be conducive of such a legend about him.

The next key question here is whether a legendary development can be discerned in the gospels. Mark, which a large majority of scholars agree is the earliest gospel, has possible references to Jesus claiming his divinity and they are debated in scholarly circles as well as in settings such as the Unbelievable show.

At the other end of the scale, John’s gospel is generally agreed to be the last canonical gospel to be written. The claims like “I and the father are one” seem to be remarkably different from the Jesus in Mark who kept his Messiahship secret.

The wikipedia article on the argument is short and helpful and is optional background reading for the discussion:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lewis%27s_trilemma

Some questions to discuss during the meeting:

  1. Assuming that Jesus did make those divine claims as reported in the four canonical gospels, especially John, does this argument work? What would we expect the human who is God incarnate say of himself during his time on earth?
  2. Is the logic of the trilemma sound? In the wikipedia article William Lane Craig is reported to doubt that, offering more alternatives: Jesus's claims as to his divinity to have been merely good-faith mistakes resulting from his sincere efforts at reasoning, Jesus was deluded with respect to the specific issue of his own divinity while his faculties of moral reasoning remained intact, or Jesus did not understand the claims he made about himself as amounting to a claim to divinity. As happens for most arguments, this moves us on from strict logic to questions of which explanation is the most plausible.
  3. The question of whether Jesus did have traits of ‘lunatic’ must be faced. Psychiatrist Anthony Storr explored this in his book “Feet of Clay; Saints, Sinners, and Madmen: A Study of Gurus”. He found similarities between Jesus and deluded Messiah figures like Jim Jones and David Koresh. It would be great if someone familiar with Storr’s work could give a brief account.
  4. Are the things Jesus claimed, in John especially, unavoidable as divine claims? Was there a more fuzzy boundary between the human and the divine in that culture, such as divine titles for human kings and messiahs?
  5. Is it plausible that the church could have started the tradition that Jesus was divine and Jesus never thought it of himself?
  6. Does Mark’s gospel say that Jesus claimed to be divine? Is there legendary development from Mark, the earliest gospel, to John, the latest? When do people think John was written?

After the main group discussion we will split into smaller groups using the Zoom breakout facility. The emphasis will be on our own ideas regarding who Jesus really was.

The meeting won't be recorded.

Future Programme of Meetings in 2022:

Monday 4 Jul – possibly the last zoom-only meeting
Monday 5 Sep – the current target for re-starting in-person meetings
Monday 3 Oct
Monday 7 Nov

Past events (74)

Photos (53)

Find us also at