This is Ed's response to me on the Trilemma. My replies are in bold.
C.S. Lewis Replies to Ed on the Trilemma Argument?
Funny thing about Lewis' argument for the chief character in the Fourth
Gospel reading like "Boswell's Johnson," is that Boswell has since been
castigated by Boswell scholars for having both embellished and INVENTED
stories about Dr. Johnson. So I guess Lewis was not only lacking in his
knowledge of comparative Gospel scholarship but also could have benefited
from the results of more in-depth Boswellian scholarship as well.
VR: And do Boswell scholars agree on this? Is there consensus among them? Even if the book contains some embellishment, does anyone seriously think that Boswell's Johnson is as unreliable as Bultmann thinks John is? Perhaps we should hop into the TARDIS, bring C. S. Lewis back from the mid-century, and ask him what he thinks of this radical development in Boswell scholarship.
As Dr. Robert M. Price pointed out in "A Rejoinder to Josh McDowell's
Evidence That Demands a Verdict: 'Jesus-- God's Son'":
"Before one parrots the ludicrous dictum of C.S. Lewis (in "Modern
Theology and Biblical Criticism") that the Johannine discourses bear no
resemblance to ancient, non-historical genres, one owes it to oneself to
read the Gnostic and Mandaean revelation soliloquies abundantly quoted in
Bultmann's commentary on John, something I rather doubt any apologists
take the trouble to do. (I find it amusing that Lewis preferred to compare
John's discourses with Boswell's "reportage" of Samuel Johnson's
table-talk--which, as has recently been argued, seems itself to have been
a literary stylization of the kind critics suggest we find in the Fourth
Adding to Price, one should note that anyone reading the Fourth Gospel can
see it begins with the author's intepretation of Jesus, "the Word of God."
But the previous three Gospels begin merely by calling Jesus the Messiah
and son of God, both a far cry from "God the son."
But, as Lewis points out, at the end of all the Gospels, Jesus gets himself crucified by making claims on his own behalf, such as "I'm going to come back and judge the world." So maybe Jesus didn't claim to be god, he just claimed to be the final judge of all the nations. He could have been sincerely mistaken about that, no doubt. Arthur Wainwright, my Bible professor at Candler School of Theology, quoted Bultmann as saying that Jesus couldn't have said he would come on the clouds to judge the world, because if he said that he would have had to have been crazy. Maybe someone can give me the reference; I've been looking for it since. I remember Wainwright quoting Archbishop Temple: No one would bother to crucify the Christ of liberal Protestantism.
And in the ostensibly earliest Gospel, Mark, Jesus is merely chosen by God
at his baptism, where an ancient Hebrew coronation psalm that refers to
installing a HUMAN king, is used to illustrate Jesus' status, "You are my
son, this day I have begotten you." A human being chosen at his baptism.
There's plenty of debate about what Jesus claimed. Stephen Davis (in Davis et al ed. The Incarnation (Oxford, 2002) defends the claim that Jesus really did make the claims that generate the trilemma. And he has a formidable knowledge of biblical scholarship, I defy anyone to call him ignorant of the relevant literature.
Also, you can read responses to Lewis' "indirect" arguments for Jesus'
"godhood" in the books I mentioned in my original email to Vic. There's
some online responses as well. Too bad Lewis didn't live long enough to
read them, and instead remained far more ignorant of Biblical theology
than he lets on in his essays. In fact he never wrote an essay revealling
any intimate or detailed acquantance with the biblical sholars and deeper
scholarly questions of his own day, and instead begged off such studies,
admitting he was no expert!
"I have no claim to speak as an expert in any of the studies involved, and
merely put forward the reflections which have arisen in my own mind and
have seemed to me (perhaps wrongly) to be helpful. They are all submitted
to the correction of wiser heads." [Michael J. Christensen, C. S. Lewis on
Scripture: His Thoughts on the Nature of Biblical Inspiration, The Role of
Revelation and the Question of Inerrancy (Waco, Texas: Word Books, 1979),
He did, however, claim to have an understanding of ancient literature based on his professional career as a literary scholar. Lewis thought that the biblical scholarship of his day, which he did read, suffered from a presupposed methodological naturalism, either consistently adopted or inconsistently adopted, and a treatment of biblical texts which differs from the way in which other texts from the same time period are treated by scholars. So he;s not a specialist, but his own specialized knowledge makes him suspicious of what the biblical specialists say. I don't think his response is irrational.
The important thing to realize here is that Lewis's work should never be presumed to be a complete apologetic for Christianity. There is always more work to do.
Lastly, Lewis continued to refer people to the same book of Christian
apologetics that first converted him, Chesterton's book, The Everlasting
Man, as if it were the be and end all of Christian historical apologetics.
Lewis continued to hold Chesterton's book as the most demonstrative
apologetic word for him, even in some of the last letters he wrote, when
people inquired what a good historical apologetics work was.
Was he saying "This is a nice picture of what I believe, written in a style that laypeople can understand," or was he making some kind of inerrancy claim? I doubt the latter.
Lewis never grew up intellectually, never faced the questions a James D.
G. Dunn did, or the other scholars I mentioned in my original email
comments, many of whom began their scholarly biblical studies as
And John A. T. Robinson when from Honest to God to Redating the New Testament. Does "growing up intellectually" mean leaving the fold and agreeing with you? We can sit here and quote scholars all day. I object to this type of rhetoric. If I wanted to repay you in kind, I would say that this type of rhetoric implies immaturity on your part.
Let's take Ben Witherington as an example. Can you honestly say that he hasn't faced the questions? Would you say that he is ignorant of modern scholarship? How about N. T. Wright or Luke T. Johnson, who teaches at Candler now (or at least did last I heard)? Or, to go back a generation, Joachim Jeremias. All I'm saying here is that Jesus's claims are a subject for serious scholarly debate, and the conservative view of what Jesus claimed is ably defended in the literature. This may not be sufficient to defend the trilemma, but it is sufficient to rebut your charge of not growing up intellectually.
"A False Trilemma" by Dr. Robert M. Price