The Gospel would still be true even if no one believed it. The hopeful thing is that, where it is tried–where it is imperfectly and hesitantly followed–as it was in Northern Ireland [and South Africa] during the peace process[es], as it is in many a Salvation Army hostel this Christmas, as it flickers in countless unseen Christian lives, it works. And its palpable and remarkable power to transform human life takes us to the position of believing that something very wonderful indeed began with the birth of Christ into the world.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 192.
Quoting A. N. Wilson, It’s the Gospel Truth.
All judgments that something or someone is good or bad do so based on an awareness of purpose. If you know what that purpose is, then your moral evaluation of something can be a factual statement, a truth that exists apart from your personal likes and dislikes. You may not like watches for some reason, but if it is a good one, you will have to acknowledge it to be so. If you know the purpose of a farmer is to get a crop out of a piece of land, but she does not get any yield at all, year after year, then you know she is a bad farmer, however much you may like her personally. If, however, you have no idea of the purpose of an object, then any description of it as “good” or “bad” is wholly subjective, completely based on inner preferences.
How, then, can we tell if a human being is good or bad? Only if we know our purpose, what human life is for. If you don’t know the answer to that, then you can never determine “good” and “bad” human behavior. If, as in the secular view, we have not been made for a purpose, then it is futile to even try to talk about moral good and evil.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, pages 186-187.
Eastern religions today teach that after death our souls merge with the All-Soul of the universe. Just as a drop of water returning to the ocean loses its individual nature in the whole, so we become an impersonal part of the impersonal spiritual life force knitting all things together. But if after death there is nonexistence, impersonal existence, or in any case nonconsciousness, that means there is no love, because only persons can love. If we are not a self after death, then we have lost everything, because what we most want in life is love.
Tim Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 167
In addition, we will never again fear separation from those we love. Disrupted love, the greatest sadness that earthly life contains, will be gone forever. In heaven “they shall know that they shall forever be continued in the perfect enjoyment of each other’s love.” All things there “shall flourish in an eternal youth. Age will not diminish anyone’s beauty or vigor, and there love shall flourish . . . as a living spring perpetually springing . . . as a rive which ever runs and is always clear and full.”
Tim Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 169
Quoting Jonathan Edwards, Heaven is a World of Love, The Sermons of Jonathan Edwards: A Reader.
Eighteenth-century philosopher and preacher Jonathan Edward wrote a famous sermon titled “Heaven Is a World of Love,” which conveys the Christian hope with power. Edwards understands the ultimate Christian hope not to be in abstractions such as radiance and immortality but in relationship. At the center of heaven is not merely a generic God but the triune Christian God, one God in three persons, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, “who are united in infinitely dear and incomprehensible mutual love.” There is “an . . . eternal mutual holy energy between the Father and the Son, a pure holy act whereby the Deity becomes nothing but an infinite and unchangeable act of love.” Pouring love into one another in degrees of unimaginable power and joy makes this three-in-one God into a “fountain of love.” In heaven this fountain “is set open without any obstacle to hinder access to it,” and so it “overflows in streams and rivers of love and delight, enough for all to drink at, and to swim in, yea, so as to overflow the world as it were with a deluge of love.”
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p 168.
“What we need to ask ourselves today is, ‘Am I a civilian or a soldier?” This is how a civilian thinks: ‘God, I want to do this for you. I have these gifts, these talents and I’m this old and I want to do this for you, God. I love to play music. I want to play music for you.’
“But a soldier says, ‘Tell me what to do with my life. I don’t care what it is. Whatever you want me to do, I will do it.’ There is a tremendous difference.”
David Pierce, Rock Priest, page 254
If an African were to go to one of the great secular universities of the world, the professors would tell her that the solution to her fears was to see that there are no spirits, evil or good, that everything has a scientific explanation. Not only that, but all moral standards are person specific and relative to culture, and all moral values have to be self-authorizing. Ironically, her professors would say they wanted to affirm her culture and hear her “voice,” yet at the same time they would be taking the very heart of her Africanness out of her.
Christianity, Sanneh says, took a very different approach. It answered the challenge so that the existing African “framework was reconfigured without being overthrown.”
There has to be somebody whom you adore who adores you. Someone whom you cannot but praise who praises and lovesyou–that is the foundation of identity. The praise of the praiseworthy is above all rewards. However, if we put this power in the hands of a fallible, changeable person, it can be devastating. And if this person’s regard is based on your fallible and changeable life efforts, your self-regard will be just as fleeting and fragile. Nor can this person be someone you can lose, because then you will have lost your very self. Obviously, no human love can meet these standards. Only love of the immutable can bring tranquility. Only the unconditional love of God will do.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p. 135
Theologian Miroslav Volf summarizes the four ways that we can assert and bolster our self-worth by excluding others. We can literally kill or drive the Other out of our living space. A more subtle and common way is exclusion by assimilation. We can demand that they conform to our own patterns and standards, not allowing them to express any difference at all. “We will refrain from vomiting you out . . . if you let us swallow you up.” A third form of exclusion could be called “dominance.” We will let you live among us and maintain your identity, but only if you assume an inferior place–not getting certain jobs, attaining particular levels of pay, or living in certain neighborhoods. The fourth kind of exclusion is abandonment. That is, we exclude the Other by disdaining and ignoring them, taking no thought for their needs. The reason we indulge in these attitudes and practices is that by denouncing and blaming the Other it gives us “the illusion of sinlessness and strength.”
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, p 143-144.
Ordinary moralistic religion operates on this principle: “I live a good and moral life; therefore God accepts me.” Gospel Christianity operates in the opposite way: “God accepts me unconditionally in Jesus Christ; therefore I live a good and moral life.” In the first case you live a good life out of the hope of a reward, with all the insecurity and self-doubts that go with it. Will you ever be good enough for the reward? How will you know if you are, and how will you keep it up even if you are? In the Christian approach the motivation is one not of fear but of grateful joy. You live to please and resemble the one who saved you at infinite cost to himself by going to the cross. You serve him not in order to coerce him to love you but because he already does.
Timothy Keller, Making Sense of God, page 137.