I recently finished listening to The Case for the Real Jesus by Lee Strobel via a free download from ChristianAudio.com. I read the book years ago and found it to be very helpful in dealing with some questions that were emerging more at that time, and I found it helpful again with some different issues.
The book deals with six challenges to the identity of Jesus:
1) Scholars are Uncovering a Radically Different Jesus in Ancient Documents Just as Credible as the Four Gospels,
2) The Bible’s Portrait of Jesus Can’t Be Trusted Because the Church Tampered with the Text,
3) New Explanations Have Refuted Jesus’ Resurrection,
4) Christianity’s Beliefs about Jesus Were Copied from Pagan Religions,
5) Jesus Was an Imposter Who Failed to Fulfill the Messianic Prophecies,
6) People Should Be Free to Pick and Choose What to Believe about Jesus.
After listening to the book, one of the concluding thoughts stood out to me, namely, how is it that some people hold onto a fabricated Jesus based upon “flimsy evidence and feeble arguments” (p 267) when “the traditional view of Christ is amply supported by a firm foundation of historical facts” (p 267)?
The author has this helpful insight:
It’s not always easy to discern people’s motives. Still I can’t help but notice a common thread that runs through the efforts to discover another Jesus: many of them, in their own way, attempt to put humankind on the same level as him.
Some critics try to accomplish this by reducing Jesus. They reject his uniqueness, his miracles, and his divinity, transforming him into just another human being…
Others take a different approach: rather than tearing Jesus down, they elevate themselves. In other words, they’re find with affirming the divinity of Jesus – as long as they too are indwelled by the same spark of the divine…
Whether reducing Jesus or elevating ourselves, the result is the same: Jesus becomes our equal. As such, he doesn’t deserve our allegiance or our worship. He cannot judge us or hold us accountable. His teachings become mere suggestions that can be followed or disregarded according to our whims. He isn’t our savior; at most, hes’ a friendly guide.
On the other hand, the one Jesus that skeptics refuse to tolerate is a uniquely divine, miraculous, prophecy-fulfilling, and resurrected Jesus – even if the historical evidence points persuasively in that direction. After all, that would put them in the place of being beholded to him. Their personal sovereignty and moral independence would be at risk. The problem is: that’s the real Jesus…
For many people, that’s the crux of their predicament: if Jesus is God incarnate, then he could demand too much. And in fact, he does demand everything…
That kind of surrender sounds scary for many people. But if Jesus really is God – if he really did sacrifice himself so that we could be forgiven and set free to experience his love forever – then why should we hesitate to give all of ourselves to him? Who could be more trustworthy than someone who lays down his life so that others might live? (pp 268-269)