The Reason for God
Chapter 11: Religion and the Gospel
- If Christianity teaches that the main problem is sin, what is the solution?
- Why can’t there be other solutions than Jesus?
- There is a profound difference in how Christianity tells us to seek salvation and how other religions do so.
- All other religions have teachers. Only Christianity has The Way to salvation.
- Keller defines religion as “salvation through moral effort”
- This leads to self-centeredness in two forms.
- Being bad and breaking all the rules.
- Being good and keeping all the rules and becoming self-righteous.
- It is just as possible to avoid Jesus by keeping all the rules as by breaking them.
- The Pharisees built their sense of worth on their moral and spiritual performance.
- They were creating a resume to present to God and the world.
- This leads, inevitably it seems, to self-righteousness, exclusion, insecurity, anger and generally unattractive people.
- Indeed, Pharisees and their unattractive lives have left many people confused about the true meaning of Christianity.
- And he distinguishes it from the gospel which is “salvation through grace”
The Difference of Grace
- The difference is one of motivation.
- In religion we obey divine standards out of fear, in the gospel out of gratitude.
- In religion we say “I obey, therefore I am accepted by God.”
- In the gospel we say “I am accepted by God through what Christ has done – therefore I obey.”
- The Gospel sets us right.
- I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me yet so loved and valued He was willing.
- I cannot feel superior to anyone, but I don’t have anything to prove to anyone.
- I do not think more or less of myself, I just think of myself less!
- Religion suggests that the good should not suffer – so of course if they do, they are angry at God or at themselves.
- But Jesus, who lived the perfect life, was no stranger to suffering.
- Grace is open ended, which is not always appreciated as a good thing.
- If our works saved us, presumably there would be a limit to our contribution.
- But if we are saved by unmerited grace, the obligation is open-ended!
- But to the Christian, this is fine, because the motivation is joy, not fear.
- What a paradox: the most liberating act of free, unconditional grace demands that the recipient give up control of his or her life!
- But remember, that we are all living for something, and that something is going to control us (wealth, popularity, social status, etc.)
- But if what controls us is not God, it WILL oppress us.
- So grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose.
- Whereas was are created to get our identity from something to which we will cede control.
There is no escaping this aspect of life.