On May 9th, we had Session Number Three 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 the questions and some of the elements that were part of our discussion.
**** 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.
HOW CAN A LOVING GOD SEND PEOPLE TO HELL?
The concept of a loving God sending people to hell is a difficult one to grasp. However, Christianity teaches that God is both a God of love and of justice. This means that while God loves us, he also punishes us when we go astray. As Timothy Keller points out in his book, The Reason for God, all loving persons are sometimes filled with wrath, including God. God’s wrath flows from his love and delights in His creation. He is angry at evil and injustice because it destroys its peace and integrity.
The Bible describes hell as a place of eternal separation from God, which is the source of all joy, love, wisdom, or good things of any sort. So, it is not that God actively sends people to hell, but rather that our choices and actions separate us from his presence. In this sense, God respects our freedom to choose our own fate. As C.S. Lewis states in his parable, the people in hell would rather have their “freedom,” as they define it, than salvation. Their delusion is that if they glorified God, they would somehow lose power and freedom. However, in a supreme and tragic irony, their choice ruins their potential for greatness.
Furthermore, Keller also explains that Christianity is a transcultural truth of God and should contradict and offend every human culture at some point because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. Biblical teaching on hell may offend secular Westerners who see moral truth as relative to individual consciousness, which has no problem with a God of love who supports us no matter how we live. However, traditional societies find the doctrine of a God of judgment acceptable because it aligns with their culture's values.
In the Bible, the teachings on hell are clear. Matthew 10:28 warns us to fear the one who can destroy both the soul and body in hell. Matthew 25:41 talks about the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. Matthew 5:22 reminds us that anyone who insults or says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire. 2 Thessalonians 1:9 tells us that those who are away from the presence of the Lord will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction. At the same time, John 3:16-18 shows that God loves the world and gave his son so that whoever believes in him can have eternal life. Lastly, Matthew 7:21-23 tells us that not everyone who calls on the Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only those who do the will of his father.
In conclusion, the concept of a loving God sending people to hell is a difficult one to grasp. However, the Bible teaches us that God is both a God of love and of justice. He loves us but punishes us when we go astray. Hell is not a place that God sends us to; it is a result of our choices and actions that separate us from his presence. As Christians, we should trust in God’s mercy and seek to do his will to avoid eternal punishment.
SCIENCE HAS DISPROVED CHRISTIANITY
Wrong. Science has failed to disprove Christianity. One of the main reasons people often assume that science disproves religion is because many faiths, including Christianity, believe in miracles, which involve the intervention of God in the natural order. However, it is crucial to recognize that science operates within the framework of natural causes and cannot address supernatural phenomena. As Timothy Keller notes, science assumes natural causes because they are the only kind it can investigate, but it does not prove the absence of supernatural causes. You cannot prove or deny the existence of God or Christianity scientifically.
Like apples and oranges, some might say. The existence of God, as Keller also emphasizes, cannot be demonstrably proven or disproven. It lies beyond the realm of empirical science and enters the realm of philosophical and theological inquiry. Science and religion often explore different aspects of human experience and can coexist without conflict. The perception of a war between science and religion is often fueled by the media's tendency to sensationalize conflicts, such as those related to the teaching of evolution or controversial scientific advancements. However, many scientists consider themselves religious, indicating that there is no inherent conflict between science and devout faith.
Furthermore, the purpose of miracles in Christianity is not solely to impress or coerce but rather to restore the natural order that God originally intended. Miracles, as described in the Bible, serve as signs of God's power, foretastes of His ultimate plan to redeem and heal the world from its brokenness. Miracles performed by Jesus involved acts of compassion, such as healing the sick, feeding the hungry, and raising the dead, aiming to demonstrate God's glory and offer hope to humanity, not prove the existence of God or the worthiness of Christianity as a Religion.
In conclusion, science's inability to disprove Christianity is evident through an understanding of its limitations in addressing supernatural phenomena. The coexistence of science and religion is possible, as they operate in different domains and serve different purposes. God provides the why of creation, and Science tells you the how of creation.
YOU CANT TAKE THE BIBLE LITERALLY
The question of whether one should take the Bible literally is a complex and often debated topic. Critics argue that the Bible is historically unreliable, containing legends and myths. However, Timothy Keller offers compelling reasons to trust the historical reliability of the New Testament gospels, specifically Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which the early church recognized as authentic and authoritative.
One argument against the historical reliability of the gospels suggests that they were written years after the events, possibly embellished or imagined. Keller refutes this notion, pointing out that the canonical gospels do not fit the profile of texts written by early church leaders to consolidate power or promote their agendas. The content of the gospels goes against this theory.
Moreover, the gospels contain details that would have been counterproductive for early Christian evangelism. For example, Jesus asking God in the garden of Gethsemane if He could be spared from His mission or crying out on the cross that God had abandoned Him would have confused or offended potential converts. These details suggest authenticity rather than deliberate fabrication.
When considering the Bible, it is important to focus on its core claims, such as the deity of Christ and His death and resurrection. These central teachings have broad consensus and provide a solid foundation for faith. Disputes over interpretation may exist in other areas, but the core claims are crucial to understanding the Bible's message.
Critically examining the Bible does not undermine a personal relationship with God; rather, it enriches it. A relationship with God involves being challenged and corrected, which requires a willingness to engage with the Bible's teachings even if they challenge one's own beliefs. A selective approach to scripture risks creating a god of one's own making, instead of allowing a genuine interaction with the true God.
In conclusion, while debates over the literal interpretation of the Bible persist, there are strong reasons to trust the historical reliability of the New Testament gospels. Focusing on the Bible's core claims and embracing its challenges and corrections can foster a genuine and meaningful relationship with God.
Quotes and Scriptures -- Download the Document Below