The Reason For God - Chapter Three Review

The title for Chapter three is, Christianity Is A Straitjacket.
Keller goes on to expand the criticism to mean that Christianity, "...looks like an enemy of social cohesion, cultural adaptability, and even authentic person hood. However, this objection is based on mistakes about the nature of truth, community, Christianity, and of liberty itself."
These are how explains that those are mistakes:

Truth is Unavoidable
Keller explains that there must be a form of absolute truth because, if you are skeptic of everything, then you can't believe in anything. If you think everything is a "power play", then even your statement is. He's again trying to deal with relativism, this time in how it relates to truth. I don't really see why if his religion is relative, that must mean everything is. Why can't just his version of Christianity be relative? I can see the possibility for there to be an absolute truth, but the assumption that his beliefs could fall into that category is pretty huge.

Community Can't Be Completely Inclusive
I agree with his main point in this section. To have a community, you have to have a definition and a boundary for that community. If you don't have those, then you're just a bunch of people standing around. If you want to define your community to mean anyone who stands in a field, then that's your community. I would just say, we define as a culture what kind of communities we tolerate. There are lots of things as a society we have said we won't tolerate. Keller says, "but we should not criticize churches when they maintain standards for membership in accord with their beliefs. Every community must do the same". That's just silly. Yes I agree you have to have definitions for your in group, it's stupid to say everyone must be OK with your community. If your church says it's OK to have slaves and kill your children for disrespecting you because it's biblical, society is perfectly within its rights to put a stop to your community. If your 'community' continues to believe things that are patently false; IE the world underwent a global flood, the earth is six thousand years old, why should we not criticize that?? You deserve to be laughed at. If you don't bring any evidence, why can't you be criticized? If I went around claiming superpowers, and everyone in my social group claimed superpowers, why should we expect not to be mocked when said powers were never shown? Or even if it was shown we honestly thought we had powers, and there were good reasons for us thinking we did. I went on longer than I meant to, but Keller claiming that people can't criticize churches for their standards is just stupid. I agree a community can have any standard they want. Just don't expect me to refrain from pointing out if they are asinine.

Christianity Isn't Culturally Rigid
I would again agree with part of what Keller says in this section. How Christianity can adapt to every culture. How Christianity has grown in every nation and people of many different traditions believe in it. I would just like to point out that in previous generations, much of this was done through genocide. What happened after 1492 in the 'new world' is on par with, if not much greater than, the holocaust of WWII. It really helps a new religion get established if you wipe out or overpower any nation that does not convert. If you read the writings of the Puritans and how they viewed the new world, these are not the Christians of Keller's belief system. These are people far removed from his standards of morality in relation to other people. To be clear, I don't blame all the crimes in the new world on Christians, but they sure seemed to hurt a lot more then help.
I agree Christianity does not have to be culturally rigid, and in much of the world it no longer is. It was to a huge extent though, and for a very long time. Christianity is very adaptive, and can accommodate many different types of people. One would expect that in a large religion.
For further reading/viewing on on these topics I would suggest:

Freedom Isn't Simple
The basic premise for this is, if you want to achieve something worthwhile, it will restrict your freedom. An example Keller uses is playing piano or having a loving marriage. Your end goal requires that you practise/work/restrict what you might want to do instead. I don't disagree with this overall principle, as it makes sense. He uses this to again show how relativism is bad because to say one should restrict themselves for a greater good is taking a absolutist stance.
He uses the analogy of someone who rebels against g0d being a fish out of water. The problem with that is according to Keller's world view, g0d created the water, fish, and everything in the first place. I see this as raising a lot more problems than it solves. If you restrict yourself to practising to become good at the piano, the piano does not threaten you like a tyrant with torture for all eternity. That was just the thought that popped into my head while reading this section.

The Chapter is summed up with, Love, the Ultimate Freedom, Is More Constraining Than We Might Think.
Keller talks about how loving constrains us, and I think sums up his position well with the last paragraph: "The love of Christ constrains. Once you realize how Jesus changed for you and gave himself for you, you aren't afraid of giving up your freedom and therefore finding your freedom in him."
I totally can understand how and why Keller comes to this conclusion. I am just left feeling he has made some huge assumptions and not really explained why I should accept them. For one, if someone drops you down a well, then makes the "sacrifice" of coming down to get you, why am I suppose to be grateful? For the sake of the analogy, I am assuming there is a well to be dropped down in the first place. I would expect the person who tossed me into the well to help get me out. I would be grateful for there help, especially if they made it impossible to get me out on my own. Should I be grateful to that person? Probably not, unless of course it's in the same way an abused spouse is grateful the abuser does not leave them. That sounds kind of harsh, but I think it holds for the version of reality Keller is asking people to accept.

That wraps up the Chapter. I am actually enjoying the book, even though it may not sound like it.


  1. I always found it odd that I was supposed to be grateful to the well-digger and the person who pushed me into the well for eventually getting me out.

    When you add in the idea it might be a fake well, it starts to seem less like help, and more like an attempt to handicap.

    I also thought the idea that there is an absolute truth, therefore religion is true (or vice versa) to be a bit of a non sequitor. Religions are, by definition, relative even if true. You've just exchanged your own subjectivism for the subjectivism of your God. If there is objective truth (even objective moral truth), it can (must?) be true even outside of (or without any) God.

    Why do you spell God as g0d?

  2. You have to figure it out:) I have my reason for spelling g0d with a zero in the middle.

  3. I'm interested in this well analogy that you and Ron are talking about. Is this concept borrowed? Is there a place that I can read more about it. I tried searching for it, but I couldn't find much (just a lot about well digging).

    Is there a standard name for this kind of argument?

  4. Hello.... :)
    there's a problem with the well analogy. While God did make the well, He didn't throw you in. He pointed it out, told you to stay away from it, and mentioned the consequences for going near it. Then when you were alone, you not only went near the well, you dove in head first. That's why the sacrifice to get you out means so much.

  5. Sooo, if you left an open well, you would blame your kids if they fell into it?? Would it not be your fault for not putting a lid on the well. The free will argument does not work here either, in case that's where you would go next. If you warn your kids not to go into a well, and they fall in, I would blame you for being a poor father for not covering it up and letting them play near it.

  6. The walk-with-your-eyes-open part of me is cringing as you encourage us towards our current and increasingly insurance/litigation driven society. Surely, this is not a new argument. Who else has pursued this line of thinking?

  7. Jeff, I am a little confused. Do you mean you are cringing about holding a parent to blame if a child falls down an obviously dangerous well? In this analogy it's not some stranger kid walking onto your property, it's your kid that you knowingly let play where there is an obvious danger. It would be similar to handing them a loaded gun but saying, now be careful, don't pull the trigger...I don't think it would be litigious to blame the parents and not the toddler.

  8. Hey Scott,

    In your original presentation of the analogy you didn't specify that those in the well must be kids or toddlers. If that part of the analogy is important to making the analogy work I would have thought it would have made it's way into the original presentation. So, I didn't really presume an age, I presumed someone with regular reasoning faculties of observation, sense of danger and self preservation as you and I. Your comment about the child and the gun, seems to really stress that this analogy is specific to people who aren't able to understand the danger that they are in and the consequences of their action.

    Maybe this is an important piece of the puzzle. Is the cognition and understanding of the person involved an important piece of this analogy or is this an anology that can be more widely applied. Or does it have the most weight when we look at people who aren't able to understand/avoid dangers of their own accord?

  9. Jeff,
    I would think it understanding would give the analogy the most weight. I would like to hash this out more when I see you in a fortnight:) I feel like I'm just missing your point.

  10. Sure we can talk about it more when we get together. Although I warn you I'm an exceptionally slow thinker when it comes to these sorts of discussions...