The Deity of
Christian Apologetics must of necessity involve a third area which concerns the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. This is the case because true Christian faith has as its object the person of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Peter 1:8, 21). The identity of Jesus of Nazareth is crucial because of His unparalleled influence. Pelikan wrote, "Regardless of what anyone may personally think or believe about him, Jesus of Nazareth has been the dominant figure in the history of Western culture . . ." (1). The distinguished Oxford professor, Swinburne, recently wrote, "By far the most important evidence about Jesus is that contained in the main books of the New Testament. . . . [T]he New Testament is a basically reliable source of information about the life of Jesus" (92, 99). Highly esteemed English novelist Charles Dickens described the New Testament as ". . . the best book that ever was or will be known in the world" (viii). Concerning Jesus Christ, Ernest Renan, the brilliant linguistic professor, dismissed from his teaching post because he used his inaugural lecture at the College de France in the nineteenth century to attack the deity of Jesus, wrote, ". . . [A]ll ages will proclaim that among the sons of men there is none born who is greater than Jesus" (227). As he considered the possibility of some special divine revelation, Professor Antony Flew wrote, "[T]he Christian claim [is] that God became man in the person of Jesus Christ. As I have said more than once, no other religion enjoys anything like the combination of a charismatic figure like Jesus and a first class intellectual like St. Paul. If your wanting omnipotence to set up a religion, it seems to me that this is the one to beat!" (156-57, emp. added). Therefore, given the influence of Jesus of Nazareth and the existence of the New Testament as the source of the information which is available about Jesus, the former must be examined in light of the latter.
Kreeft and Tacelli, in their Handbook of Christian Apologetics, affirm that the "divinity of Christ is the most distinctively Christian doctrine of all. . . . If Christ is divine, then the incarnation . . . is the most important event in history. It is the hinge of history. . . . No event in history could be more important . . ." (151-52). In another place, Kreeft declared the deity (divinity) of Christ to be "the most important single argument in all of Christian apologetics" (243). Warren set forth the argument concerning the deity of Christ as follows:
1. If the particular characteristics of the person and work of Jesus Christ (as those characteristics are set out in the Bible) are such as to be beyond those of mere men and to demand the conclusion that He is the Son of God, then Jesus Christ is the Son of God.
2. The particular characteristics of the person and work of Jesus Christ (as those characteristics are set out in the Bible) are such as to be beyond those of mere men and to demand the conclusion that He is the Son of God.
3. Therefore, Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Lamb 39).
The argument is valid since the minor premise (2) is an affirmation of the antecedent of the major premise (1). If the premises are true, then the conclusion must be true, and the argument is sound. If the argument is sound, then Jesus Christ is the Son of God. It is the role of Christian Apologetics to set forth the particular characteristics of His person and work (available in the Bible generally, and in the New Testament particularly) that demand the conclusion that Jesus Christ is beyond mere human invention.
The documents of the New Testament argue that the event of the resurrection of Jesus is the ultimate characteristic concerning His person and work that proves His deity (Romans 1:4; 1 Peter 1:21; cf. John 20:26-29, et al.). A Classical scholar and his son have written, "The resurrection of Christ perhaps the best authenticated fact in ancient history, clinches the Christological argument for the existence of God" (Blaiklock and Blaiklock 70, emp. added). If the resurrection of Jesus is true, then Jesus is the Son of God. If Jesus is the Son of God, then God exists. Swinburne implies the logically conclusive result of the cruciality of the deity of Jesus Christ in the Christian apologetic, and the role of the resurrection of Jesus as the keystone to establish His deity. He says,
I shall argue, if the Resurrection of Jesus occurred in anything like the way described in the New Testament, it was God's signature on the life and teaching of Jesus. . . . [T]he historical evidence does show that the Resurrection occurred in the way described in the New Testament and so is God’s signature on Jesus. . . . (87)
George Romanes was a nineteenth century biologist who was a prized student of Charles Darwin. He was a distinguished professor at Oxford. Romanes lost his faith in God and in the divine origin of the Christian system. However, just prior to his death at the age of 46, the young professor reclaimed his theistic belief. Six days before his death he said, "I have now come to see that faith is intellectually justifiable. . . . It is Christianity or nothing" (349, emp. added). Professor Romanes regained the faith he lost by regaining his confidence in the intellectual soundness of Christianity.
The climate of our day is also one of similar loss. It is the loss of belief in transcendence and loss of religious certainty. Conway has presented an unimpeachable summary of what has happened:
[T]he sad truth is that ours is a culture that has never been more spiritually lost. The cause of the darkness which serves to distinguish our times from practically all earlier epochs may ultimately be traced back to the virtual disappearance from among the most highly educated strata, especially those concerned with educating the young, of any belief in the existence of God. (17)
With recognition of the great spiritual loss of true transcendence and loss of religious certainty that characterizes the cultural landscape of the world today, there is a sense in which the greatest need of this dark hour is the brilliant light of true Christian Apologetics - the rational case for the existence of God, the divine origin of the Bible, and the deity of Jesus Christ. In the words of Paul, whom Dr. Antony Flew called a "first-class intellectual" (157), such will manifest that Christian faith is based on "words of truth and rationality" (Acts 26:25). Christian faith is intellectually justifiable. It is Christianity or nothing (Romanes 349).
Blaiklock, E. M. and D. A. Blaiklock. Is It—Or Isn’t It? Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1968.
Conway, David. The Rediscovery of Wisdom: From Here to Antiquity in Quest of Sophia. Houndmills/New York: PALGRAVE, 2000.
Dickens, Charles. The Life of Our Lord. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1934.
Flew, Antony. There Is a God. New York: HarperCollins, 2007.
Kreeft, Peter. “The Most Important Argument in Christian Apologetics.” The Intellectuals Speak Out about God. Ed. Roy Abraham Varghese. Chicago: Regnery Gateway, 1984.
Kreeft, Peter and Ronald K. Tacelli. Handbook of Christian Apologetics. Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1994.
Pelikan, Jaroslav. Jesus through the Centuries. New Haven: Yale UP, 1985.
Renan, Ernest. The Life of Jesus. Great Minds Series. Buffalo: Prometheus, 1991.
Romanes, Mrs. George. The Life and Letters of George John Romanes. London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1896.
Swinburne, Richard. Was Jesus God? Oxford: Oxford UP, 2008.
Warren, Thomas B. Jesus—The Lamb Who is a Lion. Jonesboro: National Christian, 1988.