This week one of the guys in the church reflected on the moment that led him to eventually believe that Jesus is more than a moral teacher — that he is the Lord Himself. He was sitting in church one December Sunday (an atheist dragged to church by his wife) when our pastor, Steve, shared the following quote by the great C.S. Lewis.
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 a 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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. (Mere Christianity, first published 1943 (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996), p.56)
Lewis’ argument is that Jesus could not have been moral if he was either lying or self-deceived. It’s one of the giant quotes of 20th Century Christianity. Based on His words and actions, Jesus was either Lunatic, Liar or Lord. Of course, Christians claim he was option 3. Humanists (modern atheists) say he was option 1. Orthodox Jews claim he was option 2.
I love this quote because it lays the dilemma on the table. It’s up to us to choose which one we believe.