The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 1: There Can't Be Just One True Religion

Doubt: Christianity’s perceived exclusivity is perhaps THE stumbling block

  • All religions can’t be right about the nature of God
  • Religious exclusivity is a force for conflict in the world

Civic and cultural leaders invoke three approaches to religion

  • Outlaw it – Russia, China, Cambodia, Nazi Germany
    • The late 19th century believed religion was going to die out anyway
    • But efforts to suppress it have generally made it only that much stronger
  • Condemn it – discredit and discourage it via education and argument
    • All major religions are equally valid and basically teach the same thing
    • Of course the assertion that doctrines don’t matter is itself a doctrine!
    • Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth
    • But how could you possibly know that unless you yourself could see the whole truth that you just claimed no one can know?
    • Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be “truth”
    • Keller used to hear all religions were equally true – now hears they are equally false!
    • This is a form of relativism, but we now understand that “Relativism relativizes itself!” as in “All claims about religions are historically conditioned except this one!”
    • It is arrogant to insist your religion is right and to convert others to it
    • But this itself is a religious belief and therefore arrogant
  • Keep religion completely private.
    • Expelled from the public sphere
    • But it’s impossible to exclude religion when we reason morally
    • If religion is a set of beliefs that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things that human beings should spend their time doing
    • And if both skeptics and believers hold such a belief story Then exclusion is impossible! [Keller imagines the debate over, for example, divorce law – when the concept of what it means for humans to flourish is either Living a moral life that protects the sanctity of commitments and families vs. The freedom to define you own priority regardless of the collateral damage to others There can be no debate until the moral objective is settled!]
    • Keller grants that religions can be a “slippery slope” to exclusivity and that this can lead to oppression
    • But Christianity might be just what the world needs. Because Christianity has within it the resources to counteract this divisive tendency of the human heart
    • Christians believe that ALL are made in the image of God. We believe non-believers are better than their beliefs. And we believe that we as Christians are often not as good as our beliefs. That leaves plenty of ground for respectful cooperation.
    • At the heart of Christianity is a “man“ who dies for His enemies while at the same time praying for their forgiveness. So if ALL religions are exclusive, why not align with the one that offers itself on equal footing to all mankind?

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