Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Reason for God ~ Chapter One

Ni Hao Yall

The excerpt below is copied from Stefanie's blog so you can read the chapter summary.

The Reason for God – Chapter One: There Can’t Be Just One True Religion
Timothy Keller begins by presenting the time honored arguments against the nature of God and Christians in particular – intolerance and exclusivity. And he lays out his response to each of the attempts made by cultural and political leaders to rid the world of the religious binds that they blame for the issues we face today: 1) outlaw religion 2) condemn religion and 3) privatize religion.
Argument 1 – If society could outlaw religion, we would rid ourselves of the divisiveness caused by differing religions – intolerance and violence would disappear. But experimental attempts to outlaw religion in societies has instead created more violence and more intolerance. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, Communist China, Soviet Russia and Nazi Germany are all examples of the utter failure of the efforts to remove religion from society. Taken together, the rule of non-religious despots in the 20th Century contributed to an estimated 30 – 40 million deaths. Besides an outright attempt at banning religion, Keller argues that many believe that as science advances, the ‘need’ for religion will summarily subside. And yet, the opposite is actually occurring. As science careens forward, “Virtually all major religions are growing in number of adherents.” [p. 6] Keller believes that religion is not temporary but is instead central to the human condition and that this truth is not going to change.
Argument 2 – If we can’t get rid of religion, can’t we discourage those who claim to have “the truth” and who attempt to convert others? Can’t we just admit that all religions serve the same god, are of equal importance and create the same path to enlightenment? Keller then lays out the arguments:
– All major religions are equally valid and basically teach the same thing
– Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth
– Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be ‘truth’
– It is arrogant to insist your religion is right and to convert others to it [p. 7, 8, 9, 11]
These axioms – that Keller describes as having been repeated so frequently that they are now considered common sense – have seeped into our society and inconspicuously garnered support with believers and non-believers alike. But as Keller dismantles each axiom, we find that these arguments not only disprove themselves but reveal the self-righteousness and pride of the one making the arguments. “It is no more narrow to claim that one religion is right than to claim that one way to think about all religions (namely that all are equal) is right. We are all exclusive in our beliefs about religion, but in different ways.” [p.14]
Argument 3 – Religion is a private affair and should be kept as such. If one wants to have religion, then it should be reserved for private conversations with those who adhere to the same thoughts and ideas. Keller shows the foolishness of the person who argues against public pronouncements of religious belief because of its supposed toxicity – a case for a secular belief system that, in and of itself, is not universal, and therefore is actually faith based and has the potential to be just as toxic. His grounds are that, “…all moral positions are at least implicitly religious.” [p. 18] Calling for the complete privatization of religion in and of itself is ultimately a conundrum because it is asking to remove itself, the religious secular belief, to be removed as well.
After thoughtfully dismantling each of the arguments presented, Keller comes full circle and states that although religion has the potential to threaten world peace, Christ’s guiding principles can actually lead His followers to be agents for world peace. Not because of any inherent good they might possess, but because of who they are in Christ. He argues that because the Christian understands his inherent sinfulness and need of a Savior, he is able to see the world through a viewpoint of inclusivity not exclusivity. “God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.” [p. 20] We are all sinners in need of a Savior. Therefore, the Christian life – based on the life and death of Jesus Christ who died for those who hated Him and prayed for their forgiveness – should be marked by more honesty, more humility and more selfless love than any other.
Question: Which of the axioms presented by Keller resonated most with you? Do you agree with it or disagree with it? Why?
My response:
This study is proving to be very deep.  In fact, I find myself reading the chapter 3 times to get what Keller is saying.  I feel that the more I get to know, the less I realize I know, if that makes sense.
The axiom that most resonated with me is number 4, it is arrogant to insist your religion is right and to convert others to it.
For some reason I have inadvertently bought into this.  I think it might be the muddy waters between doctrinal truth and cultural/historical beliefs and traditions.  Since coming to know Christ later in life I've had an inherent belief that folks who were raised in the faith must have all the answers and know the walk.  And I'm not pointing a critical finger at those believers; I'm wondering why I've believed that.  In so thinking, I've fallen into the trap of cultural norms.  If so-and-so does such-and-such and believes thus-and-so, then it must be okay.  And then comes doubt.  Doubt in absolute truth.  My 'walk' and my version of Truth gradually conforms to societal standards.  The more I conform, the more I justify my inappropriate responses.  But yet, the Spirit dwells within me, so I know I'm wrong, and the battle rages within.  It would be completely arrogant for a sinner such as myself to insist that my religion is right.

I love what Keller wrote: “God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.”

And that the Christian life should be marked by more honesty, more humility and more selfless love than any other.

My response to Christ should cause others to draw nearer to him.  Just imagine what 'cultural norms' would look like then!

1 comment:

Chris said...

Oh wow! this is a deep subject. I grew up in a church and am still learning. What is difficult is separating the different outward ways people follow Christ...too often we get our clothing standards, and other personal convictions (church guidelines) mixed up with Biblical doctrine. Don't worry, the devil loves to cause doubt in our minds whether we became Christians at 12 or 42

You Might Also Like...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...