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Saturday, April 9, 2011

How does a Catholic respond to the comment, "Well, I believe Jesus was a good man, and a good teacher, and I respect all of his teachings, but he never said he was God."

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question:  How does a Catholic respond to the comment, "Well, I believe Jesus was a good man, and a good teacher, and I respect all of his teachings, but he never said he was God."

Best answer to the above comment is to cite Christian apologist and author C.S. Lewis who used the "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" argument.  Essentially, Jesus was either God, (Lord), or a bad man (Liar) or a egocentric madman (Lunatic).  What he most certainly could NOT have been was what many modern "open-minded" thinkers seem to profess--"a good man".  Yet it seems that almost every modern day non-believer will claim that while Jesus was a good man, a great philosopher and teacher, he was not divine. 

However, Logic dictates that either Jesus was God, or he was a very bad man. For no good person goes around proclaiming to be God when he is in fact a mere man.  Either he was divine, as he claimed, or he was a corrupt man who tried to fool his contemporaries into worshipping him.
"Now what would we think of a person who went around making these claims today? Certainly not that he was a good man or a sage. There are only two possibilities: he either speaks the truth or not. If he speaks the truth, he is God and the case is closed. We must believe him and worship him. If he does not speak the truth, then he is not God but a mere man. But a mere man who wants you to worship him as God is not a good man. He is a very bad man indeed, either morally or intellectually. If he knows that he is not God, then he is morally bad, a liar trying deliberately to deceive you into blasphemy. If he does not know that he is not God, if he sincerely thinks he is God, then he is intellectually bad—in fact, insane."  Peter Kreeft, Professor of Philosophy at Boston College.

Lewis' "Lord, Liar or Lunatic" argument is actually derived from an argument proposed by the early Christian apologists who, even way back in the first centuries, had to defend the divinity of Christ. (Truly, there is nothing new under the sun.)  The Early Church Fathers used the Latin phrase, "Aut Deus, Aut Homo Malus."  (Either God, or a bad man.)  Simple, pithy and profoundly true! 

So, did Jesus really never claim to be God, as some New Age/enlightened/"modern" (although, really, not so new) thinkers profess?
Scripture is abundantly clear that Jesus did indeed make that claim. 
In John 8:58, when quizzed about how he has special knowledge of Abraham, Jesus replies, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am"—invoking and applying to himself the personal name of God—"I Am" (Ex. 3:14). His audience understood exactly what he was claiming about himself. "So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple" (John 8:59). source  Jews considered the name YHWH (I AM) to be so sacred, so holy, that any man who uttered the name was guilty of profanation.  (see previous 3 minute Apologetics discussion on this topic)

Not only did Jesus utter the most sacred Tetragrammaton (YHWH), but he applied it to himself.  Blasphemy!

Another verse which references Christ's divinity is this:  Thomas answered and said to him, "My Lord and my God!"-John 20:28.  And Jesus accepts the worship and praise.

And in John 10:30 Jesus states, "The Father and I are one."  Again, the Jews understood very clearly exactly what Jesus was claiming for himself.  And no pious Jew would stand to hear any man ever claim to be the Almighty Creator of the Heavens.  Interesting to note what the next verse is after Jesus states he and the Father are one-- "The Jews again picked up rocks to stone him."

And in this Sunday's Gospel Jesus proclaims, 
"I am the resurrection and the life; whoever believes in me, even if he dies, will live,--John 11: 25
Another argument some may offer is that Jesus never really said the above words, but he was mis-interpreted by his disciples. In other words, they argue that Jesus never said he was God, but his foolish followers simply went ga-ga over this man's words and mistakenly hero-worshipped a mere man.  Quoting again from Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft, "then who were the naive fools who first <mis-interpreted> it? There isn't another idea a Jew would be less likely to believe. Imagine this: the transcendent God who for millenia 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 naturally arises in the Jewish mind."

"No Jew would sincerely think He was God. No group in history was less likely to confuse the Creator with a creature than the Jews, the only people who had an absolute, and absolutely clear, distinction between the divine and human. And is far more inconceivable for them to confuse a "mad-man" with God."

If Christ was not divine, this permits modern intellectuals to pick and choose his teachings.  Any unpopular, unpalatable, difficult-to-follow teaching professed by this "good teacher" who's only human can be rejected.  It allows modernists to create a religion in their own image, rather than conforming their beliefs to that which God revealed. Those teachings which they find tolerable they accept.  Those which they find distasteful, they reject.  This paradigm sets up the almighty self as the almighty authority.  Eek!

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

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