The primary message of Jesus Christ is that of human inadequacy. We are not sufficient in and of ourselves and we need God’s help to love and to be good people. As demonstrated by the rejection of the gospel message, human beings passionately hate this message. I believe that the intensity of this hatred comes from our process of growth and development.
We start off as helpless toddlers who cannot wait to do things on our own without assistance. We become children who resent being restrained and denied at every turn. We later become teenagers who chafe under the direction and restrictions of our parents. The message of Christ flies in the face of the fierce sense of independence that we develop while growing up and we ridicule those who speak this truth too boldly. “If you are so weak that you need help, that is fine for you. Those of us who are mature adults don’t need that crutch. We are just fine on our own.”
Of course, the brunt of the abuse falls on the Lord Jesus Christ himself and people often try to tear him down and deny the truth of our need for his constant grace and forgiveness. Atheists take the obvious route and pull Jesus down by saying there was nothing special about him. They deny the uniqueness of his sacrifice, his teaching and his person. “Jesus was nothing special.” they say, “If he even existed, then he was a regular man who said the same things that other people have said.” When Christians tear Jesus down, they take a much different approach.
There are two basic ways to attack an idea or a person. The first way is to attack the idea or person directly. “That idea is silly and stupid and wrong.” The second way is to attack the person or idea indirectly. If an atheist were to attack Jesus Christ using the indirect approach, he would say something like, “Gandhi was just as great a teacher and human being as Jesus Christ.” Notice that the assailant has not attacked the Christ directly. Such a statement is, nevertheless, an attack on Christ. If Jesus were only as good a man as Gandhi, then Christianity is false and Jesus was a liar. When Christians perform such an attack, they usually use a figure from the Bible.
Most Protestants are aware of Catholic abuses in this regard. “Those Catholics believe that Mary was good and loving and divine like Jesus Christ.”, they argue with disgust. “How could you be a Christian and commit blasphemy by comparing a mere woman to the only begotten Son of God? Did not Jesus say, ‘Know ye not that God alone is good?’ It is like Catholics don’t know the Bible at all.'”
When I hear strident condemnation from Protestants, however, it is deeply saddening. Such people speak as though they don’t know that for a thousand years there were no Protestant denominations and that the Catholic church was the face of Christianity in the West. They speak as though they don’t know that Martin Luther was an anti-semite whose hateful teachings about the Jews planted some of the seeds that grew into the Holocaust. They speak as if they don’t realize that Protestant errors are almost as bad as Catholic errors! It hurts so much that the only way to cope is to laugh.
While Catholics make the error of elevating Mary and the New Testament saints to the level of Christ and teaching people to worship them, few Protestants realize that Protestant errors are almost as egregious. While Protestants do not advocate the worship of the Old Testament prophets, they do teach the Old Testament as though the prophets of Israel were righteous, holy and perfectly obedient like Jesus Christ. This despite the fact that the Bible is clear on the subject:
Truly I tell you, among those born of women there has not risen anyone greater than John the Baptist; yet whoever is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. (Matthew 11:11)
For truly I tell you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see but did not see it, and to hear what you hear but did not hear it. (Matthew 13:17)
Protestants also teach that Adam was good in the Garden of Eden when the Bible clearly teaches that this is not true. Adam was a created being and he was not good like Jesus Christ in the Garden of Eden. If he had been, then he never would have eaten of the tree of the fruit of knowledge.
No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18)
They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator–who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:25)
Every time a Protestant says that Adam was good in the Garden of Eden or teaches the Old Testament as though Moses and the other prophets were not vicious and brutal bronze age barbarians, they pull Jesus Christ down by elevating human beings to his level. With his groundbreaking teaching and awesome sacrifice, Jesus demonstrated a unique love that marks him as entirely separate (holy) from sinful humanity. If I had to choose between Protestant and Catholic errors, I would reluctantly choose the Protestant errors. At least Protestants recognize that the explicit worship of human beings is wrong. But why have any error at all? Why not recognize the unique worth and supremacy of Jesus Christ?