An Investigation: Is Jesus Liar, Lunatic, or Lord?
by Sheri Bell
Who is Jesus of Nazareth?
While many have asked and offered to answer the question, “Who is Jesus of Nazareth?”, no one can escape the evidence that He was a historical person and that His life radically altered human history.
As world-renowned historian Jaroslav Pelikan put it: “It is from His birth that most of the human race dates its calendars, it is by His name that millions curse, and in His name that millions pray.”
Due to His influence, Jesus of Nazareth has been transforming lives for almost two millennia. In the process, He has rewritten the direction and outcome of human history. It’s a fact that the teachings of Jesus have been a force of overwhelming good throughout the history of the world. Unfortunately, it also is true that much harm has been committed in Jesus’ name — both by the church at large, and by individuals seeking to use Him to further their own agendas.
Who did Jesus claim to be? What did He attempt to gain through His ministry and sacrificial death? Clearly, Jesus thought it fundamentally important what others believed about Him. He wasn’t interested in neutrality, for instance; He frequently taught that His followers must be all in — or eventually be left out. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” He wasn’t making meaningless, abstract statements. His divinity was central to His messages; Jesus regarded the two as inseparable.
Per the great Christian apologist C. S. Lewis, “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 patronising nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
C.S. Lewis popularized this “Trilemma” argument, though it has earlier roots in the writings of Scottish Christian preacher “Rabbi” John Duncan, and Watchman Nee in his 1936 book, Normal Christian Faith. The 3-legged stool of this argument quickly gets to the heart of the matter: will we accept Jesus — or not?
Was Jesus a liar, lunatic — or Lord? Let’s look at each option…