RFG 12: The (True) Story of the Cross

“The Reason for God” (Keller) Book DiscussionPart 2: The Reasons for Faith
TWELVE: The (True) Story of the Cross

“In chapter 12, the author responds to the critique that “‘The Christian God sounds like the vengeful gods of primitive times who needed to be appeased by human sacrifice.’ Why can’t God just accept everyone or at least those who are sorry for their wrongdoings?” (p. 187). To answer this question, Keller compares God to a person who has been wronged by another person. The injured party can exact revenge by making the offender suffer, or the wronged party can instead take the difficult path of forgiveness. When you forgive, you choose not to make the wrongdoer suffer for what he or she has done. The person who was wronged suffers instead. By forgiving the wrongdoer, Keller states, “[y]ou are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out of the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death” (p. 189). Thus, God suffered the pain of his Son’s death in order to forgive the sins of humanity. And because he did so, the wrongdoers (humanity) are freed from the debt of their wrongdoing. How do you feel about Keller comparing the pain of human forgiveness to God’s act of sacrificing his Son to redeem humanity?” – Penguin http://download.redeemer.com/sermons/Penguin%20Reader%20Guide.pdf

I liked how Keller pointed out costly forgiveness is not ‘cheap grace’ – it is a death leading to resurrection, “instead of the life-long living death of bitterness and cynicism,” (189). I liked how he said human forgiveness works this way because we are made in the image (love) of our Creator.

Do you think that, if God is good, it would require that He has made His love of good and hatred of evil manifest? Would it require His love be optional, lest it not be love? Would it require He do something to bring evil to justice? Would you think that if He has not done that, He (given He exists) is not good?

I liked how he pointed out the motivation for confrontation and holding someone accountable is love, wanting the person to change for the better and be renewed, rather than wanting to hurt them. That was the love God demonstrated on the cross. “Therefore the God of the Bible is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased. Rather, this is a God who becomes human and offers his own lifeblood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love so that someday he can destroy evil without destroying us,” (192). “On the cross neither justice nor mercy loses out—both are fulfilled at once. Jesus’ death was necessary if God was going to take justice seriously and still love us,” (197).

I liked how he pointed out God’s substitutional sacrifice, the great reversal, is the essence of life-changing love. This reminds me of Wolfgang Carstens’ “The Knife and the Wound Philosophy” which I reply to with my “The Sword and the Sacrifice Philosophy” which is essentially the Golden Rule, referred to as an ethic of reciprocity on Wikipedia. It isn’t “you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours” – it’s applied empathy.

I liked how he points out Jesus turns the values of the world upside down and implied Christians are a counterculture. I liked how he mentioned how the greatest movies always have the theme of someone giving their life for someone else’s, and that we are in ‘the’ grandest narrative of all eternity (and that ain’t no fishin’ story).

[edit February 9] [This is a recording, please stay on the line; do not hang up.] All are invited to discuss this chapter without me, as I now turn my attention to the remaining chapters of the discussion.