“Who is Jesus,” by Peter Kreeft – Analysis

There is no doubt that Jesus Christ has had an immense impact on the world. While some continue to debate whether or not He was a real person, the idea of Jesus brings countless thoughts to mind, different for each person. Some say that He was simply a moral person who taught wise lessons. Others say that He was a prophet, who shared the Word of God, but nothing more. The majority of Christians truly believe He was both God and man, that He is Divine, much more than a moral person or even a prophet. In Peter Kreeft’s text, “Who is Jesus,” he explores different possibilities, in the form of a discussion between two people. One is an atheist, Sal, and the other, Chris, is a Catholic. They have an honest chat about who Jesus was, or is, what Christianity truly means in the context of the person of Jesus, and how it was impossible for Jesus to be simply be a good man or a teacher.

Kreeft’s character Chris discuss how the only true, honest way that someone in this modern era can know Jesus is from the Bible, because that’s where all the information Christianity is based on is contained. People have interpreted the person of Jesus differently, but in reality it doesn’t matter who people say Jesus was, because it won’t change a thing. What people need to do is look specifically at the Gospels to learn everything they possibly can about Jesus. For humans to relate to God, it was necessary that God become man and be among them. To expand upon this, Jesus was fully human in everything except sin; He had a personality. While humans might never know exactly how Jesus acted and what His personality traits were, there are hints to it in different spots in the Bible. One problem people might have in relating to Jesus is that He always seemed really serious, and never seemed to laugh. It’s no secret that everyone likes to laugh, but Jesus isn’t usually depicted with that kind of joy: smiling and laughing and enjoying Himself. It doesn’t make sense that the greatest, most joyful person in  the universe would never laugh, does it? Perhaps this is because of the way that the Gospels were written, and the reason they were written. The Gospels, the “Good News,” were written to show the world that Jesus came to the Earth to save those who were sinful, lonely, and outcast, so the Bible showed us this side of Jesus: the side that mourned and sorrowed. This is evident in the verse, “Jesus began to weep.” (New Revised Standard Version, John 11:35). There may not be explicit examples of Jesus laughing, but there are examples where it would be difficult not to picture Jesus smiling. An example is when Jesus was about to heal a girl that had died, where, “he said, ‘Go away; for the girl is not dead but sleeping.’ And they laughed at him.” It’s difficult to imagine this without Jesus showing at least a hint of joy. When Jesus healed people, it had to be a personal experience, so He could connect with those who needed him so desperately. This tells readers something about his character.

While the Bible may tell readers a bit about the personality of Jesus, it describes more who He was and what significance that has on the world. During Kreeft’s text, Sal and Chris discuss the person of Jesus, and who He really can be based on the Gospels. Sal says that Jesus is, “A good man, a great moral teacher.” Chris points out that “That’s the one and only thing he couldn’t possibly be.” Christians can’t pick and choose what they believe out of what Jesus said to believe, because, as Chris said, “Christianity is a package deal.” One can’t, as Sal suggested, believe everything in Christianity except that Jesus is God, because that fact is the central part of Christianity. Muslims, for example, believe that Jesus was a great prophet, who was close to God, but they don’t believe He died on the cross. Why don’t they believe this? Perhaps it’s because that doesn’t correspond to their belief system. They believe that someone so close to God could not have been killed, so they omit the part where He was, ignoring the fact that Jesus dying was the most important thing He did, besides His resurrection. True, “honest seekers,” a term used by Kreeft in “The Reasons to Believe,” have to be completely, 100% honest if they want to find answers that are 100% correct. If a Christian believes in the Bible, they’d better believe in it 100% to claim that they are a Christian. It’s true that it may be hard to do, but that’s where strong faith lies. Kreeft’s character Chris says that weak faith needs to be lost, so that strong faith can be built up, but honesty will always lead to the truth, and therefore to Christianity.

Jesus makes a number of claims that seem outlandish at first, like when He alluded to the fact that He was one with God, saying, “Very truly, I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:48-59, New Revised Standard Version) but He also taught lessons that made sense to people even today, like when Jesus says, “Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (Luke 6:31 New Revised Standard Version). So what does this reveal? That He was smart, but crazy? That He lied but had some good lessons? That He was truly God? This leads, now, into the “Lewis trilemma,” which was C.S. Lewis’ way of describing what and who Jesus truly could be, and mentioned in Kreeft’s story. This quote from Lewis summarises the trilemma: “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.” In other words, as it is described, Jesus could be “Liar, Lunatic, or Lord.” If Jesus was a wise man but wasn’t God, why would He claim to be God? Either He could have been completely crazy, a lunatic, which would discredit all of His lessons, or He lied, which would make Him a terrible person and definitely not a “good man” as Sal suggested initially. The third possibility is that Jesus was exactly who He said He was, that He was wise beyond anyone on Earth and had Divine nature. If Jesus was good, this is the only possibility that He could have been. If He was not good, He was a liar. If He was crazy, He was a lunatic. If He was telling the truth, He was the Lord. This is why Jesus must have been the Lord, or else everything else good about the Bible doesn’t matter, and why Christians can’t pick and choose what they want to believe about Jesus if they want to call themselves Christian. Instead they must find out why they’re Christians in the first place, in order to build their faith.

Kreeft’s story of two friends having an open discussion about the person of Jesus was an effective way for Kreeft to get his message across, because he was able to acknowledge other points of view in the form of a sceptic character. I agree with the points that Kreeft made in his story, that it’s important for anyone to be honest in their question, whether a believer or an unbeliever, and that they need to acknowledge proof where proof lies, not trying to find ways to escape the truth in front of them. I agree that the Gospels are the source of how to find out who Jesus was, and that one can get to know Him that way. I also agree that Jesus must have been much more than a good man, because all of the good, holy, and miraculous things that He said and did. Peter Kreeft’s “Who is Jesus” offers a positive start to anyone who is looking honestly to find out more about Jesus.

 

Prayer From the Reading:

Based on a line from Chris, top of page 2

 

Lord, I know faith is a precious jewel. If my faith at any time is weak, please help me to lose that faith so I can grow to eventually find real, true, honest faith in You. Please tear down my old, weak faith so You may build in me a stronger, better faith.

 

Sources:

https://www.wordonfire.org/resources/blog/is-cs-lewis-trilemma-a-good-argument-for-the-divinity-of-christ/5639/

http://bible.oremus.org/

https://catholicexchange.com/jesus-ever-laugh

https://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201609/what-do-muslims-think-jesus-30772

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