How do unbelievers doubt the divinity of Jesus?
Paul Little says they call him a liar, a lunatic or some legend.
Today we will address these doubts.
First of all the idea that Jesus was a liar…
Inherent in this doubt is the idea that Jesus knew He was not God when He told everyone that He was. Not only was He a liar but in the process of lying, He was a hypocrite. He told everyone else to speak the truth and He did not. The condemnation can get even more serious. Jesus told everyone that He should be trusted because their eternal destiny was in His hands. For some, this is pure evil to dupe people into that type of belief.
Secondly, some regard Jesus as an insane person. He was just like other people who claim to be Jesus or The Messiah. They think they are…but only in their own minds; not the minds of others. Christian philosopher Peter Kreeft says that there are different levels of insanity that may be placed on Jesus: the first is that He was an egomaniac, expressing that He was a person who was greater than others. Another layer of insanity is taking on a personality that is not yours [kinda like me telling everyone that I am Napoleon]. A further layer is taking on the characteristics of something that would be impossible [me declaring that I am a butterfly]. The most bizarre claim would be that a man would say “I am God.”
Thirdly is the idea that Jesus was a legend. We all know how this works. People who achieve some degree of fame can become legendary, which means that their actions take on superhuman status as time goes by and as stories get passed from one person to another. Some of our founding fathers may have legendary status today. For example, did George Washington really chop down the cherry tree and say to his father “I cannot tell a lie” when questioned about it? Did he really throw a silver dollar all the way across the Potomac River? Those stories were probably myths or legends born out of the desire to make the man larger than life.
Let’s look at Jesus as liar. Josh McDowell in his book The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict states that it is “incredulous that Jesus was a liar due to the fact that He left us with “the most profound moral instruction and powerful moral example that anyone has left…could a deceiver…teach such unselfish ethical truths?” McDowell cites church historian Phillip Schaff who says “How in the name of logic, common sense and experience could an imposter—that is deceitful, selfish and depraved…have invented, and consistently maintained from the beginning to the end, the purest and noblest character known to man”. Let’s look at Jesus’ end. This is where a true character would be revealed. He is facing sure death and all He has to do is weave a new web of lies and He will go free. He did not have to say “I and the Father are One” but He did.
Let’s look at Jesus as insane. One can go to the trial scene again. Jesus stands before Pilate, knowing His life was in danger. Being Jesus, He knew the human suffering He was going to have to endure. Yet it is reported in the Bible that He was very composed under this huge pressure. Would an ordinary man react this way? Would an insane man act this way? Knowing what Jesus knew, one might argue that it would be insane to be composed but He was. Psychiatrist J.T. Fisher looks beyond Jesus’ behavior at the trial. He judges all of the body of work that Jesus left us in all His words and His behaviors and he states: “that the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its [humankind’s] restless and fruitless yearning. Here…rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimism, mental health and contentment.” Think of the message of Jesus and you will come to the same conclusion as Dr. Fisher. Jesus’ message is one of sanity, not insanity.
Jesus as legend may be the most plausible. After all, His actions were passed along largely by word of mouth. His miracles were attention-grabbing and you know what can happen as events get passed from person to person: the legend grows.
What flies in the face of legend are the Gospels. Four biographies of Christ were written within the lifetime of contemporaries of Christ. Mr. Little cites Dr. William Albright, a famous archaeologist, who posits that none of the Gospels were written later than A.D. 70 and it is amazing the agreement between the Gospel writers.
What causes a legend to grow? One factor is time. Another factor is the fact that someone has not written down what has happened close to the event itself. A third factor is distance from the event or person who is written about.
Not much time elapsed between Jesus’ life and the record of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The fact that they wrote their accounts is wonderful and the agreement between these four men is astounding. Finally, two of the gospel writers were Disciples and two were close to people who were disciples. Mark was a follower of Peter who was a Disciple. Luke was a close friend of Paul, one of the greatest Apostles of Christianity [by the way, he had a well-recorded conversation with Jesus].
Liar, Lunatic, Legend or Truthteller?
The unbeliever will call Jesus the first three of these.
I don’t know about you, but I believe the latter word is the one that applies…Truthteller.