McDowell’s Trilemma – Part 5: The Creator of the Universe

McDowell’s Trilemma Argument (hereafter: MTA), can be found in The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict (hereafter: NETDV) by Josh McDowell (see pages 158-163).
The first key premise of MTA is this:

  1. Jesus claimed to be God.

None of the canonical Gospels report Jesus as having asserted the claim “I am God” nor the claim “Jesus of Nazareth is God” nor the claim “The Messiah is God, and I am the Messiah”.  Based on the canonical Gospels, Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be God. However, it is possible to IMPLY that a person is God without saying so directly, so it is possible that Jesus IMPLIED that he was God, without directly CLAIMING to be God.
For Jesus to clearly IMPLY that he was God, Jesus would have to make the following CLAIMS:
I am an eternally bodiless person, and an eternally omnipotent person, and an eternally omniscient person, and an eternally perfectly morally good person, and I am the creator of the universe.
In Part 1 of this series, we saw that Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be a bodiless person, nor did Jesus IMPLY that he was a bodiless person.  Because Jesus never claimed to be a bodiless person, and never claimed to be a “spirit”, and because Jesus repeatedly asserted that he had a physical body made of “flesh and bones”, Jesus clearly IMPLIED that he was not a spirit and not a bodiless person.  Therefore, Jesus clearly IMPLIED that he was not God.
In Part 2 of this series, we saw that Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be eternally omnipotent, nor to be omnipotent, nor all-powerful, nor almighty.   Based on the canonical Gospels, Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be omnipotent. We also looked at some passages from the canonical Gospels put forward by McDowell in support of the view that Jesus was omnipotent, but upon closer examination of those passages, we saw that in none of them does Jesus clearly CLAIM or IMPLY that he was eternally omnipotent or even just omnipotent.
In Part 3 of this series, we saw that Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be eternally omniscient, nor to be omniscient, nor to be all-knowing, nor that he knew every  single fact about every single thing that has ever existed or that ever will exist.  Based on the canonical Gospels, Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be omniscient.  We also looked at some passages from the canonical Gospels put forward by McDowell in support of the view that Jesus was omniscient, but upon closer examination of those passages, we saw that in none of them does Jesus clearly CLAIM or IMPLY that he was eternally omniscient or even just omniscient.
In Part 4 of this series, we saw that Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be eternally perfectly morally good, nor to be perfectly morally good, nor to be sinless.  Based on the canonical Gospels, Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be perfectly morally good or to be sinless. We also looked at some NT passages put forward by McDowell in support of the view that Jesus was perfectly morally good and some NT passages put forward by Geisler in support of the view that Jesus was sinless, but upon closer examination of those passages, we saw that in none of them does Jesus clearly CLAIM or IMPLY that he was eternally perfectly morally good or even just perfectly morally good.
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Did Jesus ever CLAIM to be the creator of the universe?

  • None of the canonical Gospels report that Jesus said “I am the creator of the universe”, nor that he stated “I made the universe”, nor that he asserted, “I created the universe”, nor  “I caused the universe to come into existence”.
  • None of the canonical Gospels report that Jesus stated “I am the creator of the heavens and the earth”, nor that he asserted “I made the heavens and the earth”, nor that he said “I created the heavens and the earth”, nor “I caused the heavens and the earth to come into existence”.
  • They also do not report that Jesus asserted “I am the creator of the sun, the moon, and the stars”, nor that he said, “I made the sun, the moon, and the stars”, nor that he stated “I created the sun, the moon, and the stars”, nor  “I caused the sun, the moon, and the stars to come into existence”.
  • The canonical Gospels do not report that Jesus said “I am the creator of everything that exists”, nor that he asserted “I made everything that exists”, nor that he stated “I created everything that exists”, nor “I caused everything that exists to come into existence”.

In short, based on the contents of the canonical Gospels, Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be the creator of the universe.
But did Jesus ever IMPLY that he was the creator of the universe?  McDowell puts forward some NT passages in support of the view that Jesus is the creator of the universe.  Let’s examine those passages to see if Jesus ever CLAIMED or IMPLIED that he was the creator of the universe.
In his book Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity, McDowell points to only five NT passages in support of the view that Jesus is the creator of the universe (p.44-46 & p.63).  So, I checked Geisler’s book When Skeptics Ask, for any NT passages supporting this idea.  Geilser only mentions two such NT passages (p.111), both of which were included in McDowell’s five passages.  So, I checked one more book of apologetics that is focused on the question of the deity of Jesus:  Putting Jesus in His Place by Robert Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski.  Bowman provides six NT passages in support of the view that Jesus is the creator (p.187-188 & p.191).  Five of the six passages from Bowman are already included in McDowell’s list, so we end up with a total of only six NT passages in support of the view that Jesus is the creator:
NT Passages on Jesus as the Creator
 
 
 
 
 
 
There are at least four different TYPES of evidence that an NT passage could provide for the view that Jesus is the creator of the universe:
TYPE I.  A report that Jesus said something, and that something was (allegedly) intended to CLAIM or IMPLY that Jesus is the creator of the universe.
TYPE II. A report that someone else (other than Jesus) said something, and that something was (allegedly) intended to CLAIM or IMPLY that Jesus is the creator of the universe.
TYPE III. The author or narrator of a passage says something (in that passage) that was (allegedly) intended to CLAIM or IMPLY that Jesus is the creator of the universe.
TYPE IV. A report that Jesus said or did something, and that event (if it actually occurred, allegedly) provides EVIDENCE that proves or supports the claim that Jesus is the creator of the universe.
Because we are evaluating premise (1) of MTA, the only sort of evidence that we are interested in is TYPE I evidence: evidence consisting of a report that Jesus said something by which Jesus (allegedly) intended to CLAIM or IMPLY that Jesus is the creator of the universe.  But, as you can see in the chart above, all six passages provided by McDowell and Bowman provide only TYPE III evidence, and there are zero passages that provide TYPE I evidence.  So, none of the six passages provided by McDowell and Bowman is relevant to evaluating premise (1) of MTA.
Based on the information in the canonical Gospels, Jesus never directly CLAIMED to be the creator of the universe, and based on an examination of the six NT passages provided by McDowell, Geisler, and Bowman, in support of the view that Jesus is the creator, there is no NT passage where Jesus himself clearly CLAIMS or IMPLIES that he is the creator of the universe.
CONCLUSION

  • In the canonical Gospels, Jesus never clearly CLAIMS or IMPLIES that he is an eternally bodiless person, nor that he is a bodiless person.
  • In the canonical Gospels, Jesus never clearly CLAIMS or IMPLIES that he is an eternally omnipotent person, nor that he is an omnipotent person.
  • In the canonical Gospels, Jesus never clearly CLAIMS or IMPLIES that he is an eternally omniscient person, nor that he is an omniscient person.
  • In the canonical Gospels, Jesus never clearly CLAIMS or IMPLIES that he is an eternally perfectly morally good person, nor that he is a perfectly morally good person.
  • In the canonical Gospels, Jesus never clearly CLAIMS or IMPLIES that he is the creator of the universe.

Not only did Jesus never directly CLAIM to be God in the canonical Gospels, but of the five basic divine attributes that constitute the concept of “God”, Jesus never clearly CLAIMS or IMPLIES (in the canonical Gospels) that he has any of those divine attributes, let alone that he has all five of them.  Therefore, it seems rather unlikely that Jesus ever (in the canonical Gospels) clearly IMPLIED that he was God.
But McDowell has provided other NT passages which he thinks show that Jesus said something that IMPLIED that he (Jesus) was God.  So, in my next post in this series, I will begin to take a look at those NT passages (in Chapter 6 of NETDV).
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FREE BONUS:  
TWO ARGUMENTS AGAINST THE CLAIM
“Jesus is the Creator of the Universe”
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Jesus did not ever clearly CLAIM or IMPLY this statement:
(JTC) Jesus is the creator of the universe.
However, he did say some things that constitute evidence AGAINST the claim (JTC).
A Scientific Argument Against (JTC)

  1. IF Jesus is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus knew how old the universe was, and how long it took for the universe to develop into its current form, and Jesus knew when life began to appear on the earth, and how long it took for plants and animials to develop into their current forms, and Jesus knew how it was that modern species of plants and animals came into existence, and Jesus knew how long humans have existed on the earth and how it was that human beings came into existence. (common-sense philosophical premise)
  2. Jesus believed that the stories in the book of Genesis, including the creation stories, were literally true. (historical premise)
  3. IF Jesus believed that the stories in the book of Genesis, including the creation stories, were literally true, THEN it is NOT the case that: Jesus knew how old the universe was, and how long it took for the universe to develop into its current form, and Jesus knew when life began to appear on the earth, and how long it took for plants and animials to develop into their current forms, and Jesus knew how it was that modern species of plants and animals came into existence, and Jesus knew how long humans have existed on the earth and how it was that human beings came into existence. (scientific premise)
  4. It is NOT the case that: Jesus knew how old the universe was, and how long it took for the universe to develop into its current form, and Jesus knew when life began to appear on the earth, and how long it took for plants and animials to develop into their current forms, and Jesus knew how it was that modern species of plants and animals came into existence, and Jesus knew how long humans have existed on the earth and how it was that human beings came into existence. (inferred from 2 and 3)
  5. It is NOT the case that: Jesus is the creator of the universe. (inferred from 1 and 4)

A Philosophical Argument Against (JTC)

  1. IF Jesus is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus knew who was the creator of the universe. (common-sense philosophical premise)
  2. Jesus believed that Jehovah is the creator of the universe. (historical premise)
  3. IF Jesus knew who was the creator of the universe and Jesus believed that Jehovah is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus knew that Jehovah is the creator of the universe. (analytic premise)
  4. IF Jesus is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus knew that Jehovah is the creator of the universe. (inferred from 1, 2, & 3)
  5. IF Jesus is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus knew that he (Jesus) is the creator of the universe. (common-sense philosophical premise)
  6. IF Jesus is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus knew that Jehovah is the creator of the universe and Jesus knew that he (Jesus) is the creator of the universe. (inferred from 4 and 5).
  7. IF Jesus knew that Jehovah is the creator of the universe and Jesus knew that he (Jesus) is the creator of the universe, THEN Jehovah is the creator of the universe and Jesus is the creator of the universe. (analytic premise)
  8. IF Jehovah is the creator of the universe and Jesus is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus is Jehovah. (analytic premise)
  9. IF Jesus is the creator of the universe, THEN Jesus is Jehovah. (inferred from 6, 7, and 8)
  10. Jesus was a perfectly morally good person. (historical & philosophical premise/Christian belief)
  11. It is NOT the case that Jehovah was a perfectly morally good person. (historical & philosophical premise)
  12. It is NOT the case that Jesus is Jehovah. (inferred from 10 and 11)
  13. It is NOT the case that Jesus is the creator of the universe. (inferred from 9 and 12)

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