Asinine Fatuity is a colorful couplet, borrowed from one of the clearest thinkers of the 20th century, CS Lewis. Before digging into why I've titled this post this way, let's begin with definitions:
- Asinine: /as-uh-nahyn/ (adj.) foolish, unintelligent, stupid; like an ass.
- Fatuity: /fuh-too-i-tee/ (noun) complacent stupidity, idiocy.
Lewis suggests that asinine fatuity is an accurate description of the person with delusions of grandeur ... like me claiming to be Napoleon or Tom Hanks or Abraham Lincoln. I'd be a nutcase. Surprisingly, however, Lewis' point is that Jesus would appear to be a nutcase, because He claimed to be Creator God, in the flesh. Such a claim is surely asinine fatuity ... unless, of course, it is true. Then, it takes our breath away.
Why Do I Bring This Up?
This morning I was reading Matthew 9:1-8, where Jesus and his disciples return by boat to his hometown of Nazareth. While visiting, some men bring a friend to Jesus ... a friend with an existential need. He is paralyzed. They've heard rumors of Jesus' ability to heal. Will he heal their friend, so he can stand, walk, and run again?
In that moment, Jesus thinks it's proper to speak to the paralytic, rather than inspect his condition. "Young man," Jesus said, "your sins are forgiven." Huh? What did Jesus just say? What is happening here? This is where Lewis helps us understand. In his book, Mere Christianity, Lewis tackles this encounter between the paralytic and Jesus, observing that the only person able to forgive another man's sins is the person who's been sinned against. In other words, if you step on my toe, I can then offer you forgiveness, since I am the one whose toe throbs in pain. I was injured and alone possess the position to forgive you.
But, Lewis asks, what are we to make of the Man whose toes are not stepped on ... yet proceeds to forgive the transgressor for his toe-stomping ways? Lewis' answer: asinine fatuity. Jesus would appear to be a nutcase, stupidly stupid. He's forgiving a man for sins when he has no right to do so. Jesus wasn't the one offended by the man's toe-smashing sins. Or was he?
What if we think a bit deeper? If you smash my toes terribly, I can forgive you. But when you smash my toes, you don't simply hurt me. You hurt someone else far more. You hurt The One who cherishes me, who created me, who watches over me day and night, who thinks of me as the apple of His eye, whose passion is for my joy.
Through a Dog Owner's Eyes
For example, what if I owned the most loving and loyal dog in the entire world, and you came along and mindlessly shot him ("stomped on his paws") for the fun of it. Is my dog the only injured party? Of course not. You have brutally injured me (the Master) by injuring my dog. All of us are the dog; God is the caring Master, whose heart is injured in every offense against his dog.
By forgiving the paralytic's sins, Jesus is subtly declaring that He is the One against whom all this man's sins have been aimed. Rightly understood, Jesus is claiming to be God.
In fact, the Scriptures repeatedly declare that Jesus is God in the flesh. The references are abundant: John 1:1,14; Colossians 2:9; Matthew 1:23b; John 10:30-33; Hebrews 1:8; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; John 20:28; John 8:54-58; Isaiah 9:6; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 1:8 compared to 22:13.
Back to the story of the paralytic. If you and I were in the audience, we might have heard the mutterings of several co-listeners to Jesus. They might sound like this:
Listener #1: "What did Jesus just say? Who in the world does he think he is – God? Seriously? We watched him grow up and apprentice in his Dad's carpenter shop. What kind of hubris is this? Asinine fatuity! He's insane!"
Listener #2: "No, no, he's not insane; he's brilliant! Never have we seen such an ingenious con-man. He's got us all duped. If you want to fool people, don't make up little lies; feed them a whopper -- not a white lie. The naive will always follow such ridiculous self-assurance. The bigger the lie, the more mesmerizing the man."
Listener #3: "Wait a minute. He's not done talking. Did he just tell the paralyzed man to stand up? Look!"
And get up he did, at the command of the Creator. In that moment, as the paralytic stood and stretched his legs, it was no longer credible to assert that "Jesus is a Lunatic" or "Jesus is a scheming Liar." These options were soundly eliminated, leaving only one rational alternative: Jesus actually is God – his claim is not asinine fatuity.
Nevertheless, because humans are prone to irrationality, we're still left with a choice:
- Reject Jesus' claim anyway, though He has proven himself to be God in the flesh. Though absurd, this remains the #1 choice of most men.
- Accept Jesus' embedded claim (He can forgive sin and heal paralysis because He is God) and all the ramifications that must follow. He is Creator. He is Almighty. He is Ruler. And, therefore, I am none of those things. I am a needy follower who must lay down his life to truly know Him.
What will we decide, today?