Soon: Chapter 14: Conversion on the Tarmac
We know that the plane trip back to Chicago will be Conversion Time because Paul astonishingly turns down a first-class pre-flight drink. He sucked down half of his father-in-law’s best liquor at Wintermas, so we know that Paul buries the pain under booze. But we can’t have even a hint of alcohol involved in a conversion, now can we?
The flight starts to suck even before takeoff (storms) and I’m wondering why this glorious Atheistopian pilot doesn’t just cancel the flight, except that it’s important for Paul to be terrified and desperate when he converts. Also, Jenkins does seem to like him some in-flight conversion. Maybe Chaim Rosenzweig was just the dry run for this.
Straight has conked out, so Paul starts playing Proselytizer Bingo…with himself. In just one page of Soon, Paul hits 1) Jesus Was Real, 2) the Lewis Trilemma, and 3) It’s True Because My Daddy Told Me So.
I’ll try not to take too long with these. Numerous anti-apologetics have already addressed these points quite well (especially the second), but I do have something in common with Paul here (blech): we are both atheists raised in secular homes. The big difference is that I grew up in (as the RTCs would have it) a “Christian nation,” while Paul grew up in Atheistopia, and got himself a Ph.D. in religion. So let’s see where that takes us…
Jesus urged people to have faith, to believe in Him. Most atheists chose to believe He was a fictitious character, but Paul’s professors had been more generous. They allowed that He was a historical figure and perhaps a wise teacher, but needless to say, they scoffed at any claims of deity. He couldn’t be the Son of a God who did not exist.
Boy, for a lifelong atheist raised in Atheistopia, Paul sure talks like a Christian. I don’t think I have ever capitalized the “he” of Jesus, much less the “son” part. Is Jenkins just afraid to write the “he” of Jesus with a little “h,” or does he really think that atheists capitalize it in their minds?
Notice how Jenkins skates quickly around the whole historicity question, by having the pointy-headed, ivory-tower-dwelling, liberal, intellectual elites (did I leave anything out?) admit Jesus exists? Somehow, given the utter lack of evidence for Jesus outside of the Bible, I doubt that professors in Atheistopia would think any such thing.
Then, Paul remembers learning about C.S. Lewis in graduate school. I would love to see the syllabi from Paul’s classes–he read C.S. Lewis, but never got around to reading Revelation? As for Lewis, I have no love for him, and the Trilemma is one of his dumber arguments, though also one of the most popular. Probably because of the way it trips off the tongue: Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.
You know, if there’s one thing that rings true here, it’s that a dumbass like Paul would be converted by the Trilemma.
Many, many people have pointed out the silliness of the Trilemma, including the way it leaves out other possibilities, such as Mistaken, or Legend (as discussed here, on the awesome Atheist Experience):
As well, Paul says this of the Trilemma:
You couldn’t have it two ways. You could not call Him a wise teacher unless you believed His claim to be the Lord of all.
There we go again: “The Lord of all.” Because all atheists talk that way.
This line of argument always reminds me of a line from Mystery Science Theater 3000 (I just wish I could remember which episode). What I do remember if that in the movie, a female character, seemingly offended by the very idea, snaps at a man, “Do you think that people lie???”
Tom Servo’s response: “No, never! Yes, always!”
So, someone can’t be a wise teacher without being the son of a god? Or, another twosome, a person cannot be both a lunatic and a liar at the same time?
(Let’s not even get into Lewis’ view that a “lunatic” is someone who thinks he is a boiled egg. Way to be sensitive to people with mental conditions, jerk.)
(Or, for that matter, that many of Jesus’ teachings are not what I would call wise. Don’t plan for tomorrow, thought crimes are as bad as actual crimes, etc.)
Having cited Lewis, Paul goes on to cite two far more important men: his daddy, and The Dork Too Stupid. Jenkins tries to turn Paul’s musings on these men into an argument that smart people are Christians…
Paul thought he knew enough of his dad’s character through his mother’s recollections. She never said he was stupid. And Paul knew beyond doubt that Andy Pass had been no intellectual lightweight.
Yeah, I think we all know about The Dork’s great mental prowess. But let’s acknowledge what’s really going on: Paul is a misogynist with abandonment issues and Daddy issues. He has found out over the past few months that his two father figures were Christians. So, he either sides with the women in his life (his mother, his wife) or the men. I think we all know what the answer is.
So far, Jenkins would have it that Paul is being converted by history, the greatness of the Bible, pure logic, and the wisdom of men he has known. Seems to me that he’s being converted by lack of facts, faulty logic, and his Daddy issues.
And the plane hasn’t even left the ground.