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Christian author and apologist C.S. Lewis, is famous, among other things, for posing the Lord, Liar, or Lunatic argument, in favor of the divinity of Christ.

The cliff-notes version is:

Jesus said he was God (see here for a summary of verses to this effect). This leaves three logical possibilities:

  1. Jesus was a lunatic, on par with someone who believes they are a slice of cheddar cheese.
  2. Jesus was a liar, knowing full well he was not God, but trying to convince people that he was.
  3. Jesus really was who he said he was, and he was God.

Given that Islam holds both Jewish and Christian religious texts in high esteem, and Islam believes Jesus was a prophet of Allah, how does Islam reconcile its concept of Jesus with these three possibilities? Would Allah send a prophet who was a pathological liar, or a lunatic?

I see also a fourth logical possibility, and that is that the scripture record is wildly inaccurate, and Jesus never actually claimed to be God. This possibility, of course, raises other issues, beyond the scope of this particular question.

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+1 Excellent question. Interesting theory.. –  user37 Jul 6 '12 at 21:08
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There's some very nasty abelism in Lewis. "Lunacy" doesn't quite work like that. –  TRiG Jul 6 '12 at 21:26
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And Islam's idea is exactly the fourth probability that you counted for but passed over it! So better to address the issues that this fourth probability arise in ;) –  owari Dec 5 '12 at 18:22
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4 Answers 4

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I think you just answered your own question:

I see also a fourth logical possibility, and that is that the scripture record is wildly inaccurate, and Jesus never actually claimed to be God.

This is exactly the Islamic view on this issue. While Islam does hold the holy scriptures of Christianity and Judaism in high regard, it also holds the view that these texts were corrupted by human meddling. The Christian version of the crucifixion is believed by Muslims to be a corrupted version of the true story.

See this answer for further insight on how Islam views Jesus Christ.

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Thank you for your answer. I would be interested in reading more about the Muslim view of the Christian and Jewish scriptures... I will ponder posting another question along those lines later. –  Flimzy Jul 6 '12 at 21:24
    
@Flimzy - Please do! :) –  System Down Jul 6 '12 at 21:25
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Their response is the “last possibility that you have brought out “that the scripture record is wildly inaccurate, and Jesus never actually claimed to be God”. Without this assertion it is like self denial for them.

The speck of doubt on Bible and the idea that Bible is changed, emanates from our brethren in arms who are trying to portray that they are worshipping God of Abraham and yet wants to remain separate from us. Their identity as a separate religion is possible and could be maintained only by casting aspiration on the word of God. Islam cannot change its views on the Bible without admitting that Koran is erroneous. Without changing its views on Divinity of Jesus, it cannot admit that Koran is without error,. Islam cannot cease to oppose the important doctrines of Christianity without ceasing to call themselves Muslims.

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This is view of Islam:

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أَقُولَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِحَقٍّ إِن كُنتُ قُلْتُهُ فَقَدْ عَلِمْتَهُ تَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِي وَلَا أَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِكَ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ ﴿المائدة: ١١٦﴾

And when Allah said, 'O Jesus son of Mary, didst thou say unto men, "Take me and my mother as Gods, apart from Allah"?' He said, 'To Thee be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to. If I indeed said it, Thou knowest it, knowing what is within my soul, and I know not what is within Thy soul; Thou knowest the things unseen

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That doesn't answer the question. It only provides a (rather confusing) verse that is tangentially related. –  Flimzy Jul 7 '12 at 19:15
    
@Flimzy The verse clearly states that Jesus was not lunatic, was not liar and was not God but scripture record is not correct. –  Bhribayli Jul 8 '12 at 5:46
    
That is not clear to me at all. –  Flimzy Jul 8 '12 at 5:58
    
No Christian scripture even claims that Jesus said "Take me and my mother as Gods" or anything of the sort. So I don't really understand why refuting that statement, which no Christian scripture ever claims was made, is meaningful. And that's even assuming this verse does refute that statement. I see that as only one possible reading of the verse. –  Flimzy Jul 8 '12 at 6:01
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Christianity was an underground minority movement until the Roman State embraced it. The Roman State habitually raised its emperors to divine status, in order that the public viewed the state & its laws with suitable awe & majesty.

Rousseau in his Social Contract says:

"This is what has, in all ages, compelled the fathers of nations to have recourse to divine intervention and credit the gods with their own wisdom, in order that the peoples, submitting to the laws of the State as to those of nature, and recognising the same power in the formation of the city as in that of man, might obey freely, and bear with docility the yoke of the public happiness."

Simone Weil, a moral philosopher & mystic, believed that it was the tragedy of Christianity to have compromised with Roman State power, which she called the 'great beast'. She meant it corrupted its essential spirit.

If Christ said he was God (I haven't read the Bible closely), this may simply have been no different from Al-Hallaj saying 'ana al-haq' (I am the truth), one of the 99 names of Allah. Thus identifying himself with the divinity. He was executed, raising a fierce debate within Islam about the mystical path; only being rehabilitated several generations later.

According to Lord Jesus Christ, page 204 referenced on wikipedias article on Early Christianity, "Early Christians saw Jesus as the uniquely significant agent of the one God" (this doesn't sound disimilar to the relation between Muhammed & Allah); by the first Nicaea Council "he was identified as God in the fullest sense, being 'of the same substance, essence or being'."

I suggest it was the political class in Rome that actually installed Christ as God, and Mary as the Mother of God in a pale imitation of their polythiest past.

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This is a (very poor, and substantially inaccurate) speculation on Christian history, and doesn't address the question itself, which is about Islam. –  Flimzy Dec 6 '12 at 21:46
    
@Flimzy: I'm addressing point 3. I agree its speculation. But I am offering some backup for my speculation. Rousseau is a major european polical philosopher, and Simone Weil is an important figure too. –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 6 '12 at 21:53
    
@Flimzy: Note, Al-Hallaj was put to death for claiming that he was God; Al-Haq (the truth), is one of the 99 names of God. –  Mozibur Ullah Dec 6 '12 at 21:59
    
Jesus Christ was also put to death for claiming he was God. –  Flimzy Dec 6 '12 at 22:01
    
It was clearly not the Roman political class that installed Christ as God. His own contemporary followers believed He was God as well (or at least the written accounts of the gospels claim as much). And there is no historical or literary evidence that the gospels were tampered with at the time of Rome's conversion to Christianity. Any possible textual corruption would have had to have happened much MUCH earlier (within a generation of the crucifixion). –  Flimzy Dec 6 '12 at 22:04
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