Religion vs the Gospel: Social Impact

Reason for God

“Religion and the gospel also differ fundamentally in how they treat the Other–those who do not share one’s own beliefs and practices. Postmodern thinkers understand that the self is formed and strengthened through the exclusion of the Other–those who do not have the values or traits on which I base my own significance. We define ourselves by pointing to those who we are not. We bolster our sense of worth by devaluing those of other races, beliefs, and traits. This gospel identity gives us a new basis for harmonious and just social arrangements. A Christian’s worth and value are not created by excluding anyone, but through the Lord who was excluded for me.” Tim Keller, The Reason for God, pg. 181

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Richard Lovelace on Pharisaic Religion

Richard Lovelace says:

“Many… draw their assurance of acceptance with God from their sincerity, their past experience of conversion, their recent religious performance or the relative infrequency of their conscious, willful disobedience… Their insecurity shows itself in pride, a fierce, defensive assertion of their own righteousness, and defensive criticism of others. They come naturally to hate other cultural styles and other races in order to bolster their own security and discharge their suppressed anger.”

As quoted in Tim Keller, The Reason For God, pp. 178-179.

The Dangers of Pharisaic Religion

“Why is pharisaic religion so damaging? Recall the ‘sickness unto death,’ the spiritual deep nausea we experience when we fail to build our identity on God. We struggle for a sense of worth, purpose, and distinctiveness, but it is based on conditions that we can never achieve or maintain, and that are always slipping away from us. As Kierkegaard says, we have not become ourselves. This is experienced internally as anxiety, insecurity, and anger. It leads us externally to marginalize, oppress, and exclude others.”

Tim Keller, A Reason for God, pg. 178

Two Ways to Be Your Own Savior and Lord

“The first is by saying, ‘I am going to live my life the way I want.’ The second is described by Flannery O’Connor, who wrote about one of her characters, Hazel Motes, that ‘he knew that the best way to avoid Jesus was to avoid sin.’ If you are avoiding sin and living morally so God will have to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior.”

“Both religion (in which you build your identity on your moral achievements) and irreligion (in which you build your identity on some other secular pursuit or relationship) are, ultimately, spiritually identical courses to take.”

Tim Keller, The Reason for God, pg. 177.