On "Compromising God"January 7, 2008 vs Dumplin Dumbash
The main way used to defuse the trilemma is to try to add to it. As I have noted, these efforts are misguided. Dumplin' whines (as do other) that the trilemma leaves out stuff like, "How do we know Jesus did say these things?" Actually, it doesn't; that is just outside its scope. The Trilemma does assume that Jesus' words are recorded accurately; but positing that they weren't does not dissolve the Trilemma; it goes outside of it.
Dumplin' claims that I create "a series of false dichotomies that fail to accurately represent the realities involved." Really? How so? His example is a convoluted one of little coherence, to say nothing of little grasp of exegetical realities. He appeals to the incidence of John 10 in which Jesus said, "I and the Father are one." Noting correctly that Ps. 82 provided the background for this, Dumplin' prattles:
So God called the kings of the earth "gods." That means that either God is a liar, or God is a lunatic, or the kings of the earth really are gods. It's either 100% true that they are gods, or it's 100% false that they are gods. It's either 100% true that God called them gods, or it's 100% false that God called them gods. If God called them gods when it's 100% false that they are gods, then God must either be a liar or a lunatic. Either it's 100% true that God knew they were not gods when He called them gods, or it's 100% false that He knew they were not gods. If He knew they were not gods, then He's a liar. If He didn't, then either He's 100% insane, or He's 100% ignorant.
Quiz time: how many people think that Psalm 82ís true, intended meaning is best arrived at via the "tetralemma" approach outlined by Holding? And what does that tell us about what Jesus meant when he cited Psalm 82 as the precedent for his own declaration of being "one" with God?
Quiz answer: Actually, Ps. 82's true, intended meaning is best arrived at by exegetical scholarship; and in that sense, there's a couple of issues at stake. First, "gods" (elohim) meant more than simply the one God of Judaism (see here, it is above Dumplin's head of course). Second, Dumplin' is confusing interpretation with determination. Whatever Ps. 82 means (I discuss this in detail in my book on Mormonism), it is obviously relating something true or false; and if false, either because the source of the claim (whether God or whomever) is lying or somehow deluded to some degree (whether by means of a mistake or because of mental illness, at the extremes). Dumpy seems to thing this is some sort of problem, but it is not clear why; nor is it made much more clear with what follows:
The problem is that "god" is a term without any objective, verifiable, real-world reference. It is a term whose meaning is defined entirely by the stories men tell about it, and the feelings men have about it, and the speculations and philosophies men imagine about it. And as if it werenít bad enough that these things contradict each other and themselves, we also use the terms "god" and "divine" metaphorically and hyperbolically, as well as "spiritually." Itís entirely possible for it to be 100% true that Jesus claimed divinity (in some sense) while being 100% false that he claimed divinity (in some other, equally valid sense).
Um....right. So Dumplin' evades the argument by the simple expedient of conducting an epistemoloigcal train wreck in his own back yard. This semantic trick is popular among the GEICO cavemen sect of Skepticism, but it seems unlikely that these folks have no idea what we mean by "God" any more than they are confused when we say "George Bush" or "Bill Clinton."
In the end, Dumplin' is forced back to his old comfortable whine-whine that we know God doesn't exist, because He isn't here serving us on a silver spoon right now and reading us bedtime stories. That's an argument external to the Trilemma, so properly, it is not a refutation of it but a change of subject. It is like someone entering debate on the question, "Did Jesus rise from the dead?" and claiming they can win the debate by proving Jesus did not exist. Perhaps so, but in that case they have come to the debate on false premisses. Dumpy didn't actually come to refute the Trilemma but to refute something more elemental.
That said, Dumpy is mistaken when he says, Holding concedes that "honestly mistaken" is also a valid alternative that Lewis somehow failed to consider. No, I do not. I say that it is an invalid alternative that Lewis either wisely ignored or should have if he thought of it. But Dumpy's own idea on the matter is itself comical for its ignorance of the political realities of the day:
The reality of the situation is that Jesus was probably on the spectrum of human behavior between the cynical huckster who deliberately manipulates popular superstition in order to acquire political power, and the deluded egomaniac who is sincerely unable to tell the difference between whatever seems right in his own eyes, and "Godís Eternal Will."
On the huckster side, we see that Jesus manifestly loved to step into the limelight and build up his own reputation by denouncing the unpopular leaders of his day. He seized the moral high ground by preaching virtues that, unfortunately, he himself did not quite put into practice (for example, compare "love your enemies" with how he actually treated the Pharisees and the merchants on the Temple grounds). He even denounced his own followers at times, but he loved to have people scrape and bow and show their faith in him.
Aside from the poor exegesis of "love your enemies" (which has nothing to do with institutional enemies, or enemies of the truth, as opposed to personal ones), we may note that nothing shows Jesus to be interested in "political power" -- quite the opposite; he denied that his kingdom was of this world and gathered no instruments of revolt about him. Nor is there any evidence of egomania, or of one who "loved to have people scrape and bow" -- this is Dumplin's own inferiority complex reading things into the text. Dumpy will need, of course, much more than a ten-cent psychoanalysis like this one to do the job; he will need as well to be sure he understands the difference between the individualist and collectivist psychology before he dons the cap and puts Jesus on the couch. "Egomania" won't work as a diagnosis because ego, as we know it, is a modern, individualist phenomenon.
In the end, Dumpy can only cloud the issue with non-argument spectral blatter:
Is it 100% dishonest to fail to distinguish between your own value judgments and God's Eternal Truth? If so, there are a lot of lying Christians out there. Or is it 100% insane to try to live the best, most moral, and most righteous life you can live, given your understanding of what morality and justice are? If so, there's a lot of people, Christian and non-, who are cuckoo froot loops.
It's hard to know what the point is here, since the issue is not "distinguishing between your own value judgments and God's Eternal Truth" but a specific claim of personal identity. That is not a question that lies upon a spectrum of complexity. If you claim to be person X, there's no issue of "trying to be the best at being X as you can." You either are or you aren't. And that's a question concerning Jesus that Dumpy has not answered, but dodged.