The Jesus Of No Importance
CS Lewis (1898-1963) was a philosophic writer with an atheistic worldview. Before coming to faith in Christ, Lewis was full of excellent arguments, intelligent questions and nagging doubts that kept Him from believing the Christian gospel.
Perhaps you are a person of non faith who can relate. Perhaps as philosopher Charles Taylor once put it, you are haunted by occasional temptations to believe in the divine.
Between 1941 and 1944 Lewis did a series of apologetic talks on the BBC radio which were later compiled and put into a book entitled, Mere Christianity. In this series of lectures, Lewis expounded on many of the hard hitting questions and considerations he wrestled with in his journey to faith.
One of Lewis’ conclusions was that if Jesus Christ was merely a moral teacher, He is of absolutely no use to us. Lewis wrote:
“When you get down to it, is not the popular idea of Christianity simply this: that Jesus Christ was a great moral teacher and that if only we took His advice we might be able to establish a better social order and avoid another war? Now mind you, that is quite true. But it tells you much less about the whole truth of Christianity and it has no practical importance at all.
It is quite true that if we took Christ’s advice we should soon be living in a happier world. You need not even go as far as Christ.
If we did all that Plato or Aristotle or Confucius told us, we should get on a great better than we do. And so what? We never have followed the advice of the great teachers. Why are we likely to begin now? Why are we more likely to follow Christ than any of the others? Because He is the best moral teacher? But that makes it even less likely that we shall follow Him. If we cannot take the elementary lessons, is it likely we are going to take the most advanced one?
If Christianity only means one more bit of good advice, then Christianity is of no importance. There has been no lack of good advice for the last four thousand years. A bit more makes no difference.
If religious, moralistic reductions of Jesus makes Him of no importance, perhaps we ought to consider how Jesus interpreted Himself.
Over the next 7 weeks at KW Redeemer I will be unpacking the 7 “I am statements” that Jesus used to describe Himself throughout the gospel of John. Each time Jesus said “I am” it recalled Exodus 3 where God revealed Himself to Moses as the great “I AM”.
Jesus explicitly said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” [a] Now, if you expound that clunky English sentence in Hebrew, you’ll see that Jesus didn’t leave any room for people to think He was just another teacher in a long line of religious sages. He was being extremely controversial because the translation of His words could be faithfully expounded to say, “Before Abraham was, I have always been, I am being, and I bring all things into being.” [b]
You only speak that way about yourself if you’re the Lord – or a lunatic.
If you live in the KW area and you have inquiries about faith, I invite you to join us over the next 7 weeks as we look carefully at who Jesus claimed to be and why it’s reasonable to believe Him. Christian faith isn’t simply a theological truth claim – it’s a historical truth claim. While faith is more than intellectual assent – it certainly isn’t less. Faith and reason are friends.
If Jesus was only a teacher, then He is of no importance – but if His claims are true, and He is who He said He is, then He is of ultimate importance.
[a] John 8:58
[b] Jesus spoke in Hebrew, but the New Testament was recorded in Greek, because by that time in world history, Alexander the Great had hellenized the world from Macedonia to India. So when Jesus said “I AM”, the Greek equivalent chosen was εἰμί, to convey the same force as the great “I AM” statement of Exodus 3: אֶֽהְיֶ֖ה