The Reason for God

Timothy Keller

Chapter 9: The Knowledge of God

CHARLIE:Of course there's a God! We all basically know there is.
CYNTHIA:I know no such thing.
CHARLIE:Of course you do! When you think to yourself - and most of our waking life is taken up thinking to ourself - you must have that feeling that your thoughts aren't entirely wasted, that in some sense they are being heard. I think it's this sensation of silently being listened to with total comphrehension that represents our innate belief in a supreme being, an all-comprehending intelligence. What it shows is that some kind of belief is innate in all of us. At some point most of us lose that, after which it can only be regained by a conscious act of faith.
CYNTHIA:And you've experienced that?
CHARLIE:No, I haven't. I hope to someday.
Credited to Metropolitan, 1990, Walt Stillman
All of us have an inherent moral sense that is indicative of the spirit of God within us. Without God there is no basis for morality.
  • In Keller's experience, the young people he meets in Manhattan are anything but relativistic and amoral - they have a finely honed sense of right and wrong.
    • It's just that their moral outlook is a problem.
    • People still have moral convictions, what they lack is any basis for why they find things good or evil.
  • So why do people continue to hold onto moral positions?
    • Because, says Keller, he believes people know unavoidably that there is a God but they are repressing what they know.
  • The Concept of Moral Obligation
    • Are there people in the world who are doing things you believe are wrong - things that they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?
      • If you believe this, and everyone does, you are not a relativist.
      • So why is it impossible in practice for anyone to be a consistent moral relativist?
      • Because we all believe in moral values and moral obligation.
  • In practice we treat some moral standards as absolute ones that we use to judge people who otherwise may not share our values.
Evolutionary biology cannot program you for truth, only for survival. The fact that we perceive that there is absolute truth is a part of the image of God within us.
  • Does Evolutionary Biology explain our sense of moral obligation?
    • The claim is that doing for others promoted group survival and that people "wired" this way survived better and came to dominate the human race.
    • But the current consensus is that natural selection does not work on whole populations - only on individuals.
  • Keller tells of a female anthropologist of relativistic bent.
    • She was appalled by the practices toward women of the groups she studied. She decided that she should promote women's rights among them, but immediately realized that she had no right to impose her ideals on others! What to do?
The Grand "Sez Who?" - "Either God exists or He does not, but if He does not, nothing and no one else can take His place..."
  • And what of Universal Human Rights?
    • This is the twofold conviction that every human being has inherent dignity and that it is obligatory that we order our lives in accordance with this fact.
  • Where do they come from?
    • God: but not everyone believes in God some say.
    • Nature: but Nature thrives on violence and predation, survival of the fittest.
    • Us: but if we create rights, what if we changed out minds about YOUR rights?
  • Their very value comes from the ability of minorities to assert them against majorities. So they must not be created, but discovered to have any permanent value.
    • While it's clear there is a religious ground, it's far from clear that there is any other.
  • If there is no God, moral laws are arbitrary. Our inability to ground them successfully outside of God should be a big CLUE If the Biblical account explains out moral sense, why do we reject it?
    • If a premise ("There is no God") leads to conclusions you know aren't true ("Napalming babies is culturally relative") then you need to change the premise!
Deep within us we know "the bench is not empty". We should acknowledge the God that gives us life and all things.
  • The Endless Pointless Litigation of Existence
    • Arthur Miller's character Quentin in After the Fall says: For many years I looked at life like a case at law. It was a series of proofs. When you're young you prove how brave you are, or smart; then, what a good lover; then, a good father; finally, how wise, or powerful or [whatever.] But underlying it all, I see now, there was a presumption. That one moved . . . on an upward path toward some elevation, where . . . God knows that . . . I would be justified, or even condemned. A verdict anyway. I think now that my disaster really began when I looked up one day . . . and the bench was empty. No judge in sight. And all that remained was the endless argument with oneself, this pointless litigation of existence before an empty bench. . . Which, of course, is another way of saying - despair.
    • We all live as if our decisions and actions matter. But if the bench is empty? That leaves us two options.
      • Refuse to face the implication - live in front of the empty bench as if it mattered.
      • Or recognize that you DO know God and live as if beauty and love have meaning.
  • It is dishonest to live as if HE is there yet fail to acknowledge the One who has given all these gifts.

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