The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 4: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice.

Doubt: Many people taking an intellectual stand against Christianity have a background of personal disappointment with Christians or churches.

  • If Christianity is what it claims, shouldn’t Christians be better than they are?

But Christians understand Christian behavior differently.

  • Christians believe that Christians grow in character, they are not instantly good.
  • They understand that broken people who come to Christ might be much better than they were, but not nearly what they are going to become.
  • And that finally, all acts of goodness have God at their heart –Christian or not.

Keller admits that religion has the potential to “transcendentalize” ordinary cultural differences (to make more of them than one should).

  • But Alister McGrath points out that without God, societies “transcendentalize” something else (think USSR, China, French Revolution, Cambodia etc.) to provide a basis for moral and spiritual superiority.

We can only conclude there is something in the heart of man that produces violence and warfare – regardless of the society’s beliefs.

  • But what of Christian fanaticism?
  • For Christianity, it comes only because people aren’t committed ENOUGH to the Gospel.
  • God’s grace, properly understood, is ultimately humbling.

The Bible vs. religion, religion vs. gospel

  • Jesus in fact conducted a major critique of religion throughout his ministry.
    • The Sermon on the Mount criticizes not the irreligious, but the religious.
    • He consistently condemns legalism, self-righteousness, bigotry, love of power and wealth.
    • It should not surprise us that the religious people put Jesus to death.
  • The Bible gives us tools for analysis and critique of religiously supported injustice from within the faith.
    • Where did we get the list of virtues to which we hold the church accountable? From the Bible itself.
  • Just like Christians, the shortcomings of the church can be understood historically as the imperfect adoption and practice of the principles of the Gospel.
    • Abolition is perhaps the most startling example of this.
      • Historians had believed that all political behavior is self-interested.
      • But they could find no such motive among the abolitionists – they looked to the Bible!
    • Civil rights in America should be seen as a religious revival.
      • African-Americans understood that the evil was in the human heart.
      • And that injustice was an affront to God.
      • And from those two beliefs came their power.

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