Monday, July 7, 2008

Gracepoint Church SET 2008

Under this post, I'll be putting up lengthy comments on some analysis of Tim Keller's "The Reason for God", which is the book that we're going through at Gracepoint Fellowship Church summer of 2008. Please refer to the comments of this post.

16 comments:

Daniel Kim said...

Chapter 5


A God of Judgment Simply Can’t Exist
KELLER’S POINT
From the sensibility of our modern Western culture, the God who judges wrongdoing with divine wrath is offensive. However, this has not always been the case. It was modernity that started to make morality relative, and once the determination of right and wrong was placed in the hands of individuals, it became offensive that God would authoritatively judge. Not only that, different cultures of today would not find God’s judgment offensive at all, whereas they would find offensive the idea of forgiveness such as “turning the other cheek”. In other words, your “sensibility” is just a product of your culture and time, which you (the atheist) would have to admit even more readily than a theist. If so, wouldn’t it be ethnocentric to object to the existence of God based upon your particular, culturally-specific and subjective sensibility? In fact, because our cultural sensibilities change so much, one would in fact expect some portions of an unchanging, transcultural truth to be contrary to some portion of human culture at some point; therefore, it is not surprising that this doctrine of hell is offensive to us. So don’t commit ethnocentrism by rejecting the existence of God on some subjective and changing sensibility.
ADDITIONAL POINT
I think this answer by Pastor Keller is a relatively new approach to this question. Remember, though, that he is not making the case FOR the existence of God through this. He is simply making a defensive case that it would be ethnocentric to reject God based on our own changing and culturally defined sensibility. This section can be confusing because he starts off with talking about the history of the Middle Ages which can lose people, so I don’t recommend that you start off with a history lesson. I would start off with these questions: “So your sensibility is offended by the thought of God who judges, but do you think that your sensibility is universal across all times and cultures? Do you think you would have the same sensibility if you were born in a different culture? [No.] Well, if you recognize that your sensibility is culturally determined, then why would you want to be a slave to your culture and reject God? Don’t you think you should be open to the existence of God even though the 21st century Western culture tells you not to be?”

A God of Judgment Can’t Be a God of Love
KELLER’S POINT
First, truly loving people are sometimes (and even expected to be) filled with wrath at the things that destroy the beloved person. Second, it turns out that belief in God’s wrath can free us from having to take matters into our own hands and retaliate against our enemies in violence. Examples of Nazism and Communism would serve as examples of what happens when God’s judgment is rejected en masse. We in the West can sit comfortably in our quiet suburban homes and think that we would like a God who refuses to judge; however, if you ever experienced and saw truly horrific evil, you would call out for divine justice.
ADDITIONAL POINT
I think this section is actually a powerful read, though it can be difficult to communicate verbally. The only thing is that he provides actually 2 answers to 2 different questions. The first point (about how a loving person would get wrathful toward certain sins) answers the big-topic objection (A God of Judgement Can’t Be a God of Love). The second point actually answers another question that deserves another heading: Doesn’t belief in a judging God cause people to fight against one another? For this question, I think his second point provides an excellent answer. In a situation where you’re talking to someone face-to-face, I would put in some kind of testimonial (about how your indignation and anger about someone who genuinely wronged you were calmed down by your belief that God will make all things right in the end). So it turns out that belief in God’s judgment causes people to have let go of grievances.

A Loving God Would Not Allow Hell
KELLER’S POINT
Even if a secularist might understand God’s wrath from the whole “anger toward injustice” angle, they are still bothered by the doctrine that God actually sends people to hell for eternity. However, when you look at the descriptions of hell in the Bible, it turns out that hell isn’t a place where people are forcibly thrown into. It is a place where the process of self-absorption and self-centeredness that we have chosen for ourselves continues on a broader scale forever, where God is finally and completely out of the picture. As Lewis says, in each of us there is something growing, which will be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud. Hell is, ironically, an affirmation of human freedom, because it says that God will ultimately grant our wishes if we desire to live our lives apart from God.
ADDITIONAL POINT
I think it’s worth memorizing at least the paraphrase of C.S. Lewis’ quote – that in the end, there are only two kinds of people – people who say to God, “Thy will be done.” And people to whom God says, “Your will be done.” Also, I don’t think you should use the “fire” (p.76) description to talk about soul disintegration, as it is sort of a stretch to analogize disintegration with fire. An equally common biblical description of hell is the concept of “outside” – which more clearly makes the point about hell being a place where our wishes to be apart from God (outside of God’s presence) is finally granted. On a personal level, I would also seize upon the phrase “in each of us there is something growing, which will be Hell unless it is nipped in the bud” – and maybe share about such a thing in my own heart.

Hell and Equality of People
KELLER’S POINT
Secularists assume that if you believe in eternal punishment in hell, you must be narrow-minded and look down upon people who are condemned to hell. First of all, Christians can’t be sure of the eternal fate and future decisions of people (today’s believer may turn out to be tomorrow’s apostate and today’s outspoken unbeliever may convert tomorrow); therefore, we cannot make final judgments about their eternal fate. Secondly, just because one believes in eternal consequences for wrongdoing does not make that person more narrow-minded than another person who believes in temporary consequences for wrongdoing (which is what secularists believe).
ADDITIONAL POINT
I think Pastor Keller’s first point is important to lead with, because it really tells our secularist friend that I am not looking down on you, because I have no idea what your future holds. As for the second point, I think the cookie example (p.81) could have been better if they were both in agreement about the cookie being poisonous, but they were in disagreement about the potency of the poison. Does that make the person who believes that the poison in the cookie is lethal narrow-minded? The relevant point here is that secularist also believes that there are consequences to being immoral, it’s just that she thinks the consequence is temporary (b/c when you die, you are gone). But just because Christians believe that the consequences are longer-lasting, that doesn’t make Christians narrow-minded. Perhaps I would start off with the question, “Do you think that there are certain consequences to immoral behavior? [yes] I do too, we’re in agreement there. It’s just that I think that consequence is much more dire, because I believe that souls are eternal. That doesn’t make me narrow-minded, does it?”

“I Believe in a God of Love”
KELLER’S POINT
Those Christians who stress hellfire and damnation turn people off. People say that they believe in the God of love, not this God who judges. But when you think about it, where do you get the idea to believe in the God of love? You look at other religions, you look at the state of the world today, you look at human life today, and you can’t conclude that God is a God of love. It turns out that you got the idea of God being a God of love from Christianity. But Christianity also tells you that this God of love is also a God of judgment who will put all things in the world to rights in the end. So it turns out that this belief in the God of love who does not judge is not only nonsensical, but also unsupported by any historical or religious evidence.
ADDITIONAL POINT
I think it was wise for Pastor Keller to start off with a testimonial about how he himself was turned off by those Christians who stress hellfire. I think we can balk at such practices along with our secular friends. But I personally would not use Keller’s discussion on comparative religion when speaking to a typical Californian secularist, who is fine with having absolutely unsupported religious views. If the person purports to be a Christian, then you can talk to him like how Pastor Keller does – by referring to the fact that he got that idea of a loving God from the Bible, so he should accept the whole counsel of God instead of just picking and choosing. But if I’m talking to a person who doesn’t care if his religion is a made-up one, I would just stress the logical inconsistency of a “loving and good God” who is indifferent toward oppression and evil in the world, and does not do anything in the end to make things right. Such a God would be at best uncaring and at worst diabolical, far from a loving and good God. A loving and good God would get angry at the wrongs, and would finally concede and allow people who want to leave His presence to really leave His presence (which is hell).

Anonymous said...

Someone might point out that in a previous chapter keller argued against the notion that truths are relative... all products of the culture and time you grew up in. But now here in this chapter he seems to be legitimizing that point by using it to claim we can't trust our "sensibilities"....and thus we can't dismiss existence of God merely based on our sense.

i'd guess that the distinction here is truth vs sensibility...right?

Daniel Kim said...

That's absolutely right. The whole argument that "A God of Judgment Simply Can't Exist" from the secularist is an emotional reaction argument, not some logical argument. If there was a logical argument that a God of judgement could not exist, THEN to claim that it is relativistic would be problematic. But that's not what Pastor Keller is doing here - he is saying that your emotional reaction is relative, which is true. (just think about the emotional response to a particular war from both sides of the fight)

Daniel Kim said...

Aren't Miracles Scientifically Impossible?

KELLER'S POINT

The scientific method can only test for natural causes, so whenever it approaches a phenomena, it seeks for a natural cause. That doesn't mean, though, that science has "disproven" the existence of another type of cause.

Another way to put this is that if there is a possibility of a supernatural God, then you must allow for the possibility of supernatural miracles. The fact that someone would claim that miracles cannot happen would mean that the person already decided that a supernatural God cannot exist. But how would he know that?

ADDITIONAL POINT

Keller's first point about science not being able to disprove other types of causes can be confusing, so let's try to restate it here: It's one thing to say that science has proven the existence of something. But it's another thing to say that science has proven the non-existence of something that it has no way of detecting it, simply because the scientific method is unable to detect it. (such as a historical event). Some examples of "causes" that science cannot detect would be historical causes or even personal causes. (Personal cause is the fact that your free "will" has caused your arm to just move up - that is an extremely difficult cause for science to address.. If we were to try to scientifically analyze that, one would have to say that we just moved that arm not because we chose to, but because we are a complex conglomeration of molecules that responded to certain inputs, and the output is that we moved the arm up - i.e., we are determined robots) A personal cause (which we experience every second of our lives) is something that science cannot explain - could we therefore say that science has proven that personal cause / free will does not exist? Actually, many hard-core scientists who have a commitment to scientific naturalism (the belief that all of the universe is just matter and energy) would say "yes, science shows that human free will and even consciousness does not exist."

Keller's second point about the possibility of God allowing for the possibility of miracles is a good point. It's important for us to emphasize the word "possibility". Don't get caught up in an argument about "well, how do you know that God does exist?" That is not the point. It's the "possibility" of the existence of God, and linking that to the "possibility" of miracles. Therefore, if someone says there is no possibility of miracles, then that person is saying that there is no possibility of God. Well, then, how does a person come to that conclusion that there is no possibility of God? That is a conclusion that arises from presuppositions, not through scientific analysis.

Isn't Science in Conflict with Christianity

KELLER'S POINT

The reason why there seems to be a conflict between science and religion is because the news media, in order to make for a more exciting story, gives wide publicity to battles between science and religion. For example, the Catholic Church has officially come out saying that evolution could be a method used by God to bring about life. The conflict between evolution and Christianity does not lie in the mechanism of evolution, but in the underlying philosophical commitment of evolution being a mindless, directionless process. Dawkins argues that if a scientist believes in the biological mechanism of evolution, then he/she must also believe in philosophical naturalism. However, scientists like Francis Collins believe in evolutionary science yet consider the fine-tuning, beauty and order in the universe point to a divine Creator.

Ian Barbour's four models of the relationship between science and religion can be helpful - and it is obvious that Dawkins falls into the "conflict" model along with the creation scientists whom Dawkins ridicules. It turns out that Dawkins' statistic about only 7% of NAS scientists believing in God (from The God Delusion) is a highly skewed statistic, as Dawkins excludes from that statistic scientists who believe in a deity who does not communicate directly with humanity. While science has done a great job in figuring out the physical mechanisms of our world, it is important to realize the limitations of physical science - not only when it comes to religion, but also when it comes to things like conscious experience, thought and values. Therefore, we need to disabuse ourselves of the conflict model, the notion that we need to choose between science and religion.

ADDITIONAL POINT

When Keller talks about "creation scientists" who take on the conflict model, he's talking about a certain type of creationists (usually young-earth creationists who say that the earth is 10,000 years old, etc.) - who claim that if you believe in the old-earth model or believe in the mechanism of evolution, then you can't be a believer.

A huge part of this section seems to be a reply against Dawkins - so if the person you're talking to has not read Dawkins or doesn't even really know who he is, then this is not going to be all that helpful to bring Dawkins up. However, recognizing that there are different ways of looking at the relationship between science and religion can be helpful.. so that people are dislodged from the false dichotomy of choosing between the two. When someone says that he can't believe in religion because he is a scientist, for example, you would ask, "Why do you think religion and science are in conflict?" And then perhaps mention that there are young-earth creation scientists who fall into the conflict camp, but that they are not the mainstream at all. (by mentioning this, you are asking the scientist to reconsider his/her notion that all Christians are like the young-earth creationists, and at the same time, scientists usually don't want to fall into the same camp as the young-earth creationists)

Doesn't Evolution Disprove the Bible?

KELLER'S POINT

Genesis 1 can be seen as a poetic expression of what happened. Given that Christian believers occupy quite different positions on the meaning of the creation accounts and the nature of evolution, and since these positions are not at the core of Christianity, we don't need to get stuck on trying to figure this out. The core issue of Christianity lies with the person of Christ and the resurrection, so these other secondary, side issues should be treated as side issues.

What is important, again, is that Christians are not against evolution as a process, but only if the evolutionary process is raised to the level of the "All-Encompassing" story.

ADDITIONAL POINT

When Pastor Keller talks about the relationship between Genesis 1 & 2 and analogizes it to the relationship between Judges 4 & 5, that is obviously not really for the non-Christian. So don't get into that when talking with a non-Christian. He's trying to walk the fine line between talking to the non-Christians and not offending the Christians who major in creationism (and treat that issue with such importance that if Keller were to say that the Genesis creation account is completely poetic, they would flip).

But it is an interesting angle to see that Genesis 1 & 2 seem to be telling the same story, except that Genesis 1 is in poetic form. What is gained by talking about this difference? Well, what is implicit in this difference is that only Genesis 1 has the "6 days" (If you count Gen 2:1-2 as a part of chapter 1, which it is in the genre of poetry). Genesis 2 can be quite compatible with theistic evolution or other forms of old-earth models that are more compatible with the current scientific evidence, as Genesis 2 doesn't attempt to lay out a particular day-order, but still makes the core claim that God is the Creator.

Healing the World

KELLER'S POINT

We need to be clear that the ancient people of biblical times weren't somehow gullible people that easily believed in miracles. The biblical records show that they had a hard time believing, even the disciples who saw the resurrected Christ still doubted like a modern person would (Matt 28:17). Miracles in the Bible is not meant to cause cognitive belief, but worship. We can see this from the fact that the miracles are often devoid of fantastical acts; rather, they are acts of restoration of how things should be. (healing, feeding the hungry, etc.) The miracles, therefore, are a foretaste of things to come in heaven.

ADDITIONAL POINT

Nothing really to add to that.

Daniel Kim said...

Chapter 7

“We Can’t Trust the Bible Historically”

Synopsis of the objection: The idea is that the Bible has been evolving for many years with accumulation of legends, so the records in the Bible cannot be trusted as reliable historical documents.
Since it is impossible for us to address every section of the Bible in a short book, Pastor Keller narrows the focus of the discussion to the canonical gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – which are books which the “evolution” theorists typically like to attack since they contain the historical narratives of Jesus of Nazareth.

The timing is far too early for the gospels to be legends

Question: “I think the stories about Jesus and things are part history, part legend. Stories got more and more mythical over the years as the Christian religion developed. Isn’t that what happened?”

KELLER’S POINT
The biblical accounts containing the records of Jesus’ life was written at most 40-60 years after Jesus’ death, but we need to remember that Paul’s letters which also speaks of Jesus’ life (which do not conflict with the gospel accounts) were written earlier – 15-25 years after Jesus’ death. When we look at the timeline of these accounts, there isn’t enough time for myths and legends to develop. Not only that, these gospel records are full of accounts that would not have been written in the presence of contemporary eyewitnesses and bystanders unless they were historically verifiable. Compared to these canonical gospels, the much-touted Gnostic gospels were written much later (e.g., Gospel of Thomas dating to 175 A.D. at the earliest). The recognition of the four gospels as authoritative was recorded by one of the early Church Fathers, Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. Contrary to Dan Brown’s theory presented in the fictitious work The Da Vinci Code, the divinity of Jesus was not voted upon by Constantine in 325 A.D. – as one can see that from the book of Philippians (written no later than 50 A.D.), Christians were worshiping Jesus as God ever since the very beginning of Christianity.

ADDITIONAL POINT
In addition to what has been said, I think a powerful argument could be made by noting that if the evolutionary theory of the biblical accounts is true, then you would expect some sort of evolution of theology – some kind of evolution of the identity / deity of Christ throughout the decades in which Paul’s letters and the gospel were written. You would expect, for example, the book of Galatians or Philippians would have a rather “human” picture of Jesus while the gospels have a more “divine” picture. But that is not the case. The identity of Jesus remains constant across the decades, which is contrary to the idea of the rapid evolution of theology. The ridiculousness of this theory is made plain when we actually think through what the conspiracy-theorists (like the Jesus Seminar) are saying: They claim that the Gospel of Mark (probably written the earliest) presents a very human picture of Jesus while the Gospel of John (written the latest) presents a very divine, supernatural picture. Greg Koukl thinks that claim is just plain hogwash, because if you take out all the supernatural events from the Gospel of Mark, you end up with a 5-page book, while if you take out the supernatural events from the Gospel of John, you still have most of the book, since John concentrates on Jesus’ encounters with various individuals. So one could make the point that Mark is an even more supernatural book than John, in terms of percentage of miracles recorded. Such bald, false claims made by the Jesus Seminar demonstrates how weak the evolutionary theory’s case is.

The content is far too counterproductive for the gospel to be legends

Question: “It’s the church that made up those stuff about Jesus. I’m sure Jesus of Nazareth existed. But those stories about him and the resurrection things – they were probably made up by the church so that they could sort of legitimize their power or their religious movement. How do you know that’s not what happened?”

KELLER’S POINT
The conspiracy theory says that the early church made up stories about Jesus to garner support and power for themselves. However, when you look at the content of the gospels, a strange thing that you find is that there is silence regarding topics that the early church was struggling with, such as the requirement of circumcision for Gentile believers. It is strange to think that if the church were to make up stories about Jesus to garner power for themselves, that they would not insert a simple saying by Jesus to clear up all of the controversy that was internally shaking up the church. Other embarrassing accounts like the crucifixion of their Lord, Jesus’ troubled prayer at Gethsemane, Jesus’ derelict cry on the cross, the women witnesses to the resurrection, and the constant intellectual and moral failures of the disciples (who would become the leaders of the early church) really point to a different direction. They were not trying to garner power for themselves to start a religion. They were simply telling the truth of what happened.
If you compare the canonical gospels to the Gnostic gospels, this difference is made even more clear. It turns out that the Gnostic gospels really fit the bill that they were written to support their own power and ideology. They fit very well within the Greco-Roman worldview and philosophy, and they place words into Jesus’ mouth that propagate those ideas. In contrast, the canonical gospels have content that really is too counterproductive if their goal was to propagate the power of the church. The logical conclusion is that they were therefore just recounting history.

ADDITIONAL POINT
Not much to add here.

The literary form of the gospels is too detailed to be legend

Question: “You know all these people who have been writing false memoirs and tricking people? How do you know that the gospel writers didn’t do that?”

KELLER’S POINT
An adept reader of ancient literature and legends can tell that the gospels were not written as myths, but as historical narratives. A modern reader must not make the mistake of anachronism by assuming that just because he/she has recently read fiction that sounds realistic, that must mean that the gospels could have been realistically-written fiction, as well. The genre of realistic fiction developed only in the last 300 years, and any fiction or legends before do not contain the “irrelevant” details that does not seem to push the story along or aid in character development (e.g., Beowulf or The Iliad). When one reads the gospels, however, she is hit with all kinds of selective, irrelevant details (e.g., Jesus sleeping on a cushion at the stern of the boat, Jesus doodling on the sand in a tense situation, etc.) that is very much in line with what one would expect from recollective memory of actual events.
Moreover, the assumption of critical scholars from early 20th century was that the early Christians and the oral culture in general did not distinguish between history and folktales. However, recent studies have demonstrated that such assumptions were made on very faulty grounds, and the whole theory of “revisionist history” has been largely eroded away. The only reason why such stories still circulate among the marketplace seems to be what Lynn Carrett calls “the Da Vinci Code effect”, where people found that speculative histories can make a fortune.

ADDITIONAL POINT
The above point, by itself, is sometimes not enough to address the question – because you’re saying that “it’s extremely unlikely that these gospel writers would have been realistic fiction writers, 1,700 years before the genre was birthed.” But unless you’re a ancient literature scholar that has done some reading of myths, the power of this argument is not all that impressive. (If you read pagan myths of that time like Mithras, Attis, etc. then the difference really does become clear, but it’s highly unlikely that they would have read anything close to the genre of ancient myths). So to the uneducated skeptical mind, the prospect of these gospel writers being fiction writers 1,700 years ahead of their times doesn’t seem too outlandish.. After all, it’s possible. So I think this point must be made in conjunction with some other points (like the counterproductive content argument) for a cumulative case.

“We can’t trust the Bible culturally”

Question: “How about slavery? Doesn’t the Bible teach the slaves to obey their masters or something like that? Doesn’t that support slavery?”

Question: “How can I trust the Bible when it teaches that homosexuality is wrong?”

KELLER’S POINT
The modern objections about the Bible often deal with some controversial or seemingly offensive teachings in the Bible, such as the teachings about gender roles or obedience of slaves. When you come to these passages, like slaves obey your masters, we need to be careful not to superimpose our understanding of racially-driven, New World slavery of Africans onto the first-century Greco-Roman system of slavery. Slavery during those times were a temporary condition by which a financially indebted person could be freed of his debt.
In the case where a person does understand the historical context of the biblical teaching and STILL objects to the teachings, then perhaps he/she can consider whether or not she would feel comfortable making such a pronouncement about a teaching based on the shifting culture and tastes of our times. To say that a biblical teaching is “regressive” seems to suggest that our current, modern culture is the absolutely solid ground upon which objective pronouncements can be issued. The fact that our future generations will see our tastes and thought-patterns as primitive should awaken us from our superiority complex and make us humble enough not to make judgment calls based on our own current tastes.
In addition, Keller suggests that we should first major in the majors – that if you jump into the shallow waters where there are a lot of controversies even among Christians, you are liable to be scratched up; therefore, first jump into the deep waters where there is consensus, and then tread out to the shallow areas later. For those who say that they cannot accept the Bible because there are these gender issues that seem outmoded, Keller suggests that she should consider if she would be comfortable committing such a non sequitur as to say that because I don’t like what the Bible teaches about sex, Jesus must not have risen from the dead.

ADDITIONAL POINT
Regarding slavery, I think he could have done a better job by giving some other alternatives – such as the idea that Paul’s recommendation that slaves obey their masters should not be seen as some kind of propagation of slavery, but a wise choice regarding choosing which hill to die on. Paul might have said this when speaking to the general population of slaves who were indebted servants, because to consider the alternative (slaves, rebel against your masters) would have been so controversial in that society that Christianity would have been overwhelmingly characterized as an abolitionist movement, stripping it of all other more foundational beliefs of Christianity, misrepresenting Christianity as just a social justice movement. In contrast, if we want to look at what Paul personally felt about slavery, perhaps it’s more helpful to observe what he says to Philemon regarding his runaway slave, Onesimus, because this personal letter does not have the added burden of trying to navigate around public policy issues. In the book of Philemon, Paul makes a strong exhortation for Philemon to take back his runaway slave “no longer as a slave, but better than a slave, as a dear brother. He is very dear to me but even dearer to you, both as a man and as a brother in the Lord.” (Philemon 16). This personal letter from Paul focused on a particular situation of a runaway slave is probably a better gauge of what the countercultural church is to do, despite the acceptance of slavery at large. Some might take this dichotomy and feel that perhaps the Bible is teaching that the best way to make a change in the world is not to engage the world in policy-making, but by creating an alternative, countercultural community where people live differently. In any case, I think the issue of slavery can be better explained by turning our attention to the book of Philemon, since it deals with a particular “case study” directly dealing with slavery.
For the rest of the section, I think the approach that Keller takes is a relatively different one. He goes back to the whole “change” in culture idea, and says that just because we feel a certain distaste toward a particular viewpoint, that should not be a basis for us to reject something… unless you’re claiming that your culture is the epitome of all cultures from which you can make such bold judgments. Note, as I explained in a previous comment, that this is NOT Pastor Keller trying to be relativistic. (please refer to the previous comments for an explanation). He is basically saying that if there is something that you don’t “like” about a rather peripheral teaching, then you should just move on and go to the central teachings, because the chances are that another generation at another time would think otherwise about what they like or don’t like. So don’t be stuck there. Now, if you disagree or find problems with the central teachings of the Bible, then of course you are truly stuck. But don’t be stuck in the minor things and make the mistake of rejecting the resurrection of Christ because you happen to not like what the Bible teaches about sex.
This is just my opinion, but I think Pastor Keller is indirectly addressing the homosexuality issue. He might be also talking about extreme feminism, but the issue of homosexuality is probably on his mind. But because he doesn’t want to get into an argument about gender roles and homosexuality (which is a wise choice – because it would be hard for him to treat those issues in a short chapter without making it seem like he’s dismissing it), he just zooms out and says, “look, there might be stuff in the Bible that you don’t like, no matter how much I try to explain it to you. And that’s okay. Just don’t be so narrow as to reject the entire Bible or the historical evidence for the divinity of Jesus just because you don’t like some minor teachings about gender, which just happens to be the hot topic of our times.” He then goes onto show that if there really IS a God who is real, then we would actually EXPECT for Him to contradict our feelings and likings – lest we are worshipping a God that is made in our own image. This sort of turns the table around and presents the prospect of working through these difficulties as a relationally interesting and exciting endeavor – to relate to this mysterious God who has a mind of His own.

Sarah said...

Hello,
Have 2 questions from a student from Week 7:
1. Keller's point of evidence: A. Paul being able to state confidently to government officials that the events of Jesus' life were public knowledge.
Student's Q: What if A. Paul was crazy? fighting for a cause that may not be true? People die for their false causes all the time. What makes his testimony any more viable than a crazy man dying for his cult? Even if A. Paul was brilliant and very intelligent. There have been a lot of brilliant ppl out there who are crazy and do crazy things.

2. In response to: Eyewitness accounts we can see how the 4 gospels were written by people who investigated & interviewed people who were actually there.
Student asks: What if people weren't there? Like the garden of Eden. Even if it was divinely inspired how would the writer know what exactly happened unless God dictated to him word for word. Is that what happened?

Daniel Kim said...

I'll try 2 short answers to your questions... and if more questions come up, then please do ask:

1) What if Paul was crazy? Well, maybe - but that means not only Paul, but the other disciples were crazy as well. We say, okay, maybe all those disciples turned crazy in the same way, like some cultic thing. But what we're forgetting is that Christianity was quite a problem for the early Jews. And if Paul was going around writing things confidently about public knowledge, etc.. then isn't it strange that there aren't any writings refuting those claims? We do have opponent writings about how Jesus led the nation of Israel astray by his sorcery, and how Christians are causing problems, etc. So it's not like the opponents are just being silent. But they don't refute these historical facts - that Jesus preached and was crurified, and that he was buried and the tomb was empty. So if Paul was just crazy and was making random stuff up, it's strange that they would refute him on other things, but not on these historical facts. So for these reasons, historians and even atheistic scholars give high credence to the claims that early Christians make.. that they are not just crazy people saying random things that never happened.

2) Well, as for the Genesis account, yes, that would have to have been revealed by God to Moses. As for other things, (like Gethsemane, etc.) you can imagine that Jesus (during the 40 days of being with them and teaching them from the Scriptures about "himself"), he would have told them what happened, etc. But as far as events that occurred without a single human being there, it would have to have been revealed by God. I can't think of all that many in the Bible, though, that would fit that criteria..

If you have any more questions, please ask.

Daniel Kim said...

By the way, I'm not sure what you meant by "Garden of Eden" - There were 2 people there. Maybe you were talking about Garden of Gethsemane, or maybe just the creation account? That's why I put down both in the above answer.

Also, it's not necessary that God dictate to someone what happened "word for word" - as if God is telling them to write this down word for word. Not that this is important, but just wanted to avoid the idea that in order for something to be accurate, it needs to be dictated by God word for word.. that's not the case. Someone can have some kind of a revelation of God, and then they can write down that revelation in his own wording and phrasing.

Anonymous said...

This question doesn't stem specifically from the material, but I was wondering, how should we view and understand old testament laws, specifically the ones that seem very similar to the laws enforced by Islamic clerics? I read today in an article that aproximately 29 people were hung in Iran, for offenses ranging from murder to adultery- engaging in relationships outside of marriage. This reminds me of the OT law that those who committed adultery were to be stoned. What's the difference, and how should we understand and articulate the difference?
article link:
http://www.cnn.com/2008/WORLD/meast/07/27/iran.executions/index.html?iref=mpstoryview

Daniel Kim said...

The above question deserves a separate post, so I posted it at Gracepoint Forum page Islam Similar to O.T.

joongwlee said...

Is this only for Gracepoint Fellowship Church - Berkeley members or can anyone from another church post questions and comments (like Waypoint Community Church)?

Thanks,
Pastor Jonathan

Anonymous said...

can u post for other chapters here? thx!

Daniel Kim said...

Anyone can post - you do not have to be a member of or associated with Gracepoint Fellowship Church in Berkeley or anything like that.

Also, I can't post for other chapters - we didn't really think about doing this until later in the book.

Anonymous said...

that's too bad. i really enjoyed reading your comments/review of these two chapters. when you have time, can you do some? thx!

Anonymous said...

i second that. these posts are really great.

joongwlee said...

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for these chapters. I wish I had known about these before we covered this book last month!

-P.Jonathan