The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life

The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life

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by Timothy J. Keller
     
 

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This six-session small group Bible study, The Reason for God, captures live and unscripted conversations with a group of people to address their doubts and objections to Christianity. Using literature, philosophy, and Scripture, Keller and the group explore the truth of Christianity.

In his New York Times bestselling book The Reason for God, Timothy

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Overview

This six-session small group Bible study, The Reason for God, captures live and unscripted conversations with a group of people to address their doubts and objections to Christianity. Using literature, philosophy, and Scripture, Keller and the group explore the truth of Christianity.

In his New York Times bestselling book The Reason for God, Timothy Keller established himself as a modern-day C. S. Lewis who brings together faith and intellect, theology and popular culture, modern-day objections and historic Christian beliefs.

Now fans of the book will find resources to help them engage with those same objections, drawing on recent scholarship and debates. The Reason for God small group Bible study can be used individually, with groups, or by any believer who is engaging with friends who don’t share his or her beliefs.

Christians will be challenged to wrestle with their friends and neighbors’ hardest questions, and to engage those questions in ways that will spark an honest, enriching, and humbling dialogue, as is modeled during the sessions.

The Reason for God DVD and Discussion Guide (both included in this pack) are designed to help small groups and individuals dig deeper into objections of the Christian faith and to learn about both sides of the issues.

Sessions include:
1. Isn’t the Bible a Myth?
2. How Can You Say There Is Only One Way to God?
3. What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live My Life?
4. Why Does God Allow Suffering?
5. Why Is the Church Responsible for So Much Injustice?
6. How Can God Be Full of Love and Wrath at the Same Time?

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780310330462
Publisher:
Zondervan
Publication date:
10/01/2010
Pages:
416
Sales rank:
993,533
Product dimensions:
5.30(w) x 7.30(h) x 0.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

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The Reason for God Discussion Guide


By Timothy Keller

ZONDERVAN

Copyright © 2010 Redeemer City to City and Redeemer Presbyterian Church
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-310-33047-9


Chapter One

DISCUSSION 1

Isn't the Bible a Myth? Hasn't Science Disproved Christianity?

OPENING THOUGHT

Read this thought aloud and then pray as you begin.

In 1993, archaeologists dug up the first outside-of-the-Bible reference to King David. Up until then, only the Bible talked about King David-there were no inscriptions, no archaeological digs, no other documents, nothing, that ever mentioned David. Does that mean that Christians could not believe there was a David before 1993? It does not work that way. Christians believe there was a King David because the Bible is the Word of God.

THE OBJECTION

People say that there are many good things in the Bible, but you should not take it literally; you must not insist that it is entirely trustworthy and completely authoritative because some parts of the Bible are wrong, historically unreliable, and culturally regressive.

BIBLE VERSES

These verses are referred to at some point in the DVD.

Mark 15:20-21

And when they had mocked him [Jesus], they took off the purple robe and put his own clothes on him. Then they led him out to crucify him. A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

Romans 3:21-25

But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood.

DVD NOTES

Watch the DVD of Discussion 1. Use the space below if you would like to take notes.

QUESTIONS FOR GROUP DISCUSSION

The notes in the gray boxes following the questions are not intended as answers to be read aloud. They are notes to help guide and direct the discussion.

1. Are people you know more troubled by the ethical aspects of the Bible or the historical? Why?

2. One of the participants on the DVD said,

"The Bible is a wonderful text, it's complex, a lot of things going on, some people believe it to be the truth, I myself do not."

Another said,

"Jesus sacrificed himself-I'm not sure if there is evidence for that."

Many people say the Gospel accounts of Jesus' life-his claims to be divine, the miracles he performed, his death on across, his rising from the dead-were written much later by church leaders who were trying to consolidate their power and build their movements, so they suppressed the evidence that the real Jesus was just a human teacher. How would you respond?

Following are three reasons why people can trust that what the Bible says about Jesus is historically reliable.

The New Testament accounts of Jesus were written too early to be legends.

Luke wrote his account of Jesus' life 30-40 years after the events, and he records the fact that many people who saw Jesus were still alive, and that his readers could therefore check his account with these eyewitnesses. In fact, Luke (in Luke 1:1-4) claims to be painstakingly preserving historical facts, "I myself have carefully investigated everything ... so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught." Luke's statement to Theophilus, the recipient of the text, shows that ancient authors knew the difference between an "orderly account" and spinning a tale.

This attitude toward history is not Luke's alone. In John 19:35 and 1 John 1:1-4, the writer claims to have been an eyewitness of the events of Jesus' life.

Paul, who wrote 15-20 years after the events of Jesus' life records, "He [the resurrected Jesus] appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living" (1 Corinthians 15:6). Paul could not have written that in a public document unless there actually were hundreds of living eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen Jesus. Paul could also confidently assert to government officials that the events of Jesus' life were public knowledge: "[These things were] not done in a corner," he said to King Agrippa (Acts 26:26). The people of Jerusalem had been there-they had been in the crowds that heard and watched Jesus. The New Testament documents could not say Jesus was crucified when thousands of people were still alive who knew whether he was or not. If there had not been a burial, if there had not been an empty tomb, if there had not been appearances after his death, and these public documents claimed there had been, Christianity would never have gotten off the ground. It would have been impossible for Christianity to have gained widespread support if its critical historical claims were bluntly contradicted by numerous witnesses who were still alive.

Moreover, there are references within the Gospel texts that demonstrate that the Gospel writers and readers had access to firsthand accounts of the events of Jesus' life. In Mark 15:21 the author can refer to "Alexander and Rufus" (the sons of the man who carried the cross for Jesus) in a way that shows they were well known to his readers. This was mentioned in the DVD where Dr. Keller said, "It is like footnotes today."

This shows that the Gospels were written by people in a position to get and report accurate historical information, and were written at a time when eyewitness memory about Jesus was still widely available as a "check" on any fantastic or fabricated claims.

The documents are too detailed in their form to be legends.

In Mark 4 there is a detail recorded which says that Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the stern of a boat. In John 21 it says that Peter was a hundred yards out in the water when he saw Jesus on the beach. He then jumped out of the boat and together they caught 153 fish. In John 8, as Jesus listened to the men who caught a woman in adultery, it says he doodled with his finger in the dust. The best explanation for why an ancient writer would mention the cushion, the 153 fish, and the doodling in the dust, when they are irrelevant to the narrative, is because the details had been retained in the eyewitnesses' memory.

The documents are too counterproductive in their content to be legends.

The argument goes that the Bible does not give an account of what actually happened; instead, it is what the church leaders wanted people to believe in order to consolidate their power and build their movement. However, if someone wanted to build a movement, would they have included in the account that their founder, Jesus, asked the Father for a way out: "If it is possible, may this cup be taken from me" (Matthew 26:39)? Would they attest that the original resurrection witnesses were women at a time when women's testimony was not admissible evidence in court? The leaders of the early church were the successors to the apostles, and yet on every page of the New Testament, the apostles look like fools or cowards. Why would a leader of the early church make up those accounts? The only possible explanation for their inclusion is that they actually happened. Otherwise, they are totally counterproductive.

3. Read the following objections aloud:

A: "The Gospels are full of contradictions."

B: "The Gospels can't be reliable accounts because they describe miracles."

C: "Why should a person believe the Old Testament is true?" Divide into three groups and assign one of the objections above to each group. After five minutes regroup and share your thoughts on how you would respond to the objection.

After coming up with your own thoughts and ideas, use the notes below to help you formulate a response to share with the group.

A: "The Gospels are full of contradictions."

Comparing the Gospel accounts reveals some apparent tensions and contradictions. But a long tradition of scholarly study has shown that most of these can be explained with reference to two principles.

First, remember the Gospel writers were not simply reporters but also teachers. John says (in John 21:25) that it would be impossible to put together a complete account of all Jesus' teaching and acts. Each writer selected in accordance with his didactic, or teaching, goals.

For example, many have said that John contradicts the other Gospels because he depicts Mary coming to the tomb alone on Easter Sunday. And yet, when Mary runs to the disciples, John reports her as saying, "They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we don't know where they have put him!" (John 20:2). Mary's use of the plural "we" shows that John knew full well that Mary had not gone to the tomb alone, and yet in the first part of his account he chooses to focus on her exclusively. Why? He wanted the interview of Jesus and Mary to be highlighted.

Second, remember the selectivity of eyewitness memory. If, as they claim, the Gospel writers were drawing on eyewitness accounts (e.g., from the memory of Peter, John, Mark, or any of the women), each witness would have seen only part of the events.

Also, in some cases, a fact could be described different ways by eyewitnesses without being a contradiction. For example, John says Mary arrived at the tomb "while it was still dark" (John 20:1), but Matthew says it was "at dawn" (Matthew 28:1) and Mark says "just after sunrise" (Mark 16:2). At dawn, the degree of darkness or light is a matter of opinion, and so three different people, there at the same moment, might later describe that moment in all three ways.

B: "The Gospels can't be reliable accounts because they describe miracles."

Matthew Arnold, the 19th-century thinker, was candid about how he knew that miracles were impossible. He said effectively: "Miracles cannot happen. Therefore miracles have not happened."

There is an intellectual inconsistency involved in objecting to the historicity of the Gospels because they contain miracles. To say "miracles cannot happen" is a philosophical assumption, not an empirical conclusion. If there is a God, miracles would have to be possible, even if you have never seen one. If a God exists who is capable of making the world, why should he be incapable of altering it? So to say miracles are impossible is to assume that there cannot possibly be a God, a thesis that is impossible to prove empirically, and therefore a philosophical assumption. This is arguing in a circle - "miracles cannot happen, therefore miracles have not happened."

C. S. Lewis wrote, "When the Old Testament says that Sennacherib's invasion was stopped by angels (2 Kings 19:35), and Herodotus says it was stopped by a lot of mice who came and ate up all the bowstrings of his army (Herodotus, Bk.II, Sect.141), an open-minded person will be on the side of the angels. Unless you start by begging the question [assuming miracles cannot happen], there is nothing intrinsically unlikely in the existence of angels or in the action ascribed to them. But mice just don't do these things."

C: "Why should a person believe the Old Testament is true?"

There is a great deal of archaeological and historical support that validates much of the Old Testament. But that alone could not establish the divine inspiration of the Bible. Christians believe the divine inspiration of the Old Testament because Jesus taught and believed in its entire inspiration and trustworthiness (John 5:37-39, 46-47; 10:34-35; Matthew 5:17-19). Almost no one can doubt that Jesus, as a first-century Jew, believed in the authority of the Old Testament. If Jesus was who he said he was, then we must accept the entire Bible as God's Word.

In Matthew 5:18 Jesus says, "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law [the Old Testament] until everything is accomplished." In John 10:35 he says, "Scripture cannot be broken." According to Jesus, even the smallest punctuation mark in the Old Testament is important-"the least stroke of a pen." That is the strongest statement about the Bible that can be made. On one occasion Jesus says to someone: "Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?" (Mark 12:24). Far from being full of errors, Jesus insists that the Bible is the way to keep from error.

And Jesus does not just say that every part of a letter of the Bible is true. He goes even further to say every part of the Bible will come true- he says it will all be accomplished. It is one thing to say the Bible is true. A phone book could be true. But Jesus goes beyond that-it will be accomplished. That means every prophecy will come true, every promise will be fulfilled. Every warning and every threat will be followed through on, and every single command will someday be obeyed because someday every nation will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord. Scripture cannot be broken, it cannot be written off, not one part of it, because every part of it is the Word of God.

Interestingly in John 7:17 Jesus lays down this challenge to people who doubted his words: "If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own." Jesus is saying that if you want to know in your own experience whether or not the Bible really is true, then put its teachings into practice.

4. Read Matthew 28:16-17. One of the participants on the DVD said,

"There are a lot of miracles that happen in the Bible, but ... I've never seen a miracle along [the lines of] what happens in the New Testament."

How do people you know react to the idea of the miraculous? What does this passage teach about miracles?

Miracles are hard to believe in, and they should be. In Matthew 28 it says that when the apostles met the risen Jesus on a mountainside in Galilee, "they saw him, they worshiped him; but some doubted." That is a remarkable admission. Here is the author of an early Christian document saying that some of the founders of Christianity could not believe the miracle of the resurrection, even when they were looking straight at Jesus with their own eyes.

This passage shows several things. It is a warning not to think that only modern, scientific people struggle with the idea of the miraculous, while ancient, more primitive people did not. The apostles responded like any group of modern people would-some believed and some did not. It is also an encouragement to patience. All the apostles ended up as leaders in the church, but some had more trouble believing than others.

The most instructive thing about this text, however, is what it says about the purpose of biblical miracles. They lead not simply to cognitive belief, but to worship, awe, and wonder. Jesus' miracles in particular were never magic tricks, designed to impress and coerce. Instead, he used miraculous power to heal the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead. People tend to think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. The Bible says that God did not originally make the world to be filled with disease, hunger, and death. Jesus' miracles are not just proofs that he has power, but wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. Jesus came and is coming again to redeem the world where it is wrong and heal the world where it is broken.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Reason for God Discussion Guide by Timothy Keller Copyright © 2010 by Redeemer City to City and Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Meet the Author

Timothy Keller is the founder and senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and the New York Times bestselling author of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God. He has also mentored young urban church planters and pastors in New York and other cities through Redeemer City to City, which has helped launch over 200 churches in 35 global cities to date.

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The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism 4.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 143 reviews.
hyunlee More than 1 year ago
The casual glance of the front cover may lead one to conclude that this must be a plain, and perhaps boring, volume laden with old, long theological words. This couldn't be farther from the truth. This is one of the most well written piece of popular apologetic I have read, and it successfully addresses the most modern issues that plague the minds of those in the post-modern societies. What I really appreciate about Pastor Keller's writing is that he effectively brings together vast array of knowledge from various different fields of knowledge, from science to philosophy to literature, to support his claims. For instance, in one of the chapters, he was referencing a story written by Flannery O'Conner, not only providing a deep analysis (which I was able to reference later on to help a friend who was reading the story), but also using it to a great effect to support his argument. This book provides great answers to many of common objections to Christian faith, and I highly recommend to the seekers as well as those would like to learn to be able to defend their faith.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Some the most common questions that I face as a college student are addressed in this book in many ways that I did not think of. Excellent reasoning for why a sacrifice was necessary and how science has not disproved religion. The chapter on sin is good also and provides insights into why the world is extremely polarized.
pritgerrr More than 1 year ago
I underlined 1/3 of the book and will soon be reading it again! I'm a 30 something lukewarm Christian and working on changing that. This book addresses skepticisms I've secretly had for years while helping to strengthen the faith that I'm discovering. I've wrestled with parts of the Bible and the church for years and "The Reason for God" hit most of those parts.
Renwick-Prime More than 1 year ago
Well, let me put it this way. Tim Keller nailed it on the head. I knew coming in it was good, but I did not think it would be THAT good. First part, he shows the flaws in the common objections of Christianity. And shows the validity of the assertions of Christianity. I think this is a book that Christians and Non-Christians (since he wasn't merely targeting Christians) can glean from. I was especially impressed with his chapter, "Christianity is a Straitjacket". Then again, I personally love the topic of Freedom.
Show-Me More than 1 year ago
I've now read Keller's book three times, reducing it into a dog-eared kaleidoscope of multi-colored highlighted passages. Keller quells a typically polarizing discussion initially by acknowledging that omniscience is required to either prove or disprove God and, lacking that, we must look instead to "clues" of His existence accessible by the rational mind. Keller compassionately turns non-believers arguments back upon themselves for re-examination while challenging Christians to evaluate their under underlying motivations and assumptions of a "Christian life". Keller delineates how skepticsm exists within the church as well as secular society, though more subtle and dangerously deceptive. Keller's reductionist approach removes many of the barriers for believers and un-believers alike to fully grasp the message of the gospel, dispelling any notion of merit or any obstacles to grace unless we ourselves have created them in our hearts and minds. If consummed objectively, "A Reason for God" is as compelling and life-changing a book as I have read. It is insightful, provocative, humbling and at the same time assuring and energizing. One cannot help but reassess the honesty of their faith or disbelief which may, in fact, be one in the same.
neal6325 More than 1 year ago
As with most books arguing in favor of Chrisitanity I don't think it will change anyone's position. For me, it was thought provoking and inspired me to look deeper into the reasons for my own faith. As a devout Christian it did force me to re-examine my motivation and spiritual foundation. I think it is a excellent read for those who are Christians and want to continue down the path of becoming closer to God. If you are a non-believer it will take more than a book to change your perspective, but this is a nice start.
VoughtTex More than 1 year ago
For those who know God, the God of the Bible seen through His Son Jesus Christ you will be encouraged and challenged to life your live more joyously in Christ's unending love, grace and mercy. For those searching for meaning and ultimately for God - the one and only Creator of the Universe - well you will find Him. Timothy Keller does a great job explaining the faith found in Jesus Christ and what it means to truly be a Christian. His insight into our skepticism breaks down the arguments to their lowest denominator and then bridges us back to discovering the God has been there all along, waiting for you to find Him - actually you need to ask God to find you (read the book and you'll understand!) I Challenge you to read this book and come to a different conclusion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
To "Anonymous" No. 2: May I recommend HOW GOOD IS GOOD ENOUGH by Andy Stanley. Short and to the point, it is a simple and straightforward explanation of our need for a savior.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What i like most about Keller's book, The Reason for God, is it gives you a logical, common sense defense of the Christian faith without having to slam other religious traditions. It strikes me that Keller is fair and balanced in his approach, giving equal time to the arguments against and the reasons for believing in Christianity. As G.K. Chesterton noted, its not that the Christian ideal has been tried and found wanting, it has been found difficult and left untried. That is what I most enjoyed about the book, Keller gives us many reasons to try or practice the faith even its most difficult parts for it will deliver the ultimate reward of finding salvation from a loving and just God. In addition, C. S. Lewis fans will especially enjoy this book as Keller liberially quotes from his many favorites such as Mere Christianity, Four Loves and The Great Divorce. Finally, I am now better prepared to explain my Christian faith as well as to understand and practice it in my own life. You will be a better person for reading this book.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just as C.S. Lewis answered the skeptics of his day, Tim Keller has written what feels very much like an updated version of 'Mere Christianity'. It has all the hallmarks of becoming a classic. Like Lewis, he goes through the major objections modern people have to Christianity and shows how nearly by logic alone these objections are easily answered. They simply don't stand up to scrutiny and reason. For Christians who get anxious when someone challenges their faith with questions like 'how could a good God allow suffering' or 'how can I believe in a religion that is so hostile to science?', you will love this book. These objections are easily defeated with a little knowledge and a little logic. And Keller is a master at showing believers how they can answer these objections in a loving, patient and even charming way! When you really understand these issues, there is no reason to ever be anxious or defensive when a friend confronts you with these questions. And for non-believers, you will find Keller's logic insightful and illuminating. As he does with his Sunday sermons, which are directed to a very secular New York audience, he will challenge you to think. You may not walk away with your mind changed, but your beliefs will be challenged and your thoughts will be clarified. After all, it is when our beliefs are challenged that they are either changed or clarified. So, don't be afraid to take the challenge! Each question is discussed in a single chapter. These questions could have books and books written about them, but that was not the intent of this book. Don't expect a detailed treatise on each question. Rather this book gives a concise overview laying out the logical, factual and historical frameworks through which these questions can be considered.
Blimix More than 1 year ago
A Christian gave me this book, hoping it would convert me. It was a jumble of bad logic, incorrect facts, and misrepresentations of others' thoughts. Keller's book was so badly executed that a Christian friend of mine turned agnostic due to reading it. (Yes, I'm dead serious. Keller presented skeptical claims and failed so badly to refute them that my friend was convinced of their merit.) Search for "The Lack of Reason For God" (with quotes) to find a thorough, detailed debunking. And then save your money: This book will never convert a skeptic.
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This was a truly new approach for me and I found it very refreshing and challenging. A friend and I chose to read this book as a Small Group Study and it was an amazing read! 
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Excellent primer for not only a defense of basic Christian doctrine but also answering external criticisms in a very open yet serious manner.
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