Seeking a Balanced View of Jesus?


It could be argued that there are two extremes in beliefs regarding Jesus Christ. For instance, some believe that Jesus is God who was incarnated in earthly flesh. Others, however, go to an opposite extreme and argue that Jesus did not exist. In the middle of these two radically opposing views is a professed balanced belief that Jesus is a true historical figure and, though not God, was a good moral teacher. This belief could be summarized like this, “I accept Jesus as a great moral teacher but I refuse to believe he was, or is, God.” Yet, how rational is this middle-of-road view?

Historically, there is a mammoth amount of historical evidence for the existence of a religious leader by the name of Jesus. His existence cannot be rationally denied. Much of this same historical evidence also provides support for the view that Jesus was a good man. This depends, however, on how you define “good.”

When asked why Jesus is considered to be good man, many of his contributions to society are showcased. On the top shelf would be his teachings on love, forgiveness, truth, and kindness. Jesus is often seen as a man of compassion. He was wise, always having an appropriate response to those who sought to bring him down. He was non-violent. He lived simple, lacking the greed, envy, and quest for material wealth of typical humanity. The eye-witness accounts of Jesus tell of miraculous acts of kindness; He healed the sick, provided food for the hungry, and even raised the dead back to life. Certainly, these are indications he was a good man. But, could there be evidence to the contrary?

Before anyone can make an honest judgment of Jesus they need to first consider the central message of his teachings. Jesus didn’t simply go around expressing love, forgiveness and compassion. He made some rather startling and bold statements. One such statement is found in the Gospel of John where he clearly indicates to his Jewish audience that he, himself, was indeed God, (John 8:58 & 10:30). On another occasions he stood before the Jewish religious leaders and openly claimed to be their promised Messiah, (March 14 & Matthew 6). If this is not enough to grab our attention, then what he says in the Gospel of John, (14:6), is certainly exclusive. Here, Jesus states “I am the way, the truth, the life, no one can come to Father (God) except through Me.” Jesus is claiming that the only way to find eternal life—however it is defined—is through him and him alone. This raises a perplexing question for those attempting to have a balanced view of Jesus.

If Jesus did exist, and was not God, then how can you call him good after reading his claims to deity? When Jesus said he was God, people believed him. Many people who chose to believe the claims of Jesus ended up paying for that belief with their lives. Is that good? How can you call a man good if he openly deceived so many? You can’t. This forces us, therefore, to reexamine the question, “Who is Jesus?”

C.S. Lewis, when faced with this question, concluded we have to choose from among one of three choices; Jesus is either Lord, a liar, or a lunatic. There is no middle ground. There is not a comfortable compromising “balanced” view of Jesus simply being a good and moral teacher. Jesus was either a bold-faced liar, or irrational insane religious teacher, or he was who he claimed to be.

Unless one has a warped view of what is good, Jesus cannot be a liar of this magnitude and still be considered good. Furthermore, Jesus cannot be crazy to the point of believing he is God, and still be regarded as good. Therefore, the only choice of the three that aligns itself with goodness is the belief that Jesus was who he claimed to be. For many, this is prickly.

There is a sense of comfort in attempting to choose to hold onto a balanced view of Jesus as simply a good religious man with moral teachings and a simple lifestyle. However, this attempt at compromise falls tragically short of rational thinking. It is impossible to accept Jesus as a good man and reject his bold claims. You can’t dismiss him as a madman or fool and still call him good. Calling Jesus simply a good religious teacher is nothing short of patronizing nonsense. After careful examination of his life and teaching we are forced to choose sides.

So where does this leave you? If you are one who has placated your mind with the view that Jesus was simply a good man then the time has come to reevaluate where you stand. As for me, he is not a liar; nor is he a lunatic. I call him Lord. Now, what about you?

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Jack

    Read with interest your post.I do not claim to be Religious in any way.I look for inspiration from words and actions.

    What Jesus said to his congregation,I am sure he spoke with conviction.Rightly or wrongly.Each part of his congregation acted according to his/her beliefs.

    We take instruction and act.We take and decide.Did he act correctly?It is not my place to decide the appropriateness of anothers decision.It is an individuals belief and they will be judged by their Peers.

    As time passes,so do attitudes to events.It is difficult to pass judgment on those events.We have no local knowledge of the passions and fears of past peoples.It is in all fairness an Intellectual exercise.As Humans we all have a different perception.All valid.

    Hope this helps.

    Ray

    Reply

    • Posted by jackwbruce on June 11, 2010 at 10:17 am

      Ray, Thanks for responding to my tweet about your quote from Ghandi on truth. I appreciate you taking a look here. Thanks also for your comment. I hope some of my words can be inspiring in our quest for truth.
      -Jack

      Reply

  2. Posted by shorttrackskeptic on June 15, 2010 at 2:16 am

    Jack, I’m afraid your argument is a non-sequitur. You use as your premise the claim that Jesus was ‘good’ and move to the second premise being (paraphrased) ‘no good men are liars’ as well as ‘no good men can be insane to the point of believing he is god’. So here is your argument:

    Premise 1: No good men are liars (to the magnitude of Jesus’ claims)
    Premise 2: No good men can be insane to the point of believing they are God
    Premise 3: Enormous amounts of evidence confirm Jesus was ‘good’

    Conclusion: Therefore Jesus was neither a liar nor insane.

    Ergo – If Jesus was neither a liar nor insane, his claims to deity must be valid.

    The problem here is Premise 3. The only ‘evidence’ you sight are verses from the bible. This is not evidence as the justification for the validity of the bible ‘begs the question’, or is ‘circular’

    So when it comes to being forced to take a side… I’m not. There’s no reason to. We can live perfectly good lives never to think twice about Jesus.

    Reply

    • Posted by jackwbruce on July 3, 2010 at 10:57 am

      Shorttrackskeptic, Thanks for your comment. You missed, however, the point of the posts. This post was addressing one singular point. The point is that it is fallacious to call Jesus simply good and reject his claim to diety. A thinking person cannot rationally say Jesus was a good man while at the same time believe he was liar or lunatic. They don’t go together.

      Thanks for the dialogue,

      -Jack

      Reply

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