Wednesday, September 29, 2010

"Liar, Lunatic, or Lord" - It's Ludicrous!

Faith is not a reasonable thing. It will never and should never be synonymous with “fact.” Attempts to “prove” religious beliefs always fail, resulting only in transforming them into the most hideous of religious features: dogmatic fundamentalism. Over the past few decades Christian apologetics has gained considerable attention and authority. It is now common belief among Evangelicals that Christianity has a “one-up” on all other faiths (and non-faiths) because it is the most logically and historically sound. It is not only reasonable to be a Christian, it is only reasonable to be a Christian.

    Unfortunately this seemingly iron-clad defense is nothing more than a house of cards.  The very arguments which allegedly “prove” Christianity to be a head above the rest can just as easily “prove” Islam to be the only reasonable religion. Muslims are generally considered by argumentative apologists to be violent, anti-Western cave-men who would most assuredly convert to Christianity if they only knew the historical and logical proof of its singular authenticity. This gross over-exaggeration and misconception necessitates a deconstruction of the “air-tight” defense popularized by non-experts who have contributed in creating an arrogant and ignorant Christian culture.

    Most popular in Evangelical Christianity is the “Liar, Lunatic, Lord,” defense which originated with the great atheist-turned-Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis, who wanted to refute the belief that Jesus was just a good man or a prophet. Perhaps its errors will become more palpable when applied to the prophet Muhammad. Like Jesus, Muhammad also claimed to know the only way to God when he said, “those who believe and do good, and believe in that which has been revealed to Muhammad — and it is the Truth from their Lord — He will remove their evil from them and improve their condition. According to Lewis such an absolute assertion is either a lie, a delusion, or the truth. Thus Muhammad must be one of the following: a liar, a lunatic or the seal of the prophets of God. 

    Muhammad could not have been a liar. He was a deeply spiritual man prone to regular periods of reflection and solitude. He faced numerous set-backs in his life: doubt, despair, defeat – all too humiliating to endure for the sake of a lie. His call to less materialistic, more God honoring lifestyle was a change many in his community found distasteful. Much like the story of Abraham, Muhammad lived in a polytheistic culture, but claimed that only one God existed and deserved complete devotion and obedience. Though his message became increasingly unpopular, Muhammad became increasingly vocal. As a result he was forced to leave his tribe – all that was familiar. That his own people would reject him and reject the one true God was deeply depressing to Muhammad. However, this sadness did not keep the prophet from living out the life of submission to God. He prayed daily, gave to the poor, sought justice for the oppressed, and accepted without judgment the members of the lower class – aliens and slaves.  These practices – lowly and unpopular - would not have been taken up by a deceitful man interested only in wealth, fame and power.  Muhammad’s endurance and commitment stand as testimony to the fact that he certainly believed what he was saying was truth, therefore He could not have been a liar.

    Perhaps Muhammad was crazy. If he believed he was indeed a prophet of God with a special revelation but this was not true, then he was a delusional ego-manic. A careful look at Muhammad’s life will show that this is also not an option. When Muhammad was forced to leave his home in Mecca because of his unpopular claims about being the prophet of the one true God, he traveled to the city of Medina – much less cosmopolitan than his previous residence. Medina had long been an area of conflict due to feuds between tribes over territory rights. Muhammad stepped in as an arbitrator and successfully facilitated peace among the Arab tribes. This unification made Medina a powerful community. Outside forces began to raid commercial caravans creating a need for a military leader who could defend the city and its people. Again the people turned to Muhammad, who was able yet again to be effective as a leader. Gaining power and respect did not cause the prophet to give up his religious beliefs. In fact, he incorporated these into the laws and treaties he helped create. His leadership was not characterized by paranoid self-important decisions. His actions were for the good of the community he helped to establish. Such could not be said of a delusional ego-manic. Therefore Muhammad could not have been a lunatic. According to the reasoning of C. S. Lewis, this leaves only one option for Muhammad. He was not a liar, or a lunatic, so he must be the prophet of God he claimed to be.    

   Based on the general arguments provided by Christian Apologists, Muhammad was indeed a prophet of God – the seal of the prophets. He possessed the knowledge of how to please God as described in the holy book, the Qur’an. According to the logic of the “Liar, Lunatic, Lord” defense, it is not only reasonable to be a Muslim, it is only reasonable to be a Muslim.

    The point of this exercise is not to destroy the Christian faith. Instead it is an attempt to open the eyes of the arrogant and ignorant Christians who claim to have indisputable proof that they alone are right. Such proof does not exist – not for Muhammad and not for Christ – or any other religious leader. Faith cannot be proven nor should it; to prove faith is to ruin it. The current attempts to do so have only succeeded in creating elitist attitudes. Christian Apologetics have become a weapon in the hands of many untrained or half-trained theologians – sometimes used in defense and sometimes used in a “loving” offense. Either way it is a weapon and such a thing only creates more fear, arrogance, division, hate and death. And such a weapon ultimately ends in self-destruction; as Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword die by the sword.”

7 comments:

  1. Hey Kristina, just had a few thoughts on your post. First, you stated that Muhammad "could not have been a liar" based on the premise that he was a good, spiritual man. So are you saying that good, spiritual people are incapable of speaking lies?
    Second, I also think the term "liar" is one that is two fold. A person that deceives is a liar, but so also is a person who answers incorrectly. If I you ask me what 2+2 is and I answer 5 then I have lied. I have not lied out of deception, but out of either confusion or ignorance. Muhammad may not have been trying to deceive people but he was a liar, at least in my opinion, because he did not come to the correct conclusion.
    I'm not saying this because I'm all about Christian apologetics, because I truly am not. I just see how in this case, the "liar, lunatic, lord" argument proves anything for the case of muhammad as a prophet.

    -Corey

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  2. It's not that Muhammad wasn't a liar because he was a good man, but rather that he lived a difficult life because of his belief that what was revealed to him was the truth. Could he have just been confused? Of course! But so could Jesus! That's the point. It's a flawed argument and using it only perpetuates the lie that Christianity can be "proven" true or at least "proven" more reliable than any other religion.

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  3. Your premise is faulty. Lewis didn't claim that Jesus must fall into one of the three categories because he claimed to be a prophet, but because he claimed to be the divine son of God and the only true way to God. Muhammad recognized his own sinfulness and also recognized that Jesus was a prophet and sinless. Muhammad didn't make the exclusive claims nor the divine claims that Jesus made.

    That said, I appreciate what you are saying. Logic is one of the many tools that we can use to begin to understand God, but it is not the only tool, nor is it sufficient unto itself to "prove" Christianity. Despite the heavy logical work of those like Lewis, there must still be mystery, wonder, and faith.

    Thank you for the time and thought you put into sharing this.

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  4. James, thanks for commenting. I think you misread my premise. What I actually said was:

    "C.S. Lewis, who wanted to refute the belief that Jesus was just a good man or a prophet."

    And while Muhammad did not claim to be divine, he did claim to have the most complete understanding of God and salvation - and according to him this knowledge had to be accepted and believed by all people in order for them have a right relationship with God. That's still an audacious claim. But that is neither here nor there because as you have rightly understood (I hope) this essay is not about which religious leader we should follow.

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  5. This is so awesome I could cry!

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  6. James, you should check out this series:
    http://thomstark.net/?p=1130
    http://thomstark.net/?p=858

    Perhaps your premise is faulty.

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  7. hmmmmmm. Deep. Too deep for me to wrap my head around! But my initial thoughts were right in line with James'... so apparently, we BOTH misunderstood :)

    the more pressing question of the moment, though, is... did you try it!?

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