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Book Review: “Mad or God?” by Pablo Martinez and Andrew Sims

C.S. Lewis’s famous trilemma is central to Martinez and Sims’s investigation in Mad or God? That trilemma states:

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic… or else he would be the devil of hell…” (cited on page xi)

The trilemma, then, is that Jesus is, as many have put it, mad, bad, or God (or Liar, Lord, or Lunatic). In Mad or God?, Martinez and Sims examine the claim in light of whether Jesus can be read as a madman. What’s interesting is that, unlike many works on the trilemma (or ones which reference it), this one is written by two who have expertise in the topic. According to the author blurbs, Pablo Martinez is a psychiatrist and Andrew Sims is a “world-renowned authority on the study of the symptoms of the mind (psychopathology).”

The book is centered around chapters which examine Jesus’s words in the Gospels and looking at whether, from a psychiatric standpoint, they qualify as various forms of psychopathy. These chapters examine, then, whether Jesus was mentally disturbed, psychotic, suffered from mental impairment, had a questionable character, lived a consistent life, sustained healthy relationships, was tested by adversity, had a positive influence, and made claims that might be sustained.

Each chapter is fairly short and gets straight to the heart of the claim. While acknowledging the difficulty with psychoanalysis of people who are long-dead, the authors work with the information on hand–the words and acts of Jesus in the Gospels. For example, in the chapter on psychosis, the authors outline the symptoms of psychopathy and look at the accusation of the same for Jesus. Of particular interest is the reaction of Jesus’s family, which the authors argue is understandable given the claims Jesus was making. Then, the authors go through individual symptoms of psychosis and argue that Jesus does not cohere with these symptoms. This is essentially the model for each chapter of the book, making it an easy reference for those interested in the trilemma argument. If someone says that Jesus was mentally impaired, flip to that chapter and see why we may trust he was not. If they wish for positive evidence of soundness of mind, a perusal of the chapters on relationships and consistency will serve.

An objection that might immediately come up to this work is that if the Gospels are not trustworthy historical accounts of Jesus’s words, then the whole argument falls apart. Sims and Martinez essentially leave this argument to others, and indeed there are many, many works which seek to answer this objection. Essentially, this book’s aim is to show that if we take the words and actions of Jesus as having been reported in a trustworthy manner, then it is clear that Jesus is not a lunatic.

Mad or God? is a unique and pithy look at one of the most popular arguments for the deity of Christ. With its short length, it does not comprehensively deal with every issue that may come up, but as a quick reference for those wishing to make this argument, it is excellent.


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Book Reviews– There are plenty more book reviews to read! Read like crazy! (Scroll down for more, and click at bottom for even more!)



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Really Recommended Posts 2/28/14

snowl-owl-post-arpingstoneKids Say the Darnedest Heresies– How should we react when kids don’t understand essentials of Christian doctrine? Jason Wisdom offers some interesting advice for how to deal with the situation… and it’s not just to laugh it off! I’d be curious to see what parents think of this post!

A Critical Review of Myron Penner’s “The End of Apologetics”– “The End of Apologetics” recently received some acclaim from Christianity Today, which I find a bit shocking, to be honest. Rather than declaring the “end” of Apologetics, we should be encouraging its bolstering and spread. I very highly recommend this post for some looks into the issues Penner’s book raised.

Kevin Lewis: Sharing the Gospel with Atheists (VIDEO)- One of my professors from Biola University, Kevin Lewis, here shares his thoughts on how to share the Gospel with atheists. Kevin Lewis is a witty, awesome lecturer, and I think you’ll enjoy this as much as I did!

Option (COMIC)- A fun way to look at the rather famous “trilemma” from C.S. Lewis. Here, it is presented in comic form.

A Smart Movie that Questions Evolution (Yes It’s Possible!)– There’s a movie coming called “I Origins” which explores intelligent design and the New Atheism through… yes! a storyline! Check out this look into the flick. It’s apparently out already but I can’t seem to track it down anywhere. Have you seen it? What are your thoughts?

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