If Jesus was nothing more than a good man, He was a mad man or a bad man. Does that kind of logic make sense? Although it sounds kind of heretical, it is sound logic and makes perfectly good sense. In fact, as defenders of the faith, we Christians should present this logic to those typical non-Christians who say that Jesus was only a good man. When confronted with the claims of Christ, many people try to take what they think is a middle-of-the-road position. They are willing to recognize that Jesus was a good man but they are not sure about His claims to be God. These people need to be forced to realize that they cannot logically take this position. Either Jesus was who He claimed to be or He was not a good man at all. If He was not God, then He deceived many people or else He was deceived Himself. In fact, if Jesus was not God, then He is still deceiving millions of people who are staking their destiny on Him.
But Jesus is more than a good man. He is Lord – and not only by Christian faith, but also by logic! That is, it can be shown logically that the only reasonable action anyone can take when considering the claims of Christ is to acknowledge Him as Lord. To go with another option is to make an illogical choice. Can we build a solid case for this logical conclusion?
There are only five possible rational choices a person can make when confronted with the claims of Christ: He is only a legend; He was only a great human leader; He was a lunatic; He was a liar; or He is Lord! These are really the only rational options available to a person who takes the time to examine the life and statements of Jesus. Let’s proceed to show logically how the most reasonable of these five rational options is that Jesus Christ is Lord and God.
More Than A Legend And A Leader
Rare is the person who believes that Jesus of Nazareth is only a legend. There’s just too much evidence in history for His existence. The authoritative Encyclopedia Britannica, for example, assumes His existence as an historical person. The amount of evidence available makes proving His existence unnecessary. In addition to the biblical evidence for the historical, there are early written sources, both Christian and non-Christian, that attest to His life and death. While His birth and death dates may be in question, there is no doubt as to His historical existence.
Of course, there always are a few people around who deny all the evidence and continue to believe that Jesus is only a legend. But then some people don’t believe the Nazi holocaust ever took place, and there are even a few people still around that don’t believe in a spherical earth! But such conclusions are based on ignorant and blind presuppositions. The conclusion that Jesus is just a legend is not reasonable, because the historical evidence for His actual existence is just too overwhelming.
Acknowledging that Jesus is more than a legend is not that much of a logical hurdle for most unbelievers. But it’s not so easy for them to accept the fact that Jesus claimed to be God and the only way of salvation for mankind. If Jesus had not made such claims, then He would have been merely a great human leader who lived a life of selfless service for others – and this is exactly the position most non-Christians prefer to take. Unbelievers can live comfortably with the position of Jesus as a great moral leader and role model for mankind. But is this option open to reason? What does the record show?
Recent scholarship has convincingly shown that the ethical Jesus of the “liberal” school of thought is historically untenable. It held that we could create a “Christ of faith” by picking and choosing just the ethical and “good neighborly” deeds of Jesus out of the New Testament documents, treating them as historical events, and throwing the rest of the record away as non-historical additions of the early Church. But the time gap between the life of Jesus and the earliest written documents is now shown to be so short that it is inconceivable that early Christians could have hood-winked the contemporaries of Jesus by changing the real “Jesus of history” into a non-historical “Christ of faith.” The Christ of faith of the early Church is the real Jesus of history! And the real Jesus of history definitely made some radical statements about His own deity along with His ethical teachings. In fact, His ethical statements were often interwoven with His claims to be the long-awaited Messiah and the Son of God – that is, God Himself. For example, in His well-known beatitudes, Jesus not only said, “blessed are the poor,” and “blessed are the meek” (Mt. 5:3,5), He also said, “blessed are you when you are insulted and persecuted on account of Me” (Mt. 5:11). What an egotistical statement this would be if it came from the mouth of One who was just a good man. Jesus went even further and offered a reward in heaven for such persecution (Mt. 5:12). What great human leader could legitimately make such an offer? The point here is that you cannot just pick the “tranquil” beatitudes as authentic sayings of Jesus, and attribute the “radical” beatitudes to additions of the early Church.
Neither A Liar Nor A Lunatic
As we move from the beatitudes further into the beloved Sermon on the Mount (Mt. 5-7), we again encounter ethical statements of Jesus that are inseparable from His claims to Deity. After He stated the well-known golden rule – “However you want people to treat you, so treat them” – Jesus went on to say that most people are on their way “to destruction” (Mt. 7:12-13). Jesus further stated, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 7:21). He even went on to predict a judgment day in which “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’” What great human leader would dare make such audacious claims? The speaker would have to be more than just a good man in order to back up such statements!
The Jewish audiences of Jesus certainly knew that He was claiming to be more than a great moral human leader. They did not pick up stones to kill Him because He said, “Love your neighbor as yourself!” He had claimed the divine title of “I AM” for Himself and He had equated Himself with the Almighty God (Jn. 8:58-59; 10:30-31). Again these events cannot be ripped out of the record and the allegation made that these were insertions made by early Christians. It is inconceivable that these accounts are fabrications of the true record. Such distortions of the truth would not go uncontested. And yet early extra-biblical Jewish writings do not “correct” these events. In fact, these writings, which include the Jewish Talmud, very definitely testify to the fact that Jesus claimed to be God.
Thus there is no basis whatsoever for selecting just the “ethical sayings” of Jesus as historical and leaving His claims to Deity as non-historical creations of early Christian writers. Such a position is not based on evidence but solely on the unfounded presupposition that Jesus only made uncontroversial ethical statements. The historical evidence overwhelmingly favors the position that Jesus also claimed to be God. Therefore the position that Jesus was just a great human leader is logically eliminated. It is not an option! Truly great human leaders don’t make false claims about being God. Even though many people continue to believe that Jesus was a good man but not God, such a naive position is logically untenable.
At this point logic demands that a person decide whether the claim of Jesus to be God was true or false. If it was true, then the logical conclusion is obvious – Jesus is Lord. If it was not, then it was an outrageous lie. If Jesus was a liar, then the first century Jews were right in accusing Him of blasphemy, (Jn. 10:33). This has been the official position of orthodox Judaism until this day.
But some people would say that Jesus wasn’t deliberately lying; He really thought that He was God but was mistaken. Well, then, the only other logical conclusion possible is that He was deluded. If Jesus made the false claim that He was God, then He was either a liar or a lunatic. These are the only two logical options. If He knew that His claim to be God was false, then He was a liar. If He did not know that His claim to be God was false, then He was a lunatic. If you think that you are God when you’re not, you’re deluded! Many unbelieving scholars have taken this position in reference to Jesus. They realize that the historical evidence does not allow them to intelligently conclude that He was just a legend or that He was only a great human leader making ethical statements. They refuse to acknowledge Him as Lord.
Thus the only two logical choices left for them are that Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic. They recognize that on the basis of the historical record, Jesus did not exhibit the behavior of either a liar or a lunatic, but there are no other choices other than the position that He is Lord. So they choose to believe that Jesus really thought He was God, but that He died as a disappointed and deluded figure, caught in a tragic web of historical events. Some of these unbelieving scholars say Jesus finally realized at the end that He was not God, and that’s why He cried out from the cross, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?” (Mt. 27:46). Christians, of course, know that such an irreverent scenario is far removed from the truth. But even apart from faith, either the option that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic can be shown to be logically untenable.
If Jesus was a liar then He was a very unusual one, as liars predictably have a pattern of lying – especially when it comes to protecting themselves. And they generally don’t stick to their story when it comes to facing Roman crucifixion! Some people have bravely died for a lie, but they at least thought it was the truth. If Jesus was a liar, then He died a most painful death for what He knew was a lie. Furthermore, besides their lying, habitual liars typically have other character flaws. They don’t have the dignity and authority that the historical records ascribe to Jesus. Liars tend to be “looking out for number one.” Jesus was selfless and consistently served others. Logically, Jesus cannot be a liar.
As to Jesus’ being deluded, the same basic argument holds. Lunatics typically exhibit warped personalities and abnormal behavior. Some deluded people have thought that they were God, but they have exhibited unbalanced, even schizophrenic behavior patterns. Jesus was always composed and in control of Himself. Although some of the Jews thought that Jesus was insane and even attributed His radical statements and powerful works to demonic sources, others realized that the character of Jesus was hardly the character of a lunatic (Jn. 10:19-21). Furthermore, people tend to stay away from lunatics, but they followed Jesus in great numbers. Even little children were attracted to Him. His even disposition and balanced personality were certainly not the traits of a deluded person. It is illogical for Jesus to be considered a lunatic.
Who Do You Say That He Is?
If a logical examination of the evidence does not permit the legend, leader, liar or lunatic conclusions, there is only one option open: Jesus Christ proclaimed the truth when He claimed to be God. The historical evidence concerning His life backs up His claim to be God. Jesus Christ is logically Lord!
At this point there is a final decision that one must make – Jesus Christ can be accepted or rejected as Lord. Even after being convinced of the logic of His Lordship, many people refuse to submit to the Lord Jesus. How much better to agree with sound logic and confess with Thomas that Jesus is “my Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28).
By David Reid
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org