Discuss in ILovePhilosophy.com: RFG 14: The Dance of God / Epilogue
Tim Keller’s The Reason for God Book Discussion – Part 2: The Reasons for Faith
FOURTEEN: The Dance of God & Epilogue: Where Do We Go from Here?
Chapter fourteen is essentially about the Trinity as the eternal dance of interpersonal, other-centered love, the sort of love expressed in creation and in Christ’s sacrifice, the sort of love we were made to share in—a dance we are called to join. Self-centeredness is the opposite of a dance… it is a stand-still. We are stationary and others revolve around us. It is hell. God does not need our love, as He is self-sufficient. But He expects our love and is saddened and angered (within eternal happiness) at our self-centeredness when we reject His outpouring of love, because such rejection is harmful to us and others and He wants the best for us. If He weren’t eternally happy, He would be apathetic to our rejection and the harm it causes.
Joining the dance (or returning to it, if the Genesis account is taken literally) is centering our identity on Christ’s sacrificial, eternal love rather than on our own self-centered self-salvation. I want here to offer another take on the Fall, since I find arbitrary rules like “Don’t eat that fruit,” to be unloving, and some would consider “knowledge” (in this case, of good and evil) to be the reason God instructed them not to eat the fruit (Keller says no reason is given). It doesn’t have to be considered an arbitrary rule, and knowledge is not cast in an evil light if the narrative is correctly interpreted, as follows: Good is love, unity with God. There is no good apart from God, and evil is a defect of good, of unity with God. If Adam and Eve had stuck with God, all they would ever have known is good (like spiders know webs and birds know nests). It wasn’t knowledge itself that was bad. Rename it “The Tree of Perceiving Distance between Us” and have God tell them “Do not eat the fruit of that tree, or you shall surely be far away from Me.” They follow the God-and-man-hating snake and walk over there and eat the fruit of that tree, and all the sudden are filled with a terror comparable to a crippling fear of heights, seeing now how far they are from God (the snake snickering as he slithers off slimily into the sickening sunset of symbolism). If God is Good, then a better name for that tree is “The Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil.” Was perception or knowledge itself the very evil that the snake was drawing them to? Nope, it surely wasn’t. The point wasn’t what the serpent was drawing them to… the point was what he was drawing them away from – only knowing God’s love (true life). That is what they fell away from (into death, separation from God), and what we fall away from every time our focus strays from being centred on God’s love, the dance we are called to return to or join (the original point, whether or not the Genesis narrative is historical). That is the message, the invitation Christ sent with His atoning death and resurrection.
The end (goal) of all this is described briefly on page 223 and fleshed out in the next two pages: “The purpose of Jesus’ coming is to put the whole world right, to renew and restore the creation, not to escape it. It is not just to bring personal forgiveness and peace, but also justice and shalom to the world. God created both body and soul, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both body and soul. The work of the Spirit of God is not only to save souls but also to care for and cultivate the face of the earth, the material world,” (bold type added). Keller notes how the Bible is the only source of this unique vision. If (speaking from the perspective of the skeptic) there is a real explanation of why we are here, why anything exists at all, that has anything to do with what is truly good, Keller has shown how other religions (or implicitly religious worldviews) have a different and inadequate view of the world and God and fail to explain satisfactorily why we are here.
The Epilogue challenges the unbeliever, or the self-righteous, to examine their motives for putting faith in God, to take inventory of what is holding them back from putting faith in Christ, and explains how to become a Christian.
Are you using or trusting God? Do you want something from Him, or do you want Him? Are you giving up some of you or all of you? Are you centering some of your life on Him, or all of it? It is an all-or-nothing decision. A mild, half-hearted response fails to understand the full implications of who Christ claimed to be. See: http://ichthus77.blogspot.com/2008/01/Jesus-Claims-to-Divinity.html
Keller encourages unbelievers to identify what is holding them back, explore these things with other Christians, and learn more about Jesus, who He is and what He did.
He explains that how one becomes a Christian is by 1) repenting from finding salvation in anything other than God (the essence of sin)… turning away from that, toward 2) putting faith in what God communicated through Christ’s death and resurrection: He loves us no matter what. Keller points out that it is the object of your faith (God) that saves you – whether your faith is weak or strong. Expecting your faith to be strong is another form of self-salvation. Turn from that to God.
Keller encourages us to live out our faith with a band of Christian brothers and sisters, in other-centered community. He gives a strong warning against rejecting God’s grace by looking down on others as if you are better than they are. And he calls us to recognize that when we come to know Christ, it has always been God drawing us to Himself—He is not surprised at our arrival, but has pursued us and brought us to the dance floor.
That is something I know from personal experience, and never could have imagined before He found me. Keller encourages unbelievers to pray for God to find them, but… sometimes He doesn’t wait for you to pray (but the choice is still yours to accept or reject Him). Sometimes He does wait. He knows how best to reach each individual.
“As a final discussion point, talk about how your views have changed as a result of reading ‘The Reason for God.’ If you were skeptical about God when you started reading the book, are you less skeptical today? If you began this discussion as a believer, are you more confident now in what you believe? As you discuss your answers, consider any other areas you might like to explore with members of your reading group.” http://download.redeemer.com/sermons/Penguin%20Reader%20Guide.pdf