I’ve been wanting to read Tim Keller’s book The Reason for God. I continue to hear nothing but awesome things about it. It has been interesting to read a discussion over at Jesus Creed about the book. Chapter 4 of the book is taking a look at the following: “If the Christian story is true, why has the Church been responsible for so much pain and injustice both large and small?”
I love that Keller is not afraid to deal with some of the more difficult theological discussions. In dealing with this question Keller looks at the church as a whole and the local church as well (This would be somewhat debated, but generally it is agreed that the church is universal and local. Catholics disagree).
Keller summarizes why Christians often receive a bad rap:
Think of people you consider fanatical. They’re overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive, and harsh. Why? It’s not because they are too Christian, but because they are not Christian enough. They are fanatically zealous and courageous, but they are not fanatically humble, sensitive, loving, empathic, forgiving, or understanding-as Christ was. … What strikes us as overly fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Christ and his gospel.
On how to answer the original question, this is what he has to say:
What is the answer, then, to the very fair and devastating critique of the record of the Christian church? The answer is not to abandon the Christian faith, because that would leave us with neither the standards nor the resources to make correction. Instead we should move to a fuller and deeper grasp of what Christianity is. The Bible itself has taught us to expect the abuses of religion and it has also told us what to do about them.
Ok, now for some of my thoughts.
- I think it was Tony Campolo who said the church is like your mother who is a whore. I think that is exactly where Keller is going here. Yes, the church (universal and local) has made some huge, glaring mistakes but she is your mom and she deserves your loyalty.
- I can’t count on my hands how many people have said to me something along the lines of…”yeah I believe in Jesus, but I don’t like church.” I think this is simply a selfish statement. Jesus has called us to gather in his name. This is for our own need and to bring glory to him.
- I do not think the church (local) is something that Jesus intended for only some Christians to be a part of.
- For me the question of why the church has caused so much pain is so difficult. Partly I think we are naive to the distortion that faith has when it is in the hands of public decision making and politics, and partly I think it is an example of our “religion” being so full of sinners. It is more a testament to the saving sacrifice of Jesus then it is our failure.
So…how do you answer the question of why the church has failed so much?
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