People have many reasons for rejecting the Christian faith. Some may admire Christ but dislike His followers. Others find it difficult to accept any faith that claims to be the only way to God. Why would anyone limit themselves to only one of the world’s great religions?
If history has taught us anything, it has taught us to respect one another. Too many wars have been fought over religious differences. Too many lives have been lost to misplaced religious fervor.
So how do we weigh converging lines of evidence for the Christian faith without fanning the flames of religious intolerance?
The answer to this question lies in the example and teaching of the Christian founder. Jesus taught His disciples not only to care for one another, but to love those who disagreed with them.
Jesus encouraged a life of love while making amazing claims about who He was, where He had come from, and what He can do for those who trust Him.
These claims bring us to the first of “Ten Reasons to Believe in the Christian Faith: The Credibility of Its Founder.”
Darrell Bock: How does Jesus portray Himself in the Gospels? This is a good question. In John, He does it very straightforwardly, by making claims that identify Himself as the Son of God or saying He and the Father are one. These are very direct kinds of claims.
Dr. Vernon Grounds: These rule out the possibility that He was merely a good man. C. S. Lewis put it in his own memorable prose: The claims of Jesus indicate that He was a liar or a lunatic. Anybody who alleges that He and God are equal or who says ‘before Abraham was, I AM,’ who makes the assertions which we find in the Gospels, anybody who makes those claims is as Lewis says, equivalent to someone who claims he’s a [poached] egg. You know that’s just absurd. And yet those claims in the mouth of Jesus don’t strike us as being absurd. They’re all congruous with His personality.
Kerby Anderson: A long time ago, C. S. Lewis wrote a book called Mere Christianity, and he wanted to try to push away this idea that Jesus was just a good moral Teacher. He points out the fact that anybody who makes the kinds of claims that Jesus made certainly could not be just a good moral Teacher. Either He was God or He was some kind of lunatic. C. S. Lewis uses a new phrase. Somebody else on another level calls himself a poached egg, or He was a liar and a demon Himself. But he points out the fact that when somebody makes the kinds of claims that Jesus made, claims to deity, claims to be the sovereign Creator of the universe, you can’t simply brush Him aside as a good moral Teacher. He never left that option open to us.
Dr. Vernon Grounds: If I were to say something like that, people would laugh or they would try gently to get me to a good psychiatrist. But here’s this man Jesus, a first-century Palestinian peasant, and He’s saying these absolutely astonishing things about Himself. And yet He can also say “I am meek and lowly in heart,” and somehow you don’t sense there’s any incongruity. It all hangs together, which is what is so remarkable about the Gospels. If they are really first-century fictions, they must have been created by a crew of literary geniuses, because they produce the most remarkable character in all of human history.
Darrell Bock: Jesus actually shows who He is more by what He does, than what He says. He lets His actions speak for whatever words He might have said.
J. P. Moreland: Didn’t the New Testament writers say, these things were not done in a corner, they were done in public. And you know, they say to their audience that these things really happened. Why that is so important is this, when it comes to the New Testament, the miracles of Jesus are actually signs that He was who He claimed to be. Jesus repeatedly said, Don’t believe Me because of My words. Don’t believe Me because I say I’m a prophet from God or that I’m His Son. Believe Me because the signs I do simply can’t be explained if I’m simply a man.
Darrell Bock: He does it by calming the winds of nature. Well, who has authority over the creation but God Himself? He does it by dealing with disease. Well, who can overcome that but God Himself? Or casting out demons: Who has authority over the spirit world but God Himself? And it is this kaleidoscope of activity that surrounds Jesus that actually makes a greater claim for who Jesus is, or as great a claim as Jesus is, as His own few words here and there that says I am the Son of God.
The New Testament writer Mark describes one of these miracles as happening while the disciples were together with Jesus in a boat, crossing the Sea of Galilee.
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?”
And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Darrell Bock: Now we sometimes give the ancient person a hard time. We think of him as gullible and a miracle on every corner and this kind of thing. But I would challenge anyone to read the Scripture and see if that’s the portrait of the way these people respond to these miracles. You know, Jesus does a healing, and they go, ‘Another day, another miracle.’ No, that’s not the way these texts read. There is surprise that these events are going on, as any modern person would be. ‘We’ve seen marvelous things today,’ or, ‘Who is it that’s able to command the wind and the sea and they obey Him?’ They’re caught as off-guard and as surprised as we would be if it happened in our midst.
Dr. Doug Groothuis: A very famous quote of Jesus is: “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father except through Me.” Now people may think that’s an arrogant claim, or that it’s overly dogmatic, or excludes so many people. But the real question you have to ask is: Did Jesus have the authority to say that? Did He have a life and a character that ensured that that statement is believable? If you simply take the statement apart from the life of Jesus as we see it in the Gospels, then yes, it could sound overly narrow and restrictive. But when you consider what Jesus did; the prophecies that He fulfilled in the Hebrew Scriptures of being a suffering servant and being born of a virgin and so on; when you see His life of compassion; the wisdom He has in His teaching; the way He drew outcasts and the socially unacceptable people to Himself; His miracles over the forces of nature, over disease, over demons, over death itself in raising His friend Lazarus from the dead, and in His own resurrection from the dead, which is well-attested historically; if that kind of a person says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life,” it makes sense. It’s believable.