Among the many remarks made famous by C. S. Lewis, one of the most famous is what became known as his “Lord-Liar-Lunatic” argument. It goes like this,
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”1
His reasoning has been evaluated, scrutinized, praised, and criticized.2
But what a lot of people don’t realize is that Lewis made another three-point argument earlier in life.
In his book The Problem of Pain, Lewis harkens back to his days as an atheist. He testifies that one of the reasons behind his atheism was the condition of the world. There was so much evil in the world he wondered how anyone could believe in a good and benevolent God. He writes,
“If you ask me to believe that this is the work of the benevolent and omnipotent spirit, I reply that all the evidence points in the opposite direction. Either there is no spirit behind the universe, or else a spirit indifferent to good and evil, or else an evil spirit.”3
But Lewis follows this observation with another point. It was this point that undermined the other three. He writes,
“There was one question which I never dreamed of raising. I never noticed that the very strength and facility of the pessimists’ case at once poses us a problem. If the universe is so bad, or even half so bad, how on earth did human beings ever come to attribute it to the activity of a wise and good Creator? Men are fools, perhaps; but hardly so foolish as that. The direct inference from black to white, from evil flower to virtuous root, from senseless work to a workman infinitely wise, staggers belief. The spectacle of the universe as revealed by experience can never have been the ground of religion: it must always have been something in spite of which religion, acquired from a different source, was held.”4
Though Lewis is well known for his “Lord-Liar-Lunatic” argument, he should also get some credit for coming up with the “None-Numb-Nasty-Never Thought of That” argument as well.
“How great are your works, O LORD! Your thoughts are very deep!” – Psalm 92:5.
- C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1952), 55-56.
- For a summary, see http://blogs.thegospelcoalition.org/justintaylor/2016/02/01/is-c-s-lewiss-liar-lord-or-lunatic-argument-unsound/
- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: HaperCollinsPublishers, 1996), 3.
- Ibid., 3-4.