To borrow a term from a friend and fellow blogger, I’m a bit blogstipated. I have a few ideas in my head, but I just can’t seem to get them down the brain stem, through the arms and fingers on to the keyboard. I’ve also been a bit preoccupied with life in general. I hope you won’t think this is a cop out, but I wanted to share a small snippet of an amazing book I’m reading.
I first saw Tim Keller earlier this year at a church planting conference in Florida. Among all the cool, hip, young church planters and pastors I heard speak, Tim Keller stuck out like a sore thumb. I knew absolutely nothing about him and was completely unprepared for what came out of his mouth. This very conservative looking man comes out, sits down in front of his notes and proceeds to talk about the Gospel of Christ in a way that had me and the majority of the audience absolutely riveted. You can have your Rob Bell and your Donald Miller. To me, Tim Keller is a rock star.
In his book, “The Reason for God”, Keller makes a strong argument that both secularism and orthodox Christianity are on the rise, and we must engage in dialogue instead of writing one off as the radical left or right wing of society. If you are a skeptic, atheist or agnostic — read this book. If you are a Christian — read this book. I promise you, it will answer many questions and doubts that you may have about those who don’t share your beliefs, and even questions and doubts you may have about your personal spirituality or lack thereof.
This book is jammed packed with cerebral awesomeness. The following excerpt is from Chapter One: “There can’t be just One True Religion”. Don’t let the title mislead you. Part One of the book is devoted to addressing arguments against Christianity that skeptics have posed and have been largely left unanswered. This is one of many.
Christianity Can Save the World (Part 1 of 2)
I’ve argued against the effectiveness of all the main efforts to address the divisiveness of religion in our world today. Yet I strongly sympathize with their purpose. Religion can certainly be one of the major threats to world peace. At the beginning of the chapter I outlined the “slippery slope” that every religion tends to set up in the human heart. This slippery slope leads all too easily to oppression. However, within Christianity–robust, orthodox Christianity–there are rich resources that can make its followers agents for peace on earth. Christianity has within itself remarkable power to explain and expunge the divisive tendencies within the human heart.
Christianity provides a firm basis for respecting people of other faiths. Jesus assumes that nonbelievers in the culture around them will gladly recognize much Christian behavior as “good” (Matthew 5:16; cf. 1 Peter 2:12). That assumes some overlap between the Christian constellation of values and those of any particular culture and of any other religion. Why would this overlap exist? Christians believe that all human beings are made in the image of God, capable of goodness and wisdom. The Biblical doctrine of the universal image of God, therefore, leads Christians to expect non-believers will be better than any of their mistaken beliefs could make them. The Biblical doctrine of universal sinfulness also leads Christians to expect believers will be worse in practice than their orthodox beliefs should make them. So there will be plenty of ground for respectful cooperation.
Christianity not only leads its members to believe people of other faiths have goodness and wisdom to offer, it also leads them to expect that many will live lives morally superior to their own. Most people in our culture believe that, if there is a God, we can relate to him and go to heaven through leading a good life. Let’s call this the “moral improvement” view. In the Christian understanding, Jesus does not tell us how to live so we can merit salvation. Rather, he comes to forgive and save us through his life and death in our place. God’s grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure to perform and who acknowledge their need for a Savior.
Christians, then, should expect to find nonbelievers who are much nicer, kinder, wiser, and better than they are. Why? Christian believers are not accepted by God because of their moral performance, wisdom, or virtue, but because of Christ’s work on their behalf. Most religions and philosophies of life assume that one’s spiritual status depends on your religious attainments. This naturally leads adherents to feel superior to those who don’t believe and behave as they do. The Christian gospel, in any case, should not have that effect.
It is common to say that “fundamentalism” leads to violence, yet as we have seen, all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith commitments that we think are superior to those of others. The real question, then, is which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ? Which set of unavoidable exclusive beliefs will lead us to humble, peace-loving behavior?
There are a few more paragraphs that complete this discussion. I will share them with you tomorrow.
For me, the deeper my desire to live a life devoted to Christ, the more I realize how, in the past, I have sometimes been a Pharisee and lived under the false illusion that God’s love for me was somehow greater because I loved Him. When you begin to make the effort see others through the eyes of Jesus, to speak the truth without judgement or disdain, I believe you are moving closer to the fullness and abundance of a life of service to the King. I have seen some positive movement within the church to return to the practices of the early church. I pray that this movement is a revolution and not just a fad.