On May 23rd, we had Session Number Five 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 were able to cover only two chapters rather than three. Read below the questions and some of the elements that were part of our discussion.
Read below some notes about our gathering:
Chapter XI - Religion and The Gospel
Chapter XII - The (True) Story of The Cross
**** 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.
RELIGION AND THE GOSPEL - CHAPTER XI
In Chapter 11 of "The Reason for God," Timothy Keller explores the question of why Christianity offers a unique solution to the problem of sin, which he defines as the self-centeredness and pride that can manifest as either overtly breaking moral rules or self-righteously adhering to them. Keller suggests that every individual, consciously or not, attempts to establish their own method of salvation, either by living according to their desires or by avoiding sin to receive God's blessing.
Keller draws a sharp distinction between the salvation offered by most religions, which he defines as "salvation through moral effort," and the "salvation through grace" central to the Gospel of Jesus. He argues that while founders of other major faiths provide teachings and guidelines to attain salvation, Jesus Christ offers himself as the way of salvation. This fundamentally different approach establishes Christianity as distinct from both religion and irreligion.
The chapter delves into the dangers of self-salvation through moral effort, noting that it can lead to self-righteousness, cruelty, bigotry, and spiritual dissatisfaction. Moreover, Keller highlights that those who seek to save themselves may inadvertently avoid Jesus as their Savior, despite following his teachings and using him as a model for behavior.
Keller contrasts this with the Christian approach to salvation, which he says is motivated not by fear but by gratitude for Jesus' sacrifice. He emphasizes that Christians obey out of a desire to resemble and please Jesus, who gave his life for them, as opposed to the fear of divine punishment motivating obedience in other religions.
Biblical passages reinforce these concepts, with Jesus criticizing the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23:1-39 and Luke 20:46-47 for their showy displays of piety and failure to truly follow God's commands. In Luke 18:10-14, the humble tax collector who acknowledges his sin is justified, rather than the self-righteous Pharisee who exalts himself. These verses underscore the message that self-salvation through good deeds and moral effort is inadequate and misleading.
In summary, Chapter 11 of "The Reason for God" argues that Christianity presents a unique solution to the problem of sin through grace-based salvation, setting it apart from the moral effort-based salvation found in other religions. The chapter warns against self-salvation attempts and encourages genuine faith in Jesus Christ as the Savior.
THE (TRUE) STORY OF THE CROSS - CHAPTER XII
In this chapter, Timothy Keller explores the central symbol of Christianity: the Cross. He delves into the crucial question of why Jesus had to die, a question that is often raised with skepticism and misunderstanding by non-believers. The concept of Jesus's death for the forgiveness of human sins seems counterintuitive to many, with some even comparing it to ancient practices of appeasing vengeful gods with human sacrifice. Others question the necessity of such a gruesome event, asking why God, being merciful, couldn't just forgive everyone, making the doctrine of the Cross controversial.
In the face of these challenging questions, Keller presents a philosophical examination of forgiveness, noting that forgiving someone who has done wrong is never a simple act, especially when the offense is serious. Forgiveness requires confronting wrongdoers, and that confrontation is, in essence, an act of love - a bid to help them realize their wrongdoing and work towards repentance and repair. Hence, forgiveness, Keller suggests, involves a cost or a form of suffering.
Keller then relates this understanding to the divine forgiveness displayed in the crucifixion of Jesus. God chose to pay a debt and bear a penalty by going to the Cross as Jesus Christ to forgive humans for their sins. Thus, the crucifixion was not an unnecessary act of self-sacrifice, but a necessary measure for the forgiveness of human sins, reflecting the ultimate form of costly suffering.
Further, Keller rebuts those who argue for a focus on God's love devoid of the Cross, stating that removing the Cross would strip away the demonstration of God's love. The Cross symbolizes a divine balance between justice and mercy, showing that God takes justice seriously while simultaneously loving us. Therefore, the Cross is an essential part of the Christian message, signifying the costly forgiveness of sins and a reversal of the world's values.
Keller concludes the chapter by urging readers to remember both the result and pattern of the Cross in their relationships and interactions. To emulate Christ's example, we must strive for justice without succumbing to evil and extend forgiveness even in the face of wrongdoing. In this way, the Cross becomes a guide for Christian living, leading us toward a deeper understanding of divine love and forgiveness.
The chapter reinforces this perspective through various scriptures, including 1 Corinthians 1:18, Mark 8:34, John 3:16, Matthew 10:38, and Galatians 2:20, which highlight the power of the Cross, the call to follow Christ, God's sacrificial love for humanity, and the transformative impact of Christ's crucifixion on believers.
Quotes and Scriptures -- Download the Document Below