The headline of the Newsweek article caught my eye: 52 Percent of Americans Say Jesus Isn’t God but Was a Great Teacher.
How do you react to this finding in the State of Theology survey conducted by LifeWay? Do you agree? Is it true because a majority of Americans believe it?
Suppose you think to yourself—that may be what a majority of Americans believe, but that’s not what Christ-followers who hold the Bible in high esteem, and whose faith is focused on the cross, and who are committed to sharing their faith with people, and who actively live out the gospel in their lives believe.
Well, the same survey found that one-third of persons who consider themselves Christ-followers said they believe Jesus isn’t God but was a great teacher and two-thirds agreed with the statement that Jesus “is the first and greatest being created by God.”
At Journey, we’re committed to turning people into fully devoted followers of Jesus. For that to take place, we have to know who Jesus truly was. Well, how do you know what’s true and what’s not true? In our church, we embrace the Bible as our source of truth.
So, based on the Bible, Jesus wasn’t just a great teacher—Jesus was also God, in fact, Jesus was both fully God and fully human (that’s what the story of the miracle of Christmas is all about.)
Also, Jesus was not the first and greatest being created by God because Jesus was not created by God the Father. Jesus and the Father are co-eternal, meaning they have always existed (just as the Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity—has always existed). Those truths may not be what a majority of Americans believe or what one-third of Christ-followers believe, but those are essential teachings of the Bible.
What do you say to the person who believes Jesus isn’t God but was a great teacher? I suggest you point them to what C. S. Lewis wrote:
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 patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . .
Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. (Mere Christianity, pp. 55-56)