A friend once told me, “Jesus is absolutely real to me.”

I can’t meet this half-way. It’s wrong. It is a misuse of words. Jesus is not real to you. That is simply not true.

Once a woman was getting onto an elevator with me and she said, “It’s so hot out there I was literally melting.” She misused the word ‘literally’. To say “Jesus is real to me” is to misuse the word ‘real’. Jesus is not real. He is a thought, an image, a feeling. He is not a person. This is so obvious that I feel goofy pointing it out. You could get away with saying, “It’s as if I can touch him,” but not with “I can touch him.” That is simply not true. You can’t see him, touch him, hear him, or smell him. He’s not there.

Jesus is not a person. That’s why you can’t have a personal relationship with him. Even if he exists as some sort of immortal spirit, that’s not the same thing as being a person. Jesus the person died 2,000 years ago (if he ever existed). And you can’t have a personal relationship with an old pile of bones.

“Jesus seems real to me” could be taken seriously (as a report of a feeling) – but “Jesus is absolutely real to me” is absolutely wrong. To combine the relative expression ‘to me’ with the absolute word ‘real’ – plus the word ‘absolute’! – is perfectly incoherent. This is a sentence that cannot possibly mean anything.

Maybe what you are trying to convey is that Jesus is a topic that, for you, is charged with emotion. You feel something when you read or think or talk about Jesus. But feelings don’t prove anything. If feelings made things true, then everyone on Earth would have a steady romantic partner (except for those few people who don’t want one). Your having strong feelings about Jesus doesn’t prove that Jesus exists. It’s that simple.

As we showed earlier, your strong feelings don’t even prove that you believe that Jesus exists. Feelings are not beliefs.

To sum up: I do not accept your statement that Jesus is “absolutely real” to you. I don’t believe that it can be true.