I admired C.S. Lewis when I was a Christian. I read all his books. Seriously. All of them. In many ways, Lewis had the kind of brilliant mind one would expect from an Oxford don. Lewis possessed a keen wit and vibrant imagination which many of his works reflect. The Chronicles of Narnia, Lewis' best-known work, is certainly not without its fair share of criticism, most notably by Lewis' fellow Inklings member J.R.R. Tolkien, who considered Narnia too allegorical for his taste, and didn't quite care for Narnia's mishmash mythology; nevertheless, Lewis' fantasy novel series stands as one of the greatest works of literature produced in the 20th Century, and has entertained and enchanted generations of readers.
As I journeyed deeper into the chasm of Christian apologetics, my view of C.S. Lewis became both idyllic and idolatrous, which is actually fairly common among young defenders of the faith who stuff the bookshelves of their personal libraries with everything Lewis wrote, from The Screwtape Letters to Mere Christianity to The Abolition of Man to The Great Divorce to That Hideous Strength, collecting and quoting his works in that not-so-subtle hipster-esque way. I can tell you from personal experience that quoting C.S. Lewis makes a Christian feel smarter.
In spite of my massive man-crush on C.S. Lewis, I didn't always agree with everything he wrote. I always had a problem with his most famous argument for the divinity of Christ: the "Trilemma." According to Lewis, Jesus was either a Liar, a Lunatic, or the Lord. This didn't set well with me. Even when I was at my most Christiany during my Christian apologetics days, I knew something was missing. In my attempt to defend the faith, I had to rescue Jesus from the C.S. Lewis Box into which he had been locked. I knew that these three options which make up the "Trilemma" aren't the only logical options available. I came up with two more options, not to discredit Lewis' Trilemma, but to expound on it, to deal with the other options in order to demonstrate that the only "L" Jesus could be is Lord.
Here's the pentalemma I created about ten years ago: Jesus is either Liar, Lunatic, Lama, Legend, or Lord.
Logically, as Lewis understood (though his Trilemma Left out a couple of options), there are only a Limited number of things Jesus could be. Here's the List:
1. Jesus is the Lord. Perhaps Jesus truly is the Son of God, Lord of All, Savior of the world, et al. That's one option. Lewis tried to demonstrate that this was the only option that remained after looking at the evidence.
2. Jesus is a Liar. Another possibility is that all the stuff Jesus said about being divine, or the "Son of God," or the "messiah," is just a pack of lies. Christians have to admit, considering all the "false" religions in the world, that someone would make up a bunch of fake stories and call it a religion is far from uncommon.
3. Jesus is a Lunatic. Maybe Jesus was just crazy, out of his gourd, not right in the brain pan. Plenty of mentally disturbed people have believed themselves to be god - or Napoleon. It is, as Lewis noted, another possible option.
4. Jesus is a Legend. One option Lewis' Trilemma doesn't account for is the possibility that the stories about Christ were (either partially or entirely) fabricated, distorted, invented or exaggerated. Yes, perhaps there was a guy named Jesus, or Joshua, or Yeshua bar Yosef, who existed nearly 2000 years ago. Yeshua was a fairly common name back then, like Joshua is today. Maybe there was even a Yeshua who became a rabbi. Maybe he even started his own cult/religion. But whether any such Yeshua was in fact the long-awaited Mashiach of Israel or deity incarnate who walked on water or healed the sick or spun straw into gold is another matter of discussion entirely, and Christians have a long way to go to demonstrate that the stories in the Bible actually happened.
This is actually an alpaca, not a llama
5. Jesus is a Lama. No, not a llama: a lama, a guru, a bodhisattva, and perhaps even a representation of deity or enlightenment on earth. This concept differs from the Christian notion that "Jesus is Lord" in that, according to Christians, Jesus is THE Lord, the ONLY Lord, and (for many Christians) Jesus is the one and only way to god/heaven/forgiveness/eternal life. In eastern theologies, such as in sects of Hinduism, Jesus is considered to be an incarnation of "God" or "The One" or the "Prime Reality" of the universe - what the Hindus call Brahman - but Jesus is certainly not the only representation of the divine. Some consider Jesus to be an avatar of deity, representing god to a certain group of people, while Krishna or Ganesha or Buddha or perhaps even Muhammad or Joseph Smith is an appearance or manifestation of deity on earth to other groups of people. Not surprisingly, the view of Christ as either one of many enlightened lamas or one of many avatars of deity is a bit too pluralistic for many Christians.
As much as I'd like to pat myself on the back for "fixing" C.S. Lewis, I wasn't the first or only person to think of these other options. As the Wikipedia entry on Lewis' Trilemma states:
Another criticism raised is that Lewis is creating a false dilemma by insisting that only three options are possible. Philosopher John Beversluis comments that "he deprives his readers of numerous alternate interpretations of Jesus that carry with them no such odious implications". Philosopher and theologian William Lane Craig cites this as a reason why he believes it is an unsound argument for Christianity. Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli, SJ - both professors of philosophy at Boston College - have expanded the argument into a tetralemma (Lord, Liar, Lunatic or Legend) — or a pentalemma, accommodating the option that Jesus was a guru, who believed himself to be God in the sense that everything is divine.
Seriously, if William Lane Craig - the King of Fallacious Reasoning himself - can see what's wrong with Lewis's Trilemma, one must question whether C.S. Lewis might be a bit overrated as a Christian apologist.