The Reason For God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – A critique (Chapter Twelve: The (True) Story of the Cross)Posted: November 13, 2013
For those of you who have been following along thus far I apologize for the repetitiveness of this post, but as Pastor Keller reiterates his arguments so must I with counter arguments.
Chapter Twelve: The (True) Story of the Cross
This chapter starts with a quote from Ganhdi accepting the teachings, sacrifice, and example of Jesus but not accepting there was “a mysterious or miraculous virtue in it”. (P. 186) The next quote is from Malcolm Muggeridge bemoaning his turning away from the cross even though he “should have worn it.” (P.186)
Pastor Keller demonstrated his ignorance of his faith in the first sentence saying, “The primary symbol of Christianity has always been the cross.” (P. 186) Christians used signs of life like the fish or lamb for the three or so centuries of its youth. Not until Constantine do we see the faith represented by a torture device. Interestingly this is not long after the introduction of original sin. Keller says people often struggle with forgiveness more than the existence of God. They wonder why God had to use “divine child abuse” (P.187).
The First Reason: Real Forgiveness Is Costly Suffering
Keller apologizes an event where you lend a neighbor your car and he backs into your gate. He lists three options: One, He pays the damage. Two, you pay the damage. Three, you share the cost. The point he is making is ” damage must be borne by someone. ” (P.187) He’s forgetting there is a fourth option. Let it go. Splitting hairs maybe, but at least round out your analogy.
Keller argues forgiveness is agony since you are alleviating the need for justice but internalizing that debt. I would say the opposite is true of forgiveness. It is not internalizing debt, but rather let the loss and the hurt go. As T. D. Jakes says, “I think the first step is to understand that forgiveness does not exonerate the perpetrator. Forgiveness liberates the victim. It’s a gift you give yourself.” Not to say that is easy by any measure, but the lack of forgiveness rots us with anger and resentment. People are rarely bettered by refusing to move on from wrongdoing. Keller is trying to paint forgiveness as pain so Jesus’ blood sacrifice holds merit. He says, “Everyone who forgives great evil goes through death into resurrection, ” (P. 192) The moment you forgive a weight is lifted from you. Anyone who has truly forgiven even the smallest grievance knows this. There is no sense of death in act of forgiveness. You may attribute something akin to death in the wrong doing, but that is completely separate from forgiveness.
The Forgiveness of God
Keller attributes a very human issue to God in this section saying, “no one “just” forgives , if the evil is serious. ” (P. 192) He also points out Christians believe Jesus is God so God was inflicting “the pain violence, and evil of the world into himself. ” (P. 192) Even for the believers the one in three monotheism concept is difficult to wrap their heads around and most decide it is a matter of faith, but if you break it down in simplest terms: God made sin. Must punish us for that creation. Wants to forgive so he tortures and kills himself in physical form while simultaneously forsaking himself to pay the debt owed to himself incurred by the system he has utter control over from before the beginning.
The Second Reason: Real Love Is a Personal Exchange
Keller accurately points out to love someone who is need or in danger it costs something to the lover. If you are to love your children you must “decrease that they may increase”. (P. 194) I heartily agree. The problem comes when Keller attributes this to human limitation to God. He closes this section by saying, “how can God be a God of love if does not become personally involved in suffering, oppression, grief, weakness, and pain we experience? The answer to that question is twofold. First, God can’t. Second, only one major world religion claims that God does.” (p. 195) The first one “can’t” is unbelievable. Pastor Keller has argued over and over God’s ultimate power. His creation and control of everything. His infallibility. Suddenly when it matters most God “can’t”? If forgiveness without blood sacrifice is God’s kryptonite, how are we to believe all the other powers attributed to him have any merit? I would much rather a God who was divine in this area and human in every other. The fact he killed himself for the debt owed to himself is greatly diminished by this limitation humans overcome.
The Great Reversal
Christians often cite their deity as unique and special since Jesus experienced everything we do, which is simply not true. He didn’t experience old age, the loss of his mother, the temptation of cheating on his wife, mistreating his children, war and the evil and horrors only soldiers know, and most importantly mortality and the insecurity of what happens after death to name a few. Inspite of this Keller seeks to make a case based on God fully experiencing the human condition. Keller also tries to paint Christians as superior through “a reversal of values regard to power, recognition, status, and wealth.” (P. 196) He says Christians give away money, look at power to be used only as service, and doing away with racial and class superiority. Again, this is simply not true. Any Christian charity seeks to serve and further their message. History is clear on where Christians stand with classism and racism. To give an over simplified example: “Sell the Vatican. Feed the world.” –Sarah Silverman Christianity has many good tenants of service and forgiveness, but those are hardly unique to the faith and at day’s end they are just as concerned with the status and longevity of their religion as any other organization. Some would say more so.
The Story Of The Cross
Keller is painting the story of Jesus as something that is part of our story. Jesus having to die for our sins is humbling since he was glad to do it. In the previous section Keller points out Jesus asking God to do it some other way in the garden and while on the cross crying out “why”. This does not sound like someone glad to be in the situation. Commendable Jesus did it inspite of his qualms, but there’s no potency in it since he is in utter control of the situation. It makes no sense why an all powerful, all knowing being would ask himself to change the rules and then deny himself. He knows everything and can do anything. Why the theatrics and self limitation? It smacks of humans dipping from their own experience rather than the identity of an all powerful being.
Keller spends the chapter limiting God while simultaneously exalting him as utterly superior to humans. Moreover if a sixteen hour torture session resulting in temporary death is the payment required for the sin in all of time, how is eternal hell a justifiable punishment for an individual’s sin? Even if Jesus was perfect and willingly sacrificed, hell still seems rather steep payment for even the worst of us.
Drive fast. Take chances. Thanks for reading.