The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – A critique (Chapter Ten: The Problem Of Sin)

reason for God

Chapter Ten: The Problem Of Sin

Seeming to abandon quoting skeptics Keller quotes H. G. Wells instead. The first quote sings the praises to the accomplishments of humankind. The second, miserable in the horrid actions of humankind. After making the case the world’s perfection must indicate a creator Keller does a one-eighty and starts this chapter by saying, “It is hard to avoid the conclusion that there is something fundamentally wrong with the world.” (P. 159) He says Christianity points to sin as the culprit admitting the concept is ludicrous and offensive to many because they don’t understand what Christians mean by the term.

Sin and Human Hope
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Keller says the impression the doctrine of sin as a bleak and pessimistic view of human nature is incorrect because we are not at its mercy the way the body is at the mercy of cancer. We can be redeemed and this is a cause for hope not pessimism. First, the idea humans at birth are literally doomed because of original sin (which wasn’t even formalized until the second century) is dismal. The idea our souls are created with something so repugnant God would send unbaptized babies (I realize this is not the universal stance) to eternal hell fire is nearly the worst possible concept of human nature, redemption available or not. Keller says until we can admit we are very flawed, sinners, we cannot be liberated and improve. I agree we can’t hold ourselves in too high of esteem. We need to identify and address our short comings and strive to improve the lives of others, some more than others, but the idea we enter this world with a blight on our very nature so evil God considers eternal hell a just punishment is sepulchral.

The Meaning of Sin

Keller cites Soren Kierkgaard saying humans are made to believe in God and love him supremely centering their lives on him above everything else. “Anything other than this is sin. ” (P. 162) This argument there is no fulfillment outside of God is an old and tired argument. If this is the case was everyone pre-Abraham miserable and listless? Are all who never heard about Jesus floating through life never finding meaning? All the joy, love, art, music, created and enjoyed apart from Christianity would beg to differ. This is an incredibly limited and myopic world view which asserts the vast majority of people who have ever existed were not only empty and without identity, but in the Christian view in eternal punishment. Keller says finding your identity apart from God “only sets the stage for continual disappointment.” (P. 163) He says we all want redemption and only God can impart it to us. Humanity may want purpose and affirmation their individual lives have meaning, but unless we are told there is something fundamentally wrong with us, redemption doesn’ t enter the picture. As Eleanor Roosevelt said,  “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Any of the Dalai Lamas likely found identity and meaning outside of God, but according to Keller this is impossible and they lived their lives from disappointment to disappointment.
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The Personal Consequences of Sin

So under the definition identity is found in God and no where else Keller seeks to prove “there is no way to avoid this insecurity outside of God” (P. 165) saying if your identity is being a parent you can loose you children, if you are an athlete you can loose you physical prowess so on and so forth. Keller says God is the only constant. Clearly this is not the case since there are so many variations of Christianity and while when pressed Christians identify with whatever denomination they subscribe to e.g. Catholic, Protestant, Lutheran, Evangelical, so on. The interpretation of who God is, what he wants, how is to be worshiped, and how salvation is truly acquired varies wildly. They may see eye to eye on God’s name but more than once they have come to blows over the details. So if you make your identity as a Catholic you are at the same mercy of insecurity since you may end up in an area dominated by Protestants and they seem to be making sense. Yes, you still believe in the same God, but who he is and your relationship with him (your identity) is in utter peril.  What if you subscribe to a specific preacher like Tedd Haggard and he fails so completely the way he did. Doesn’t that make you second guess the teachings you have built your identity? The point is the Christian God‘s personality and desires are up for debate and the identity you have you still chose and it can be lost or taken. A better assured identity is one of compassion and service. If you sculpt who you are around the service and love of self and others because it is empirically right, nothing can take it from you.

The Social Consequences of Sin

Keller propones the only way to social unity is through loving God and all other social identities are fodder for separation and tension. While I don’t necessarily disagree with the latter, the former is patently false. Not only is there constant disagreement within the Church, but history has shown religion to be one of the most polarizing organizations no matter who or where. Keller is essentially calling for a world wide Christian Theocracy. The horror that would be. The Fore Fathers were largely driven to escape theocracy because they saw the inherent evil it causes. “Millions of innocent men, women and children, since the introduction of Christianity, have been burnt, tortured, fined and imprisoned; yet we have not advanced one inch towards uniformity.” -Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia, 1782. They saw the only way for a society to be at peace is to leave God out of it.

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The Cosmic Consequences of Sin
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Keller once again shows his hubris on our role in the universe. He talks about the creation in Genesis and how it was “all good” until sin was introduced; then, “the entire warp and woof of the world unraveled.” (P. 170) First off Keller doesn’t seem to take Genesis literally until now. Its as if he actually thinks “disease, genetic disorders, famine, natural disasters, aging, and death…” (P. 170) are the result of original sin. We don’t have dominion over the planet; microbes like viruses and bacteria do. Most of the planet is uninhabitable by humans. Keller referring to the pitfalls of this planet as a cosmic event is ludicrously out of touch with size and state of the cosmos. The first definition of “cosmic” is:  Of or relating to the regions of the universe distinct from the Earth, and yet Keller references only the earth when talking about the “cosmic consequences”. He cites an event which there is literally no proof, acts as though we are the reason for the planet earth, and has zero concept of microcosm this galaxy is in comparison with the cosmos. It is painfully stupid to read.

We Can Put It All Right?

Pastor Keller does his best to put the fear of God in the reader pointing out if you chase career, money, ambition, you will be left wanting. He reminds us family and career can’t die for your sins. If one does not believe in sin, the wages of, or redemption through human sacrifice the second tactic holds no water. I submit again the idea we are born damaged goods redeemed through human sacrifice is immoral and baseless. Keller argues something must become the “Lord of your life. ” (P. 173) and that lord should be Jesus because you will be fulfilled and forgiven of your sin. I agree a person who pursues tangible selfish goals will be less fulfilled, but God is not the necessary answer either. Compassion, love, service of others will bring fulfillment. If you choose to believe in original sin, that is your prerogative, but until its introduction two hundred years after Christ’s alleged existence all of humanity got on just fine without believing they were born bad and deserving of the worst of all possible punishments. Maybe if we spend more time focused on love and less on the hypothetical peril of our souls we can put it closer to right.

Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.

-Danger

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