What makes Christianity true in comparison to all of the other religions that exist and have existed since the beginning of time? Isn’t it arrogant to think that Christianity is the one true worldview?
These questions are often leveled towards Christians but the short answer to Christianity’s uniqueness can be summed up in one word: Jesus. During a recent interview with Ben Shapiro (a devout Jew and conservative political commentator) Dr. William Lane Craig (a Christian philosopher) began to make the case for Christ as the Messiah.
Although Shapiro is very friendly to Christianity, he must reject the claim that Jesus was and is the Messiah if he is to maintain his Judaism. Thus, there was a bit of good-spirited friendly debate on the divinity of Jesus.
Here is one of the main exchanges between Shapiro and Craig:
Shapiro: In the Gospels, Jesus's vision of himself is completely different from the prior vision of what the Jewish messiah is, and is actually outside the scope of how Jews described the messiah or really have ever described the messiah. The messiah in Judaism has always been a political figure who is destined to do certain things–restoring the kingdom of Israel, maintaining control of that kingdom, bringing more Jews back to Israel…but the idea of messiah as the embodiment of God is something foreign to Jewish religious philosophy, going all the way back to the beginning. So even the idea that the Sanhedrin would be questioning him in those terms and would get from that that what he means is "I am God"–which would a much more punishable offense, actual blasphemy–is an oddity.
Craig: I think you're absolutely right in saying that Jesus's understanding of the messiah was radically different from the prevailing cultural understanding of the messiah among the chief priests and the common people, and he didn't meet their expectations. Indeed, that's what helped to get him crucified…Why should we believe Jesus's reinterpretation of the messiah rather than the one that the chief priests and the people held? And I think the answer to that is his resurrection from the dead. 1
Craig’s point is that Jesus according to his exchange with the Sanhedrin in Mark 15, clearly believed he was more than a political figure. Jesus believed he was God in the flesh. And it was this claim that led to his crucifixion.
Both Muslims and Jews view Jesus as a great teacher or prophet but only Christians believe he is God. But this begs the question how can Jesus be a great teacher if he claimed to be God and was lying?
Orthodox Jews might say he never claimed to be God. In fact, this is where Shapiro and Craig found major disagreement. But when we read the Gospel account there is great reason to believe Jesus thought of himself as divine. So was Jesus lying? Was he delusional? If so, he couldn’t possibly have been a great teacher or prophet.
C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” 2
Jesus either was who he claimed to be or he was not a great teacher at all. So how do we know he was who he claimed to be?
The resurrection of Christ is the miracle that validated his identity. Not only that but his resurrection gave birth to Christianity.
In the conversation with Shapiro, Craig makes the point that there are 3 historical facts widely agreed on by NT scholars (both theistic and atheistic or agnostic):
1. The tomb was empty (those who reject Christianity give alternate explanations for the empty tomb).2. There were several eyewitnesses of Jesus after his resurrection (Paul says there were over 500. 1 Corinth. 15:6).3. The disciples faced persecution and even went to their deaths claiming Jesus rose again.
If these three historical observations are widely accepted as facts, what is the best explanation of all three?
This month I hope to examine the case for the resurrection of Jesus. If it proves to be true, we have good reason to believe that Jesus is who he claimed to be - namely THE MESSIAH.
1. The Daily Wire, "William Lane Craig - The Ben Shapiro Show Sunday Special Episode 50", May 12, 2019, accessed August 13, 2019, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hL-zJzE5clA.
2. C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity.