Jesus the megalomaniac

Imagine walking through a shopping mall and overhearing a young man say the following things:

“I am the Messiah.”

“I am the Son of Man.”

“You are of this world; I am not of this world.”

“My sheep listen to my voice, and I give them eternal life.”

“All authority in heaven and on earth is mine.”

“You must love me more than anyone else, even your own family.”

What would you think of such a person? Humble, modest, and unpretentious? Or egotistical with delusions of grandeur?

I’d personally go with the latter.

The above examples are, of course, things that Jesus is alleged to have said*. Should we then regard Jesus as a megalomaniac, or is it possible to think of him as humble and modest?

If there was evidence that Jesus’ words were true, i.e. that Jesus was, in fact, the son of God and the savior of all mankind, then we would certainly be obliged to cut him some slack. It’s always good to tell the truth, even if it puts you at risk of sounding egotistical. If you’re the son of God, you’re the son of God.

The problem is that there is no independent evidence that Jesus’ claims are true. We have only the claims themselves. So, Christianity has managed a sort of bootstrapping exercise.  It starts with the development of a culture of respect and admiration for Jesus. Then, when new Christians hear Jesus’ claims for the first time, their senses have already been dulled to the egotistical nature of those claims, and instead they see a humble man telling it like it is. However, the very culture of respect and admiration that primed this attitude is itself based on nothing more than the original biblical claims.

This, to me, is a fascinating aspect of religious culture: it changes people’s attitudes so profoundly that they will happily embrace a personality which, if it were taken out of the religious context, would be summarily condemned – by the exact same people – as egotistical and delusional.

And religion is not the only area in which this sort of brainwashing happens. Tyrants and dictators have taken advantage of their subjects in this way since time immemorial.  A recent example is the now departed Kim Jong Il, who instilled a cult-like atmosphere of reverence toward himself, the “Dear Leader”. It’s interesting that many Christians here in the U.S. decry such manipulation, yet they fail to see it in their own religion. Jesus is just telling it like it is, right?

—–

* Here are Jesus’ words in full:

The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (John 4:25-26)

Jesus heard that they had thrown him out, and when he found him, he said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?”

“Who is he, sir?” the man asked. “Tell me so that I may believe in him.”

Jesus said, “You have now seen him; in fact, he is the one speaking with you.” (John 9:35-37)

You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. (John 8:23)

The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:25-28)

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me”. (Matthew 28:18)

Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. (Matthew 10:37)

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11 Responses to Jesus the megalomaniac

  1. You said:

    “If there was evidence that Jesus’ words were true, i.e. that Jesus was, in fact, the son of God and the savior of all mankind, then we would certainly be obliged to cut him some slack. It’s always good to tell the truth, even if it puts you at risk of sounding egotistical. If you’re the son of God, you’re the son of God.”

    Warrioress:

    There is evidence that Jesus’ words were true and that He said them because they are recorded within the virtual history book known as the bible. There are witnesses to His words within it. There are witnesses to His miracles, teachings, persecution, crucifixion, and rising from the dead. People gave their very lives because they believed and followed Him. People continue to do so.

    No, Jesus is not being egotistical nor was He delusional or suffering from delusions of grandeur. He IS the Son of God and walked this earth in a fleshly human body, dying so that we could be born again and freed from sin.

    You said:

    “It’s interesting that many Christians here in the U.S. decry such manipulation, yet they fail to see it in their own religion. Jesus is just telling it like it is, right?”

    Warrioress:

    Jesus isn’t manipulating anyone; He’s being honest and outspoken but He isn’t insisting anyone follow Him or see this His way. We are all free to choose what we believe. If you are inherently one of His “sheep,” you will know Him and return to Him. If you are not, you will not recognize Him.

  2. Keith says:

    Warrioress:

    “If you are inherently one of His “sheep,” you will know Him and return to Him. If you are not, you will not recognize Him.”

    This is an interesting piece of theology. Are you suggesting that some people are, by their very nature, “one of his sheep” and others are not? A sort of predetermined biological characteristic like brown eyes or blond hair? This is the Calvinist view is it not?

  3. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. (John 10:25-28)

    The bible tells us that the sheep know the Shepherd. When we come to know Jesus and experience salvation, we can recognize the truth of who Jesus is and what He did for us. It really is just this simple; there is no need to complicate the matter.

    I don’t know if it’s the Calvanist view, but I believe God knows everything in advance of it occurring, including who will become one of His and who will not.

  4. Keith says:

    Warrioress:

    I’m not trying to make this complicated. This is a very important point, because it casts the entire enterprise of Christianity in a very different light depending on how you see it. To clarify, here are the two ways of interpreting the passage from John:

    1. Some people are simply born as “sheep”, while others are not. In other words, some people are predisposed, from birth, to be open to the message of God, while others are not. This strikes me as being unjust: the deck is being stacked against some of us, and in favor of others.

    This interpretation is supported, by the way, in John 12, where the author claims that God has deliberately hardened some people’s hearts so that they can’t believe (see https://kpharri.wordpress.com/2011/08/11/hardened-hearts/). Why on earth God would do such a thing is a mystery to me.

    2. The second interpretation is the one you seem to be arguing for, but in this case we have a rather pointless statement of the obvious, namely that if you come to believe in Jesus, then you’ll believe in Jesus. Well, obviously.

    Is there something I’m missing?

  5. No, I don’t think you’re missing anything, Keith. If you’re suggesting that God has set it up where some are destined goats/not- redeemed and others are the favored, (in this instance, ie: sheep), then I have a different perception/interpretation of this matter.

    That would negate the free will ideal, would it not?

    I think God is all-knowing and has the ability to see ahead to how things turn out. When He hardens a heart, it’s because He must know that the person has no hope of turning to Him and has rejected Him completely, anyway. I believe this happens to those who have a “reprobate” mind. I think this is also possibly why He allows some to die before their time instead of stepping in and stopping the natural order of some events.

    It’s an interesting consideration that we’re could all possibly be predestined to be His sheep or not, though. What do you personally believe the bible is saying in this regard?

  6. Keith says:

    Warrioress:

    I wonder why God would bother to harden someone’s heart if they are already beyond hope. Why add insult to injury?

    As to my own views, I think the Bible gives contradictory messages. The passages in John seem to indicate that our fate is sealed the moment we’re born, but other gospels differ.

  7. The bible does appear to give contradictory messages. I found one tonight in fact. Whew, was it ever controversial too. I think I’ll have to study on that one a bit more before presenting it. lol.

    Anyway, the key word is “appear.” Perhaps this happens in the translation? I don’t believe God is someone who isn’t balanced, who is contradictory; I think it just seems this way to us because we don’t fully understand the mind of God or the whys of God’s judgment, justice, and holiness.

    God wouldn’t bother to harden someone’s heart unless He had a specific purpose for doing so, imo. Do you sometimes think that perhaps God acts a little scientifically, maybe? As in, sometimes He acts without much emotion? He can obviously control His emotions when He wants to and become what might be considered to be cold and calculating.

    How do we wrap our minds around that? I mean think about Noah and the flood…all those people dying and screaming to get in that ark and then they all drown — the whole world and the animals too. Hmm.

    The discipline and kind of mind that could divorce itself from all emotion where that act is concerned is hard to imagine; but it would be required in order to cause all of that death — well, I cant conceive of it; I don’t understand it and I admit that I don’t.

  8. Keith says:

    Warrioress: You’re raising all the important questions, and I encourage you not to simply let them slide but try to find answers.

    Personally, all these questions can, I believe, be answered very easily by recognizing who wrote the Bible and when. The Bible is exactly what we’d expect from people of its day. People needed to explain things (like massive floods), and they simply didn’t have the proper means to investigate them fully.

    They also thought there was a purpose behind everything – they didn’t understand that nature acts without purpose or intent behind it. If these people experienced a massive flood, then, they would have interpreted it as a deliberate act of a god rather than a random act of nature. And as soon as they did that, they were creating the very conundrum you bring up: why would a god do such a thing? In reality, of course, no gods are needed to explain floods. Indeed, no gods are needed to explain anything.

  9. I’m very willing to find answers. I understand what you’re trying to say in that if you simply believe there is no God, then random acts of nature explain everything. I just don’t buy into the whole “big bang” deal though and I’m not sure what to think about evolution either. Parts of evolution theory make sense and other parts don’t. I like “creationism” or creation science better; it makes more sense to me.

  10. Keith says:

    Warrioress:

    Just a quick note on nomenclature: there is no such thing as “creation science”. In other words, there is no scientific evidence that supports a supernatural origin for humans or the earth. So it is probably better to stick with the term “creationism”.

    If you don’t buy into the occurrence of the Big Bang or evolution, then you are denying two of the bedrocks of science. That’s obviously your prerogative, but I would encourage you to look more deeply into these topics in order to dispel your doubts. People have thought very long and hard about these issues, and you can be sure that the answers to your questions are out there – you simply have to look for them,

    For what it’s worth, nature doesn’t act completely randomly. For instance, natural disasters are not random: earthquakes commonly occur close to tectonic plate boundaries, while hurricanes occur over warm ocean water. Evolution is not random either, but is constrained by the forces of natural selection. The motion of the planets is not random either, but obeys relatively simple laws. The list goes on. The point I’m trying to make is that non-random processes can be entirely natural – just because there is a pattern, doesn’t mean there is an agent.

  11. Jack Murray says:

    If you notice, most of these quotes are from John, the last of the canonical gospels to be written, somewhere between 90-110 CE. The gospel was written at least 20 years after the Romans destroyed the Temple in Jerusalem, destroying with it the importance of sacrifice and creating a new emphasis on the Torah. John represents a change occurring in Christianity, with followers now trying to distinguish themselves from other Jews, who were more and more marginalizing Christians. Thus, John’s bold claims about the divinity of Jesus represents more Christians trying to thumb their noses at Jews than the true nature of Jesus.

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