The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 11: Religion and the Gospel

Robert Louis Stevenson: "The Strange Case of Dr.Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"
"At the very moment of that vain-glorious thought, a qualm came over me, a horrid nausea and the most dreadful shuddering ... I looked down .. I was once more Edward Hyde."

"I knew myself, at the first breath of this new life, to be more wicked, tenfold more wicked, sold a slave to my original evil; and the thought in that moment, braced and delighted me ...[Edward Hyde's] every act and thought centered on self."

He realizes that he is "an incongruous compound of good and evil".
Solzhenitsen "The line between good and evil runs straignt through the heart of every man."
  • 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 that show the way to salvation.
    • Only Jesus claimed to actualy be 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 л 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 л 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.

Religion vs Grace
His grace humbles me more deeply than religion can.(Since I am too flawed to ever save myself through my own effort. )
His grace affirms me more powerfully than religion can.(Since I can be certain of God's unconditional acceptance. )
  • 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 we are created to get our identity from something to which we will cede control. There is no escaping this aspect of life.

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