Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Question of Madness

Another possible explanation of who Jesus Christ was is that He was delusional. This view claims He really thought He was God and was wrong. It avoids the problem of having to explain how the idea could have grown up slowly over time, with little time to do so. It also avoids the problem of how the apostles could have pulled off the perfect scam with no obvious motive for doing so. The question is whether this at all accords with the character of Jesus as it has come down to us. Does He at all sound like a megalomaniac?

We have an example of an individual from about the same time with just such a delusion. He was the Roman Emperor Caligula. He seems to have honestly thought he was a god. He also had the obvious characteristics of such a delusion: overweening pride, capriciousness, and unbridled selfishness. We do not see any of those characteristics in Jesus. In fact, when He makes the most incredible claims, He frequently does so offhand, without the chest-beating expected from a megalomaniac. Also, Christian ethics, which advocates humility, putting others before ourselves, and helping the poor and downtrodden, does not fit at all with this mindset. When you compare the whole pattern of Caligula's behavior - putting people to death on false charges so he could confiscate their money, forcing other people's wives into his bedroom, ordering his soldiers to pick up shells at the seashore so he could say he had plundered the sea, wanting to make his horse a senator -  with the character of Jesus as presented in the gospels, it is hard to find a greater contrast.  

But could Jesus' disciples have somehow corrected His original statements? This makes no sense, for why would someone sensible enough to make such a correction and who was capable of pulling it off be following a megalomaniac?  Or could Jesus have been reasonable and sensible and His followers delusional? But why would a number of people develop this delusion about a man who had done nothing to encourage it, and why should anyone believe them? And would not Christianity's critics have pointed out the discrepancies?

But the biggest question is, why would anyone believe such a person? Perhaps a few of his immediate friends. But could it have spread and been generally accepted? But if we dismiss the madman, the con artist, and the legend, what are we left with? The remaining option is that Jesus was in fact who He claimed to be, the Son of God come to pay the price for our sins.

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