Muhammad Ali was proud of his boxing prowess and often exclaimed, “I am the greatest!” To some, Ali was stating the truth. They considered him the greatest of all time. To others, Ali was being arrogant. Arrogance can be subjective.
What makes a claim arrogant? Any definition that is applied to a claim will still make it disputable. The veracity of a claim is independent of whether one deems it arrogant or not.
The Gospel invites people to repent, so people can get emotional and seek to undermine it by applying labels. I remain convinced that the Gospel is indispensable to humankind by its unique message of God’s grace, and a charge of “arrogance” is inappropriate.
The Gospel answers the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth was Christ. What’s at stake is of ultimate significance. If Jesus was indeed equal with God, then the Gospel’s meaning for humankind is serious. The supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ would take precedence over all other religions and worldviews, and the message becomes all or nothing. Do you see how easily it can become an emotionally charged topic? That is why proponents of the Gospel are sometimes perceived as making arrogant claims.
Intellectuals have always arisen to contest the Gospel, and Christian apologists were urged to respond. The classic trilemma of C.S. Lewis sought to provide a rationale for belief in the deity of Jesus. Lewis reasoned that when Jesus spoke of Himself as equal with God, He was either insane, lying, or telling the truth. A brilliant teacher like Jesus could not have been crazy. Lying was inconsistent with His overall teaching and there was no motive to mislead people.
Lewis concluded that the reasonable position was that Jesus was revealing the Truth. There have been critiques of Lewis’s trilemma; notably, that there could be other alternatives that require consideration. Nevertheless, I believe that Jesus is Lord because any alternative belief will not harmonize with the New Testament’s teaching on the efficacy of God’s grace. In other words, if Jesus is not Lord, then He was just another martyr and no martyr can offer the regenerative experience of God’s grace. Only Christ can say to everyone throughout the ages, “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” (Matt. 11:28).
Furthermore, let’s note a rule of logic that has withstood the test of time, and is germane to the conversation. The law of the excluded middle is that a claim is either true or false. There is no middle option and an opinion of arrogance is in any case irrelevant. Nowadays I find that skeptics disregard this rule because they don’t like the conversation’s direction. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6), He was either speaking the truth or He was not. There is no middle option. Open-mindedness should concern itself with exploring the truth of this claim while dismissing emotionalism.
Now the Gospel doesn’t predetermine the efficacy of grace based on gender, race, level of education, socio-economic status, or political affiliation. Neither does it have an ulterior motive. It invites repentance, and “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by His grace as a gift” (Rom. 3:23). It promises forgiveness, new life, peace, and a living reconciliation with God. This can either be accepted or declined. A perception of arrogance stems from a convicted heart that desires an excuse because self-centeredness is considered of more value than repentance.
Here skeptics push back by underscoring that the Gospel threatens unbelievers. Ironically, this fails to acknowledge that the Gospel’s purpose is to save people from sin and from a world that is constantly threatening humanity with nuclear war, violence, human and drug trafficking, greed, malevolence, and exploitation. All inhabitants of the world are vulnerable to these threats. Perpetrators of the foregoing can be redeemed and regenerated to make better contributions to the world. Otherwise, God is our Maker and He has the right to impose ultimate justice. The cliché that “Jesus is our only hope” remains a marvelous truth.
Finally, the Gospel does not vet or prefer anyone. Jesus taught, “Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find” (Matt. 22:9). Those who accept the Lord’s invitation receive a white robe from Him. After Paul recited sinful behaviors, he wrote: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11).
The Gospel is gracious, merciful, indiscriminate, and loving. It’s also unassuming, unpretentious and humbling, and these are antonyms of “arrogance.”
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