The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 3: Christianity is a Straitjacket.

Doubt: Does a belief in absolute Truth imply an enemy of freedom?

Lets look at two opposite points of view:

M. Scott Peck: “Mental health requires that the human will submit itself to something higher than itself. To function decently in this world we must submit ourselves to some principle that takes precedence over what we want at any given moment.” (The People of the Lie, p. 162)
Supreme Court in Planned Parenthood v. Casey: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning of the universe, and the mystery of human life.” (not discover, define!)

So are all truth claims power plays as the postmodernists claim?

  • But isn’t to say all statements are power plays simply itself a power play?
  • As C.S. Lewis says: “. . . You cannot go on “explaining away” forever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. . . . To “see through” all things is the same as not to see.”
  • All denunciations imply a moral doctrine of some kind.

A totally inclusive community is an illusion – it would hold to no truth!

  • All communities hold beliefs (in what is true) that necessarily create boundaries, including some and excluding others.

So a better test would be: does any community lead its members to treat others with love and respect, to serve and meet their needs? Why YES!

Christianity isn’t Culturally Rigid.

  • The pattern of Christian expansion differs from every other religion
    • It has not been geographic-centric.
    • Christianity: Jerusalem, Hellenists, N. Europe, N. America, now Africa and Asia.
    • Every other religion is still “at home” eg. Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism.
  • Africa is particularly instructive
    • Lamin Sanneh: Christianity helped Africans to become renewed Africans, not re-made Europeans.
    • He argues that secularism with its anti-supernaturalism and individualism is much more destructive of local cultures and “African-ness” than Christianity.
      • When Africans become Christian, their African-ness is converted, completed, and resolved, not replaced with European-ness or something else.
      • Through Christianity Africans get distance enough to critique their traditions yet still inhabit them.
  • Christianity has core teachings, but great freedom in how they are expressed and take form within a particular culture.
    • There is no “Christian culture” the way there is an “Islamic culture”.
    • Christianity is not a Western religion that destroys local culture.
      • In fact, Christianity brings freedom.
      • But contrary to the contemporary perspective, that’s not simple!

Freedom isn't simple!

  • Today: freedom is defined in negative terms – the absence of confinement or constraint.
    • Freedom is viewed as synonymous with and equivalent to liberation
  • Yet: Discipline and constraint liberate us when they fit with the reality of our nature and capacities.
    • A musical child needs lessons and practice, an athlete as well.
    • [Train up a child in the way he should go . . .]
  • So true freedom is finding the right constraints, the liberating restrictions.
    • Today’s perspective is that the spiritual realm, to the extent that it exists, is nothing like the rest of the world.
      • Intangible things are somehow second rate, or of lesser import.
    • But if intangibles are weak, how do we understand the following question? Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?
      • If the answer is yes (and it always is), then there ARE moral constraints in the universe that we believe must be obeyed.
    • [So if freedom is finding the right constraints, and intangible constraints of some power exist, don’t you think we should try to find out what they are?]

And true love is constraining!

  • What then is the moral-spiritual reality we must acknowledge to thrive?
  • LOVE – the most liberating freedom-loss of all!
    • To experience the joy and freedom of love, you must give up your personal autonomy. For a healthy relationship, there must be mutual loss of independence. It can’t be just one way.
  • So is a relationship with God inherently dehumanizing?
    • NO – in the most radical way, God adjusted to us in His incarnation and atonement.
  • So for the Christian, once you realize how Jesus changed for you and gave himself for you, you aren’t afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in him.



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