Well, then let's
just cut right to the chase!
If none of the responses clearly fit how you feel and believe, then simply
ask yourself this question: "Was Jesus a liar, a lunatic or was He the
The following should help you
come to grips with the logic supporting each claim.
And remember, you cannot have it both ways.
He was either a liar, plain
Or, he was a sheer lunatic, a madman, to actually claim that He is God.
Or, just maybe, He was who He claimed to be. Hmmm...
Worth looking into, don't you think?
- The Trilema -
Lord, Liar or Lunatic?
esus' distinct claims of being God eliminate the popular
ploy of skeptics Who regard Him as just a good moral man or a prophet who
said a lot Of profound things. So often that conclusion is passed off as the
only one acceptable to scholars or as the obvious result of the intellectual
process. The trouble is, many people nod their heads in agreement and never
see the fallacy of such reasoning.
C. S. Lewis, who was a
professor at Cambridge University and once an agnostic, understood this issue
clearly. He writes:
I am trying here to prevent
anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm
ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim
to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man
and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He
would either be a lunatic ‑on a level with the man who says he is a poached
egg‑ or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either
this man was, and is, the son of God: or else a madman or something worse.
You can shut Him up for
a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His
feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come up with any patronizing
nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open
to us. He did not intend to.
In the words of Kenneth
Scott Latourette, historian of Christianity at Yale University: "It is not
His teachings which make Jesus so remarkable, although these would be enough
to give Him distinction. It is a combination of the teachings with the man
Himself. The two cannot be separated."
Jesus claimed to be God. He
didn't leave any other option open. His claim must be either true or false,
so it is something that should be given serious consideration. Jesus'
question to His disciples, "But who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:15)
has several alternatives.
First, suppose that His claim
to be God was false. If it was false, then we have only two alternatives. He
either knew it was false or He didn't know it was false. We will consider
each one separately and examine the evidence.
Was He a Liar?
If, when Jesus made His
claims, He knew that He was not God, then He was lying and deliberately
deceiving His followers. But if He was a liar, then He was also a hypocrite
because He told others to be honest, whatever the cost, while He himself
taught and lived a colossal lie. More than that, He was a demon, because He
told others to trust Him for their eternal destiny. If He couldn't back up
His claims and knew it, then He was unspeakably evil. Last, He would also be
a fool because it was His claims to being God that led to His crucifixion.
Many will say that Jesus was
a good moral teacher. Let's be realistic. How could He be a great moral
teacher and knowingly mislead people at the most important point of His
teaching ‑His own identity?
You would have to conclude
logically that He was a deliberate liar. This view of Jesus, however
doesn't coincide with what we know either of Him or the results of His life
and teachings. Wherever Jesus has been proclaimed, lives have been changed
for the good, nations have changed for the better, thieves are made honest,
alcoholics are cured, hateful individuals become channels of love, unjust
persons become just.
William Lecky, one of Great
Britain's most noted historians and a dedicated opponent of organized
It was reserved for
Christianity to present to the world an ideal character which through all the
changes of eighteen centuries has inspired the hearts of men with an
impassioned love; has shown itself capable of acting on all ages, nations,
temperaments and conditions; has been not only the highest pattern of virtue,
but the strongest incentive to its practice.... The simple record of these
three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and soften
mankind than all the disquisitions of philosophers and all the exhortations
Historian Philip Schaff says:
How, in the name of logic,
common sense, and experience, could an imposter‑that is a deceitful, selfish,
depraved man‑have invented, and consistently maintained from the beginning to
end, the purest and noblest character known in history with the most perfect
air of truth and reality? How could He have conceived and successfully
carried out a plan of unparalleled beneficence, moral magnitude, and
sublimity, and sacrificed His own life for it, in the face of the strongest
prejudices of His people and age? 70/9495
If Jesus wanted to get people
to follow Him and believe in Him as God, why did He go to the Jewish nation?
Why go as a Nazarene carpenter to a country so small in size and population
and so thoroughly adhering the undivided unity of God? Why didn't He go to
Egypt or, even more, to Greece, where they believed in various gods and
various manifestations of them?
Someone who lived as Jesus
lived, taught as Jesus taught, and died as Jesus died could not have been a
liar. What other alternatives are there?
Was He a Lunatic?
If it is inconceivable for
Jesus to be a liar, then couldn't He actually have thought Himself to be God,
but been mistaken? After all, it's possible to be both sincere and wrong. But
we must remember that for someone to think himself God, especially in a
fiercely monotheistic culture, and then to tell others that their eternal
destiny depended on believing in him, is no light flight of fantasy but the
thoughts of a lunatic in the fullest sense. Was Jesus Christ such a person?
Someone who believes he is
God sounds like someone today believing himself Napoleon. He would be deluded
and self‑deceived, and probably he would be locked up so he wouldn't hurt
himself or anyone else. Yet in Jesus we don't observe the abnormalities and
imbalance that usually go along with being deranged. His poise and composure
would certainly be amazing if He were insane.
Noyes and Kolb, in a medical
text, describe the schizophrenic as a person who is more autistic than
realistic. The schizophrenic desires to escape from the world of reality.
Let's face it; claiming to be God would certainly be a retreat from reality.
of the other things we know about Jesus, it's hard to imagine that He was
mentally disturbed. Here is a man who spoke some of the most profound sayings
ever recorded. His instructions have liberated many individuals from mental
Was He deluded about
His greatness, a paranoid, an unintentional deceiver, a schizophrenic?
Again, the skill and depth of His teachings support the case only for His
total mental soundness. If only we were as sane as He!
student at a California university told me that his psychology professor had
said in class that "all he has to do is pick up the Bible and read portions
of Christ's teaching to many of his patients. That's all the
counseling they need."
Psychiatrist J. T. Fisher states:
If you were to take the sum
total of all authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of
psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene ‑if you were
to combine them and refine them, and cleave out the excess verbiage ‑ if you
were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were
to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely
expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have an awkward and
incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer
immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian
world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and
fruitless yearnings. Here ... rests the blueprint for successful human life
with optimism, mental health, and contentment.
The historical difficulty of
giving for the life, sayings and influence of Jesus any explanation that is
not harder than the Christian explanation is very great. The discrepancy
between the depth and sanity ... of His moral teaching and the rampant
megalomania which must lie behind His theological teaching unless He is
indeed God has never been satisfactorily explained. Hence the non‑Christian
hypotheses succeed one another with the restless fertility of bewilderment.
Is such an intellect ‑clear
as the sky, bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword,
thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always ready and always self‑possessed
‑liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning His own character
and mission? Preposterous imagination!
Was He Lord?
personally conclude that Jesus was a liar or a lunatic. The only other
alternative is that He was the Christ, the Son of God, as He claimed.
discuss this with most Jewish people, it's interesting how they respond. They
usually tell me that Jesus was a moral, upright, religious leader, a good
man, or some kind of prophet. I then share with them the claims Jesus made
about Himself and then the material in this chapter on the trilemma (liar,
lunatic, or Lord). When I ask if they believe Jesus was a liar, there is a
Then I ask, "Do you believe
He was a lunatic?"
The reply is, "Of course
"Do you believe He is God?"
Before I can get a breath in
edgewise, there is a resounding, "Absolutely not."
Yet one has only so many
The issue with these three
alternatives is not which is possible, for it is obvious that all three are
possible. Rather, the question is, "Which is more probable?" Who you decide
Jesus Christ is must not be an idle intellectual exercise. You cannot put Him
on the shelf as a great moral teacher. That is not a valid option. He is
either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord and God. You must make a choice. "But," as
the apostle John wrote, "these have been written that you may believe that
Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and" ‑more important‑ "that believing
you might have life in His name" (John 20:31).
The evidence is clearly in
favor of Jesus as Lord. Some people, however, reject this clear evidence
because of moral implications involved. They don't want to face up to the
responsibility or implications of calling Him Lord.
From Josh McDowell, "A Ready Defense"
more? It's just
a -click- away.