Could "Lord, Lunatic, or Liar" be applied to other religious leaders as well?

A common defense in proving the divinity and truth of Jesus is “For someone who makes such bold claims he either has to be the Lord, a lunatic, or a liar”

“He can’t be a lunatic because nothing mentioned about him points to him being mentally unstable. Judging by his character expressed in the bible, he couldn’t be a liar either. So that only leads us with one other option, Jesus is Lord.”

But couldn’t the same be said of other religious leaders throughout history?

Buddha, Mohamed, Yogananda, etc.

They all make bold claims and perform miracles but all don’t come off as crazy or as liars. These leaders seem to be very genuine people.

My question is since these leaders seem genuine just like Christ was genuine, why do we automatically write them off as “liars” who manipulate people away from Christ with their powers?

Well, I’ve never been a big fan of that argument…but

The people that you mentioned, the founders of many religions, none of them claimed to BE God the way that Jesus did. They claimed to know God, and to know the path to salvation or nirvana or whatever, which is not very different from the thousands of protestant ministers all around the world, and we don’t call them lunatics or liars, for the most part, just misguided.

We DO call people who claim to be God lunatics and liars, don’t we? I can’t think of any examples, but if someone were to come up to me and say “I am God” I would roll my eyes and walk away. If someone came up to me and said “I know God”, I would probably listen to him and talk to him about it.

Jesus claimed to be God, that sounds crazy; but is it?

It could not, because none of them made claim to lordship. Buddha was agnostic and didn’t make any claims to divinity, only to being “enlightened”. Mohammad only claimed to be a prophet. I don’t know the third one you listed.

Beyond this, most other religions are derived from someone claiming to speak for God, or to have uncovered “secret truths.” There are also many eastern religions which are more of a philosophy than a religion.

Only Jesus Christ made claims to lordship, so the Lord, Liar, Lunatic formula can only be rightly applied to Him.

When C S Lewis formulated that argument he did so with the specific understanding that Christ had made claims about himself that were of such an outrageous nature that they need either be true, false, or the ravings of a lunatic. No other founder of a religious sect ever claimed for themselves the title Son of Man as Christ did. No other founder ever claimed the honorific “I Am” or “I Am He” as Jesus did. No other ever claimed to personify the salvation of humanity and not merely to have some esoteric knowledge about salvation. Only Jesus made these wild and seemingly prima facia ridiculous claims.

So what lewis was saying was that the nature of His claims, and the nature of His life forces us to not merely conclude that he was a “good man” or a “wise teacher”. As Lewis said “He left us no choice, he did not intend to.”

Besides what others have mentioned that these people did not claim to be God, they also did not do miracles, such as raising of the dead. Did this really happen? That is a better question. The answer is the number of eyewitnesses that died willingly to hold to the story.

There have been miracles like that though. I’ve mentioned them on previous threads.

and regarding the Peter Kreeft article.

I agree that Jesus’s followers most likely wouldn’t have “made up stories” about Jesus knowing that they would be tortured, killed etc.

But other religious devotees are willing to die for their faith as well. Just look at Islam for an example.

What separates the followers of Christianity from the followers of other religions who were willing to suffer a horrible fate for something they believed to be true about their faith?

I’m puzzled by your last paragraph. If you’re addressing all this to people who write them off as liars, then what’s the point of asking whether “Lord, Lunatic, or Liar” can be applied to them?

The history of the first centuries of the followers of Christ is much different to the history of the first centuries of Islam.

The fact that both died for their faith masks a much more important difference between the two.

It is a quit clear separation.

The thing is that this is often said to be the case but how do we actually know it to be the case? In other words, what’s the chain of evidence?

Very different. Muslims don’t give up their life. They are soldiers who fight, kill and are willing to be killed for their leaders. The leaders are often secular, who use religion to persuade the soldiers to kill and be killed.
Christian martyrdom, which by the way is still happening today, is of a different nature. These folks refuse to deny their God and are killed.

This may provide some context.

No, not really.

I was raising the question of what is supposed to have happened to the ‘eyewitnesses’.

Well the Acts of the apostles mentions the stoning of Stephen who was most likely an eye witness. We are told that Paul was involved in the killing and that a great persecution of Christians then followed in Jerusalem that caused Christians (likely many eye witnesses) to flee the city.

We have St. Paul admitting that he persecuted Christians (likely eye witnesses), and later claiming he himself was an eye witness to the risen Jesus. We also have accounts of the Apostles fearing to meet with Paul shortly after his conversion due to the threat of persecution.

Paul later tells us he did meet and talk with the apostles and that he was ready to die for Jesus, the Messiah because he himself has seen the risen Jesus.

We have the history of the Church spreading throughout the empire with universal notions of the Saints, suffering and martyrdom.

We have the gruesome persecution of Christians in Rome by Nero that must have included some eye witnesses.

We have letters from people in subsequent generations going to their deaths at the hand of Rome such as Bishop Polycarp who references the Saints that suffered before him for the faith which were eye witnesses.

We also have early historians of the Church mentioning the martyrdom of the early Christian eyewitness from the different geographic regions where Christianity grew.

Finally we have the gruesome account of the ultimate eyewitness himself - Jesus Christ whose self sacrifice in the face of death formed the base of the theology of the early Church spread by the testimony of the eye witnesses.

It could be asked that in a time of recorded persecution why would Christianity spread so quickly if the eye witnesses spreading the faith themselves by testimony shirked persecution. Wouldn’t the message fall flat if the army of eye witnesses spreading the gospel of a self sacrificing Messiah who conquered death were themselves not emulating Jesus? Would it create a culture of Christians ready to sacrifice themselves like Bishop Polycarp who knew the apostles and went to his death willingly at the hands of the Romans?

Polycarp 8:1
Let us therefore without ceasing hold fast by our hope and by the
earnest of our righteousness, which is Jesus Christ who took up our
sins in His own body upon the tree, who did no sin, neither was
guile found in His mouth, but for our sakes He endured all things,
that we might live in Him.

Polycarp 8:2
Let us therefore become imitators of His endurance; and if we should
suffer for His name’s sake, let us glorify Him. For He gave this
example to us in His own person, and we believed this.

Polycarp 9:1
I exhort you all therefore to be obedient unto the word of
righteousness and to practice all endurance, which also ye saw with
your own eyes in the blessed Ignatius and Zosimus and Rufus, yea and
in others also who came from among yourselves, as well as in Paul
himself and the rest of the Apostles;

Polycarp 9:2
being persuaded that all these ran not in vain but in faith and
righteousness, and that they are in their due place in the presence
of the Lord, with whom also they suffered. For they loved not the
present world, but Him that died for our sakes and was raised by
God for us.

Right. The “Lord, Lunatic, or Liar” claim doesn’t exist in a vacuum.

The origin of my question was the suggestion that partly what distinguishes Christianity is that the ‘eyewitnesses’ were willing to die for the truth of what they witnessed. What we seem to have is a lot of hearsay circumstantial evidence which is all very well for bolstering the faith of believers but as a means of convincing the rest of us, it’s more than a bit lacking.

I seem to remember from one of my seemingly endless rows with Randy that the chain of ‘evidence’ really came down to how far one trusted Irenaeus.

I’ve never understood why the ‘trilemma’ is so popular (usually, I blame Josh McDowell for popularising apologetic culs-de-sac) because it begs so many questions.

I think if you want to believe something didn’t happen, the mind will follow suit.

I wouldn’t dismiss what was presented as hearsay and insinuate that it is at a level for the emotionally invested.

Oh? How popular is it? :nudge:

:slight_smile: But seriously, I rarely hear it mentioned, even in church. So I’m not sure it is all that popular.

BTW, it’s interesting that people are talking about Josh McDowell and Peter Kreeft, given that both of them were like 5 years old when C. S. Lewis started talking about the “trilemma”. (But then, I guess Lewis didn’t invent it either.)

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