Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Catholicism: Chapter 1 - "Either You're With Me, Or You're Against Me"

There's an interesting argument made at the beginning of Catholicism, which also comes up in G.K. Chesterton's The Everlasting Man and C.S. Lewis' Mere Christianity.

The argument, in a nutshell is this: Jesus said that He is God. Given those statements, there are only two logical ways that we can think of Him. Either we can agree that He is God (and must embrace all that He says to the best of our ability), or we can suppose that He is a madman for thinking that He is God (or perhaps even someone or something really evil who is pretending to be God). There is no possible middle alternative. He couldn't have been *just* a great moral teacher, or really good and admirable person, because saying that you are God when you are not is not only wrong, but delusional.
Though he did indeed formulate moral instructions and though he certainly taught with enormous enthusiasm, Jesus did not draw his followers' attention primarily to his words. He drew it to himself...

It has been said that the healthiest spiritual people are those who have the strongest sense of the difference between themselves and god. Therefore who could sanely and responsibly make the claim that Jesus made except the one who is, in his own person, the highest good?
- Fr. Robert Barron, Catholicism, "Amazed and Afraid"

Here are a few of the related quotes from other sources:
Divinity is great enough to be divine; it is great enough to call itself divine. But as humanity grows greater, it grows less and less likely to do so. God is God, as the Moslems say; but a great man knows he is not God, and the greater he is the better he knows it. That is the paradox; everything that is merely approaching to that point is merely receding from it. Socrates, the wisest man, knows that he knows nothing. A lunatic may think he is omniscience, and a fool may talk as if he were omniscient. But Christ is in another sense omniscient if he not only knows, but knows that he knows.
- G.K. Chesterton, The Everlasting Man, "The Strangest Story"
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: "I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God." That is the one thing we must not say. 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, Mere Christianity, "The Shocking Alternative"

Does this argument make sense to you? Do you find it compelling? What consequences does this concept have for us?

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