The Poached Egg Paradox

C.S. Lewis famously said that anyone who believes Jesus was a great moral teacher but not the Son of God has a difficult choice, for Jesus can't be a moral teacher if he lied about being the Son of God. So one either has to take him for who he said he is or dismiss him as a lunatic -- on the level of a man who thinks he's a poached egg. Well, this witticism makes people laugh; most of us, of course, pay no attention to the thought that Jesus was a lunatic. But not Lee Strobel. The former journalist had already investigated many other claims against Christianity. Now he wanted to know: Was it possible that the man millions of Christians worship was actually out of his mind? For the answer, Strobel went to one of the most distinguished psychologists in Christendom: Dr. Gary Collins. Standing in Collins's office, Strobel pointed to a nearby mental hospital. Over there, he said, "I'm sure we'd find some people who claim that they're God. We'd say they were insane. Jesus said he was God -- was he crazy, too?" "No," Collins laughingly replied. But Strobel persisted. After all, he said, "people suffering from delusional psychosis may appear rational much of the time, yet can have grandiose beliefs" about who they are. Some attract followers who worship them. "Maybe," Strobel suggested, "that's what happened with Jesus." Maybe -- but unlikely, given the evidence. When a psychologist attempts to determine a patient's mental health, Collins said, he doesn't just consider his words, but also his emotions. Disturbed people frequently show inappropriate depression, anger, or anxiety. "But look at Jesus," Collins said. "He never demonstrated inappropriate emotions. For instance, he cried at the death of his friend Lazarus -- that's natural for an emotionally healthy" person. But, Strobel countered, Jesus erupted in anger at times. Yes, Collins replied, "but it was a healthy kind of anger." It was directed against "people taking advantage of the downtrodden by lining their pockets at the temple. . . . This was a righteous reaction against injustice." The Scriptures offer plenty of other evidence that Jesus was, psychologically speaking, perfectly normal. For instance, deluded people are out of contact with reality; they misinterpret the actions of others, Collins told Strobel. But we don't see Jesus exhibiting any of this kind of behavior. Disturbed people often cannot carry on logical conversations. But Jesus "spoke clearly, powerfully, and eloquently," Collins said. And he had tremendous insights into human nature. Strobel then pulled out the trump card. Some of the people who actually knew Jesus concluded that he was raving mad, he said. Sure they did, Collins replied -- but these were not mental health professionals making a diagnosis; they were religious leaders outraged by the claims Jesus made. Collins is right. Two thousand years later, people are still outraged by Jesus' claims. But in the face of modern science, it's getting harder and harder for them to claim that Jesus was mentally ill. Read more about the evidence backing up biblical teachings in Lee Strobel's exciting book, The Case for Christ. You'll learn why those who persist in calling Jesus crazy are, themselves, irrational -- maybe even on the level of a man who insists he's a poached egg. For further reference: Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1998.


Chuck Colson



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