RFG 9: The Knowledge of God

Discuss in ILovePhilosophy.com: RFG NINE: The Knowledge of God (Happy MLK, Jr. Day!)

Tim Keller’s The Reason for God Book Discussion – Part 2: The Reasons for Faith

NINE: The Knowledge of God

“In chapter 9, the author states that the real challenge is not to prove that God exists, but to recognize that people already suspect that God exists. He points to the human sense that certain things are right and others are wrong. For example, protecting children from harm is right; ethnic cleansing is wrong. In light of these understandings, Keller writes: “[D]oesn’t that mean you do believe that there is some kind of moral standard that people should abide by regardless of their individual convictions?” (p. 146). He continues: “We can’t know that nature is broken in some way unless there is some super-natural standard of normalcy apart from nature by which we can judge right and wrong” (p. 155 —156). Do you agree that a shared sense of right and wrong is an indication of God’s existence? Discuss your responses,” – Penguin
http://download.redeemer.com/sermons/Penguin%20Reader%20Guide.pdf

The quotes at the beginning of chapter eight would have gone excellently at the beginning of chapter nine as well. Would you agree with Maugham and Sartre that, without God, life has no given meaning, that we have no given reason for existing?

Are you of the category of people Keller talks about that no longer believes in God, but still believes some things are right or wrong even if we or others are inclined otherwise? If so, do you feel your moral intuitions are “free-floating in midair” – that “underneath there is an abyss” (145)? –or do you think they are grounded in nature? Do you agree we should love our enemies? Do you think if we all loved our enemies, it would lead to extinction? Do you think that natural selection can work on whole populations, and that the consensus Keller referred to might change? If our moral intuitions were grounded in nature, would that mean life does have a given meaning, that we do have a given reason for existing, contrary to Maugham and Sartre’s thinking, even if there is no God?

Do you think universal human rights come from God, are discovered in nature, or are invented by humans? Does it make sense to you that all of nature “thrives on violence and predation, survival of the fittest” – but it is grounded in nature that humans should not do this? Do you think the “state of nature” is devoid of moral values, or that human morality is part of the “state of nature”?

Keller writes, “If there is no God, then there is no way to say any one action is ‘moral’ and another ‘immoral’ but only ‘I like this.’ [Ichthus: emotivism.] If that is the case, who gets the right to put their subjective, arbitrary moral feelings into law? You may say, ‘the majority has the right to make the law,’ but do you mean that then the majority has the right to vote to exterminate a minority? If you say ‘No, that is wrong,’ then you are back to square one. ‘Who sez’ that the majority has a moral obligation not the kill the minority?” (153). Do you think maybe that even though “we can’t justify or ground human rights in a world without God, we still know they exist”? –that “Without God [we] can’t justify moral obligation, and yet [we] can’t not know it exists” (154-155)? If a premise (‘There is no God’) leads to a conclusion you know isn’t true (‘Napalming babies is culturally relative’) then why not change the premise?” (156)

Let’s compare two parts of the above:

“We can’t know that nature is broken in some way unless there is some super-natural standard of normalcy apart from nature by which we can judge right and wrong” (p. 155 —156).

Do you think the “state of nature” is devoid of moral values, or that human morality is part of the “state of nature”?

I almost edited the second statement to have “(the only part that can be morally broken)” attached to the end. When Keller is saying nature is broken, he’s referring to the fact that all of nature “thrives on violence and predation, survival of the fittest” — that’s what he is calling ‘broken.’ Do you think nature is broken because of this? If we include ourselves in the “state of nature” — then it is really only humans that can be broken when we go against our moral values — the rest of nature is indifferent, as Dawkins would say. However, Dawkins includes us in with nature when he makes that “indifferent” statement. Any thoughts?

I’m reading this book that says there are things new (not determined) in nature (also that nature is creative), which is why free will is possible (it’s not written by a Christian, I think the guy is new-agey). But I think from God’s perspective, that isn’t true, because the universe is complete from the first moment to the last moment. Really, I think there is actually ‘more than’ just what we conceive as nature, which is why free will is possible. He took our free choices into account and included them in the completed work, before it ever began. Abstract thought makes us capable of choosing, and moral reasoning, and discovery… of moral absolutes. I think it is possible that our human natures are hospitable to moral intuitions (they can be grounded in nature), but still find myself asking: would that mean life does have a given meaning, that we do have a given reason for existing, contrary to Maugham and Sartre’s thinking, even if there is no God? Dawkins would say “no.” Keller says, that is neither here nor there — we know there is meaning and objective morality: it’s the premise (God does not exist) that we need to change.

But, that was kind of a tangent. Tim Keller clearly thinks the whole of nature is broken. I think the brokenness that happens to the aspect of nature that doesn’t have free will, must be the kind of brokenness that happens when we unknowingly do something that is not good for us. Maybe only in the Garden of Eden (thinking poetically here, though Keller might take it literally), where we have not yet broken unity with God, does the whole of nature go in unbroken harmony with God.

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance. She blogs at Ichthus77, and loves apologetics and philosophy. In particular she loves to study all things Euthyphro Dilemma and Golden Rule. A para-educator (autism) for five years, she holds a Certificate in Christian Apologetics from Biola University, an AA in Humanities via Modesto Junior College, and moonlights as a freelancer on Upwork. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
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