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POSTED BY: WEB TEAM    |    08.11.2016       

“Quite the Most Crackpot Idea That Has Ever Entered the Mind of Man”



The claim that Christ is God is as implausible today as it was 2000 years ago.  That a man who was born of a woman and died on a cross, a man who got tired and hungry and angry and wept at his friend's tomb, that this man who earned his living as a tradesman should be God, seems quite frankly the most crackpot idea that has ever entered the mind of man.

The fact that the Christ of the Gospels claimed to be God is not disputed by scholars – indeed, it was the reason that he was executed.  Nevertheless, the serious enquirer may legitimately respond “So what?”  After all the asylums and prisons of the world are full of people who make claims to being what they clearly are not; some are mad while others make such claims for dishonest reasons.  We are all only too sadly aware of the sort of villains who knock on the doors of old ladies claiming to be meter readers, and how many lunatics have proclaimed that they are Napoleon Bonaparte?

Yet, the teaching of the Catholic Church that Christ is God is central to everything else the Church teaches.  For if Christ is divine, everything he said must be accepted, even the hard things, such as exalting suffering and poverty, forbidding divorce, giving His Church the authority to forgive sins in his name, warning of the danger of hell (frequently) and His institution of the scandalous practice of eating his flesh!

Where is the evidence then that Christ was speaking the truth? Well, from the beginning Jesus's ministry involved miracles.  Miracles by definition involve the defying of natural laws.  Only the author of natural law, God, has the power to suspend those laws.  In addition to his extraordinary life, the sublime teaching that he imparted with authority and the fact that his life was prophesised in astonishing detail hundreds of years beforehand, Christ’s miracles are the crowning proof of the truth of His claim to divinity.

The four Gospels record about thirty-five separate miracles.  Contemporary accounts recorded that Jesus healed every kind of infirmity, including leprosy, blindness from birth, deafness, paralysis, fever, shrivelled limbs, an amputated ear, muteness and persistent menstrual bleeding.  Even his enemies bore testimony to His miracles; they tried to explain them away by claiming that Christ was in league with the Devil, or they nit picked, suggesting that a genuinely godly man would not heal people on the Sabbath.

In Matthew 8:5-13 Jesus was approached by a Roman centurion with a request to heal his servant.  Christ instructed the centurion to return home and he would find his servant restored to health.  It is significant that even the Roman garrison had heard enough about the astonishing powers of this Jewish tradesman’s son to approach him for help.  Christ healed the military officer’s servant without even visiting the man’s home, demonstrating that he is Lord of space and time.

He also demonstrated his power over the forces of nature: Matthew 8:24-26: "A great storm arose on the Sea of Galilee covering their boat with waves.  Then His disciples came to him and awoke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us!  We are perishing!’ But he said to them, ‘Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?’  Then he arose and rebuked the winds and the sea.  And there was a great calm.”  His disciples could not understand how this was possible and were clearly in awe of this man who could control the rages of nature by a mere word.

Christ’s greatest and crowning miracle was of course the raising of himself from the dead.  Christ was executed on a Friday and raised himself from the dead the following Sunday.  He was then seen by different people in diverse places over a period of forty days, including five hundred of his followers on one occasion, before returning to Heaven.

But what if it is all hogwash?

Unbelievers always say that Christ was a good man, but if he was not God, he was either a liar, trying deliberately to trick us into blasphemy - therefore a good man is the one thing he most certainly was not - or he was insane.

The shrewdness, the quick wit, the wisdom, the attractiveness of Jesus emerges from the Gospels.  Compare Jesus with liars like the Reverend Sun Myung Moon or lunatics such as the dying Nietzsche.  Jesus has in abundance precisely those qualities that lunatics and liars most conspicuously lack: his practical wisdom, his ability to read human hearts, to understand people and the real, unspoken question behind their words, his ability to heal people's spirits as well as their bodies; his deep and winning love, his compassion, his ability to attract people, his authority, and his capacity to astonish, his unpredictability, his creativity.  Lunatics and liars are all so dull and predictable!  No one who reads the Gospels can seriously entertain the possibility that Jesus was either a lunatic or a liar.

Conspiracy Theories

But don’t modern Scripture “scholars” question the historical reliability of the Gospels?  Perhaps Jesus never claimed to be divine.  Perhaps all the embarrassing passages were invented by the early Christians.

It must have been a deliberate lie, not sincere confusion, for no man, especially a Jew, confuses God with man, and no man confuses a dead body with a resurrected, living one.  Complex this conspiracy must also have been: St Paul records that the resurrected Christ appeared to 500 of His followers on one occasion.  A conspiracy on that scale would certainly take some organising!  What did they possibly hope to gain from this calculated, complex, blasphemous hoax?

Their friends and families scorned them. Their social standing, possessions, and political privileges were taken from them by both Jews and Romans.  They were persecuted, imprisoned, whipped, tortured, exiled, crucified, thrown to lions, and cut to pieces by gladiators.  So a band of silly Jews invented the whole elaborate, incredible lie of Christ’s divinity for absolutely no reason, and millions of Gentiles fell for it, devoted their lives to it, and died for it - for no reason.  It was merely a fantastic practical joke, a hoax.  Is that really creditable?

Another big hole in the conspiracy theory is this: why did the Romans, acting on the request of the Jewish authorities, execute Jesus for the blasphemy of claiming to be God, if this claim was only invented by His followers after he was executed?

Delusion Theories

One theory that falls under the “deluded” umbrella is the claim that Christ did not die on the cross (in spite of having a lance thrust into his chest cavity to confirm that he was dead by a Roman soldier) but merely fainted.  Thus His subsequent reappearance would have a natural explanation.  The problem with this line is that it ignores the fact that numerous witnesses testify to the fact that after His resurrection, Christ’s existence had clearly moved to a different plane: he could appear and disappear at will, and pass through solid walls, for example.

Another claim that falls under the “deluded” heading is the suggestion that the apostles were hallucinating.  But this won’t wash; the contemporary accounts show clearly that the apostles, far from being gullible, were initially hard-nosed and sceptical about the claims.  In fact, the first witnesses’ reaction to finding the tomb empty was, “Where have they moved the body?” not, “He has risen!”

Indeed, if this was what was happening, why didn’t the Jewish authorities or the Romans destroy the infant Church before it was off the ground, by simply producing the body?  After all, had not the Romans at the request of the Jewish authorities, who where aware that Christ had claimed that he would rise from the dead, placed guards on the tomb to prevent just such a story spreading?

The Final Cop-Out of Modern Theologians

Whilst the common man can see the incontrovertible logic of the above arguments, modern theologians still have one escapes routes left: to “orientalize” Jesus, which is to interpret him not as the unique God-man but as one of many mystics who realized his own inner divinity, just as a typical Hindu mystic claims to do. This theory takes the teeth out of His claim to divinity, for he merely realized that everyone is divine.  Notice how eager men are to squirm out of the arms of God.

The problem with this theory is simply that Jesus was not a Hindu, but a Jew!  When he said “God”, he didn’t mean, nor would his hearers have understood him to mean, Brahman, the impersonal, pantheistic, immanent all: he meant the Jewish God, the personal, theistic, transcendent Creator.  It is utterly unhistorical to see Jesus as a mystic, a sort of Jewish Hare Krishna.  He taught prayer, not meditation.  Christ’s God is a person, not a pudding. He said that he was God, not that everyone was.  He taught sin and forgiveness; no guru does.  And he said nothing about the “illusion” of individuality, as the mystics do.

Our Response

Demolish each of these cop-outs - Jesus as the lunatic, Jesus as the liar, Jesus as the man who never claimed divinity, Jesus as the mystic - take away these flight squares, and there is only one square left to move to.  And on that square waits a joyous checkmate and a wedding invitation.  If Christ was speaking the truth, then he is God and we have no alternative but to fall on our knees and worship him.  Further, we have no option but to respond to the most important thing he said, which is that he is the divine redeemer of the world and that he has the words of eternal life.

The problem with most people who do not have faith has nothing to do with intellect or reason: it is moral.  Salvation does not come cheap, and many, possibly most, are not prepared to pay the price.  We cruelly deceive ourselves if we believe that if Jesus Christ walked down our road today, we would follow him or love him through the force of our wisdom and will alone.  Do not delude yourself either that signs and wonders would convert you.  These may shake you, perhaps even frighten you, but not convert you.  Hell is full of those who have died unrepentant and faithless, deluding themselves, on their way to perdition, that just one more miracle might have convinced them.   No, signs and wonders will not convert you, unless first and foremost all these things go with a personal inner surrender to God. 

ACKNOWLEDGEMENT: Parts of this essay are based on the work of Peter Kreeft: “The Divinity of Christ,” Chapter 8 in Fundamentals of the Faith. (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1988), 59-63.

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