Monday, August 19, 2013

If Jesus Was A Cult Leader...

A common charge by atheists is that Jesus was prototype cult leader. Here's how one atheist put it to me:

Jesus is the prototype cult leader. 1) He established himself as an ultimate authority. 2) He claimed to be divine. 3) He demanded control over the actions and thoughts of his followers. Control he promised to maintain beyond the limitations of his earthly life. 4) He promised his followers unfathomable rewards for their devotion. 5) He told his followers that everything he asked of them was out of love.

I plan to respond to each of these one by one. But as I do, I'm leaving aside the (admittedly important) issue of whether Jesus actually did or said the things attributed to Him in the Gospels. Since the above atheistic quote criticizes the Jesus portrayed in the Gospels irrespective of their historicity. Similarly, I'll be examining the character of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospels.

First off,  it doesn't logically follow that if false teachers, false Messiahs, and false claimants to deity are wrong in claiming such prerogatives, that it would also be wrong for the True Divine Teacher and Messiah to claim such prerogatives. In other words, if Jesus is who Christians claim He is, then it would follow that Jesus had the prerogative to do all 5 things.

Regarding #1:
 In one sense He did. But at the same time He affirmed the authority of others. For example, Jesus affirmed the Scribes genuinely sat in Moses seat (Matt. 23:2). A cult leader wouldn't do that. Jesus also insisted John the Baptist baptize Him even though John himself thought it wasn't appropriate or necessary. Cult leaders don't naturally defer to others. They usually don't acknowledge the authority of others. They are often self-appointed and self-anointed or claim to be directly appointed by God without appeal to the testimony or authentication of others. Jesus submitted to John's Baptism and accepted John's designation of being the Lamb of God. Jesus also acknowledged the genuine authority of Pilate and said that he only had authority because it was given to Him from above (i.e. from God). Also, Jesus never contrasted His authority to that of Scripture. As the Son of God He could have "pulled rank" but He always claimed His authority was in keeping with the teaching and predictions of the Holy Scriptures. Some cult leaders will claim submission to some sacred Scripture, but others will deny any kind of authority over them (including a sacred text). Some leaders will claim to be in keeping with a text, but contradict it in actuality or in spirit. This wasn't the case with Jesus.

Regarding #2:
It is true that at times Jesus implicitly or explicitly claimed to be God. But notice that Jesus didn't openly claim it from the start. He didn't even do that with regard to His lesser claim of being the Messiah. All things being equal, a human claiming to be God would understandably be considered blasphemous by Jews, but it wasn't blasphemous to claim to be the Messiah. So, it wasn't for the purpose of saving His hide that He didn't always openly claim deity, since He did the same thing concerning His messiahship. Which is strange for a cult leader to do. For the most part, He let His works do the proclaiming (Matt. 11:2-6; John 5:36; 10:25; 38; 14:11). Though, there were times when He did explicitly claim to be Messiah and God.

Regarding #3:
It claims, "He demanded control over the actions and thoughts of his followers." If Jesus really was God's Messiah (in fact God in the flesh and the 2nd person of the Trinity) then such demands and allegiance was right, proper and to be expected. This isn't the place to discuss ethical theories. I and others have done that elsewhere, and I may provide links to such discussions some time in the future. Suffice it to say that I hold to Divine Command Essentialism whereby virtues flow from God's nature, while our duties to God flow from God's commands to His creatures. Commands which reflect and are grounded in His nature. It avoids the problem of arbitrariness found in Divine Voluntarism or common versions of Divine Command Theory. It also avoids the problems that Divine Essentialism has when applied to certain Biblical ethical commands (especially Old Testament). For example, the dietary laws and God's command to Abraham to sacrifice Isaac are problematic in common version of Divine Essentialism. Divine Command Essentialism (my view) solves the problem of whether God is sub lego (under law) or ex lex (outside of law). God is a law unto Himself because He is the very standard and paragon of virtue and goodness. Thus, this position solves the Euthyphro Dilemma posed by Socrates in Plato's Dialogues. The 3rd charge continues by saying, "...Control he promised to maintain beyond the limitations of his earthly life." Well, if Jesus was God, then He does possess that control. The fact that miracles have continued to happen in the name of Jesus down through Church history suggests that Jesus is exercising that power. See for example the following links:

The following is a link that leads you to Craig Keener's interview about his book on miracles. Both Keener and Michael Licona (the interviewer) share their experiences of supernatural healings in their own lives, in the lives of others, throughout church history and throughout the globe at the present time. The Link also includes a collection of blogs at Triablogue that discussed miracles in light of Keener's book.  Here's the LINK.

The following is a link to A.J. Gordon's book The Ministry of Healing: Miracles of Cure in All Ages

The following is a link to Thomas Boys' book The Suppressed Evidence: Or, Proofs of the Miraculous Faith and Experience of the Church of Christ In All Ages 

Leaving #4 for last, let's deal with #5. The claim is, "He told his followers that everything he asked of them was out of love." What would we expect from God but what Jesus actually said? Jesus taught that the greatest commandment was first to Love God with all one's heart, soul, mind and strength. Then secondly, to love one's neighbor as oneself. He also claimed that all the other commandments of God hung on these two commandments. Who could complain about such teachings and moral system? What better ethical "theory"? Really, only (or mostly) atheists would argue against it. Atheists, deists (or other sub-theistic supernaturalists) who don't like the idea of God having a right to give commands. Often they will claim that it isn't right or fair. But that begs the question of which moral theory is actually true or best. Christian philosophers have shown repeatedly that the Christian system is far superior to all other popular alternatives. Unless and until non-Christians can provide a coherent and justified alternative moral theory that does just as good or better than Christianity's, then they cannot consistently judge or evaluate Jesus' morality.

Maybe the charge is that Jesus falsely claimed that His commands were given out of His love for them. Well, if Jesus was a fraud, then that charge would stick. But it begs the question as to whether He was a fraud or not. If Jesus really was who He claimed to be, then He really did give His commands out of love and the world. This charge, like all the 5 charges begin with some attributes of frauds, con artists and cult leaders and then uses those attributes to judge and evaluate Jesus' ministry. But that's like using the behavior of a child molester to judge loving parents. Both child molestesr and loving parents may both provide the child candy, food, toys, entertainment et cetera. Just because there are similarities in behavior doesn't mean that the intentions of both are the same. Rather, the child molester will do those seemingly kind and loving things for ulterior motives. Including the motive of mimicking the behavior of good parents in order to deceive the children into placing their trust in them. This 5th charge is like using counterfeit money to judge genuine legal tender as counterfeit. OF COURSE, there will be similarities between the counterfeit and "the real McCoy." But you judge the counterfeit by the genuine article not the other way around!

Lastly, Regarding #4:
The claim is, "He promised his followers unfathomable rewards for their devotion." This is true. But if Jesus really did perform the miracles claimed in the Bible, then those who saw it would be warranted to conclude that Jesus probably is who He claimed to be and really is the Messiah sent by God. So, only on the presumption that Jesus never performed a miracle would such a charge have some weight. Of course, there's the possibility of demonically empowered miracles. However, the charge of Jesus being a cult leader is usually made with the assumption of materialism, naturalism and atheism. It would take us off topic to deal with the issue of the possibility of Jesus being demonically empowered. Though that's not to say that as a Christian I deny that some cult leaders are demonically empowered. I believe some are. Nor is this the place to argue for Christ's true messiahship and divinity.

Also, Jesus gave prospective disciples fair warning that following Him would be difficult and may require their physical death. Also, that even if they didn't physically die, they had to daily die to themselves and their natural sinful desires. Such devotion and obedience to love God and others as oneself is not only good, but would be too difficult a calling for people to hastily accept or to continue to attempt to fulfill. The standards of Jesus are so high, that if anyone seriously tried to fulfill them, they would either have to depend on God for the grace to keep on trying, or they would be hypocrites and false converts anyway. Anyone who thinks being a Christian is easy doesn't know what God requires. Or doesn't really attempt to obey. In fact, at any time, disciples were free to give up and apostatize. Jesus didn't hold a tight rein on His disciples. He required them to be self-disciplined and to receive grace from God to live out the Christian life. Unlike cult leaders, Jesus didn't have a program to personally kept them in check. There was no strong hierarchy of leaders to whom everyone had someone above him to keep him accountable. In fact, He repeatedly allowed His followers to leave His group without Him protesting or hindering them. He also repeatedly discouraged people from too quickly deciding to be His disciple. He admonished them to first "count the cost" of being His disciple (Luke 14:28-33).

Here's a list of questions we have to ask ourselves if we want to seriously consider the claim that Jesus was a cult leader. Admittedly, some of the following things attributed to Jesus might be done by some cult leaders. But not all cult leaders will do them. Nor will any of them do all of them. Reading all of the things listed below attributed to Jesus should have a cumulative effect in one's mind that one will have to not only seriously doubt that Jesus was a cult leader; but also doubt He's a fictional or mythical character as some atheists and agnostics claim. Reading the following list of questions may even lead one to concluded that Jesus really existed and is who the Bible claims He is.


  • Why did Jesus say, "Why do you call me good, Only God is good"? A cult leader would be the first to say that he himself was good. It wouldn't make sense if Jesus were a fraud and/or a cult leader. From a Christian perspective, I have to point out that on other occasions Jesus did say or imply He was without sin and was God. But why would He ever ask someone why he called Him good, as if to deny His goodness? By the way, Christians believe this WAS in fact a veiled reference to His own goodness and deity.

Christ said to a certain ruler: "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God." (Mark x, 17, 18.) Christ did not deny that he himself was "good," nor did he deny that he himself was God; but the ruler had not acknowledged him to be God, and our Lord's question to the ruler was based upon that fact. It was as much as to say, As you do not confess me to be God, why call me good? Our Lord said: "There is none good but one, that is, God." It would follow from this that whoever is perfectly good must be God; but our Lord is perfectly, infinitely good, hence must be God........The dilemma, as regards the Socinians, has been well put (see Stier II, 283, note), either, 'There is none good but God; Christ is good; therefore Christ is God;' or, 'There is none good but God; Christ is not God; therefore Christ is not good.' " (Alford, in loco)
-Richard N. Davies book The Doctrine of the Trinity page 18-19

Yet we know that the Gospel writers and the other writers of the New Testament affirm Jesus' goodness.

  • Why did Jesus warn potential disciples of the difficulties that would ensue from following Him? That's a poor way for a cult leader to gather followers.

  • Why didn't Jesus do His very best to seek out disciples? On the contrary, Jesus sometimes did the opposite. For example, He limited His ministry to "the lost sheep of the House of Israel" (i.e. only the Jews). [cf. Matt. 10:6; 15:24]

  • Why did Jesus often do things and say things in a way so as not attract attention? Cult leaders usually want all the attention they can get.

  • Why did Jesus often make statements that He knew would offend people and result in people turning away and stop following Him? For example, in John chapter 6 His statements about eating His flesh and drinking His blood resulting in many people abandoning Him. In the text it's clear that while He was giving His teaching people were becoming offended, complained and were quarreling among themselves. He was clearly using a figure of speech. However, He didn't take the time to correct their misunderstanding. In fact, He explained their misunderstanding and inability to understand by appealing to predestination and the need for God to open people's eyes (John 6:37-39; 43-45; 63-66). Doing so would itself additionally repel some people as predestination still does today.

  • Why did Jesus allow disciples to freely come and go? Almost as if He didn't care if they continued following Him. There are many examples of this in the Gospels. Again, see John chapter 6. 

  •  Why didn't Jesus keep a tight rein on His disciples? Nor did He insist that they go everywhere He went.

  • Why did Jesus often go away into a secluded place like a mountain to pray alone or with a few of His disciples during times when He was being sought by the crowd? In one instance they were about to make Him their king (John 6:15).

  • Why did Jesus tell the Rich Young Ruler to sell everything and give it to the poor? If Jesus was cult leader, He would most likely have told him to give HIM (i.e. Jesus) the money. Or at least a portion of it.

  • Why would Jesus often leave areas where He was still warmly welcomed? Irrespective of His reception in any particular area He would promptly leave to continue His itinerant (i.e. traveling) preaching and healing ministry. That's not how one would act if one's goal was to garner as many followers as possible. [Mark 1:38-39; Luke 4:43 cf. John 9:4-5]

  • Why did Jesus remain an itinerant preacher roaming from place to place? Capernaum may have been His "headquarters" of sorts, but He wasn't always there. He didn't eventually settle down in one location. He didn't attempt to build a private Kingdom like some modern tycoons or televangelists.

  • Why didn't Jesus start a community or town like other Messianic claimants? Think of Muhammad, Jim Jones, David Koresh.

  • Why did Jesus hang around those considered extreme sinners to preach to them when He knew that the religious leaders would look down on Him for it and renounce Him as a false teacher and a sinner Himself? That's how He got the reputation of being a "friend of publicans and sinners" and a drunkard (Luke 7:34).

  • Why did Jesus intentionally provoke the leaders of the religious communities by doing things to make them angry? Like healing the sick on the Sabbath (which He did multiple times). Allowing His disciples to eat with unwashed hands. Allowing disciples to pick grains of corn on the Sabbath. This is a way to make religious and political enemies, not friends. It's true that some cult leaders and groups thrive on opposing the establishment. Others groups like Catholicism, Mormonism, Scientology try to rub shoulders with the cultural elite. Not so with Jesus. Jesus 1. didn't align Himself with the established groups. Yet 2. He also opposed them while 3. at the same time affirming and acknowledging their genuine authority as religious groups [Matt. 23:2-3] along with the authority of the government [Matt. 22:21; John 19:11]. That's not the likely behavior of a cult leader.Jesus didn't AGGRESSIVELY wage war against the religious and/or political system from within or without by physical and/or rhetorical means. Jesus attempted to reformed and correct the religious establishments without denouncing and delegitimizing them en toto (i.e. in every way and sense).  

  • Why did Jesus acknowledge the authority and leadership position of other religious figures? For example, that the Scribes genuinely sat in "Moses Seat." He affirmed the authority of the Sanhedrin and to some degree the authority of the Pharisees, Saducees and scribes. Cultists usually don't like to affirm the legitimacy of outside spiritual authority. Rather than deny their authority altogether, He denounced their hypocrisy.

  • Why did Jesus approve of people who were not in His group but who were casting out demons in His name, rather than telling them they should stop because they weren't part of His clique? Rather than commending them, He should have been denouncing and delegitimizing them if He were a cult leader. See Mark 9:38-39; Luke 9:49-50

  • Why would Jesus warn people that following Him might entail losing their physical lives? In fact, He positively required them to daily die to themselves and take up their cross. Cult leaders sometimes require this, but not all of them do because they know that it's difficult to get people to be willing martyrs and to choose things contrary to self-interest and pleasure.

  • Why did Jesus secretly go to Jerusalem when it was time for the feast and crowds were gathering?
2 Now the Jews' Feast of Booths was at hand.3 So his brothers said to him, "Leave here and go to Judea, that your disciples also may see the works you are doing.4 For no one works in secret if he seeks to be known openly. If you do these things, show yourself to the world."5 For not even his brothers believed in him.6 Jesus said to them, "My time has not yet come, but your time is always here.7 The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify about it that its works are evil.8 You go up to the feast. I am not going up to this feast, for my time has not yet fully come."9 After saying this, he remained in Galilee.- John 7:2-9

  • Why did Jesus often hide or veil His claim to be the Messiah? Many messianic claimants both before and after Jesus' time weren't hesitant or shy to proclaim they were the Messiah.

  • Why did Jesus often veil His claim to deity using studied ambiguity? Admittedly, Jesus did sometimes explicitly claim His messiahship and/or deity, but usually it was merely implicit.

  • Why didn't Jesus brazenly and openly claim to be God like other cult leaders? Some might say that it was to protect Himself so that He wasn't stoned for blasphemy. The problem with this answer is that Jesus would often implicitly claim to be God knowing that it would cause some to want to stone Him. And on a few occasions it almost did. Moreover, Jesus seemed to have orchestrated His own eventual and timed death.

  • Why tell Peter, James and John to keep the vision of Jesus' transfiguration to themselves for the meantime? Like His performing of miracles, this experience was a good opportunity to make more disciples. Admittedly, people would have to believe on the basis of the three Apostles' mere testimony, but no doubt SOME people would become convinced. Even if it was a complete lie. Why not allow Peter, James and John to testify of their claimed supernatural experience?

  • Why did Jesus choose the Apostles that He did when He was preaching a gospel of love and ethical behavior? Peter, Andrew, James and John were 1st century equivalents of "blue collar" working fishermen. Peter was rash and quick tempered. Not thoughtful and tactful. Matthew was a despised Tax Collector. Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot and Judas were trouble makers and disreputable. Many biographers of the Apostles suggest that these last three Apostles may have all been strong dissenters of the Roman government. Maybe even revolutionaries (like Simon in all liklihood since he's called a "Zealot").

    Why didn't Jesus choose people who were from the upper class or "white collar" workers to be His disciples? Clearly, He attracted some followers from those groups. Both before and after the events described in the first chapter of Acts. In the book of Acts, some of the Jewish leaders apparently became Christians.

  •  Why didn't Jesus raise up an army or mob to fight the Romans?

  • Why did Jesus only allow 12 Apostles and around 70 other people to be His close disciples when there were multitudes who thronged Him in His healing campaigns? Repeatedly the Gospels say He knew what was in people's hearts and that because of that He didn't entrust Himself to them. See John 2:24-25 cf. Matt. 9:4; Mark 2:8.

  • Why didn't Jesus surround Himself with a harem of women? Cult leaders often surround themselves with women like Muhammad did. There's one instance when Muhammad claimed to receive a revelation from Allah commanding him to marry his adopted son's divorcee. Something so convenient since he previously desired her. Muhammad had over 10 wives, yet Jesus never married.

  • Why did Jesus discourage divorce and uphold traditional marriage? By doing so, He would prevent the possibility of attracting people into His group who wanted unlimited divorces as a form of legal wife swapping. That could have potentially attracted rich men who could afford to have multiple wives and sons and who could also line Jesus' pockets. Also, by upholding the sanctity of monogamous marriage, it prevented Him from having a harem like Muhammad. By discouraging divorce He was limiting the possibility of His marrying a divorced woman or adding her to His harem. Jesus' ethical standard was high. He didn't promote adultery, polygamy, fornication, or polyamorous relationships as some cults and cult leaders do (think Mormonism, Islam etc.).

  • Why did Jesus allow Himself to be baptized by an odd preacher who lived in the wilderness wore camel's hair and ate locusts and wild honey? A preacher looked down upon by the religious establishment. If one is going to be a strange leader, one might as well begin as a strange/odd leader by oneself. Of course, it's possible to start up a religious movement with good intentions at the beginning and then later to decline morally and become a fraud. But neither Jesus' beginning, ending or intervening ministry show any signs or hints of corruption.

  • Why did Jesus willingly get water baptized by John the Baptist (contrary to John's own protestation)? Cult leaders usually don't like to imply that their authority is derived or must be authenticated. Or that they were anointed, or appointed, or "ordained" by someone else. If they do claim it is derived, they will usually claim it was directly from God. That way they don't have to be accountable to anyone. Also, it would be difficult to dispute such a claim. Conveniently, no one saw Joseph Smith do the things he claimed (e.g. being visited by the angel Moroni). Also, it affords them the luxury of not having to show others who approved of them or authenticates their message and authority. Of course other cult leaders on the other hand have directly claimed to be God themselves.

  • Why didn't Jesus always and consistently acknowledge that His authority came from God? On one occasion when He was officially asked point blank where His authority came from and He didn't directly say it was from God. Instead He asked them a question, which if they answered, He would have answered them theirs. The question was, where they thought John the Baptist's authority came from. Cult leaders normally won't leave it unclear as to whether they are from God or not whenever there's a question in the people's mind. Or leave it unclear that they are God or not if they claim to be God. Jesus didn't do that. He seemed to trust that those whom God predestined to open the eyes of to believe would. See Matt. 13:10-17; Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:9-10. See also those times when Jesus said "If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear." [Mark 4:9; 4:23, 7:16; Luke 8:8; 14:35]

  • Why did Jesus approvingly pay the temple tax and commend the woman who gave her two small copper coins? By His own admission "the children are free" (Matt. 17:26). Sure cultist leaders are often willing to pay their taxes lest they get in trouble with the government. But this wasn't a tax by the Roman government. It was a religious tax for the temple. Therefore, the political ramifications wouldn't be too great if Jesus refused to pay. If anything, it would be the perfect opportunity to deny the authority of the religious establishment, thumb His nose at them, and affirm His own autonomous authority.

  • Why did Jesus make statements that initially offended and embarrassed Nicodemus? He was a potential ally within the religious community. A member of the Sanhedrin no less!

  • Why did Jesus say that He didn't know when the Son of Man (speaking of Himself) would return? Many scholars believe that saying is genuine precisely because of the principle of the Criterion of Embarrassment. No later Christian would attribute that saying to Jesus because it would appear to teach too low a Christology. That's why even very skeptical atheistic scholars accept its authenticity. See Mark 13:32. A shrewd cult leader would say he knew the day but that it was for their best interest for them not to know. Or that he wasn't permitted to say.

  • Why did Jesus  intentionally speak in parables so that people wouldn't understand Him?  In fact, His speaking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood was so radical that many people stopped following Him (see John 6). cf. Matt. 13:10-17, Mark 4:10-12; Luke 8:8-10

  • Why did Jesus say "For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."? Cult leaders don't normally say this sort of thing or model it by their behavior. Rather, cult leaders will say and do things so that they will be served.

    27 For who is greater, he who sits at the table, or he who serves? Is it not he who sits at the table? Yet I am among you as the One who serves.- Luke 22:27

    4 [Jesus] rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself.5 After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples' feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded.- John 13:4-5

    12    So when He had washed their feet, taken His garments, and sat down again, He said to them, "Do you know what I have done to you?13 You call Me Teacher and Lord, and you say well, for so I am.14 If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet.15 For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.16 Most assuredly, I say to you, a servant is not greater than his master; nor is he who is sent greater than he who sent him.- John 13:12-16

    28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."- Matt. 20:28

    45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many."- Mark 10:45

  • Why didn't Jesus usually try to defend Himself against the accusations of the chief priests and high priest? Cult leaders would rather ignore the criticisms of other religious and political leaders. However, when placed in a situation where it would be in their self interest to defend themselves and to their detriment if they didn't, they usually will defend themselves verbally and legally (often with well paid lawyers). Jesus never defended Himself in that way. He usually just made affirmations and minimally defend Himself for clarification's sake. He would make sure that He spoke in a way that people ought to have understood, but at the same time He didn't go out of His way to always make things absolutely clear; trusting in God's grace to open the eyes of those whom God elected (as mentioned above concerning predestination).

  • Why didn't Jesus try to save Himself from Herod and Pilate? If He had explained Himself, His mission and message more clearly, they may not have had Him crucified.

  • Why did Jesus endanger His life repeatedly? For example they were about to throw Him off a cliff in Luke 4 because of His message. Throughout His ministry He intentionally provoked the religious leaders to the point that they wanted Him dead. Sometimes it was because they understood Him. Other times because of a misunderstanding that Jesus could have easily cleared up.

  • Why would Jesus speak and minister to the Samaritan woman at the well? Being a Samaritan, she was considered by the Jews worse than a Gentile because she came from a race that were "half-breeds." They were part Gentile and part Jewish. Which was considered an abomination to them. Yet Jesus spoke to her prohetically contrary to His disciples expectations. Same thing with the miracle Jesus eventually granted to the Syrophoenician woman.

  • Why would Jesus send out His top disciples two by two to preach rather than keep them around Him so as to serve Him and protect Him from scandal or help Him hide His indiscretions? Also, cult leaders like to keep their inner followers close to them least they start to think for themselves.
  • Why did Jesus challenge His accusers and critics to prove Him of committing sin. A cult leader would be hesitant to make such a challenge.

    Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?- John 8:46

    30 I will no longer talk much with you, for the ruler of this world is coming. He
    [i.e. the Devil] has no claim on me,31 but I do as the Father has commanded me, so that the world may know that I love the Father. Rise, let us go from here.- John 14:30-31
  • Why didn't Jesus encourage the natural desire to "be somebody [important]" in His apostles and disciples? On the contrary, He said that the greatest among them would be the one willing to be servant of all. Mark 9:33-35; 10:35-44

  • Why would Jesus contrast Gentiles rulers who exercise their authority in such a way that they "lord it over" their subjects with the way Christians leaders should treat the laity? If Jesus were a cult leader, He and His closest associates would love "lording it over" the lower class followers. Mark 10:42

42 And Jesus called them to him and said to them, "You know that those who are considered rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great ones exercise authority over them.43 But it shall not be so among you. But whoever would be great among you must be your servant,44 and whoever would be first among you must be slave of all.45 For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many."- Mark 10:42-45

  • Why did Jesus allow the children to come to Him? Cult leaders would rather not have to deal with messy and insignificant children. Sure, some cult leaders will sometimes take the time to meet with children for the purposes of public relations. But this is just one more datum that should be considered when thinking about the character of Jesus. There's a cumulative effect of all these questions that lead one to suspect Jesus was at least sincere and not a fraud. Matt. 19:13-14; Mark 10:13-14; Luke 18:15-16

  • Why did Jesus strongly encourage people to forgive other people the sins committed against them? He even taught that if we didn't forgive other people that God wouldn't forgive us. That's a radical statement in light of the fact that cult leaders like to harness other people's bitterness, resentment and anger for their own purposes. Those things segregate people. Forgiveness promotes interaction of various groups. Something which is detrimental to the stability of closely-knit cults.

  • Why would Jesus say things like He did in Mark 12:38? The things Jesus denounces are the very things cultists like to do, have and experience. Clearly Jesus didn't do such things openly. Otherwise He would have been branded a flaming hypocrite. Doing them in private would be difficult because of the things I pointed out above.
    And in his teaching he said, "Beware of the scribes, who like to walk around in long robes and like greetings in the marketplaces39 and have the best seats in the synagogues and the places of honor at feasts,40 who devour widows' houses and for a pretense make long prayers. They will receive the greater condemnation."- Mark 10:38-39

  • If Jesus was a fraud, how would one explain Paul's conversion to Christianity? There are some naturalistic explanations atheists give. However, none of them are really convincing. One has to take seriously the fact that Paul was a rising star in Judaism. He was advancing quickly in the ranks of his fellow Jews. Why would he abandon the future success, notoriety, comfort and financial security he was almost certain to have gained in Judaism and trade all that for the shame, persecution and hardship of being a Christian. Nevertheless, he converted knowing he would become a major target of persecution since he was a major convert that embarrassed his former peers.

As I said above, while some of the things Jesus did might be done by some cult leaders on occasion, they wouldn't say or do ALL of the things attributed to Jesus of Nazareth. From a Christian perspective, reading all these things about the alleged character of Jesus ought to have a cumulative effect on the psyche of the people who read the Gospels. It ought to naturally lead one to seriously consider whether Jesus really was and is who and what the Christian church claims Him to be. In one sense the Jesus of the Gospels seems too good to be true. Yet at the same time, by the Holy Spirit's inner witness, that's precisely why it's too good not to be true. If, you're not a Christian, I encourage you to prayerfully read through the Gospels and consider if they don't have the ring of truth to them.

If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear!"
- Mark 7:16

Having eyes, do you not see? And having ears, do you not hear? And do you not remember?
- Mark 8:18