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Anti-moralist Christianity

"Anti-moralist Christianity" Continued...

Issue: "Left behind," June 28, 2008

Keller also rightly objects to charges that Christians feel superior to others: Christians realize that many people of other faiths "will live lives morally superior to their own . . . Christian believers are not accepted by God because of their moral performance, wisdom, or virtue, but because of Christ's work on their behalf." He notes that most worldviews connect spiritual status to religious attainments: "This naturally leads adherents to feel superior to those who don't believe and behave as they do. The Christian gospel, in any case, should not have that effect."

And Keller objects to Christians who say that since God gets angry they can righteously get angrier. Faith in God's anger, he argues, allows us to temper our own: "If I don't believe that there is a God who will eventually put all things right, I will take up the sword and will be sucked into the endless vortex of retaliation. Only if I am sure that there's a God who will right all wrongs and settle all accounts perfectly do I have the power to refrain."

In an interview with WORLD, Keller said "not much" has surprised him about reaction to The Reason for God, which broke into the top 10 of The New York Times bestseller list within weeks of its February release and has stayed among its top 30 best-sellers ever since. Keller said reader reaction has come from "hostile people, skeptics that are helped, Christians who are helped, and Christians who feel like I'm playing too nice." As a recent Newsweek profile concluded: "Keller is a pastor for people who like their Christianity straight up."

WORLD: How should we employ "critical rationality" in the defense of Christianity?

KELLER: Although we are rational beings and though rationality can be used to compel belief if the arguments are made very well, there's probably always a rationally avoidable way to get out from under most arguments. You have to have a humility, then, when you make your argument, so that you don't treat people who don't accept it as idiots.

So critical rationalism is on the one hand an attitude of humility; on the other hand, it's also an acknowledgement of the noetic effects of the fall, so that even my rationality probably could be avoided by other rational people.

WORLD: What's the difference between proofs of God's existence and "clues of God"-and why is the difference important?

KELLER: I can give you enough rational reasons to believe in God that fall short of demonstrable proof but that cumulatively give me warrant to say that Christianity makes more sense than alternate views of reality.

There are enough clues of God's existence that when you add them all up it makes more sense to believe in God than to not. That's short of proof. And if somebody says, you haven't proven it to me so I don't have to believe it, they're using a naïve rationality. The fact is, they believe all kinds of stuff they can't prove.

WORLD: How do you react to claims that your assertion of Christianity's superiority to other faiths is arrogant?

KELLER: The whole first chapter is dedicated to that. When you say it's an arrogant assertion, you are using a set of criteria that you think is better than mine. You are doing the very thing you say I'm not allowed to do.

Of all the objections to Christianity I know, the weakest one is the one that hates the exclusivity of Christianity. I really do think that everybody is operating out of fairly exclusive views of things.

WORLD: When you're told that meaningless suffering and pointless evil show that God is nonexistent or confused, how do you respond?

KELLER: The problem with saying that suffering is meaningless is that it assumes that your vantage point is the ultimate vantage point. One of the problems is that from our vantage point most suffering looks meaningless. Sometimes when you get perspective and you look back, you realize that something was accomplished there.

You have to be very, very careful about this. It depends on what people mean by suffering. The world is broken by sin, so there are all kinds of things that God did not design the world to contain. The original world the way He created it did not have hunger or human death. Even from the perspective of eternity, we will look back and say, suffering did create meaninglessness in me because I am not meant to die.

In other words, we're built for a love that we never part from. Whenever you lose love because somebody dies or moves away or gets sick or something, God has explained that part of meaninglessness. He's explained it as part of the fall. So we know why it's happening if we accept the Christian narrative.


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