Was Jesus a Lunatic?

If we find it inconceivable that Jesus was a liar, then couldn't he actually have mistakenly thought himself to be God? After all, it's possible to be both sincere and wrong. But we must remember that for someone to mistakenly think himself God, especially in the context of a fiercely monotheistic culture, and then to tell others that their eternal destiny depended on believing in him, is no small flight of fancy but the delusions and ravings of an outright lunatic. Is it possible that Jesus Christ was deranged?

Today we would treat someone who believes himself to be God the same way we would treat someone who believes he is Napoleon. We would see him as deluded and self-deceived. We would lock him up so he wouldn't hurt himself or anyone else. Yet in Jesus we don't observe the abnormalities and imbalance that go along with such derangement. If he was insane, his poise and composure was nothing short of amazing.

Eminent psychiatric pioneers Arthur Noyes and Lawrence Kolb, in their Modern "Clinical Psychiatry" text, describe the schizophrenic as a person who is more autistic than realistic. The schizophrenic desires to escape from the world of reality. Let's face it--for a mere man to claim to be God would certainly be a retreat from reality.

In light of other things we know about Jesus, it's hard to imagine that he was mentally disturbed. Here is a man who spoke some of the most profound words ever recorded. His instructions have liberated many people in mental bondage. Clark H. Pinnock professor emeritus of systematic theology at McMaster Divinity College, asks: "Was he deluded about his greatness, a paranoid, an unintentional deceiver, a schizophrenic? Again, the skill and depth of his teaching support the case only for his total mental soundness. If only we were as sane as he!" A student at a California university told me that his psychology professor has said in class that "all he had to do is pick up the Bible and read portions of Christ's teaching to many of his patients. That's all the counseling they need."

Psychologist Gary R. Collins explains that Jesus was loving but didn't let his compassion immobilize him; he didn't have a bloated ego, even though he was often surrounded by adoring crowds; he maintained balance despite an often demanding lifestyle; he always knew what he was doing and where he was going; he cared deeply about people, including women and children, who weren't seen as important back then; he was able to accept people while not merely winking at their sin; he responded to individuals based on where they were at and what they uniquely needed. All in all, I just don't see signs that Jesus was suffering from any known mental illness...He was much healthier than anyone else I know--including me!

Psychiatrist J. T. Fisher felt that Jesus' teachings were profound. He states: "If you were to take the sum total of all the authoritative articles ever written by the most qualified of psychologists and psychiatrists on the subject of mental hygiene--if you were to combine them and refine them and cleave out the excess verbiage--if you were to take the whole of the meat and none of the parsley, and if you were to have these unadulterated bits of pure scientific knowledge concisely expressed by the most capable of living poets, you would have and awkward and incomplete summation of the Sermon on the Mount. And it would suffer immeasurably through comparison. For nearly two thousand years the Christian world has been holding in its hands the complete answer to its restless and fruitless yearnings. Here...rests the blueprint for successful human life with optimism, mental healthy, and contentment."

C. S. Lewis writes: "The historical difficulty of giving for the life, sayings and influence of Jesus any explanation that is not harder than the Christian explanation is very great. The discrepancy between depth and sanity...of His moral teachings and the rampant megalomania which must lie behind His theological teaching unless He is indeed God has never been satisfactorily explained. Hence the non-Christian hypotheses succeed one another with the restless fertility of bewilderment."

Philip Schaff reasons: "Is such an intellect--clear as the sky bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always reading and always self-possessed--liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning his own character and mission? Preposterous imagination!"

from: More Than a Carpenter
by: Josh and Sean McDowell


bug said…
He brings out a lot of good points. I like how Mr. McDowell gives both sides of the argument instead of only giving the Christian view point...
Rosebud said…
Keep posting - this is very thought-provoking!
Pat Russell said…
"Hence the non-Christian hypotheses succeed one another with the restless fertility of bewilderment."

I love that quote.

With the exception of Lewis' take on evolution Mere Christianity is a great book.