Kreeft’s Case for the Divinity of Jesus – Part 10: The Fourth Dilemma
WHERE WE ARE
In Chapter 7 of their book Handbook of Christian Apologetics (hereafter: HCA), Christian philosophers Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli make a case for the divinity of Jesus. Here is the main argument they present in Chapter 7:
1A. Jesus was either God, liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.
2A. Jesus could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru, or myth.
3A. Jesus is God.
In Part 3 of this series, I analyzed and clarified a series of four dilemmas (four EITHER/OR statements) that they use to support premise (1A). The four dilemmas are used to try to prove that there are only FIVE possible views that can be taken on this issue.
In Part 4 of this series, I argued that the answer to the question posed in this FIRST DILEMMA is: NO. Furthermore, this NO answer to the question does NOT logically imply that the MYTH VIEW is true, so the logic of the FIRST DILEMMA is INVALID.
In Part 6 of this series, Part 7 of this series, and Part 8 of this series, I showed that if we answer the question posed by the SECOND DILEMMA by focusing on the quotations of Jesus provided by Kreeft and Tacelli from the Gospel of John, then the answer to the question would be: NO. Yet what Jesus says in the Gospel of John (especially in Chapter 8) also shows that the GURU VIEW is FALSE. Thus, the logic of Kreeft and Tacelli’s SECOND DILEMMA is INVALID.
In Part 9 of this series, I pointed out that the logic of the THIRD DILEMMA is VALID.
In order for Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS to work as a SOUND argument for premise (1A) the logic of all FOUR DILEMMAS must be VALID. Since I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA is INVALID and that the SECOND DILEMMA is INVALID, it is already clear that Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument FAILS to show that premise (1A) is true.
WHAT ABOUT THE FOURTH DILEMMA?
Here is the FOURTH DILEMMA, the final piece of Kreeft and Tacelli’s argument in support of premise (1A):
The previous three dilemmas have each involved an inference to ONE of the five VIEWS, but this final FOURTH DILEMMA has two inferences. According to the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, a YES answer to the question posed in the FOURTH DILEMMA logically implies the LIAR VIEW (the view that Jesus was a liar), and a NO answer to the question logically implies the LUNATIC VIEW (the view that Jesus was a lunatic, a person who was insane, or who had a very serious mental illness).
CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE INFERENCE TO THE LIAR VIEW
Is the inference from a YES answer to the question “Did Jesus know his literal claim to be God was not true?” to the conclusion that the LIAR VIEW is true a VALID inference? First, it should be noted that Jesus never claimed to be God, and that Jesus never claimed to LITERALLY be God. So, this question is based on a FALSE ASSUMPTION. However, we should evaluate the logic of this FOURTH DILEMMA independently of the answers to the previous dilemmas, if possible. So, we should imagine that Jesus had claimed to LITERALLY be God, to be the eternal creator of the universe and the omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good ruler of the universe.
Furthermore, to evaluate this specific inference, we also need to imagine that Jesus KNEW that this claim to LITERALLY be God was NOT TRUE. Would this make Jesus a LIAR? It might be tempting to say that this conclusion, the LIAR VIEW, does not follow logically, because in this imagined circumstance Jesus has only told ONE LIE, but every human being has told at least one lie, and we don’t want to say that every human being is a LIAR on such a meager basis. It seems inappropriate to label a person as being a “liar” simply because that person told ONE SINGLE LIE.
However, this objection to the inference to the LIAR VIEW does not hold up under closer examination. The problem is that this “one lie” would be a HUGE and TERRIBLE lie, at least in the context of Jesus presenting himself as a devout Jew who is leading a group of people who were trying to be devout Jews.
God, according to the Jewish religion, is worthy of worship, and God is worthy of absolute obedience, and a devout Jew should believe anything and everything that God says. So, if Jesus claimed to LITERALLY be God, and Jesus KNEW that this claim was NOT TRUE, Jesus would be deceiving people into worshiping an imperfect human being, and deceiving people into giving absolute obedience to an imperfect human being, and deceiving people into absolutely believing anything and everything that was asserted by an ignorant and imperfect human being. This would be a HUGE and TERRIBLE deception by Jesus, and thus if he did this, he would clearly deserve the label: LIAR.
Therefore, the inference from a YES answer to the question posed in the FOURTH DILEMMA to the conclusion that the LIAR VIEW is true is logically VALID. The LIAR VIEW does indeed follow logically from a YES answer to the question “Did Jesus know his literal claim to be God was not true?”
CRITICAL EVALUATION OF THE INFERENCE TO THE LUNATIC VIEW
According to the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli, a NO answer to the question posed in the FOURTH DILEMMA logically implies that the LUNATIC VIEW is true. However, they are mistaken on this point. This inference is logically INVALID, and thus the FOURTH DILEMMA adds yet another logical error to their argument in support of premise (1A).
The problem here is that religious beliefs, including basic Christian beliefs, involve the same appearance of INSANITY that the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli rely upon here to label the imagined version of Jesus as being a LUNATIC. Their logic would require that virtually all Christians also be considered to be LUNATICS. Their reasoning, in this case, PROVES TOO MUCH, and can thus be reduced to absurdity.
Did the baby Jesus know all human languages that have ever existed? Did the baby Jesus know all of the laws of physics and chemistry will ever be discovered, plus some laws of physics and chemistry that no human being will ever discover? Did the baby Jesus know all mathematical and geometrical axioms and theorems that will ever be thought of by any human being? Did the baby Jesus know how many hairs there are on the heads of every human being who has ever lived and who will ever live? In short, was the baby Jesus OMNISCIENT? If not, then it follows logically that the baby Jesus was NOT GOD, because God is, by definition, OMNISCIENT.
But if the baby Jesus was OMNISCIENT, then he would have been a FREAK, a MONSTER, and not in any way a finite human being. There are MANY logical problems with the Christian belief that Jesus was GOD INCARNATE, and that Jesus was one person in the TRINITY which constitutes God.
Over the centuries, many Christian philosophers and theologians have expended a great deal of time and effort trying to make sense of the idea that God could become a limited and finite human being, and still somehow remain God. Christian philosophers and theologians have also expended a great deal of time and effort trying to make sense of the idea that God could be three individual persons and yet be just ONE BEING (a Trinity). These intellectual efforts often involve rather bizarre ideas, like the idea that Jesus had TWO MINDS: a finite and limited human mind, and an infinite and unlimited divine mind. Such a bizarre theory was part of an effort to try to make sense of a baby Jesus who was, somehow, also God and thus OMNISCIENT.
But from the point of view of ordinary folks and common sense, the idea that Jesus had TWO MINDS, seems more than a little bit CRAZY. But such bizarre thinking has been a part of the intellectual history of Christian thought for many many centuries. Some of us might not be impressed by the TWO MINDS theory about Jesus, but we don’t conclude that Christian theologians are literally INSANE or LUNATICS. We all understand that religion and theology can easily and quickly go into some wild and wacky places.
Let’s think for a moment about an analogy that might be used to defend the reasoning of Kreeft and Tacelli on this point. Am I Superman? As a rational adult human with at least normal cognitive abilities, I am quite sure that I am NOT SUPERMAN. I am NOT faster than a speeding bullet. I am NOT more powerful than a locomotive. I am NOT able to leap tall buildings in a single bound. Plus, I cannot fly through the air on my own (without a jet pack or some sort of manufactured wings). Any rational adult human of normal cognitive ability knows whether he or she is faster than a speeding bullet, or more powerful than a locomotive, or able to leap tall buildings in a single bound, or able to fly through the air on their own (without a jet pack or some sort of manufactured wings). So, any rational adult of normal cognitive ability knows whether or not he/she is SUPERMAN.
Wouldn’t the same reasoning apply to being GOD? I know that I am NOT omnipotent. I know that I am NOT omniscient. I know that I am NOT eternal. I know that I am NOT perfectly good. As a rational adult with at least normal cognitive ability, I know that I am NOT GOD, in the same way that I know that I am NOT SUPERMAN. So, if Jesus was NOT omnipotent, and Jesus was NOT omniscient, and Jesus was NOT eternal, and Jesus was NOT perfectly good, then if Jesus was a rational adult with at least normal cognitive ability, wouldn’t he also know that he was NOT GOD? Wouldn’t it be OBVIOUS that he lacked the basic divine attributes (e.g. eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, perfectly good)?
It is tempting to say that any rational adult who has at least normal cognitive ability would be able to quickly and easily determine whether or not he/she was eternal, omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good. However, we must keep in mind the bizarre thinking of Christian philosophers and theologians who try to make sense of a baby Jesus who is LITERALLY GOD, who is LITERALLY omnipotent and omniscient.
One way of making sense of this is by the theory that Jesus had TWO MINDS, a finite human mind, and an infinite divine mind. But then, would baby Jesus KNOW he was omnipotent and omniscient? Would Jesus as a teenager KNOW he was omnipotent and omniscient? Would Jesus as an adult KNOW he was omnipotent and omniscient? It is hard to say. Are we talking about the finite human MIND of Jesus knowing this? or the infinite divine MIND of Jesus knowing this?
To some of us, such questions appear to be INSANE and involve the thinking of LUNATICS. But I am talking about the thinking of some of the greatest Christian theologians and philosophers, and it would be rather ABSURD to declare these great Christian thinkers to all be INSANE, even if we think they are mistaken, even if we think some of their ideas and theories about God are illogical.
In short, Jesus could have entertained some bizarre philosophical or theological ideas that, to some of us, seem INSANE, but that are not any more bizarre than ideas that have been contemplated and defended by some great Christian thinkers. If Jesus had come up with, for example, the idea that he had TWO MINDS, one mind that was a finite and limited mind, and another mind that was an infinite and divine mind, many of us would find that to be a very strange and bizarre belief. But such a belief would NOT NECESSARILY imply that Jesus was LITERALLY INSANE or that Jesus suffered from a very serious mental illness.
If Jesus had come up with such a bizarre idea, that would explain how he could be a rational adult who had at least an ordinary level of cognitive ability, and yet believe that he was LITERALLY GOD when in fact he was just an ordinary, finite, and imperfect human being, just like the rest of us. In short, we can imagine Jesus coming up with a bizarre philosophical or theological idea that would reconcile the appearance that he was ordinary, finite, and imperfect, with the belief that he was supernatural, infinite, and perfectly good, but this bizarre philosophical or theological belief would NOT be sufficient reason to conclude that Jesus was LITERALLY INSANE, that Jesus had a very serious mental illness.
So long as Christians maintain the belief that Jesus was GOD INCARNATE, and that Jesus was one of three individual persons who constitute a single BEING that is GOD (the Trinity), we must either declare many of the greatest Christian thinkers to be INSANE, or else we must allow that Jesus could hold bizarre theological or philosophical beliefs that would make it possible for a rational adult of normal cognitive ability to NOT KNOW that he was a finite, limited, imperfect human being, even though he was in fact a finite, limited, and imperfect human being.
Kreeft and Tacelli are mistaken when they infer the LUNATIC VIEW from a NO answer to the question “Did Jesus know his literal claim to be God was not true?” It is possible for a person, including Jesus, to be a rational adult of normal cognitive ability who is NOT GOD, to nevertheless NOT KNOW that he was NOT GOD. Therefore, this inference in the FOURTH DILEMMA is logically INVALID.
CONCLUSION ABOUT THE FOUR DILEMMAS
I have shown that the FIRST DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I have shown that the SECOND DILEMMA contains an INVALID inference. I agree with Kreeft and Tacelli that the inference in the THIRD DILEMMA is logically VALID. I have shown that in the FOURTH DILEMMA there is one VALID inference (to the LIAR VIEW) and one INVALID inference (to the LUNATIC VIEW).
Therefore, there are INVALID inferences in three out of the four DILEMMAS, and just one INVALID inference is enough to sink Kreeft and Tacelli’s FOUR DILEMMAS argument in support of premise (1A) of their case for the divinity of Jesus. So, they have utterly and completely FAILED to show that this key premise of their argument is true, and that premise remains DUBIOUS, at best.