The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 14: The Dance of God

  • Keller: “I believe that Christianity makes the most sense out of our individual life stories and out of what we see in the world’s history.”
    • So it’s time to pull all the things we have been talking about together
  • The Divine Dance
    • The Trinity means that God is, in essence, relational
    • It is a relationship of mutual glorification
      • To glorify is not only to praise and enjoy, but to defer to and to serve. Your joy is to see joy in the person glorified.
      • This is the opposite of self-centeredness where one expects the other to sacrifice on one’s behalf. Or we do things for others only to meet our personal goals.
    • Keller introduces a term from the early Greek church: perichoresis, meaning to dance or to flow around. We can see the roots of our word choreography here.
      • CS Lewis: “When early Greek Christians spoke of perichoresis in God they meant that each divine person harbors the others at the center of his being.” And later “In Christianity God is not an impersonal thing nor a static thing – not even just one person – but a dynamic pulsating activity, a life, a kind of drama, almost, if you will not think me irreverent, a kind of dance . . . [The] pattern of this three-personal life is . . . the great fountain of energy and beauty spurting up at the very center of reality.”
    • The doctrine of the Trinity “overloads” our mental circuits.
      • Yet despite its cognitive challenges, it positively bristles with profound, wonderful, life-shaping, world-changing implications.
  • The One and the Many
    • From Plato and Aristotle to Modernity and Postmodernity, the tension between the One and the Many has plagued philosophy.
      • Is unity more important that particularity?
      • Is the individual more important than the group?
      • Are universals more important than particularities?
      • Should cultures choose absolutes or relativism, individualism or collectivism?
    • But if God is as much unity as diversity, then God does not fit on the scale described by these otherwise polar opposites.
      • Or perhaps we are being challenged to think of them differently. Perhaps not quite so polar!
    • Keller recommends Colin Gunton’s The One, the Three, and the Many.
  • The Dance of Love
    • If God were unipersonal, than he can have, from all eternity, power, sovereignty and greatness – but not love.
      • Love could not be at the heart of the universe. Only power.
    • But if God is triune, then loving relationships are at the center of reality.
      • And God can have love as His essence.
    • What does this teach us?
      • Unless you are willing to experience the loss of options and the individual limitations of a committed relationship, you will remain out of touch with your own nature and the nature of reality.
      • CS Lewis noted that the only place free of the pain of relationships is hell – that monument to self-centeredness.
    • And finally from Keller: “We believe the world was made by a God who is a community of persons who have loved each other for all eternity. You were made for mutually self-giving, other-directed love. Self-centeredness destroys the fabric of what God has made.”
  • The Dance of Creation
    • Think about someone you admire more than anyone else in the world. You would do anything for him or her. Then you discover that he/she feels exactly the same way about you! That’s heaven!
      • And indeed, it comes from heaven because it reflects the “other orientation” of God.
    • Indeed God does want us to glorify Him, not because He wants our praise, but because He wants our joy.
      • And unless we center on Him, we cannot experience that joy.
    • Jonathan Edwards reasoned (as summarized by George Marsden)
      • “The ultimate reason that God creates, said Edwards, is not to remedy some lack in God, but to extend that perfect internal communication of the triune God’s goodness and love. . .”
    • God did not create to get the cosmic, infinite joy of mutual love and glorification, but to share it! The love of the inner life of the Trinity is written all through Creation.
  • Losing and Returning to the Dance
    • The Bible begins with the dance, but in the Fall we lose it.
      • We were self-centered and wanted God to orbit around us.
    • Self-centeredness creates psychological alienation which leads to social disintegration
      • And in some way, humanity’s refusal to serve God has led to our alienation from the natural world as well.
    • But Christ was born into the world so that a new community could lose its self-centeredness. Christ came to share God’s joy and glory.
      • In John 17 “I have given them the glory that you gave me.”
      • He centers on us, loving us without benefit to himself.
    • Christ invites us to center our lives on Him, with all the attendant joy that brings.
      • CS Lewis says: “This is not a . . . law which we can escape . . . What is outside the system of self-giving is . . . simply and solely Hell . . . that fierce imprisonment in the self. . . Self-giving is absolute reality.”
  • The Future of the Dance
    • At the end of the Bible we see not the world melting away, or spiritual souls escaping the physical world – but heaven descending into our world!
      • A “new heaven and a new earth” where all is made right.
  • How do we respond to all this?
    • Clearly, Christianity is about so much more than getting one’s individual sins forgiven so we can go to heaven.
    • The purpose of Jesus’ coming is to put the whole world right – to bring shalom.
    • It’s hard to overemphasize the uniqueness of this vision.
      • No other religion show any interest in restoring the material world.
      • Liberation for them is some kind of liberation from the physical world.
    • Salvation lies not in an escape from this world but in the transformation of the world.
      • So when other religions offer salvation, you have to ask “What salvation?”
  • We can respond in three ways.
    • We share God’s joy and glory when we give Him glory.
    • We honor and serve the dignity of other humans made in God’s image.
    • We cherish his derivative glory in the world of nature.
  • Or we can look at it from the perspective of final restoration.
    • The world and our hearts are broken. Jesus' life, death and resurrection were an infinitely costly rescue mission.
    • To be a Christian is to be part of that operation – expecting hardship and suffering in joyful anticipation of eventual success.
  • The Gospel makes sense of moral obligation and our belief in the reality of justice.
    • So Christians do restorative and redistributive justice wherever they can.
  • The Gospel make sense of our indelible religiousness.
    • So Christians do evangelism, pointing the way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God through Jesus.
  • The Gospel makes sense of our profoundly relational character.
    • So Christians work sacrificially to strengthen human communities around them as well as the Church.
  • The Gospel makes sense of our delight in the presence of beauty.
    • So Christians become stewards of the material world.
      • Cultivating the natural world through science or gardening.
      • Through artistic endeavors.
      • Knowing that they are in support of human flourishing.
  • Christians then should be the true “revolutionaries” working for justice and truth in expectation of a coming perfect world.
    • Where we will say “I’ve come home at last! This is my real country!”
    • And yet, as CS Lewis says, all the adventures we have had up to that day will end up being only “the cover and the title page.”
Epilogue
Reason for God



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