Sunday, March 31, 2013

iERA's Campaign - Coincidence, Convergence, or Copied?

In the past I've discussed Hamza Tzortzis's plagiarism of William Lane Craig and his poorly executed attempt to pretend that liberal societies facilitate rape. Perhaps it is unfair of me to focus exclusively on the Islamic Education and Research Academy's head of research.

Today instead we look at Abdur Raheem Green, head of the aforementioned iERA, perhaps most famous for his lectures on how one should best beat one's wives. I use the plural as he has two wives at time of print and sees four as the maximum. I'm reliably informed that he is the keen mind behind the 'Don't Shoot the Messenger' campaign which features a trilemma argument. In brief, it states that Mohammed was either lying, deluded or the final prophet of Allah. It then attempts to prove the first two explanations incoherent by saying his actions are neither those of a liar or a madman.

But does this sound familiar?

Those of us who have read C S Lewis's Mere Christianity (published 1952, popular with only a small number of my regular readership, I'll admit) may recall his Lord, Liar, Lunatic argument, also featuring a trilemma. In it he states that Jesus was either lying, deluded, or the risen son of God. It then attempts to prove the first two explanations incoherent by saying his actions are neither those of a liar or a madman.

Do have a read of both arguments and see if you also feel there are similarities.


Here I have a trilemma of my own.  Is this an example of convergence? Green was raised a Roman Catholic and had a stated interest in defending his Catholic faith but this does not guarantee familiarity with Lewis's work - it is not beyond the realms of possibility that he came to the argument through his own efforts. Still, for a man who has engaged with Christian evangelists and devoted much of his adult life to advancing Islam in a majority Christian land it seems unlikely that his career has been untroubled by exposure to the original trilemma.


Is this a canard? To speak plainly but lose the pleasing alliteration, am I mistaken? The trilemma form is the same in both, as are the alternatives of lies and lunacy, though unpalatable charges are despatched using unique methods by both authors. Have I drawn too much from the similarities? If so I cast myself on the mercy of my comments section. If they read to you as entirely different arguments do let me know, though I suspect few who read both texts will consider them without familial resemblance.


The final alternative: Is this a copied work by a Muslim apologist seeking inspiration in Christian argument? If so it is weakened considerably - we see the same form of argument used both to advance Jesus's divinity and to deny said divinity by advancing Mohammed's prophethood. At a minimum they should address where they feel Lewis has failed and frame the article as a response to his work. Either way, as I've written before, it seems unIslamic to allow Christian Theologians to influence one's Theology so.

So, what do you think? Are there other alternatives? I'm especially interested in Christian responses to iERA's use of the trilemma argument - do you feel it has obvious flaws?


godbothering said...

Geoff, it's clearly the same argument, which dates back to the seventeenth century in various forms. The Lewis version is stronger, since his riposte to the obvious criticism - that Jesus might have been genuinely mistaken - is that Jesus was claiming to be God, and that's not something you can be mistaken about. If you think you're God, he says, you're clearly insane if you're not telling the truth, and Jesus was not insane (he says). In the case of Muhammed, on the other hand, since he was not claiming to be God, it's possible to argue that he was honestly mistaken. So the Islamic version has much less force, although it actually matches the original Christian version.

Lewis's version, on the other hand, suffers from one major problem that nobody who uses it ever seems to notice. It insists that the listener must be bound by absolute logic (either A, B or C). But the proposition it is attempting to prove - that Jesus was God - is completely illogical, since it actually assumes that Jesus was God and human at the same time, which is obviously impossible, and therefore should be ruled out from the start. So believers want you to follow their logic while giving themselves a free pass on their own lack of logic.

Jonny said...

indeed. Also, these trilemmas also assume we have enough data to make such judgments.

i dabbled in the anti-apologetic arts a few years back. before i was mired in the pointlessness of it:


Pakman1983 said...

I have to admit to a bit of difficulty getting to the end of that video. Besides the repetition of 'peace be upon him' after every mention of Muhammad, I was aggravated by the very narrow scope of his argument when dealing with each possibility.

The worst part had to be the addressing of the Deluded option. He implies that for a deluded man to act in a non-deluded way would be inconsistent. The narrow definition of deluded whereby you believe you are a messenger of god when you are not, is not the complete definition. It just describes a specific form of delusion and one which may incorporate some critical intelligence along side it which would explain Muhammad's non-opportunist approach at times.

Regardless of that I think the similarities are very much present but I think its important to note that this instance could have been reached independently. Its, however, such a weak argument that it could only have weight for those who already believe which I think is the intent despite appearances.

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