The Trilemma


Everyone has a worldview. Everyone believes in and has faith in something or someone, even if that someone is one’s self.

Choosing to believe in no God, for example, is itself a truth claim rooted in faith in a particular ideology or in one’s self, for example.

Throughout Western culture, leaders in business, economics, law, and philosophy have all used the method of logic equivalence, known as a trilemma, to assess whether a claim is true or false.

This method, first recorded and used in 1725 by English minister Isaac Watts, differentiates between an opinion and a justified belief. A core belief, known as Weltanschauung, is what fundamentally orientates a person’s heart, informing his/her interpretation of everything. It constitutes a person’s definition of reality, truth, and falsehood. It defines a person’s identity, shaping how he/she perceives others and his/herself.

The trilimma clarifies and identifies one’s Weltanshauung, especially as it relates to one’s opinion or belief about Jesus Christ.

Numerous eyewitness testified to hearing the claims Jesus made about himself. Jesus claimed that he and his Father are one. Jesus claimed not only that he is God, but also that he is God’s only begotten son. Jesus claimed that he is the truth, the resurrection, and the life. Jesus claimed that it is only through him that anyone can know God. Jesus claimed that he alone offers eternal life.

In light of these claims, Jesus was either:

  • Delusional: He was in reality, insane, crazily claiming to be God.
  • Deceptive: He was actually a liar, intentionally and repeatedly claiming to be God, all the while knowing he wasn’t.
  • Diety: Jesus was telling the truth. He is who he says he is, fully man and fully the son of God, one of the co-equal, co-eternal and consubstantial triune God.

He doesn’t allow for anyone to make any other conclusions. Either Jesus is who he says he is or he is not. Jesus did not claim to be a “moral teacher.” In fact, a great moral teacher or prophet would never have claimed what Jesus did. If Jesus is who he says he is, then all contradictory claims made about him by Muslims, Mormons, and other non-Christians are false. Jesus made no revelation about himself other than when he walked the earth and spoke to eye-witnesses. Any additional revelatory claims contradict what Jesus said about himself.

Whatever conclusion one makes, the trilemma always differentiates an opinion or feeling from a justified belief.

And Søren Kierkegaard wisely clarifies this differentiation, explaining, “There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.”