Thoughts on the Way Home

Monday, February 25, 2008

Jesus Idealized by Cult Followers

I talked to a girl on campus yesterday. She was very closed off to submitting to God, especially the Christian God, but was quite open to talking about how closed off she was. I tried to plead and reason with her in every way that I thought could be helpful. I told her about her sin of not loving God and centering her universe around herself. I tried to expose the fallacy of her claiming that there were no absolute standards of right and wrong (by appealing to the Holocaust, which actually seemed to strike a chord with her). I tried to show her that she wasn't living up to her own standard of right and wrong even by her own definition. She wouldn't budge. I told her she had no idea the kind of danger she was in and I told her that I hoped at some point soon she would realize her great need for God and seek the Lord in the person of Jesus Christ.

Out of all her objections, one stuck out to me (and is the purpose of this post). She said, after having grown up in church, the Christian message was totally lacking for her. The best she could figure as to the origin of the gospels was that Jesus probably said and taught a lot of good things, but like so many “cult-followings” (and she actually apologized for associating Jesus with being a cult leader) Jesus was probably just idealized to the extreme by his disciples, even to the place where they were willing to die for him. After all, many cult-followers will go through terrible things to follow their leaders.

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This proposal as to the origin of Christianity a very common one. “Jesus was a good teacher and nice guy but his disciples blew him out of proportion after his death because they were so obsessed with him.”

Here is the problem. Jesus is too great. Read about his life, the things he said and taught, the things he claimed for himself, the fulfillment of prophecies, the unparalleled morality he laid down, his sinlessness and compassion for the outcasts. It's all too much. As Phillip Schaff (and Charles Leiter) have pointed out, it would take someone as great as Jesus to invent Jesus. See the problem here? Not even the greatest religious gurus could have invented him, and the disciples weren't even close to being gurus. They were fishermen!

And then the whole question of motivation should be considered. If their motivation was to make money or gain power, perhaps it could be true that a religious genius could have conceived of Jesus. But the “inventors” of Jesus knew going into it that they were going to die for their faith. The only way that a person can idealize and inflate a normal person so much that they are willing to follow them to their death is if they are out of their mind. But if they are out of their mind followers, they would not be sane or genius enough to invent Jesus now would they?

So by examining the impossibility of coming up with the greatness of his person, and by examining the issue of motivation, her proposal is totally unreasonable. What is very straightforward and reasonable however is that Jesus himself really was as great as he is claimed to be because he was indeed the Son of God and that's why his fishermen disciples had the motivation to follow him to death. Who was leaping into the dark here, her or I?

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Now, did I tell her this? No. She didn't need to hear more arguments. Again, she definitely had a heart issue, and that's what I tried to press home. I'm learning not to wrangle with people in this manner when witnessing. When you are dealing with a person bound up in lies and self-deceit a lot of times what they need is the truth in raw form, straight from the word of God. Don't try to massage it too much.

Nevertheless, these things can be good for Christians to think about. Hopefully it encourages you all to think about the great Lord that we follow. He's beyond creation.