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.