In a much-cited passage from Mere Christianity, Lewis challenged the view that Jesus, although a great moral teacher, was not God. He argued that Jesus made several implicit claims to divinity, which would logically exclude this:
"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 the 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."
At first I was not understanding this argument at all; I thought, as is written below in C.S. Lewis' Wikipedia page (the source for this quote) among the criticism section, that such an argument was simply illogical. Then I said, as I so often say lately, "Well, hold on a minute and let me really think about this." And so I did. Aided with this particular quote from the Wikipedia article at the bottom of this section, which made me able to reconstruct the nature of how I was viewing this quote:
Lewis used a similar argument in The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, when Digory Kirke advises the young heroes that their sister's claims of a magical world must logically be taken as either lies, madness, or truth.
I have started to read the Bible, and it is very true that Jesus himself claimed to be God. I have the red-letter version, so all the words Jesus himself said are in red, and at least three times in Matthew alone, he says something to the equivalent of "I am God". He says this as though it is a fact. I believe that this, not his preachings, not his parables, not anything else, is what C.S. Lewis is talking about in the paragraph he wrote.
Because Jesus did not simply claim he was a great moral teacher, or even a prophet. No; he specifically and undeniably stated that he was God himself. So considering this claim, it is, in fact, very logical that we must either, logically speaking, take his claims, and therefore all his teachings, as either lies, madness, or truth.
There is, as always, a possibility that it is a lie. Perhaps Jesus did not actually say these words; perhaps his apostles wrote it this way, instead, because they wanted to believe that he was the one true savior. However, the fact that they have appeared with such frequency in simply the first book (which I'm not even close to finished reading) makes me doubt that he did not say it. I would have to read more of the Bible to be sure of this. You can bet that I am intending to continue my Bible readings; in fact, I plan to read the whole of the New Testament, and then hopefully go back to some of the Old Testament, with my reading of the New Testament and how Jesus taught us differences in the nature of God between OT and NT as a reference.
Which is another part of the equation for me. I believe in God as is conceptualized in Christianity, for the most part. I do not believe in the hideously angry, vengeful, even spiteful God of the Old Testament. But Jesus' preachings are far more accepting and kind, on the whole, although he still makes references to a vengeful God once in awhile. This is something I will have to wrestle with on my own, since it contradicts my idea of a loving God who, rather than being vengeful when we "disobey" Him or do not see Him, gets sad and hopes that we will find our faith and eventually comes to Him. I guess I see God as more like me than as someone who always wants to get revenge on people who do wrong.
Perhaps I should not be placing my own human values on a deity; I don't know that either, not yet. I don't even know if it's fully that I'm placing human values on a deity, because most humans do have violent and vengeful instincts alike, and I may be unusual in that my instincts for these things are very low. I do know that God understands I'm in dilemma, and I believe in His patience for me as much as I believe that I need to be patient and let Him do His work within me. He has been waiting for many, many, many years for me to figure out that He is there. I know it will be okay if I have to spend months, even years, working out what all this other stuff means to me, because He knows that I am trying my very best, and being diligent and faithful as I do it.
But I guess the point is that Jesus has greatly influenced the way Christians view God, and, therefore, how I view God. How could he do that if his preachings were a lie? Because the more I read, the more I find that agrees with my own views, although obviously some of it does not agree. It occurs to me that maybe I should mark these passages somehow for further study. As I read earlier today on a website (not an exact quote), you can't really just take parts of the Bible you like to use them, and then dismiss the parts you don't like. If I believe in God as is conceptualized in the Bible, and if that conceptualization was influenced greatly by Jesus, how can I pick and choose what to believe? It DOES make sense that I have to take the Bible as a whole, and try to interpret it so that I can understand it, and make peace with the things it says that seem to be against my own beliefs -- or, at the least, believe it and not make peace, at least not for now. I do not know which of these things God intends for me. But I do know that one of my very first feelings, after finding God, was a desperation for physical help, clarity, and resources, and the most obvious answer to "where can I find a resource?" was, for me, the Bible. I must have known even then, on an instinctual level, that my God came from the Christian concept of Him. So it does not seem as though it was any type of coincidence that God led me almost immediately to the Bible.
If that is true, then, God must have wanted me to see the Bible. And why? To dismiss the whole thing as a lie? How can I believe that? Why would God have come to me the way that He did, through CHRISTIAN perspectives of compassion and service in God and Christ, if he did not intend the Bible to be part of this thing? Why would one of my first thoughts have been to read the Bible, to better understand God (this was the exact thought)? I also knew that one of my intentions was to read the story of Jesus and to see if he could fit into my beliefs. Yes, I have always had an open mind, but not to religion. And that's very important. If God could lead someone so unwilling as myself towards a religious text, towards the consideration of religious beliefs, it MUST mean something. I can't believe that it doesn't. God would not do these things for no reason.
So I think this has more or less, for the time being, ruled out the possibility of it being a lie. So then I have only two other options to consider: madness or truth. Was Jesus, as we perceive many self-proclaimed prophets these days to be, mad? Was he insane? Was he some type of schizophrenic who just believed he heard the voice of God in his head? There are a couple of problems with this theory that I already know of, just from my personal scant so-far readings in the Bible. There are times when Jesus literally talked as though he WAS God; that is, God was not just speaking THROUGH him, but actually literally using his body and voice to convey a message. We could say he was, if you like, "possessed" of God. There is a passage in Matthew where this happens and he then turns back into "himself" (the earth-born Jesus) and thanks God for His message. In today's lingo this would be more like Dissociative Identity Disorder: schizophrenics, contrary to popular myth, do not in fact have separate personalities that can take over the body. That is DID, not schizophrenia.
So did Jesus have DID? I wouldn't be inclined to believe that, not from what I have read. Because, aside from this one passage, Jesus spoke not as if he was aware that God had just been in him and it was separate, but as if he WAS God, that he and God were fused together mentally and physically. If that is some kind of DID fusing, it is not a sort I've ever heard of before. I've never read a case study of DID in which one of the alters was God. To believe you are God, or to hear God's voice in your head, is an inherently schizophrenic trait, as we see it in modern secular science.
So if Jesus did not have DID, as it seems to me he did not (keep in mind that I'm not a trained psychologist or psychiatrist), could he have been schizophrenic? As I said, the majority of his behavior is like someone with DID, but it seems not to be DID. With schizophrenia, the first criteria is that you MUST have at least two or more of the following for a minimum of 1 month to be diagnosed: Delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech, grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior, and 'negative' symptoms, which are symptoms that affect the way one cares about or interacts with the world. So even if we think Jesus was delusional in believing he was God... does he even meet any of the other criteria? Hallucinations? Well, no. He did not hear God in his head, or see God, that I'm aware of. (I could be wrong; I guess I'll find out upon reading of more of the Bible.) But even if he did, does that automatically mean he has schizophrenia? No. I'll get into more detail about that in a bit. Did he have disorganized speech? No, he did not. His speech was perfectly clear and sound. He did not display disorganized or catatonic behavior (his behavior was normal), and he did not have any of the negative symptoms associated with schizophrenia.
Now let's go through some more of the criteria for schizophrenia. Criterion B is:
Social/occupational dysfunction: For a significant portion of the time since the onset of the disturbance, one or more major areas of functioning such as work, interpersonal relations, or self-care are markedly below the level achieved prior to the onset (or when the onset is in childhood or adolescence, failure to achieve expected level of interpersonal, academic, or occupational achievement).Did he have that? No. Quite the opposite, in fact. He was more than usually successful in his endeavors, and was quite good at interpersonal relationships. He took proper care of himself. The fact that he does not meet the second criterion means he was not schizophrenic.
So he did not have DID, nor did he have schizophrenia, the only two disorders in today's understanding of mental disorders that could possibly explain why he acted as he did. There are other categories for psychosis NOS and this sort of thing, but in order to do that we would have to assume that either he had delusions of grandeur, or was hallucinating about God. These must also have been disabling in the same way mentioned above. They were NOT. So psychosis NOS, by logical conclusion, must also be ruled out.
So for my purposes I have established that the lie possibility has been basically ruled out, and the madness possibility completely ruled out. This then leaves the only other possible option: truth. That Jesus was who he said he was: God. That Jesus truly was the Son of God. I admit that this is a conclusion my mind balks at even now. God, forgive me if this is a sin; if it is, I will pray and repent for it later. You know why my head struggles. Since I was 14 years old I have only given heed to things of this earth; I have only paid attention to where logic and science leads people, in terms of anything regarding faith. I felt that I could not be certain of whether God existed, because who could know? This worked when I did not feel God come to me, come inside me and become a part of me, when I did not feel His joy radiating through me. But I have felt it now, and it has changed my entire life. I know now that God exists. I have felt Him; He is there. And how can I, with this knowledge now given, not follow where He has been leading me this whole time? How can I not follow this conclusion that I have reached here, that Jesus was, in fact, God?
I don't see how I can; and yet my mind still resists. But it is okay. It really is. God knows my mind can be very stubborn (I would call it a fatal flaw of mine) and that I have been used to thinking a certain way about basically all organized religions, including Christianity, for almost all of my thinking life. The tendency to want to run away, to want to disbelieve, isn't going to go away overnight. It didn't even when I finally felt God within me, making Himself known. For days I kept begging Him for signs; every time, every time, I asked for a sign with the full desperation of my being, He gave it to me. He showed me that He truly was there, that I hadn't imagined it, and that it wasn't something that could just be taken away from me, as if His appearance was a cruel joke and yet another thing that failed me. No; He was there. He IS there. He has always been, waiting for me to be open enough, healthy enough, to come to a place where He could make sure that I knew of Him.
I will read my Bible; I will study it diligently. I will study the book written about my God, about Jesus, and I will try to heed what it says. I will consider that everything within it is true. I will consider that, and try to learn about myself and God and Jesus in such a way that I better serve Him because of the readings. That I better open myself as a vessel for God and the good things He wants to do through me. I will learn, and contemplate, and change. And I will do it for God, and, if this conclusion is correct, also for Jesus. And for the Holy Spirit. Because the Trinity... by deduction... is now complete.
I might, in fact, be a Christian.