The Reason For God - Chapter Five Review

It's been a busy summer, but I am finally able to do another entry on my critique of The Reason For God by Timothy Keller. I have other things on the go, so I am hoping to pick up the pace with these.

This chapter deals with the topic of Hell, or more specifically, "How Can A Loving God Send People To Hell?" As you can tell, Keller has framed the problem of hell to be one of how can a loving g0d send people to a place of eternal torment. This is not actually what I would see as the main problem, but I will talk about that at the end of the post.

He starts off with addressing the objection that "A God of Judgement Simply Can't Exist". He then builds on the idea that a g0d of judgement could exist, but it's modernity that has led us to believe that we can determine what is right and what is wrong. That "In ancient times it was understood that there was a transcendent moral order outside the self, built in to the fabric of the universe." The spirit of modernity has given us a responsibility to choose right from wrong. This modernity driven moral objection is a result of our culture, that other cultures are offended if there is no judgement.This ability of Christianity to offend all cultures Keller sees as a sign of it's inherent truth. To quote, "If Christianity were the truth, it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place. Maybe this is the place, the Christian docrtrine of divine judgement".

He then moves on to the critique that a God can't be both love and a judge. He proposes that without the idea of judgement, people would descend into an endless cycle of revenge. "Only if I am sure that there's a God who will right all wrongs and settle all accounts perfectly to I have the power to refrain". Therefore if you want love, you must have judgement. Keller uses Nazism and Communism as examples of this. I find this very disappointing. It's been pointed out that the Soviet Union was a religious state, in that Stalin used religious thinking and ideals to hold power. Nazi Germany was very much Lutheran/Catholic. To make his point the French terror would probably be his only good example of a athiestic society gone amock, but I would have to look into that more. Phil Zuckerman's book touches on this point, and I wonder what Keller would make of it.

A Loving God Would Not Allow Hell. To this Keller says that it's our idea of hell that is wrong. That it's not that g0d gave us a certain amount of time, then once we die he casts our souls into hell. That it's actually us that choose hell. By rejecting g0d, and removing ourselves from its presence, that is the essence of hell. He borrows heavily from C.S. Lewis' book, The Great Divorce with this argument. He also illuminates that the fire of hell is allegorical. That the symbolism of fire in the Bible is one of consumption and disintegration. Keller seems to skip around the idea that one could leave hell after death, but we choose to stay rather out of our own selfishenss. I find it very interesting that Keller makes the point that people change. "Today's outspoken believer may be tomorrow's apostate, and today's outspoken unbeliever may be tomorrow's convert". This raises some serious questions which he does not address and therefore, I feel, weakens the overall chapter.
To sum up the chapter, Keller says that we get our idea that g0d is love from the Bible. That no where else would this be evident. Outside of Christianity, he says, there is no evidence for a loving g0d. He uses that to say Christianity also teaches judgement, and if we want the Christian g0d of love, we must also accept the Christian g0d of Judgment.

That's the chapter as it stood out to me. I tried not to criticize as much, but just sort of put out the basics of Kellers' argument and see what reaction it might get. I mentioned earlier that the love part was not the main problem for me. I wish Keller would have addressed this problem.
(i) God exists, and is essentially omnipotent, omniscient, and perfectly good.
(ii) Some created persons will be consigned to hell forever.
(iii) If God is omnipotent, He is able to avoid (ii).
(iv) If God is omniscient, He knows how to avoid (ii).
(v) If God is perfectly good, He wants to avoid (ii).
(vi) Therefore, if (i), then not (ii).
This is found in Marilyn McCord Adams’ The problem of hell: a problem of evil for Christians published in Reasoned Faith. I discovered it via this blog. I would encourage people to read lukeprog as he seems to be fairly balanced in his reasoning. I find it very challenging. He often gives credit to the Theists when it's due, and calls out the Atheists when they are trying to pull a fast one.
PS - On a lighter note, people might like how Rowan Atkinson presents hell.

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