"The Trilemma: Useless" was written as an entry in Vox Apologia XVIII. Since there were only four entries, RazorsKiss could easily comment on all of them. His commentary on mine causes some head scratches for me.
I’m interested as to why he chooses conversion as the end of apologetics (although, to some extent, it is true), and why he uses the worst-case scenarios to negate all cases where it might work. Go check it out, and see what you think of it.
How is conversion not an end of apologetics?
The branch of theology that is concerned with defending or proving the truth of Christian doctrines.
Formal argumentation in defense of something, such as a position or system.
Middle English, formal defense, from Latin apologticus, from Greek apologtikos, suitable for defense, from apologeisthai, to defend oneself verbally, from apologos, apology, story. See apologue.]
A change in which one adopts a new religion, faith, or belief.
Middle English conversioun, religious conversion, from Old French conversion, from Latin conversi, conversin-, a turning around, from conversus, past participle of convertere, to turn around. See convert.
Apologetics is concerned with the rational defense of (in this case) Christianity. Ultimately, we would like our listeners to see things our way, i.e. turn (vertere) to face the direction we face with us (con). IOW, if Christianity can be rationally defended and we intend to perform such defense, do we not desire that our listeners be converted to our position? I understand that not all conversion need be achieved through apologetics. However, the ultimate goal of apologetics should be to convert. Any result short of that is just a comprimise and hopefully temporary.
The so-called trilemma is a popular evangelism and apologetics crutch. As Josh McDowell puts, Jesus was either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. The originator of the idea, C.S. Lewis, put it this way in Mere Christianity:
"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 one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of thing Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a 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."
I’m a big fan of Lewis and his writings were instrumental to my return to faith, but I cannot accept this argument. It is fallacious and essentially useless for converting a non-believer.
"This alliance may enable European Catholics and Orthodox to fight together against secularism, liberalism and relativism prevailing in modern Europe, may help them to speak with one voice in addressing secular society, may provide for them an ample space where they will discuss modern issues and come to common positions."
I think that in many ways this should precede any further theological talks. I think that in many ways such talks just inflame things, whereas this would help us see each other as equals and brothers in arms. Then perhaps we can talk about issues without defensiveness. The Churches need to know how to "play together nicely", not just from on high in the hierarchy, but at the level of individual Christians within society.
Here’s a picture of me with the St. Paul Cathedral and Pittsburgh Oratory combined RCIA class of 2005 and Bishop Donald Wuerl. The angle isn’t so great, but there were other pictures taken from the direction everyone is looking. As soon as I have one of those, I’ll post it, too. 🙂