Monday, September 12, 2011

Deciding about Jesus: liar, lunatic or Lord

Jim-Caviezel-as-Jesus-by-khinson Then comes the real shock. Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says He has always existed. He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would he nothing very odd about it. But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world, who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that. you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

One part of the claim tends to slip past us unnoticed because we have heard it so often that we no longer see what it amounts to. I mean the claim to forgive sins: any sins. Now unless the speaker is God, this is really so preposterous as to be comic. We can all understand how a man forgives offences against himself. You tread on my toes and I forgive you, you steal my money and I forgive you. But what should we make of a man, himself unrobbed and untrodden on, who announced that he forgave you for treading on other men’s toes and stealing other men’s money?Jesus-Liar-Lunatic-or-Lord-by-peterborough-1980 Asinine fatuity is the kindest description we should give of his conduct. Yet this is what Jesus did. He told people that their sins were forgiven, and never waited to consult all the other people whom their sins had undoubtedly injured. He unhesitatingly behaved as if He was the party chiefly concerned, the person chiefly offended in all offences. This makes sense only if He really was the God whose laws are broken and whose love is wounded in every sin. In the mouth of any speaker who is not God, these words would imply what I can only regard as a silliness and conceit unrivalled by any other character in history. Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is ‘humble and meek’ and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. 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 a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice.  Either this man was,Trilemma and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can 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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

Quotes from Mere Christianity, Part 19
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (1952; Harper Collins: 2001) 51-52.


  1. What about the argument of "Legend", suggesting that Jesus did not actually say the things that would lay claim to being God but that these were added later by people who wanted to make these claims for him.

  2. Its a nice trick, but on close examination is nothing but a smoke screen. Tacitus, dating of the letters of Saint Paul, even other religions such as Islam, the evidence is there that Christ was not made up to be God but was confirmed as God by various testimony and facts.

  3. My two cents as a very late comer to the conversation. Most scholars place the New Testament writings to within a hundred years of Jesus which means that the people "adding" these claims for him would have had to do so in the face of hundreds of first hand witnesses who would almost certainly have challenged such absurd claims if they were not true. Yet we find no writings from the time that counter any such additions to the claims Jesus made about himself. In addition, adding claims of Godly status on Jesus' behalf would have had to have been a collaborative effort on the part of the individual authors documenting those claims for the purpose of fostering a lie. To what end? For what benefit? Some of these authors would have had to carry these lies with them to untimely ends under extreme torture brought about as a result of these claims. It seems unlikely that they would all have stayed faithful to a lie under such circumstances.