Turkel Rebutted on Trilemma

by Brian Holtz    updated 2004-11-21

In "On the Trail of the Trilemma", Robert Turkel (aka James Holding, aka J.P. Holding) defends the "liar, lunatic, or lord" Trilemma of Christian apologetics. I have demonstrated that Turkel's Trilemma argument fails to refute a fourth possibility: that Jesus was a faith-healer and apocalyptic preacher whose deluded belief in his importance was strengthened in the months leading up to his anticipated martyrdom and was misinterpreted and exaggerated afterwards. Turkel has been responding selectively to my criticisms, and for almost a year was apparently afraid to let his readers see my unedited arguments. I by contrast have no fear of anyone reading him in all his tedious and ineffectual detail. I am continuing to post our entire debate on the web:

A rebuttal of Turkel's Impossible Faith essay is among my other writings.

An up-to-date summary of my arguments against Christianity are available in my hypertext Human Knowledge: Foundations and LimitsWarning: if you are a Christian and want to remain one, do not read the entirety of these arguments. If the gospels are true and demons exist, then it is possible that demons influenced me to compose these arguments, and that God in turn influenced me to place this warning here to save your soul from this demonic trap. If you nevertheless read my entire seven-page argument and then we someday meet in Hell, don't say I didn't warn you.

What I've Learned

As tedious as this debate has been, I have learned a lot -- almost all of it strengthening my beliefs.  The only new primary evidence or argument for Christianity that I've encountered during this debate came (ironically) not from Turkel, but from my own research against Turkel's claim about the early non-Christian literature. As weak as it is, the possible mention by Thallus of an eclipse is an interesting piece of evidence.

The only claim I have modified during this debate is the that of a progression over time across the four gospels in Jesus' non-reluctance for his special nature to be known. I see now that the evidence of reluctance is spread almost equally across the Synoptics, and isn't even entirely absent in John. This doesn't substantively weaken my progression argument concerning miracles, Calvary confidence, and Easter appearances, but it does constitute the first of many ways that my arguments have been strengthened by this debate. I hadn't realized or fully appreciated before

Interestingly, Turkel too has made at least one change in his position.  Despite being so allegedly well-versed in biblical scholarship, and despite an aching need to read Jesus as actually claiming divinity, Turkel had argued that Jesus' "Son of Man" claim "was intended to be mysterious".  But now he "no longer hold[s]" that position, as Turkel has had the recent revelation that SOM was instead a "clear indication of divinity, at all times it is used by Jesus".