Who was Jesus? | NY Minute

Who was Jesus? | NY Minute

New York Minute We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

There are only five possible answers to the question: If Jesus is not God, what is he? The bottom line on the argument for Christ’s divinity is that:

1. Jesus was either Lord, liar, lunatic, guru or myth.

2. He could not possibly be a liar, lunatic, guru or myth.

3. Therefore “Jesus is Lord” (the earliest Christian creed).

This argument can best be understood if it is developed slowly, step by step, from its simplest to its most complex form.

The Dilemma: Lord or Liar?

The dilemma is as old as the earliest Christian apologists: Aut deus aut homo malus, “Either God or a bad man.” That is the classic argument. Spelled out, it looks like this:

1. Jesus was either God (if he did not lie about who he was) or a bad man (if he did).

2. But Jesus was not a bad man.

3. Therefore Jesus was (is) God.

Few would challenge the second premise. But if the first premise is added, the conclusion necessarily follows. Therefore, non-Christians must challenge the first premise. What justifies this premise?

Common sense. Someone who claims to be God and is not, is not a good man but a bad man. Merely a “good man” is one thing Jesus could not possibly be. By claiming to be God he eliminated that possibility. For a liar is not a good man, and one who lies about his essential identity is a liar, and a mere man who claims to be God lies about his essential identity.

It is attractive and comfortable to say that Jesus was neither a bad man nor God, but a good man. To say he was a bad man offends Christians, and to say he was God offends non-Christians. To say neither offends no one. Therefore non-Christians want to say neither.

But that position offends logic.

Share This:
The Deity of Jesus: the alternative | NY Minute

The Deity of Jesus: the alternative | NY Minute

New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

 

The Impossibility of the Alternative

What is the alternative to this conclusion that Jesus is God? What do unbelievers say to this argument? Jesus claimed to be God, and Jesus is believable, therefore Jesus is God. The conclusion follows from the premises. Which premise can be denied?

Concerning the first one—that Jesus claimed to be God—perhaps the New Testament texts lie. Perhaps traditional Christianity is a myth, a fairy tale, a fantasy. But this raises questions even more unanswerable than the question of how a man could be God.  Here are seven such questions.

1. If the Gospels lie, who invented the lie and for what reason? Was it Jesus’ apostles? What did they get out of the lie? Martyrdom—hardly an attractive temptation. A liar always has some selfish motive.

2. Why did thousands suffer torture and death for this lie if they knew it was a lie? As Pascal points out, the human heart is very fickle, especially the heart of a liar; all the enemies of Christianity needed to do to destroy this new religion from the beginning was to produce one confession from one of Jesus’ disciples that it was all a lie, a hoax. They used many forms of torture and bribery. They never succeeded.

3. What force sent Christians to the lions’ den with hymns on their lips? What lie ever transformed the world like that? What lie ever gave millions a moral fortitude and peace and joy like that? Christianity conquered the world mainly through the force of sanctity and love. Saints, not theologians, converted the world. You can fake theology, but you cannot fake sanctity. Saints are not liars and liars are not saints.

4. If it was not a deliberate lie but a hallucination or a myth sincerely mistaken for a literal truth, then who were the naive fools who first believed it? There isn’t another idea a Jew would be less likely to believe. Imagine this: the transcendent God who for millennia had strictly forbidden his chosen people to confuse him with a creature as the pagans did—this Creator-God became a creature, a man—a crucified criminal. Hardly a myth that arises naturally in the Jewish mind!

5. And if it was not the Jews but the Gentiles who started the myth, where did the myth come from in the New Testament? Of the twenty-seven books of the New Testament, twenty-five were written by Jews.

6. Whether Jews or Gentiles started the myth, they could not have done so during the lifetime of those who knew the real Jesus, for it would have been publicly refuted by eyewitnesses who knew the facts. Other religious founders, like Buddha and Muhammad, were indeed “divinized” by later myths, but at least two or three generations (more usually two or three centuries) had to pass before such myths could be believed. But the “myth” of Jesus’ divinity goes back to the very earliest times and documents.

7. Why has the “myth” continued to attract the brightest minds in history? If you pit Paul of Tarsus, John the Evangelist, Justin Martyr, Clement of Alexandria, John Damascene, Origen, Augustine, John Chrysostom, Boethius, Erigena, Anselm, Abelard, Aquinas, Bonaventura, Scotus, Ockham, Nicholas of Cusa, Cajetan, Luther, Calvin, Kepler, Ignatius Loyola, Dante, da Vinci, Michelangelo, Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Berkeley, Copernicus, Newton, Kierkegaard, Newman, Pasteur, Jaspers, Marcel, Galileo, Tolstoy, Chesterton, Dostoyevsky, T. S. Eliot and C. S. Lewis against Machiavelli, Hobbes, Renan, Freud, Darwin, Marx, La Mettrie, Skinner, Nietzsche, Sartre, Bertrand Russell, Ayer, Paine and the ACLU, it would hardly be a fair fight.

Conclusion:

Aquinas argues that if the Incarnation did not really happen, then an even more unbelievable miracle happened: the conversion of the world by the biggest lie in history and the moral transformation of lives into unselfishness, detachment from worldly pleasures and radically new heights of holiness by a mere myth.

The fundamental difficulty unbelievers have is with the data. How can they explain the data of history: a good and wise man who claimed to be God? No one has ever satisfactorily answered the simple question: If Jesus is not God, as Christians say he is, then who is he? If any answer to that question had even a specious staying power, it would have served as a mainstay of all unbelievers’ arguments for all time. But hypothesis after weak hypothesis is tried, and each fares about as well as fog on a sunny morning.

 

Share This:
Jesus’ Divinity leads to Trustworthiness | NY Minute

Jesus’ Divinity leads to Trustworthiness | NY Minute

New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

Christ’s Trustworthiness

Everyone who reads the Gospels agrees that Jesus was a good and wise man, a great and profound teacher. Most nonreligious people, and even many people of other religions, like Gandhi, see him as history’s greatest moral teacher. He is, in short, eminently trustworthy.

But what a trustworthy teacher teaches can be trusted. If he is trustworthy, then we should trust him, especially about his own identity. If we do not trust him about that, then we cannot say he is trustworthy, that is, wise and good.

In fact, if we do not trust him even to know who he is, then he certainly is not trustworthy, wise and good. If there is any one thing that disqualifies a person from being trustworthy, it is not knowing himself. A man who thinks he is God when he is not God clearly does not know himself!

The size of the gap between what you are and what you think you are is a pretty good index of your insanity. If I believe I am the best writer in America, I am an egotistical fool, but I am not insane. If I believe I am Napoleon, I am probably near the edge. If I believe I am the archangel Gabriel, I am probably well over it. And if I believe I am God? … Would you send your children to Sunday school to be taught by a man who thought he was God?

Why then did anyone believe Jesus’ claim to be God?

The psychological, personal, motivational reason—as distinct from the objective, logical, theological reason—is because he was so good and wise and trustworthy. This is the same reason so many believed Buddha’s almost equally incredible claim: that we are all living in perpetual illusion; that all our thoughts are false; that you and I and space and time and past and future and matter and soul are all illusions; and that the only thing that is real is totally nameless and indescribable, except to say sunyata (“emptiness”) and neti, neti (“not this, not that”). They believed this doctrine not because it seemed true but because Buddha seemed true. How could he deceive or be deceived? He was “holy to his fingertips.” The same psychological principle explains how Christians, from twelve apostles 2000 years ago to a billion believers today, believe this even more astonishing claim: they believe it because they believe him. To deny it, you would have to deny him. And that is unthinkable.

There is an instructive parallel in Lewis’s The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. Lucy has entered another world, Narnia, through a wardrobe, and told her siblings about it. They disbelieve her, of course. A wise old professor adjudicates the argument by asking Peter, Lucy’s older brother, whether Lucy is a liar. Peter is confident she is not; he knows her too well. Well, then, is she insane? It is obvious from her behavior that she is not. Then there is only one possibility left, concludes the professor: Lucy must be telling the truth.

If Peter knows Lucy better than he knows the universe, it is more reasonable for him to believe Lucy and change his beliefs about the universe than vice versa. If we know the humanity and trustworthiness of Jesus better than we know what is possible for God to do, it is reasonable for us to believe Jesus and change our theological expectations, rather than vice versa.

Share This:
The Difficulty of Jesus’ Divinity | NY Minute

The Difficulty of Jesus’ Divinity | NY Minute

New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

The divinity of Jesus is crucially important for at least six reasons.

 

1. The divinity of Christ is the most distinctively Christian doctrine of all. A Christian is most essentially defined as one who believes this. And no other religion has a doctrine that is even similar. Buddhists do not believe that Buddha was God. Muslims do not believe that Muhammad was God: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet.”

 

2. The essential difference between orthodox, traditional, biblical, apostolic, historic, creedal Christianity and revisionist, modernist, liberal Christianity is right here. The essential modernist revision is to see Christ simply as the ideal man, or “the man for others”; as a prophet, rabbi, philosopher, teacher, social worker, psychologist, psychiatrist, reformer, sage or magician—but not God in the flesh.

3. The doctrine works like a skeleton key, unlocking all the other doctrinal doors of Christianity. Christians believe each of their many doctrines not because they have reasoned their own way to them as conclusions from a theological inquiry or as results of some mystical experiences, but on the divine authority of the One who taught them, as recorded in the Bible and transmitted by the church.

If Christ was only human, he could have made mistakes.

Thus, anyone who wants to dissent from any of Christ’s unpopular teachings will want to deny his divinity. And there are bound to be things in his teachings that each of us finds offensive—if we look at the totality of those teachings rather than confining ourselves to comfortable and familiar ones.

4. If Christ is divine, then the incarnation, or “enfleshing” of God, is the most important event in history. It is the hinge of history. It changes everything. If Christ is God, then when he died on the cross, heaven’s gate, closed by sin, opened up to us for the first time since Eden. No event in history could be more important to every person on earth than that.

5. There is an unparalleled present existential bite to the doctrine. For if Christ is God, then, since he is omnipotent and present right now, he can transform you and your life right now as nothing and no one else possibly can. He alone can fulfill the psalmist’s desperate plea to “create in me a clean heart, O God” (Ps 51:10). Only God can create; there is even a special word in Hebrew for it (bara’).

6. And if Christ is divine, he has a right to our entire lives, including our inner life and our thoughts. If Christ is divine, our absolute obligation is to believe everything he says and obey everything he commands. If Christ is divine, the meaning of freedom becomes conformity to him.

Share This:
The Divinity of Jesus | NY Minute

The Divinity of Jesus | NY Minute

New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

Huston Smith notes, in The World’s Religions, that only the people ever astounded their contemporaries so much that the question they evoked was not “Who is he?” but “What is he?” They were Jesus and Buddha. The answers these two gave were exactly opposite. Buddha said unequivocally that he was a mere man, not a god—almost as if he foresaw later attempts to worship him. Jesus, on the other hand, claimed in many ways to be divine.

The problem of Jesus’ identity emerges from the data. The data are the four Gospels, which inform us about the claims he made about himself and the claims others made about him. In all four Gospels the claim is shockingly strong. (See Some Scriptural Data For Christ’s Claim to Divinity.)

Jesus’ Claims

Jesus called himself the “Son of God”—that is, of the same nature as God. A son is of the same nature, the same species, the same essence, as his father. Jesus called God his Father: “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30) and “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

He also claimed to be sinless: “Which of you can convict me of sin?” He claimed to forgive sins—all sins, against everyone. The Jews protested: “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” They were much more clear-thinking theologians than the modernists, who “nuance” this claim. The only one who has the right to forgive all sins is the only One who is offended in all sins, namely, God. I have a right to forgive you for your sins against me, but not for your sins against others.

Jesus claimed to save us from sin and death. He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will never die.” He said he had come from heaven, not just earth, and that he would return again from heaven at the end of the world to judge everyone. Meanwhile, he gave us his flesh to eat, and said that this would give us eternal life.

Jesus changed Simon’s name to Peter. For a Jew, changing names was something only God could do, for your name was not just a human, arbitrary label, but your real identity, which was given to you by God alone. In the Old Testament, only God changed names, and destinies—Abram became Abraham, Sarai became Sarah, Jacob became Israel. An orthodox Jew who got his name legally changed was excommunicated.

Jesus kept pointing people to himself, saying “Come unto me.” Buddha said, “Look not to me; look to my dharma (doctrine).” Buddha also said, “Be ye lamps unto yourselves.” Jesus said, “I am the light of the world.”

Buddha, Confucius, Muhammad and other religious founders performed no miracles and did not rise from the dead. Jesus offered his many miracles and his resurrection as evidence for his divinity.

The Conclusion

Most clearly and shockingly of all, he invited crucifixion (or stoning) by saying: “Very truly, I tell you [i.e., I am not exaggerating or speaking symbolically here; take this in all its force], before Abraham was, I am” (Jn 8:58). He spoke and claimed the sacred name that God revealed to Moses, the name God used to name himself (Ex 3:14). If he was not God, no one in history ever said anything more blasphemous than this; by Jewish law, no one ever deserved to be crucified more than Jesus.

Who then was Jesus, really?

You cannot even ask the question without implicitly choosing among answers. The very wording of the question, in the past tense (“Who was Jesus?”) or the present (“Who is Jesus?”), presupposes its own answer. For those who believe his claim do not say that he was divine, but is divine. Divinity does not change or die or disappear into the past. Furthermore, if he really rose from the dead, he still is, and is very much alive today.

Share This:
Evil: Practical Application | NY Minute

Evil: Practical Application | NY Minute

New York Minute

We’re using the “Handbook of Apologetics” by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli to go over the arguments for the existence of God.  Today, we will be covering the above referenced subject in relation to the existence of God. Dr. Kreeft teaches logic in two major universities, so his arguments tend to be clear, concise and very helpful.

Practical Application

More important than evil as an argument against the existence of God is evil as a broken relationship with God, a spiritual divorce. Therefore, more important than a logical answer to the problem of evil theoretically is a personal answer to the problem of evil practically. More important than an apologist is a Savior.

The theoretical problem produces in us ignorance and questioning. The practical problem produces in us sin and guilt. Christ came to solve the second problem, not the first. Christ was not a philosopher.

Guilt can be removed only by God, because guilt is the index of a broken covenant with God. Shame is only the index of a horizontal, human fear or fracture, but guilt is vertical, supernatural. A good psychologist can set you free from shame but not from guilt. He can even set you free from guilt feelings, but not from real guilt. He can give you anesthetics but cannot cure your disease. Psychology can make you feel good, but only religion—relationship with God—can make you be good.

That’s why God sent his Son; no one but Jesus Christ could take away our sin and guilt. Faith in his atoning sacrifice is the only answer to the real problem of evil. Our only hope is not a good answer but “good news,” the gospel. The great theologian Karl Barth was asked in his old age what was the most profound idea he had ever had, in his many years of theologizing. He instantly replied, “Jesus loves me.”

Share This:
No Favorites Has Been Added!