Could Jesus Have Been Self-Deceived?
Albert Schweitzer, who was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1952 for his humanitarian efforts, had his own views about Jesus. Schweitzer concluded that insanity was behind Jesus’ claim to be God. In other words, Jesus was wrong about his claims but didn’t intentionally lie. According to this theory, Jesus was deluded into actually believing he was the Messiah.
Lewis considered this option carefully. He deduced that if Jesus’ claims weren’t true, then he must have been insane. Lewis reasons that someone who claimed to be God 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.”
Most who have studied Jesus’ life and words acknowledge him as extremely rational. Although his own life was filled with immorality and personal skepticism, the renowned French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–78) acknowledged Jesus’ superior character and presence of mind, stating, “When Plato describes his imaginary righteous man…he describes exactly the character of Christ. …If the life and death of Socrates are those of a philosopher, the life and death of Jesus Christ are those of a God.”
Bono concludes that a “nutcase” was the last thing one could label Jesus.
“So what you’re left with is either Christ was who He said He was—or a complete nutcase. I mean, we’re talking nutcase on the level of Charles Manson….I’m not joking here. The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside down by a nutcase, for me that’s far-fetched….”
So, was Jesus a liar or a lunatic, or was he the Son of God? Could Jefferson have been right by labeling Jesus “only a good moral teacher” while denying his deity? Interestingly, the audience who heard Jesus—both believers and enemies—never regarded him as a mere moral teacher. Jesus produced three primary effects in the people who met him: hatred, terror, or adoration.
The claims of Jesus Christ force us to choose. As Lewis stated, we cannot put Jesus in the category of being just a great religious leader or good moral teacher. This former skeptic challenges us to make up our own minds about Jesus, stating,
“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.”
In Mere Christianity, Lewis explores the options regarding the identity of Jesus, concluding that he is exactly who he claimed to be. His careful examination of the life and words of Jesus led this great literary genius to renounce his former atheism and become a committed Christian.
The greatest question in human history is, “Who is the real Jesus Christ?” Lewis and countless others have concluded that God visited our planet in human form. Clearly, if Jesus is God, he is the only one who can answer life’s most important questions:
- “Who am I?”
- “Why am I here?”
- “Where am I going after I die?
If you would like to find out how Jesus answers these important questions, click the link below.