On May 2nd, we had Session Number Two of our study of "The Reason for God," one of the many works from Pastor Tim Keller. Once again, we were blessed with lively conversation and the opportunity to explore many ideas and address many questions and suggestions. Read below some of the most important quotes, scriptures, and overall comments.
**** Important: at the end of this blog, you will find a document that will contain a selection of quotes and Scriptures that will help you go deeper on the subject.
About Chapter II --- CHRISTIANITY IS A STRAIGHTJACKET
We recognize that critics of Christianity argue that Christianity is socially divisive and exclusive because it requires specific beliefs for membership. However, any community that does not have specific standards for its members would not truly be a community at all. It is not exclusive to have beliefs and practices that define the community, but rather necessary for a strong corporate identity. The true test of a community is whether its beliefs lead its members to show love and respect towards those outside of it. Christianity calls for treating those outside the community with kindness, humility, and winsomeness.
Some might say that Christianity is a straightjacket and that it might take the freedom away from its members. The idea that true freedom is the ability to define one's own purpose and meaning can be appealing, but it is ultimately a flawed view. Such a belief leads to a lack of accountability and responsibility, promoting a selfish individualism that disregards the common good. On the other hand, Christianity calls for a mutual loss of independence in relationships, where both parties adjust and sacrifice for one another. This can produce a deep sense of joy and fulfillment.
The book of Galatians reminds us that we have been called to freedom, but that freedom is not to be used as an excuse for immorality. Instead, we are called to love and serve one another. Romans 13:8-10 states that love is the fulfilling of the law. In essence, Christianity is not a straightjacket but a guide that leads us to fulfill our true purpose and find our ultimate freedom in love and service.
About Chapter III --- THE CHURCH IS RESPONSIBLE FOR SO MUCH INJUSTICE
It cannot be denied. It goes both ways... The Christian Church has a long history of perpetrating injustices, AND there are countless wise and loving Christians and civic-minded and generous churches. It is not that they co-exist, they simply exist, and one doesn't cancel the other. That is our reality. No need to create excuses; just promise that we will aim to be better each day by the power of the holy spirit. We must aim never to look the other way when we are faced with indirect or direct injustices in the name of faith. Christians must repent, repair when possible and not be indifferent. Good testimony is crucial.
We have been reminded that the central message of the Bible is that we can only have a relationship with God by sheer grace. Our moral efforts are too feeble and falsely motivated ever to merit salvation. Jesus, through his death and resurrection, has provided salvation for us, which we receive as a gift. However, this means that the church will be filled with immature and broken people who still have a long way to go emotionally.
Christianity must take responsibility for the violence done in its name, something that is a terrible reality and must be addressed and redressed. Violence has been done as much by secularism as by moral absolutism, and there is a violent impulse so deeply rooted in the human heart that it expresses itself regardless of what the beliefs of a particular society might be.
Perhaps the biggest deterrent to Christianity for the average person today is not violence and warfare, but the shadow of fanaticism. The shadow of fanaticism refers to the manner in which born-again Christians express their disapproval of various groups and sectors of our society--especially movies and television, the Democratic party, homosexuals, evolutionists, activist judges, members of other religions, and the values taught in public schools. In arguing for the truth of their faith, they often appear intolerant and self-righteous.
Jesus conducted a massive critique of religion, with his famous Sermon on the Mount criticizing religious people more than irreligious ones. The people he criticizes pray, give to the poor, and seek to live according to the Bible, but they do so to get acclaim and power for themselves.
The answer to the very fair and devastating criticisms of the record of the Christian church is not to leave the Christian faith because that would leave us with neither the standards nor the resources to make corrections. Instead, we should move to a fuller and deeper grasp of what Christianity is. The Bible itself has taught us to expect the abuses of religion and has also told us what to do about them. Christian history gives us many remarkable examples of self-correction.
In conclusion, the Christian Church has been responsible for much injustice throughout history. However, the answer is not to abandon the Christian faith, but instead to move to a fuller and deeper grasp of what Christianity is and what it is supposed to do. By following the teachings of the Bible, we can overcome the issues within the Church and work towards a more just society. As Romans 12:17-21 advises, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good."