One of the classic arguments in Christain apologetics is C.S. Lewis’ trilemma. As he summarized the argument:
A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You can either 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. (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)
But are there really only three options: liar, lord and lunatic? Many now recognize that a fourth choice needs to be contended with: legend.
We need to include this option in our thinking because this is increasingly the position which is held by those around us. The reason for this is that each of the 3 choices from Lewis’ trilemma share one underlying presupposition; that the Gospel accounts in the Bible are accurate and true.
However, this presupposition is no longer something that is a part of most people’s worldview. Many believe the Bible is not trustworthy and that it does not contain a true history of Jesus life, teaching, actions and words. Therefore they hold that Jesus wasn’t deity, he was simply deified by later followers.
They may think he was misunderstood or misquoted; that maybe he was a Cynic or that he secretly married and lived long after his supposed resurrection and ascension.
In any case, whether or not these alternate “legend” theories have merit really come down one main question: can we trust that the Bible contains a true history; do the Gospels accurately portray Jesus?
Due to this, we can’t rest on the argument that liar, lord or lunatic are the only viable options enless we first establish the reliability and accuracy of the Gospel accounts and of the Bible as a whole.