I lost my faith, in college. I lost it because of a subtle psychological pressure. It was all right to believe in Jesus as a "good and wise" teacher, and elevate Him on an equal plane with Mohammed, who founded the Islamic faith, with Gautama Buddha, who was a prince of India and founded Buddhism, with Confucius of China (more of a political philosopher, really) whose sayings affect so much of that portion of the world – in short, with any respectable founder of a religion.
I could put Jesus in that category, dispense with Him as a "good and wise teacher," be accepted and get my intellectual wings. But to hold to the belief that Jesus Christ was the Son of God, and thus super-natural was simply not acceptable. Parenthetically, I might comment that there is a current hour-long advertisement on television for tape sales, telling you the origin of all religions.
It starts in Egypt, but they never go to Sumer where the religions started that flowed to Egypt (and they never got to Babylon). Still, there is no one with any sense that denies the influence of Egypt on both the Hebrews and the Greeks. Cyrus Gordon settled that.
But in this ad some portly little guy sits there, and some suave, slick-coifed tamed TV evangelist-looking guy sits there, and they tell you how all religions started, and then they make an oblique reference to the 16 crucified saviors – which can't be found in the implication of the analogy drawn.
It's just another example of the current "ecumenical approach to religion" – the religion of no religion (as it was called by one of my professors in Comparative Religion at Stanford) because all religions (they say) have "the same root." That approach came at me, persuasively suggesting that I was not intelligent until I graduate from this "primitive" attitude toward Christ as the super-natural, divine Son of God and instead accept Him as but another expression, another founder, in the stream of common religiousness; thus reduced to simply a "good and wise teacher."
The only problem with the intellectual substitute for a faith in a supernatural Christ, namely just a"good and wise teacher," is that He can't be either one unless He is both.
To be good, you have to tell what's true. You can be insane, you can be a nut, and honestly believe something that's dead wrong, and be good – but not wise. To be wise, you've got to be right; to be good, you've got to be honest, and "their" Jesus could be good but not wise, wise but not good, but definitely not both. Why?
In any source that you have for Jesus in history, if you are going to call him good and wise, you are going to go to his sayings and you are going to go to his actions. I don't restrict the source to the Gospels, even though that is where most of the opponents of a supernatural Christ go as they hunt and peck and pull certain verses out to illustrate his life and sayings, even highlighting them in red on television.
You can go behind the Gospels. There is a hypothetical "Q" document. One of the early church fathers said that Matthew wrote down the sayings of Christ as he traveled with Him, not in Greek but in his native language, Aramaic. We know his Gospel was written most likely at Antioch and written in Greek. This "Sayings of Jesus," written in Aramaic, may have been a common source for the Gospels. Those who can read Greek see changes in style in sections of the Gospels, and can reconstruct these sections to propose a source used by all three of the Synoptic Gospel writers, Matthew, Mark and Luke (particularly Matthew and Luke).
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