Saturday, March 4, 2023

Is Jesus Divine?

In an essay titled “The Divinity of Christ,” Dr. Peter Kreeft discusses the fact that believing in the Incarnation is a major stumbling block. Christianity proclaims that Jesus is fully God and at the same time fully man. Many of us were taught this basic doctrine as children and we don’t give it much thought nowadays. 

However, Dr. Kreeft reminds us that the Incarnation is one of the most incredible and scandalous things ever proclaimed. He writes, “That a man who was born out of a woman’s womb and died on a cross, a man who got tired and hungry and angry and agitated and wept at his friend’s tomb, that this man who got dirt under his fingernails should be God was, quite simply, the most astonishing, incredible, crazy-sounding idea that has ever entered the mind of man in all human history.”
When the first generation of Christians began preaching this message, Gentiles thought it was nonsense and Jews thought it was blasphemy. Gentiles laughed at the idea that a mere man could at the same time be the divine Creator of the Universe, and Jews raged at the insulting claim that the all-holy God had demeaned Himself by taking on human flesh.

Not much has changed in 20 centuries. When Christians proclaim the doctrine of the Incarnation these days, a sizable portion of our modern culture either laughs or rages. When Christians say they REALLY believe in the Incarnation, many folks roll their eyes and laugh, amazed that there are people in this modern, scientific world who still cling to ancient fairy tales. Others in our society rage at believing Christians. They are not angry for the same reason as the first century Jews, who thought Christian doctrines were gross insults to the all-mighty Deity. Instead, modern-day activists consider traditional Christianity a threat to the anything-goes Sexual Revolution™ that emerged in the 1960s, and therefore Christian morality must be marginalized.
There are some people in our world who attempt a balancing act: they embrace many Christian traditions but downplay the difficult doctrines, especially the Incarnation. These are the people, many of whom stand in church pulpits on Sunday mornings, who say that Jesus was a good and wise teacher, but not divine. 

People should embrace Jesus’ teachings on social justice, we are told, but ignore all that contentious “Jesus is God” stuff. (By the way, we SHOULD embrace Jesus’ teachings on social justice – the Sermon on the Mount is a good place to start – while emphasizing the “Jesus is God” stuff, too.)

However, as C.S. Lewis pointed out years ago, the one thing we cannot say is that Jesus was a good and wise teacher but not divine. Everything Jesus said and did rules out that conclusion. He either was a liar (claimed He was God but knew He wasn’t), or a lunatic (claimed incorrectly that He was God and really believed it), or the Lord (claimed He was God and it’s true). Those are the only three options: liar, lunatic, or Lord.

For those who like Jesus’ social teachings but can’t accept that He really is God, Dr. Kreeft offers a bold challenge: “Well, then, why not a lunatic or liar?”
Kreeft goes on to explain why it’s so hard to draw that conclusion: “But almost no one who has read the Gospels can honestly and seriously consider that option. The savviness, the canniness, the human wisdom, the attractiveness of Jesus emerges from the Gospels with unavoidable force to any but the most hardened and prejudiced reader.”

The thing is, people who are liars or lunatics are so predictable – and boring. Jesus was neither.

It would be nice if a person could be a Christian, even if he did not accept that Jesus is God. However, the Incarnation is a core and non-negotiable belief. If it’s not true, then Christianity is a feeble house of cards ready to collapse at the first mild breeze. If the Incarnation is true, if Jesus really is God, then all the claims of Christianity are true. It means Jesus’ death on the Cross really did pay the price for our sins and we can be forgiven. It means the Resurrection really did happen and Jesus conquered death once and for all. And it means we can spend eternity in the joys of Heaven if we put our faith in Christ.
So, there always will be some people who laugh or rage at the doctrine of the Incarnation. It’s just a fact of life. But since it is the core, fundamental fact of Christianity, we have to embrace the Incarnation no matter how many people mock or sneer.

The divinity of Jesus is the key that unlocks countless blessings, both in this world and in the world to come.

1 comment:

  1. "the attractiveness of Jesus emerges from the gospels with unavoidable force to any but the most hardened and prejudiced reader"
    All this does is close down any argument or response. It says ahead of time "if you don't agree with me I have pre labeled you hardened and prejudiced & therefore anything you say is automatically discounted and wrong.
    In reality the original statement is merely the opinion of one person, that's all. I can be validly disputed.
    Ruth O'Keefe