Session 2: Legend, Lunatic, Liar… or Lord?
1. Assumptions - Why be a Christian?
- While Christianity is the largest religion in the world, the rest (Islam, Hinduism etc.) and even atheism isn’t far behind.
- Christians generally have a great reasons to be a Christian, but we must be careful in not assuming that other religions can’t offer what Christianity offers.
- Assumptions can be a dangerous thing and can cause us to lose sight of the value and worth of something.
2. Being a Christian means living life abundantly
- Jesus has promised this in John 10:10 – “… that they may have life, and have it abundantly”.
- Christianity isn’t about “missing out” or being sad or having to sacrifice anything; instead it’s about gaining everything while not losing anything.
- Blaise Pascal (19/6/1623 – 19/8/1662) posits the “Pascal Wager”, in which he says – “Since the existence of God cannot be proved or disproved through reason, and there is much to be gained from wagering that God exists and little to be gained from wagering that God doesn’t exist, a rational person should simply wager that God exists and live accordingly.”
- In essence, Pascal is saying that we should live as a Christian because if you are correct – then you lose nothing and gain everything. However if you’re wrong, you still lose nothing and gain nothing.
- The premise of the “Christian Wager” is based on John 3:16 - “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”
- In the three components of a wager, the size of the prize for the Christian Wager is eternal life. The chances of winning that prize is 100% (all you need to do is believe and you’re guaranteed to win), and because of the abundant life (as defined biblically) that Jesus provides, there is no risk involved.
- The ultimate question though is whether we can trust Jesus and in essence, recognize who He is to us.
3. Who is Jesus? – Legend, Lunatic, Liar or Lord?
- C.S Lewis poses this trilemma – “"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 the 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 with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to….” (Mere Christianity, London: Collins, 1952. p54-56)
- John Duncan sums it this way – “"Christ either deceived mankind by conscious fraud, or He was Himself deluded and self-deceived, or He was Divine. There is no getting out of this trilemma. It is inexorable.” (William Knight, Colloquia Peripatetica, 1870, page 109)
- Represented graphically:
- There are at least 8 undisputable facts about Jesus (refer to slides)
- There are 125 prophecies in the Old Testament pointing to the Messiah
- Dr. Peter Stoner, former chairman of the Department of Mathematics, Astronomy and Engineering at Pasadena College California applied the “principle of probability” on the chances of 8 of these prophecies being fulfilled in one person’s lifetime.
- The number he came to was 1 in 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000.
- Mark Mittleberg, amongst others, refute claims from Dan Brown and the like that Jesus indeed did claim to be God and was worshipped long before the Council of Nicea (as claimed in the Da Vinci Code).
- Jesus therefore cannot be merely a legend.
Lunatic, Liar or Lord
- Whether we accept Him as one of the above will depend significantly on the assumptions that we have on Jesus, i.e. Who is Jesus to us?
- If we’ve made up our mind, no evidence in the world can change that… that certainly didn’t change those who persecuted Him.
- He loved the little children (Matthew 19:14), proclaimed good news to the poor, freedom to the captives, set the oppressed free (Luke 4:18), healed every disease and sickness (Matthew 9:35), and even taught with one who had authority (Matthew 7:29). All these are NOT marks of a lunatic, and yet they called Him just that (John 10:20).
- He was unfairly trialled, condemned to die, flogged and whipped, carried the Cross and hung there with nails through His hands and feet; nobody would go through what Jesus did if they knew it was a lie, and yet they still called Him a liar (Luke 23:36-37, 39; Matthew 27:41-42).
- Through it all, He forgave them (Luke 23:34), because He knew that He had to die on the Cross. He loved us with an everlasting love, and He knew that He would have to die regardless of whether we truly deserved it or not.
What sets Christianity apart from other religion is the concept grace – it’s unmerited and undeserved favour from a God of love, who would do anything and everything for us. And He did. If we can truly break down the assumptions, we will be amazed by what Jesus has done. We’ll be amazed at the abundant life He promises to give us, and we will want to call Him Lord.