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Watch me get theological on yer ass

Jacob at Cannot Be Trusted (an offbeat and excellent blog, by the way) likes an argument that Bono of U2 makes against "secular" appreciation of Jesus:
Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: He was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn't allow you that. He doesn't let you off that hook. Christ says, No. I'm not saying I'm a teacher, don't call me teacher. I'm not saying I'm a prophet. I'm saying: 'I'm the Messiah.' I'm saying: 'I am God incarnate.' . . . So what you're left with is either Christ was who He said He was - the Messiah - or a complete nutcase. . . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that's farfetched."
As Jacob notes, this argument isn't original to Bono. I believe it was first advanced by C.S. Lewis in the perennial favorite Mere Christianity, but I could be wrong about that. (I mean, I know Lewis made a similar argument in that book, I'm just not sure he was the first.)

Now, just FYI, I'm not at all hostile to religion or Christianity, but I've never quite understood the force of this particular argument.

It seems to be saying that Jesus couldn't be correct about a particular set of propositions (i.e., his 'ethical' teachings - love thy neighbor, etc.) unless he was correct about a certain other proposition (i.e., that he was the son of God) not contained in that set. But why not? The latter isn't strictly entailed by the former, and people are often right about some stuff and wrong about other stuff.

If he genuinely thought he was the son of God, and in actuality wasn't, then yes, he would indeed be something of a nutcase ... but is it that much of a stretch to suppose that a certified 'nutcase' might still have something of value to teach? Aren't there actually examples of this all over the place? Van Gogh was kind of insane, but he was still a great artist. Kant was a bit of nutball, but I myself ranked him as my second-favorite philosopher of all time.

Obviously, even if this argument fails, nothing is proved; it is still possible that Jesus was indeed the Messiah. It just means that the 'secular response' to Jesus is still a live option.

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