The goal of the launching question is not merely to capture attention; you could do that by swallowing a sword or wearing a hat made of spaghetti. Ransom Fellowship was founded by Denis and Margie Haack in 1981. Keller claims, “an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. Copyright © 2021 Faithlife / Logos Bible Software. Well the truth is, God created you for five purposes. A friend, a priest, or a counselor can help you through your time of need. 17. How often have you heard this objection? How can a loving God send people to hell? The Biblical picture is that sin separates us from the presence of God, which is the source of all joy and indeed of all love, wisdom, or good things of any sort. How do you resolve your difficulty? What is a good, winsome way to present this truth to a skeptic without seeming arrogant or insensitive or offensive? A common image of hell in the Bible is that of fire. How might Christians take this argument to an incorrect conclusion? Combine general and specific questions to foster interaction—and answer them yourself first to give an example of vulnerability, For example, “How will this passage affect your willingness to take risks?” Or, “How can you live as though [the passage’s main point] is true?” Or, “How can we remind one another of these things?”. First, it identifies and answers the questions being raised today. Review the illustrations. Why or why not? What’s the difference between denouncing and disagreeing? Keller agrees with the notion that religions claiming exclusivity of their beliefs are a barrier to world peace [p. 4] Do you agree with Keller? After drawing out your group’s observations, it’s time to dig in. Sociologist Robert Bellah finds that 80% of Americans are convinced that “an individual should arrive at his or her own religious beliefs independent of any church or synagogue… that the most fundamental belief in American culture is that moral truth is relative to individual consciousness” [p. 70]. To what extent is your life as a believer characterized by these three qualities? Which observations were most significant? “The human impulse to make perpetrators of violence pay for their crimes is almost an overwhelming one,” Keller says. Do you find these ideas coming up often enough that some further reading on your part might prove helpful? 2. How does Keller describe the ministry of Redeemer Presbyterian Church? Give examples of rhetoric from the side of skepticism; from the side of Christian faith; from the side of faiths other than Christianity. Is it surprising that Keller raises it in this context? But at the same time, robust, orthodox belief in the traditional faiths is growing as well” [p. ix]. Keller says he has often asked non-Christians, “What is your biggest problem with Christianity? [p. 19]. We know how selfishness and self-absorption leads to piercing bitterness, nauseating envy, paralyzing anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and the mental denials and distortions that accompany them. African theologian Lamin Sanneh says that Africans have always held strong beliefs in a spiritual world of good and evil. Every community must do the same” [p. 40]. Is his proposal truly new? How did you respond? Do you agree with this distinction? What is the significance of these ideas? How can we love one another while holding differing positions on this issue? 7. 10. It is tempting to just brush off all religions, together with any discussion of God, and live like everyone else or just do what seems to feel good at the time. Leading a group Bible study is deeply rewarding, but let’s be honest: it’s also a little terrifying. List the specific “counterproductive content” Keller mentions to counter the argument that the early church fabricated the gospel accounts to make Jesus fit their agenda [p. 104-105]. 14. Have their excuses been compelling? An invitation to the sceptical Making Sense of God begins from Tim’s observation that, although many in the secular west think religious belief is not just wrong, but irrelevant and even harmful, there are many people who want to consider and discuss belief in God. What impact has the shift from what was, a century ago, generally “a culture of belief” to today’s “culture of skepticism” had on Christian belief? Facts > faith, and therefore secularism is more logical and rational… 4. Do you agree? Plant your flag on the main point of the passage, review the trail you hiked to get there, and develop questions to guide your group to the summit. Why not? And until you understand that, life isn’t going to make sense. “Mark,” Keller says, “says that the men who helped Jesus carry his cross to Calvary ‘was the father of Alexander and Rufus’ (Mark 15:21). How do you weigh your truth-claims? Chapter 4. If you argue that Christians don’t look down on non-Christians, why then do Christian parents believe non-Christians are not good enough to marry their children? “Liberal democracy is based on an extensive list of assumptions—a preference of individual to community rights, a division between private and public morality, and the sanctity of personal choice. 15. 5. In giving specific examples of how Christianity has used self-correction to stop injustice and oppression, Keller mentions: William Wilberforce and the abolition of slavery; Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Civil Rights movement; Desmond Tutu and the end of apartheid in South Africa; Catholic leadership in the Solidarity Movement in Poland; the martyrs Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador and Dietrich Bonhoeffer of Germany. What’s wrong? Why? 19. 9. Does this seem to be the normal way Christians understand and speak about the incarnation and crucifixion? Does this resonate with your sense of your neighbors and co-workers? The Church is responsible for so much injustice. [p. 95] What other texts of Scripture reveal similar doubts about a miracle occurring? David Richter, associate pastor of Trinity Presbyterian Church, and Dr. David Van Norstrand, medical student in the Mayo School of Medicine.). Sometimes arguments like this in defense of God are made in a tone that seems coldly logical—which offends doubters who are truly wounded by the horrible suffering they find in our broken world [p. 27]. 7. 3. Were you happy with your response? How many churches provide safe places and the necessary resources for such long and hard struggle with doubts, with objections to faith? Do you agree? How would you respond to Christians who disagree with his interpretation? We cannot consider a group exclusive simply because it has standards for its members. Why or why not? Speaking to believers, Keller argues, “Only if you struggle long and hard with objections to your faith will you be able to provide grounds for your beliefs to skeptics, including yourself, that are plausible rather than ridiculous or offensive” [p. xvii]. What plans should you make? 3. That may seem fine for a while, but in the end, important questions remain unanswered and they never really go away. How would you respond to their concern? Why or why not? 6. If that is true, what effect would it have had on the original audience. Is this normally how Christians answer this objection to the faith? “You never see him [Jesus] say something like: ‘See that tree over there? Which was the one you were taught as a child? Opinions on God are like assholes in that everyone has one. 2. The first five minutes of your Bible study portend what’s to come. Does Keller’s response surprise you? How can Christians talk about this with non-Christians without sounding self-righteous? Tip: Only ask questions you’re willing to answer first. You Can’t Take the Bible Literally. What elitist arguments do Christians sometimes put forward? Dwell for a moment on this scenario: Imagine you wake up. 19. What troubles you most about its beliefs or how it is practiced?” [p. 3] Do you make a habit of asking non-Christians questions similar to that? We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order. He joins us to discuss his (excellent) new book, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical. “Any community that did not hold its members accountable for specific beliefs and practices would have no corporate identity and would not really be a community at all. Why or why not? But it needs to be overcome every time, and thus there is an even holier angel than the one of pain, that is the one of joy in God” [p. 66-67]. Read each of the three texts and note similarities and differences. What plans should you make? You have no chance at faithful interpretation without first noticing what the Bible says. This may be a strong argument when the issue is discussed over coffee, but may not be useful when someone is going through intense suffering. What “fundamentals” would apply to Christians? Do your non-Christian friends see their evaluation as based on a religious/ethical stance? The Bible teaches us that our treatment of them equals our treatment of God” [p. 60]. It’s not because they are too Christian but because they are not Christian enough” [p. 57]. Ron carefully prepared 18 questions for us to dig in to the content of chapters 1-7, which I will post below. It would mean that most of the classic Christian teachings—Jesus’ deity, atonement, and resurrection—are mistaken and based on legends” [p. 98]. 2. 11. Let us know in the comments! First is what I call the mystical approach, and that is to look within. How have you resolved it for yourself? “We should not be surprised to discover it was the Bible-believing religious establishment who put Jesus to death” [p. 59]. It is tempting for attendees to make a bible study an enjoyable sociable occasion, where the bible study leader ends up being the “guru” who just spouts off the fruits of his/her research and everyone else comes for the ride. How do you respond to the idea? [p. 42-44]. You can’t take the Bible literally. Some kind of truth-claim, then, seems unavoidable” [p. 38]. As Keller notes [p. 108], a great of deal of “Biblical revisionism” seems to be filtering into Western culture in the form of archeological discoveries, studies of Gnostic gospels, and works of fiction. Why or why not? It contains everything needed for the study, including session plans, discussion questions, and multiple format options. Written for both the ardent believer and the skeptic, Making Sense of God shines a light on the profound value and importance of Christianity in our lives. I’ve found that it helps to get the bible study members doing homework beforehand. Do you think Christianity should be understood to be a form of moral improvement? In one sense God’s will is something that will always happen no matter what. This also sheds light on why many Christians feel defensive about their faith. Noting his credentials as a literary scholar, Keller quotes C. S. Lewis, “I have been reading poems, romances, vision literature, legends, and myths all my life. [p. 103]. What should you have done differently? Second, it gives reasons for Christian faith that are accessible, thoughtful and never overstated. 3. 21. Why or why not? How should the biblical teaching that Jesus saves us by grace affect the way we view others, and treat them? It is quite another to insist that science proves that no other causes could possibly exist” [p. 85]. 1. [p. 97-98]. St. Paul tells us that God raises up teachers and leaders in his Church. “Human beings are most free and alive in relationships of love. “In Jesus’ and the prophets’ critique, self-righteous religion is always marked by insensitivity to issues of social justice, while true faith is marked by profound concern for the poor and marginalized. Have you ever heard this objection to Christianity? This apparently con-flicting assertion is based on his understanding of God in four specific areas: (I) God is present and involved in our lives, even when He seems to be deaf or on an extended leave of absence, (2) God's timing is perfect, even when How did they define “fanaticism” and “off the deep end”? Having prayerfully wrestled with the passage yourself, you should have a good sense of the flow and tension the author intended. Explaining why believing in something makes sense will make little or no sense if my explanation is not in categories my companion can understand and appreciate. Have you met people who question whether intelligent people can “take the Bible literally”? Ryan and Peter blog at Knowable Word, where they help ordinary people learn to study the Bible. [p. 59]. Why do you think you respond the way you do? What is your response? Can you think of a time when you used this argument inappropriately and hurt or angered someone? Why or why not? This is sometimes called God’s sovereign will. Christianity provides us with unsurpassed resources to meet these needs. 8. Circulating the text that is the focus of inquiry and the discussion questions weeks beforehand, encourages study attendees to do research for themselves and there is less chance of winging it, though, life events and work schedules will mean that there will always be a certain amount of winging it from week to week. Why? Do you think a skeptic would find it convincing? Regardless of how energetic the discussion has been, getting personal will be tough. As the poor souls fall through space, they cry out for mercy, but God says ‘Too late! While reflecting on how Redeemer Presbyterian engages the culture of New York City, what are two ways in which your church does a good job of engaging the culture of your city? Since Keller “was always looking for that third camp,” he says he “became interested in shaping and initiating new Christian communities” [p. xiii]. “Perhaps the biggest deterrent to Christianity for the average person today is not so much violence and warfare but the shadow of fanaticism. How satisfied are you with your resolution? 5. “This is proof,” Dawkins believes, “that the more intelligent, rational, and scientifically minded you are, the less you will be able to believe in God” [p. 84]. How does this make you feel as a non-Christian? Study Questions 1. 9. Keller says, “The church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints” [p. 54]. How have you seen the lever at work? 1. How does our setting require a change in the reasons we give for belief? He then goes on to give two illustrations. His miracles are not just proofs that he has power but also wonderful foretastes of what he is going to do with that power. There is no excusing it” [p. 56]. Chapter 7. What objections might skeptics raise? Tip: Avoid fill-in-the-blank or read-my-mind questions that have only one correct answer. Even in this life we can see the kind of soul disintegration that self-centeredness creates. Is this a political idea Christians can endorse? 16. Why or why not? 4. “Christianity answered this historical challenge by a reorientation of the worldview,” Sanneh says, “People sensed in their hearts that Jesus did not mock their respect for the sacred nor their clamor for an invincible Savior, and so they beat their sacred drums for him until the stars skipped and danced in the skies. To what extent have you struggled with this doubt yourself? Which are you most drawn to? Moreover, Hamilton is always charitable toward those with whom he disagrees. My wife and I developed a deck of custom playing cards to help with this exact problem. Do you believe many Christians share this conviction? 6. Many nonbelievers have friends or relatives who have become ‘born again’ and seem to have gone off the deep end” [p. 56]. The goal is to unleash the text and win people early to the main idea. Keller identifies three “barriers” to faith: intellectual, personal, and social [p. xii-xiii]. Discussion leaders will be wise to pick which questions to raise, and which topics, once raised, should be pursued in more detail. Keller argues that the existence of evil and suffering is an even bigger problem for the one who disbelieves in God [pp. [p. 70]. 5. But we should not criticize churches when they maintain standards for membership in accord with their beliefs. 3. What does this suggest? What religious stance or ethical criteria have you found your unbelieving friends using to evaluate Christian faith? Does this not seem to be an elitist argument? How do evangelicals fare today by this standard? 12. Should they? [p. 93-94] Why? What reasons did the objector give for their conviction? There is no reason for the author to include such names unless the readers know or could have access to them. That was God’s will, and it was going to come to pass no matter what. Which do you have the most trouble accepting? Discuss your questions surrounding suffering and dig into God's Word to find the truth. Why or why not? of God raising someone from the dead… [This] argument… is like the drunk who insisted on looking for his lost car keys only under the streetlight on the grounds that the light was better there. 7. Do you agree? 6. Keller claims, “Christianity has been more adaptive (and maybe less destructive) of diverse cultures than secularism and many other worldviews” [p. 40]. Pain and suffering actually bring these deep “God questions” to the fore front for many. You had your chance! 6. Welcome to this course which is for you if you want to find out why believing in God makes sense to someone like me Perhaps, you are an agnostic. 1. Here’s a handy list of generic, yet useful observation questions to use regularly: Good observation questions simultaneously engage the group and open the door to interpretation. Why? Old arguments that seemed so certain now seem less so, and challenges are raised which the old answers don’t address adequately. Is this the commonly understood meaning of love? How would you respond to this assertion? Keller lists three reasons why the four gospel records of Jesus life, death, and resurrection should be taken as historically reliable [p. 100-109]. So, they give answers to questions that aren’t being raised, and wonder why they are the only ones in the conversation that seem impressed. How do you think the platitude will sound to the thousands of victims in, say, Darfur? Define, as objectively and carefully as possible, the three approaches to try to deal with the divisiveness of religion: to outlaw it [p. 5-6], to condemn it [p. 7-13], and to restrict it the private sphere of life [p. 13-18]. Secularists will find it challenging to their worldview, while Christians will find it intensely rewarding. If … How would you present each flaw to a skeptic who is making the argument? “It is one thing,” Keller says, “to say that science is only equipped to test for natural causes and cannot speak to any others. We made it through six questions in about two hours. Have you ever heard this understanding of the miraculous before? When Christianity arrived via missionaries, it did not destroy the traditional African worldview but rather revealed how it was fulfilled in Christ. 13. One person is quoted as saying that “the difference between Redeemer and other churches was profound and lay in ‘irony, charity, and humility’” [p. 43]. Does this resonate with your sense of your fellow Christians? My feeling is that 'Making Sense of God' goes a step backwards and addresses questions and dilemas for readers whom the idea of God is distant and perhaps have not though much about it and dismissed the idea of God. The Swiss theologian John Calvin, in his commentaries on the Hebrew prophets, says that God so identifies with the poor that their cries express divine pain. 3. But, like bad morning breath, boredom often shows up early—and it may sink your ship before you leave the dock. Your personal study of the text is essential. What does Keller include in “All this”? Science has Disproved Christianity. 4. What reasons does Keller give for this assertion? In the past, when you read such details in the gospel records did you see that the author meant this? My feeling is that 'Making Sense of God' goes a step backwards and addresses questions and dilemas for readers whom the idea of God is distant and perhaps have not though much about it and dismissed the idea of God. 9. More specifically, Keller sees Genesis 1 & 2 as similar to Judges 4 &5 and Exodus 14 &15. Does it surprise you that “Christianity does not provide a reason for each experience of pain?” [p. 27]. 16. It is the precondition for it” [p. 114]. Chapter 5. Do you agree? What reasons would you give if a Christian challenged this statement as untrue? How compelling are they? Chapter 2: How Could a Good God Allow Suffering? Can you see why Christianity could appear to be a straitjacket or power play to some people? Either this is reportage … or else, some unknown [ancient] writer … without known predecessors or successors, suddenly, anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic, narrative” [p. 106]. 13. Keller appeals to C. S. Lewis to show that magic and science grow from the same impulse, and that modernity, of which we are inescapably a part, was “born in ‘dreams of power’” [pp. Why? How could a good God allow suffering? You’re asking people to reshape their thinking and their lives according to the Word of God, and such requests are uncomfortable. What answers have you heard that you find insufficient? If not, why? 5. Making Sense of God's Will is a four-session book-and-video study that helps us make sense of these issues by exploring some of the "why?" Is civility in the public square possible if this is correct? 14. And, second, God reveals His will through His Word: “Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path” (Psalm 119:105; see also Psalm 19:7-9; 2 Peter 1:19). 3. Does that belief make sense?” [p. 112] Christians often say such things when non-Christians have objections to things like the Trinity or the necessity of Christ’s death for forgiveness. Restate this in a way that someone who has thought little about the nature of science could understand. 8. The questions were formulated in weekly conversations I had on Keller’s book with two young friends: the Rev. We must be grateful, then, when God raises up someone who is gifted at listening to the culture, at identifying the questions being raised, and at thinking through the issues with a passion for truth, love, and the gospel. Of this [gospel] text there are only two possible views. What view is more commonly held, and what difference does it make? Why or why not? 3: A Meaning That Suffering Can’t Take From You March 23, 2017 October 29, 2018 / livinghomeward In this week’s chapter, Tim Keller examines how various perspectives equip a person to deal with questions about “the meaning of life” and suffering. Plans, discussion questions this topic with a skeptic who is making sense of control in hell you... 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