In the previous pieces for this series, we referenced C. S. Lewis’s Trilemma, essentially: in claiming He was God, Jesus was either a liar, insane, or God. We’ve addressed that Jesus actually lived and walked on earth, that He claimed divinity, that He was not a liar, and that He was not insane. And that leaves us with the same conclusion of the centurion in Mark’s Gospel: “Surely, this man was the Son of God.” To bring this Trilemma series to a close, let’s make a few final observations.
Claims of Divinity
It was prophesied for thousands of years that a Savior would come. In fact, prophets and prophecies seemed to grow louder over time and were loudest before Jesus’ birth. And then, something happened: when Jesus came to earth and suffered and died, the prophets and prophecies stopped. Why? Because Jesus fulfilled that prophecy in exacting detail—and one cannot prophesize what has already occurred.
Jesus claimed He is the eternal God.
It is important to stop for a moment and consider the boldness of that claim.
Except for Jesus, no leader of any major religion ever claimed divinity for himself. Ponder that for a moment.
For twenty centuries, would-be debunkers of Christ’s divinity have failed—and failed miserably. Since that bright Sunday morning two thousand years ago, they have searched for His body in vain. (They can’t find His mother’s body either.)
But they need not look far for the bodies of those Apostles who were martyred; those men professed the divinity of Jesus on their lips in their final moments—without doubt, remorse, or quiver. But the Apostles were not alone. Men and women of every societal rank—men and women who walked with Jesus—were thrown to lions rather than deny His divinity.
Jesus claimed He was God, and every one of the martyrs claimed Jesus was God. Their belief was so strong that their persecutors became Christians, willing to suffer the same fate.
We Catholics are often cautious—too cautious—to speak of miracles.
Why? Because every Catholic worth his salt knows that the moment he mentions a miracle, he will be mocked and jeered. He knows that referencing any miracle—be it the miracle of the sun at Fatima, the tilma of Guadalupe, the shroud of Turin, the Eucharist at Lanciano, or a thousand others—will land him in hot water.
Catholics have no official “list” of miracles; in large measure, we are free to disagree about a thing or event’s miraculous nature. Some Catholics believe in many miracles; some believe in few. But miracles are not about aggregates; that is, one does not need irrefutable proof in every miracle, such as Lourdes, Turin, Guadalupe, Lanciano, and Fatima. To prove the divinity of Christ, He needs to believe in just one.
If Mary actually appeared at Fatima—as tens of thousands of witnesses attested—what further evidence does one seek?
If Jesus left His image on the Shroud of Turin, what more are you hoping to find?
Of course, one can respond to all of these: “Well, there’s always an explanation for everything!” There sure is.
The Catholic explanation is that Jesus is God and that He loves us. But even more immediately to me, Jesus loves me. Jesus loves John Clark. Jesus left His image because He loves me. Mary appeared at Fatima because Jesus loves me; because Jesus loves me, so does Mary. That’s my explanation for everything.
My contention is that the would-be miracle debunkers begin with a faulty premise: that miracles are impossible. As C.S. Lewis points out, if a man deems miracles impossible, “no amount of historical evidence will convince” him. He continues,
“If, on the other hand, miracles are not intrinsically improbable, then the existing evidence will be sufficient to convince us that quite a number of miracles have occurred. The result of our historical enquiries thus depends on the philosophical views which we have been holding before we even began to look at the evidence. This philosophical question must therefore come first.” —C.S. Lewis, Miracles
It is curious that we Christians are often mocked as “science deniers.” We are not. For science—at its core—is the art of honest observation. It is not those who observe miracles who are deniers, but those who refuse to accept any observation that runs counter to his unshakable premise.
A “Silly” Argument
An atheist friend of mine once claimed that the Catholic Faith was silly because the very idea of the Eucharist was silly. This argument is essentially: even if there is a God, Jesus ain’t God.
From a subjective perspective, everything in the world could seem silly: an octopus, a wombat, a blue sea slug. Some consider those to be ridiculous looking things. And it’s not just that the things around us might appear silly, but how those things operate. For instance, how about asexual reproduction? How silly is that? For that matter, how about sexual reproduction? A man and woman can have sexual relations and produce a baby? Some people might consider that a silly way to generate life. Yet, it does.
Anything and everything in the world can subjectively strike us as silly, oddball, or strange. But that does not change the fact that these things exist. No matter what we might think of various things in existence, they nevertheless exist.
The concept of the Eucharist is that Jesus wishes to physically dwell within those who love Him. If one dismisses that as silly, that says very little about the reality of the Eucharist, but much about the dismisser. The dismisser says that if God exists, He would never be the sort of Being who wishes to dwell within those who love Him.
But even more fundamentally, it hubristically asserts how God should do things. C.S. Lewis had something to say about that, too. He writes, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people: and, of course, as long as you are looking down, you cannot see something that is above you.”
If a man is preparing to discover God, he should have enough humility to admit that maybe—just maybe—God would not do things exactly the way he might do them.
Thus, we come to the close of this discussion. Hopefully, this series has confirmed the faithful with an insight or two—or at least a new way of looking at old things. In the grand spirit of apologetics, my hope is that it helps you readers provide a good defense of the Faith.
As you transmit that defense, please also accept my humble reminder that apologetics begins and ends with love. We can have all the most wonderful and spectacular arguments, yet if love does not accompany those arguments, we gain nothing—and lose much. In all things, charity.