Thursday, September 3, 2009

I Respect Jesus, But...

“Jesus was a great man, and a great moral teacher. I just don’t believe that he was the son of God or anything like that.” I’ve heard this refrain many times. But I wonder if it makes any sense.

To admire Christ’s moral teachings, you have to be familiar with the New Testament on at least some level. But the second you read that, you come into contact with his claims of divinity. Here’s just a sample of such claims:

When asked directly whether he was the son of God, he said “I am; and you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of the Power,’ and ‘coming with the clouds of heaven,’” (Mark 14:62).

“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6)

Jesus clearly thought that he was the son of God, and found his Godhood to be an important part of his identity.

So how can you respect a man who claims to be God, but you think isn’t? Wouldn’t such a man be a braggart? Or a liar? Or a lunatic? If you found some philosophy professor, who you thought had good moral teachings, who also claimed to be God, wouldn’t you find such a man delusional?

Now you could argue that the claims about divinity came after Jesus died from the authors of the gospels. But if you believe that, why couldn’t they have also made up the good moral teachings? It seems strange to believe the disciples were lying about Christ’s divinity, but then trust them 100% to accurately relay his moral teachings.

1 comment:

  1. I'd say the core idea behind someone saying "I don't believe Jesus was the son of God, but I respect him," is the idea that the person may not be a devout Christian, but Jesus had some good ideas.

    Which that in itself isn't mutually exclusive. You can believe what Jesus preached (love for one another, charity, community, etc.) was good without having to subscribe to all of the teachings of Christianity. It's the same way I can think that Siddhartha Gautama was right in thinking that the way to enlightenment was neither excessive luxury nor extreme asceticism, but not be a practicing Buddhist.

    I'm not going to challenge your ability to interpret the Bible because I know personally you spend a lot of time studying it, but to me, it often seems like when Jesus was asked about his divinity, he would say so in a way that was like "Yes, I'm the son of God because we are ALL God's children." Again, my knowledge of his teachings is more based on secondary re-interpretations of his life story (i.e. the musical Jesus Christ Superstar) and not on direct Bible study.

    The John 14:6 passage seems especially vague, because he isn't saying he's the son of God, just that what he is preaching is the true path to him. To go back to the Buddhism allegory, Siddhartha himself said that the eightfold path was the way to enlightenment, but he himself was not some form of Nirvana incarnate.

    Just my thoughts on your article. I'm loving your blog, by the way.

    See you in a few weeks,