Are you convinced this is true? You do not have to suffer alone. Foucault was pressing the truth of his analysis on others even as he denied the very category of truth. Is this how you define hell to your non-Christian friends? Many nonbelievers have friends or relatives who have become ‘born again’ and seem to have gone off the deep end” [p. 56]. If you haven’t heard this before, what does this suggest about the church’s ability to speak biblical truth into our post-Christian world? A true opium of the people is a belief in nothingness after death—the huge solace of thinking that our betrayals, greed, cowardice, murders are not going to be judged… [but] all religions recognize that our deeds are imperishable” [p. 75]. 10. What are two ways in which it might improve? “The death of Jesus,” Keller argues, “was qualitatively different from any other death” [p. 30]. How do you resolve your difficulty? 14. 9. “The tendency of religious people,” Keller says, “is to use spiritual and ethical observance as a lever to gain power over others and over God, appeasing him through ritual and good works” [p. 59]. What is the difference and why does this matter? If yes, what questions do you ask? Which do you find most problematic or troubling? It is good for three reasons. On pages 44-45, Keller argues that there is “no Christian culture,” but rather that Christianity maintains core orthodoxy while adapting to the culture of its followers. Ask for prayer. 4. If you are a Christian, is this how you have understood the biblical concept of hell? “Skepticism, fear, and anger toward traditional religion are growing in power and influence. Is it surprising that Keller raises it in this context? How do evangelicals fare today by this standard? What answers have you heard that you find insufficient? Science has Disproved Christianity. We're in chapter two of Tim Keller's Making Sense of God this week. Ron carefully prepared 18 questions for us to dig in to the content of chapters 1-7, which I will post below. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Why do you think you respond the way you do? Bible studies don’t have to be scary. Did you see it at the time? On the other hand, Christian missions is full of examples where missionaries have brought not just the gospel but American culture to the world—did Keller apologize sufficiently for this sad heritage? One such gifted leader for today is Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Which do you have the most trouble accepting? List the specific “counterproductive content” Keller mentions to counter the argument that the early church fabricated the gospel accounts to make Jesus fit their agenda [p. 104-105]. But a Bible study with well-prepared, thoughtful questions just might end up more thrilling than a 4×4 off-roading adventure. How would you respond to this assertion? “Alister McGrath points out that when the idea of God is gone, a society will ‘transcendentalize’ something else, some other concept, in order to appear morally and spiritually superior” [p. 55]. To what extent is your life as a believer characterized by these three qualities? Is this your assumption of how Christian missions works? [p. 57]. How does this change the meaning of the opening chapters of the creation account? Would you be comfortable suggesting them to a non-Christian friend? Dwell for a moment on this scenario: Imagine you wake up. ho are the main characters, and what are they doing? How would you respond to Christians who disagree with his interpretation? questions we sometimes ask in the face of suffering. “Good character,” Keller says, “is largely attributable to a loving, safe, and stable family and social environment—conditions for which we were not responsible.” Because people with greater needs are often the ones attracted to Christianity, Keller concludes, “we should expect that many Christians’ lives would not compare well to those of the nonreligious” [p. 54]. February 9, 2009 13. Is this common knowledge among Christians? Which questions directed you to the main point and which were tangential? 11. “Christianity answered this historical challenge by a reorientation of the worldview,” Sanneh says, “People sensed in their hearts that Jesus did not mock their respect for the sacred nor their clamor for an invincible Savior, and so they beat their sacred drums for him until the stars skipped and danced in the skies. 6. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater” [p. 32]. Explaining why believing in something makes sense will make little or no sense if my explanation is not in categories my companion can understand and appreciate. For example, when studying Isaiah 25:1-5, you could ask, “Why will the strong and ruthless people glorify God?” Or, “Why does Isaiah 25:5 refer to ‘the song of the ruthless’?” Or, “Why do the verb tenses keep changing?”. In my last two posts I have reviewed Adam Hamilton’s book Making Sense of the Bible (New York: HarperOne, 2014) and examined one of the key exegetical claims he makes in support of his view that “we hear God’s voice as we listen to scripture’s words” (p. 131, emphasis added). What plans should you make? [p. 93-94] Why? Why or why not? Why or why not? Keller agrees with the notion that religions claiming exclusivity of their beliefs are a barrier to world peace [p. 4] Do you agree with Keller? Though open-ended, it can have goals. Now ask the question: ‘What if when we die we don’t end, but spiritually our life extends on into eternity?’ Hell then, is the trajectory of a soul, living a self-absorbed, self-centered life, going on and on forever” [p. 76-77]. Keller quotes Macquarrie who argues that since science is based on the idea that all natural events are caused by other natural events, any sort of miracle “is irreconcilable with our modern understanding of both science and history.” Alvin Plantinga says, “Macquarrie perhaps means to suggest that the very practice of science requires that one reject the idea (e.g.) 9. To hold an opinion on God is indeed a celebration of the fact that if there is a Go- like intelligence it must be somewhat like our own (probably more open minded than most and certainly a better sense of humor) Did your friends find your arguments convincing? Making Sense of God - a review Andrew Larkin, Bethinking The book is written for those for whom the issue of God seems fanciful and not even worth considering, so a more accurate reflection of the book is that it is “An Invitation to the Sceptical” to reconsider their views on God. What difference does it make? [p. 38]. What restrictions have you found liberating? What difference does it make? Keller claims that the notion—“If Christianity is all it claims to be, shouldn’t Christians on the whole be much better people than everyone else?”—is actually based on a “mistaken belief” [p. 53]. The Bible teaches us that our treatment of them equals our treatment of God” [p. 60]. Sociologist Robert Bellah finds that 80% of Americans are convinced that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious beliefs independent of any church or synagogue… that the most fundamental belief in American culture is that moral truth is relative to individual consciousness” [p. 70]. 3. Why do you think that is? It should promote interaction and foreshadow application. Do you believe many Christians share this conviction? “We should criticize Christians when they are condemning and ungracious to unbelievers. 2. What specific issues did they have in mind? What impact has the shift from what was, a century ago, generally “a culture of belief” to today’s “culture of skepticism” had on Christian belief? Why is that? How are notions of freedom (individual and otherwise) foundational to our society’s values? How do we lovingly move skeptics to see this truth? Keller quotes C. S. Lewis: “They say of some temporal suffering, ‘No future bliss can make up for it,’ not knowing that Heaven, once attained, will work backwards and turn even that agony into a glory” [p. 34]. Does this seem to make a compelling case? How did they define “fanaticism” and “off the deep end”? Where have you noticed or encountered such approaches? 2. To what extent is this taught and encouraged by church leaders? What changes must our church make to be a safe place? “Ironically, the insistence that doctrines do not matter is really a doctrine itself” [p. 8]. How might Christians take this argument to an incorrect conclusion? Lead your group through the awkwardness, and your courage will be infectious. 6. To do so, you must master four types of Bible study discussion questions. [p. 60-61]. In some sections of the church, however, the opposite conclusion would be drawn. 3. “Today’s outspoken believer,” Keller says, “may be tomorrow’s apostate, and today’s outspoken unbeliever may be tomorrow’s convert. Right after warning us not to be squeezed into the mold of the world (Romans 12:1-2), he assures us that different members of Christ’s Church have different gifts and callings (Romans 12:3-8). Does it surprise you that “Christianity does not provide a reason for each experience of pain?” [p. 27]. Could this explain why so many younger Christians feel alienated from disillusioned about a church seeking to conserve itself? The Church is responsible for so much injustice. When the apostle wrote to the Church in Ephesus, he pointed out that God provides leaders “to equip” Christians for faithful service in a fallen world (Ephesians 4:11-16). How does the church fare by this standard? Do you find this argument surprising? Should they? What view is more commonly held, and what difference does it make? How does secularism deal with suffering and evil? Does this 3-fold list surprise you? Does this resonate with your sense of your neighbors and co-workers? Restate this in a way that someone who has thought little about the nature of science could understand. Sometimes arguments like this in defense of God are made in a tone that seems coldly logical—which offends doubters who are truly wounded by the horrible suffering they find in our broken world [p. 27]. Because “all of us have fundamental, unprovable faith-commitments that we think are superior to those of others,” Keller argues that we must ask, “which fundamentals will lead their believers to be the most loving and receptive to those with whom they differ?” [p. 19-20]. ... Making Sense of Suffering. We are delighted to have a preacher some of you might have heard before on the show: Tim Keller. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. 3. Keller says that the Gnostic gospels, not the canonical gospels, “‘suck up’ to the ‘powers that be’” [p. 105]. Use focused but open-ended questions to drive the group’s collective noses into the text and to foster interaction. Since there are so many other issues raised concerning the historicity and trustworthiness of the Bible, what plans should you make? How does this statement affect your faith? You see, you were made by God and you were made for God. How many churches provide safe places and the necessary resources for such long and hard struggle with doubts, with objections to faith? 10. Review the title of this chapter—does Keller fully answer this question, or does he primarily level the playing field for conversations with skeptics? How does this cause you to see other people? How does this cause you to see hell? How does Keller disprove that assertion? Ryan and Peter blog at Knowable Word, where they help ordinary people learn to study the Bible. Why or why not? This also sheds light on why many Christians feel defensive about their faith. At this point, there’s one key trick for developing interpretation questions: work backwards. Keller says, “hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity” [p. 78]. 8. If Christianity is “not the product of any one culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God,” Keller says, “we would expect that it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point” [p. 72]. Job’s story gives us a way to engage these questions with a more meaningful response than some find initially. How does this challenge make you feel about the Christian faith? How have you seen the lever at work? Why or why not? Do you understand why non-Christians might react the way they do? 1. Harnessing the power of interaction should be one of your highest priorities when leading a Bible study. It is tempting for attendees to make a bible study an enjoyable sociable occasion, where the bible study leader ends up being the “guru” who just spouts off the fruits of his/her research and everyone else comes for the ride. “On what basis,” Keller asks, “does the atheist judge the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust?” [p. 26] How is it possible to raise this issue to align oneself, or agree with, the skeptic rather than merely confront them? You should be able to summarize the main point (or points) of the passage succinctly. 2. Keller says, “Every human community holds in common some beliefs that necessarily create boundaries, including some people and excluding others from its circle” [p. 39]. Though we should never give up trying to pray, it can be extremely difficult to pray when we are hurting. It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist” [p. 85]. It would mean that no one could really know what Jesus said and did, and that the Bible could not be the authoritative norm over our life and beliefs. Tip: Avoid inflexible questions that hinder the group’s mutual discovery of the text. “We don’t reason with the other side; we only denounce” [p. xv]. How satisfying is your resolution? 2. We made it through six questions in about two hours. “The Biblical view of things is resurrection,” Keller writes, “not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. Where do you believe this divide stems from? ... Study One. 3. St Paul writes, ‘the love of Christ constrains us’ (2 Corinthians 5:14)” [p. 49]. Do you find the three reasons amounting to a compelling argument? Day 7 - God had finished his work of creation and so he rested on the seventh day, blessing it and making it holy. Your personal study of the text is essential. Why or why not? 6. When you discuss the work of God to conform us to the image of Christ, any tension you feel is evidence of progress. In a sun-scorched land, soaked in the blood of the innocent, it will invariably die… [with] other pleasant captivities of the liberal mind” [p. 74]. 2. Abstraction and intellectual distance won’t protect you anymore. Timothy Keller, author of Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC. Great post. As objectively as you can, restate in your own words those steps. How did you respond? Keller identifies three “barriers” to faith: intellectual, personal, and social [p. xii-xiii]. What are the implications for your skepticism/faith? 11. Have the culture wars produced positive results? Many Christians might find this statement to be unsettling. 20. Introduction Any treatment of Christian doctrine would be incomplete if the biblical statement concerning sin were omitted. How responsible have you been in this regard? Modern Philosophy denies the existence of sin, but any such denial is part of a false philosophy. Do you believe that right doctrine and proper moral behavior will assure your relationship with God? You can’t take the Bible literally. One person is quoted as saying that “the difference between Redeemer and other churches was profound and lay in ‘irony, charity, and humility’” [p. 43]. Either this is reportage … or else, some unknown [ancient] writer … without known predecessors or successors, suddenly, anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic, narrative” [p. 106]. We all know of examples of how skeptics give ridiculous or offensive arguments against Christianity—ignoring for a moment the proper offense of the cross, give five examples of arguments against skepticism or for Christian faith where either the argument or the Christian are ridiculous or offensive to unbelievers. In an effort to further that, Ransom Fellowship has prepared detailed reflection and discussion questions for each section and chapter of the book. Regardless of how energetic the discussion has been, getting personal will be tough. When is confrontation appropriate? To what extent would suffering people say you know this? The Reason for God is worth reading, reflecting on, and discussing with friends—both Christians and non-Christians. What is the difference between being lovingly exclusive and narrow-mindedly oppressive? 5. Copyright © 2021 Faithlife / Logos Bible Software. 7. 12. The Leader Guide contains everything needed to facilitate the study including session outlines, goals, prayers, discussion questions, key insights, and activities. No person could have stopped Jesus from dying on the cross for the sins of the world. Why? Once you begin a conversation, you give up a sense of control. Some Christians may find this troubling, wanting to see Jesus as (super)heroic in every way—how would you answer their concerns? Why or why not? [59-60]. In one sense God’s will is something that will always happen no matter what. 14. The very first question of your Bible study should be open, engaging, and linked to the main point of the passage. Welcome to this course which is for you if you want to find out why believing in God makes sense to someone like me Perhaps, you are an agnostic. [p. 19]. Christianity helped Africans to become renewed Africans, not re-made Europeans” [p. 41]. What is this mistaken belief? 16. Why or why not? It would have saved me so much headache, heartache, and trouble as I have sought to make sense of how to understand what the Bible teaches about God, and how to reconcile the enemy-loving Jesus with the enemy-killing God … What are some of things transcendentalized by our pluralistic, busy, postmodern consumer culture? [p. 40]. What troubles you most about its beliefs or how it is practiced?” [p. 3] Do you make a habit of asking non-Christians questions similar to that? Tip: Avoid fill-in-the-blank or read-my-mind questions that have only one correct answer. Genesis 2 is an account of how it happened” [p. 94]. Keller goes through a step-wise series of suggestions for reading the Bible after finding biblical texts that are culturally offensive [p. 109-113]. Do you agree? Can you think of a time when you used this argument inappropriately and hurt or angered someone? I’ve found that it helps to get the bible study members doing homework beforehand. “The people most passionate about social justice were moral relativists,” Keller says, remembering his pilgrimage of faith as a young man, “while the morally upright didn’t seem to care about the oppression going on all over the world” [p. xii]. If you hook your people early, they’ll feel compelled to participate. How do you reconcile the two? If you are a visual person, and you imagine science and religion as two circles, how will they interact/intersect? Noting his credentials as a literary scholar, Keller quotes C. S. Lewis, “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. The process of decision-making includes making a judgment about an attitude or action. “This is proof,” Dawkins believes, “that the more intelligent, rational, and scientifically minded you are, the less you will be able to believe in God” [p. 84]. Science has disproved Christianity. You might travel from Exodus to the politics of Disney faster than you can say “talitha koumi.” Your efforts might produce unbearable silence, heretical comments, or topical whiplash that spins the group dizzy. Making Sense of God Study – Ch. The objection this chapter addresses, Keller shows, is linked to the unspoken assumptions of Western culture [p. 72]. “Violence done in the name of Christianity is a terrible reality and must be both addressed and redressed. [p. 103]. [p. 59]. “The existence of God can be neither demonstrably proven or disproven” [p. 86]. What does this say about you? Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives. How do this provide a better answer than every other worldview? Pain and suffering actually bring these deep “God questions” to the fore front for many. Making Sense of God's Will is a four-session book-and-video study that helps us make sense of these issues by exploring some of the "why?" 10. Does this statement by Keller surprise you? 19. What does the passage mean? Do you find this argument convincing? I will change for you. What are the usual views of doubt? Is this the view of the future that Christians tend to believe in and hear about in church? What words or ideas are repeated in the passage? Give examples of Christians denouncing something, rather than engaging in careful reasoning. 8. “We should not be surprised to discover it was the Bible-believing religious establishment who put Jesus to death” [p. 59]. As Keller notes [p. 108], a great of deal of “Biblical revisionism” seems to be filtering into Western culture in the form of archeological discoveries, studies of Gnostic gospels, and works of fiction. Jesus has come to redeem where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken. Making Sense of the Bible is borne of a great love for the Bible, along with years of study and pastoral ministry. “Mark,” Keller says, “says that the men who helped Jesus carry his cross to Calvary ‘was the father of Alexander and Rufus’ (Mark 15:21). To what extent would their definitions apply to you—or to your Christian friends? Does Keller’s response surprise you? Old arguments that seemed so certain now seem less so, and challenges are raised which the old answers don’t address adequately. The Biblical picture is that sin separates us from the presence of God, which is the source of all joy and indeed of all love, wisdom, or good things of any sort. I know none of them are like this. When they are missing, what difference does it make? Do Christians ever fail to understand this distinction? “This means,” Keller says, “every human culture has (from God) distinct goods and strengths for the enrichment of the human race… while every culture has distortions and elements that will be critiqued and revised by the Christian message, each culture will also have good and unique elements to which Christianity connects and adapts” [p. 45]. 4. Keller says, “The typical criticisms by secular people about the oppressiveness and injustices of the Christian church actually come from Christianity’s own resources for critique of itself” [p. 61]. If you find that little or nothing in the world angers you, what does this say about you? Of this [gospel] text there are only two possible views. Does that belief make sense?” [p. 112] Christians often say such things when non-Christians have objections to things like the Trinity or the necessity of Christ’s death for forgiveness. 6. Define each. How satisfied are you with your resolution? Is there then no way to judge whether a community is open and caring rather than narrow and oppressive? That achieves civility in a pluralistic society, which is no small thing” [p. xviii-xix]. C. S. Lewis is quoted as saying, “To ‘see through’ all things is the same as not to see” [p. 37]… “If you say all truth-claims are power plays, then so is your statement… To see through everything is not to see. The questions are designed to get the group discussing the substance of Keller’s book, and may cover more detail than any particular group will be interested in covering. How do you respond to the idea? Having prayerfully wrestled with the passage yourself, you should have a good sense of the flow and tension the author intended. That might be OK for a season, but eventually the responsibility of a leader is to bring people from a adult-child relationship to an adult-adult relationship. 17. First, it identifies and answers the questions being raised today. 4. How have you challenged those ideas? To what extent have you read about the opposing views of the historicity of the biblical documents? What does Keller include in “All this”? 9. Given the dates of the writing of the New Testament documents, Keller says, “This means that the biblical accounts of Jesus’ life were circulating within the lifetimes of hundreds who had been present at the events of his ministry” [p. 101]. The goal should be not just to have people better informed when they walk out the door but to have new skills that they can take with them when they eventually go to another study or even church. Does this not seem to be an elitist argument? How do you think the platitude will sound to the thousands of victims in, say, Darfur? How would you present each flaw to a skeptic who is making the argument? If that is true, should churches reward children for good attendance in Sunday school? Chapter 5. Keller claims, “Christianity has been more adaptive (and maybe less destructive) of diverse cultures than secularism and many other worldviews” [p. 40]. We hope you find our discussion guide to The Reason for God … Does this resonate with your experience of talking to people who raise this objection? But at the same time, robust, orthodox belief in the traditional faiths is growing as well” [p. ix]. Is civility in the public square possible if this is correct? What religious stance or ethical criteria have you found your unbelieving friends using to evaluate Christian faith? So, they give answers to questions that aren’t being raised, and wonder why they are the only ones in the conversation that seem impressed. “Many people who take an intellectual stand against Christianity,” Keller says, “ do so against a background of personal disappointment with Christians and churches. We cannot consider a group exclusive simply because it has standards for its members. Have you ever heard this objection to Christianity? 1. Do you find his agreement surprising? Define freedom (saying “being in Christ” is not allowed—though true, in this setting it is a platitude). Chapter 6. If … Why? All refusal to admit the existence of sin can neither be controverted nor challenged. What reasons would you give if a Christian challenged this statement as untrue? What’s the difference between denouncing and disagreeing? Hell, Keller says, is “the greatest monument to human freedom” [p. 79]. 11. Hamilton offers many springboards for discussion, htting upon perplexing questions for families as well as individuals. Chapter 1: There Can’t Be Just One True Religion. The workers are making between seven and eight dollars a day. Tip: Avoid easing into the discussion by merely reviewing the previous passage or meandering toward a point. Take the time to read (at least sections of) Beowulf or The Iliad and compare them to sections of Mark’s gospel. “Czeslaw Milosz, the Nobel Prize-winning Polish poet, wrote the remarkable essay ‘The Discreet Charms of Nihilism.’ In it he remembers how Marx had called religion ‘the opiate of the people’ because the promise of an afterlife (Marx said) led the poor and the working class to put up with unjust social conditions. This week and cultural values or political ideologies are present in our own society something. Support this statement then makes the assertion `` God makes sense even when he does n't make.! Was qualitatively different from any other death ” [ p. 82 ] what unholy between. Impulse to make sense. re-made Europeans ” [ p. 72 ] might get. Book with two young friends: the Rev your time of need if... Approach, and Asia ” [ p. 80-81 ] insensitive or offensive my and... “ Christianity does not have a churched background on others even as he denied the category. 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