Who is Jesus? 1. What Makes Jesus So Different? * In this chapter, McDowell discusses the various reasons that Jesus, more than any other religious leader in history, causes irritation in people when his name is mentioned in casual conversation. He writes, "Why is it that you can talk about God and nobody gets upset, but as soon as you mention Jesus, people so often want to stop the conversation? Or they become defensive." The great difference between Christ and Buddha, Confucius and Mohammed is that no one but Christ actually claimed to be God. "He was presenting himself as the only avenue to a relationship with God, the only source for forgiveness for sins, and the only way of salvation." McDowell continues to point to specific examples from the New Testament in which Jesus presents himself as the human incarnation of God and how this constituted blasphemy in the eyes of the Roman government. "In most trials, people are tried for what they have done, but this was not true of Christ's, Jesus was tried for who he was." 2. Lord, Liar, or Lunatic? * I found this chapter to be one of the most interesting in the entire book. Bearing in mind the claims that Jesus made during his life, he would either be a human manifestation of the Lord, a liar or a lunatic. McDowell begins his argument by examining the alternative scenarios in which Christ would be either a liar or a lunatic. Even most non-Christians will acknowledge that if nothing else Christ was a great moral teacher, but if he were a great moral teacher how could he also be a hypocrite at the same time? McDowell concludes that for this case to be true, Jesus would have to be a "deliberate liar," and this does not coincide with his life teachings. Furthermore, why would he, or any man die for a lie? On the other hand, if Christ were a lunatic, "then couldn't he actually have thought himself to be God, but been mistaken. For a man to have done this in such a fiercely monotheistic culture as that which existed during Christ's life, would be "no slight flight of fancy." Yet, how could the instructions of an insane man liberate so "many individuals in mental bondage"? Thus, McDowell believes that the only possibility is that Christ is Lord, but that most people "don't want to face up to the responsibility or implications of calling him Lord." 3. What About Science? * As a former skeptic himself, McDowell believes that he possesses a unique perspective on the apparent conflict between religion and science. This chapter deals with a common query of Christianity and religion in general, "Can you prove it scientifically?" McDowell answers with a resounding no. He follows a definition of science given by Dr. James B. Conant, former president of Harvard, "science is an interconnected series of concepts and conceptual schemes that have developed as a result of experimentation and observation, and are fruitful of further experimentation and observation." This leads McDowell to conclude that the scientific method can only be used to prove repeatable things. He makes an analogy in his argument, explaining how the scientific method is equally inappropriate in determining whether other historical figures lived. While the scientific method is based on repeatable observation, the legal-historical method is founded in testimony and according to McDowell, is an appropriate method to employ in the exploration of the Christian faith. McDowell believes that Christianity is "not a blind, ignorant belief but rather an intelligent faith." 4. Are the Biblical Records Reliable? * In the first portion of this chapter, McDowell lays down his response to claims that the New Testament was "written so long after Christ that it could not be accurate in what it recorded." He relies heavily on the research of Sir William Ramsay and Dr. John A.T. Robinson, which support the notion that much of the New Testament may be dated to somewhere in the range of A.D. 50 to A.D. 70. Given that these dates are accurate, the question of whether the New Testament is a historically reliable document remain. In the much longer second half of the chapter, McDowell applies three priniciples of historiography to the New Testament. They are: the bibliographical test, the internal evidence test, and the external evidence test. Not surprisingly, McDowell agrees with Dr. Clark H. Pinnock, professor of systematic theology at Regent College, that: There exists no document from the ancient world witnessed by so excellent a set of textual and historical testimonies, and offering so superb an array of historical data on which an intelligent decision may be made. An honest person cannot dismiss a source of this kind. Skepticism regarding the historical credentials of Christianity is based upon an irrational (i.e., antisupernatural) bias. 5. Who Would Die for a Lie? * In this chapter, McDowell approaches an interesting topic from the perspective of his critics. Eleven of the twelve apostles were killed for there beliefs, only John died a natural death. He writes: "Now if the resurrection didn't take place (i.e., it was false), the disciples knew it. I find no way to demonstrate that they could have been deceived. Therefore, these eleven men not only died for a lie--here is the catch--but they knew it was a lie. It would be hard to find eleven people in history who died for a lie, knowing it was a lie." In a way, this section builds on the historical testimonies discussed in the previous chapter. It provides support for the accuracy of the apostles own testimonies of Christ's life and resurrection. McDowell quotes Harold Mattingly as saying: "no man would be willing to die unless he knew the truth." 6. What Good Is a Dead Messiah? * This chapter is among the shortest in the entire book, yet it still is important to the text as a whole. Many of McDowell's arguments are structured around answering the questions of skeptics. The question at hand in this particular chapter seems like one that a friend of mine back at school might toss back at me half in jest, half in earnest. Nevertheless, the Jewish conception of the messiah around the time of Christ was that a savior would be born, who would free the Jewish people from the political tyrrany of the Romans. McDowell points out that this conception extended even to the disciples, who "believed they were in on a good thing." When their apparent "conquering Messiah" was "broken and bleeding...nailed to a cross to die as a common criminal," the disciple's "messianic hopes for Jesus were shattered." It is at this point in McDowell's discussion clearly connects to his apologetic message. The disciples who were dejected and despondent at the crucifixion, were suffering and dying, while "proclaiming Jesus as Savior and Lord, the Messiah of the Jews." In his conclusion, McDowell declares that the only "reasonable explanation" for the changes that took place in the disciples, is that Christ appeared to them after the resurrection over a period of 40 days, as described in the Acts of the Apostles (Acts 1:3).