Premise A: Jesus claimed to be God
Premise B: Jesus is either a liar, a lunatic, or He is what He claimed to be: God
Premise C: Jesus is not a liar or a lunatic
Conclusion: Therefore, Jesus is God
Jesus is either bad, mad, or God. C.S. Lewis, in Mere Christianity, proposes the liar, lunatic, or Lord trilemma. Lewis wrote: “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 patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
Was Jesus a Liar? Jesus claimed to be God and even acted like He was God. Is it possible that Jesus made up the story about being God in order to gain attention, power, or money? If it was for any of these reasons, He must have been disappointed in the result. From all we know, while He was not a poor beggar, He was not wealthy. While He was popular for a short time, He was crucified with hardly anyone to mourn his death. The attention that His claims got Him eventually led to His execution. If He had simply renounced His claims of divinity, He would never have been crucified. Most people who are lying stop the dishonesty when their life hangs in the balance. For centuries, even those who are not Christians have recognized the beauty and power of Jesus’ teaching. Gandhi, the father of modern India, said, “To me, [Jesus] was one of the greatest teachers humanity has ever had.” It would be a strange ethical teacher who built his reputation on a foundation of lies. Jesus cannot be both a chronic liar and a great moral teacher.
Was Jesus a Lunatic? Admittedly, some of the things Jesus said sound a little crazy. There are crazy people in the world and sometimes they say similarly crazy things. Perhaps you’ve heard the joke about the two inmates in the psychiatric hospital: Once there was a man in a lunatic asylum who claimed to be Moses reincarnated. The psychologist came into his cell and asked him, “Why do you think you are Moses?” The man explained, “I know I’m Moses incarnated because that’s what God said.” From the next cell came the voice of another inmate who said, “I never said that.” A sane person knows he or she is not creator of the universe, but Jesus claimed to be exactly that.
Evidence against him being crazy rests in the miracles that Jesus performed. A lunatic may claim to be able to heal the sick, but Jesus actually healed the sick. A lunatic might claim to be able to rise from the dead, but only true divinity can come back from the grave. As his moral teaching prove that Jesus is no liar, they also prove that He was not insane.
Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the third president of the United States, was a deist who accepted Christ’s moral teaching but rejected his miracles. Jefferson used scissors to cut all the supernatural accounts out of the Gospels, but he kept all the teachings of Jesus. Yes, Jesus was a great teacher, but if his teachings are taken seriously, his claims of divinity seriously must be taken just as seriously. Jesus cannot be both a great moral teacher and a lunatic.
Jesus is Lord. The trilemma is solved. Jesus is not a liar. Jesus is not crazy. The only option left of the three is that He is Lord. He is who He claimed to be: the Creator of the Universe, the Son of God. The ultimate proof that Jesus is who He claimed to be is the fact that He rose from the dead. The fact that Jesus claimed to be God and actually provided proof that He is God by rising from the dead once again shows me that: God CARES!
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About the Author: Dr. Daniel King is a missionary evangelist who has traveled to over seventy nations in his quest for souls. His goal is to lead 1,000,000 people to Jesus every year through massive Gospel Festivals, distribution of literature, and leadership training. Because of his experience and research on evangelism, he is widely regarded as one of the world’s leading experts in mass evangelism. As an evangelist, he has a deep interest in using apologetics to convince skeptics that God is real.