The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

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

Scripture references:

  • John 14:6 Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me."
  • Acts 4:12
  • I Timothy 2:4-6

The spirit of "Apologetics" for the faith:
2 Timothy 1:12 "For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day. "

Romans 1:16 "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. "

I Peter 3:15 "But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,"

There are real problems with exclusivity. Religious exclusivity tends to create a slippery slope in the heart.
  1. If you have "the truth", you tend to feel superior.
  2. It is easy to caricature and stereotype others.
  3. It can lead to marginalization, oppression, abuse, even violence.

Governments and cultures that have viewed religion as dangerously divisive have tried three approaches to minimize the impact of religion.

Outlaw religion
Condemn religion
Privatize religion
Outlaw religion

"Soviet Russia, Communist China, the Khmer Rouge, and (in a different way) Nazi Germany were all determined to tightly control religious practice ..."

"The 20th century gave rise to one of the greatest and most distressing paradoxes of human history: that the greatest intolerance and violence of that century were practiced by those who believed that religion caused intolerance and violence." Alistair McGrath, The Twilight of Atheism.

The "widespread belief in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century that religion would weaken and die out" has proven to be totally false.

Rumors of the demise of Christianity in a technical age have turned out to be premature.

Attempts to outlaw Christianity have backfired.

Six times more Anglicans in Nigeria than in U.S

More Presbyterians in Ghana than in U.S.

Korea from 1% to 40% Christian in a hundred years.

China on verge of great growth in Christianity.





Condemn religion

Since religion can't be successfully outlawed, how about diminishing it by education and argument, defeating it by showing contempt for it? As Christians, we need to be able to respond to these standard approaches.

"All major religions are equally valid and basically teach the same thing."

To assert that the doctrinal differences between religions are insignificant is itself a doctrine, and one that is indefensible.

"Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth. "

From what absolute vantage point can you claim to relativize the absolute claims of the different scriptures?

"Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be 'truth'"

If you say "no belief can be held as universally true for everyone", then by your own rules you can't say that this statement is universally true.

"It is arrogant to insist your religion is right and to convert others to it."

If you say "all religious claims to have a better view of things are arrogant and wrong", then by your own rules that statement is arrogant and wrong.





Privatize religion

If you are unsuccessful at either condemning religion or defeating it by contempt, how about arguing that you should keep your religious beliefs out of the public arena, thereby marginalizing their effects on society?

"religious beliefs should be kept out of the public sphere"

"In public political discussions, we may not argue for a moral position unless it has a secular, nonreligious grounding."(Rawls, Audi)

"A Declaration in Defense of Science and Secularism" urged government leaders "not to permit legislation or executive action to be influenced by religious beliefs."

"Efforts to craft a public square from which religious conversation is absent, no matter how thoughtfully worked out, will always in the end say to those of organized religion that they alone, unlike everyone else, must enter public dialogue only after leaving behind that part of themselves that they may consider the most vital." (Stephen L. Carter, Yale)





But it is the nature of worldviews to be exclusive, so you just have to examine the fruits of the exclusiveness of Christianity.

Christianity's worldview leads Christians to be loving and receptive to those with whom they differ.
Sees others as capable of goodness.
Sees all as tending toward sin.
Welcomes the culturally marginalized.
Affords women more security and equality.
Why? They have the greatest motive for sacrificial service, generosity, and peacemaking.
  • 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?




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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