Tim Keller’s The Reason for God sermon series ideas.
Key Thought: Evil results from our choosing other than God, suffering draws us back to God, the Bread of Life which satisfies what the world can never satisfy.
Historical Context: Jesus is teaching to hunger for the eternal, not that which points to the eternal.
Doubt: A God that sends people to hell and allows evil and suffering cannot be considered good or loving, and believing in such a God results in guilt complexes and oppression.
1. Without Hell, there can be no Bread of Life. If there is no real good, then evil cannot be a problem. If we perceive evil is a problem-it implies there is (points to) a real good beyond nature, since nature has nothing to do with morality and selfless love (Dawkins’ quote from previous sermon). Refer to question from first sermon (Is there anything you believe is wrong no matter what anybody thinks?). Either there is eternal good, we make good up, or there is no good (nihilism). What moral nihilists “think” they know contradicts what they “intuitively” know whenever they get truly offended-their behavior reflects an intuitive grasp of a real standard (the bread of life). Made-up good is not “true” good, and when we experience righteous indignation, we reflect an intuitive grasp that “this is really wrong-I did not make this up”. It can’t be “real” wrong unless there is “real” good-and that is God-the bread of life. Do you hunger for the bread of life?
2. Hell makes that Bread a choice. Without free will, love would be impossible; without the option of hell and the consequences of sin, love is not a choice. We are not sent to hell, the consequence of evil choices is not manufactured-we choose it, and like a loving father, God allows us to learn from our mistakes. Refer to previous weeks’ discussion on living God’s grace (religion, irreligion, gospel) and how that counters the guilt/oppression-choose grace. Additionally, without hell (that all evil will be brought to justice), the cycle of retaliation/oppression would never end-choose grace. Would God be good if He force-fed us love? Do you extend to others the grace and forgiveness God gives you?
3. We will be satisfied. It is important to know that not all pain and suffering is a consequence of sin. It can push us away from God or draw us to Him and strengthen us, teach us His love-despite-circumstances (the eternal despite that which passes away, v. 27), that we need Him (“poor in spirit”), that only He can satisfy such need–we hunger for that which exists or we would not hunger for it-the bread of life exists. Talk about God’s no/yes from Acts, that only God knows how things will turn out and why they happened, and that we can find comfort in Him through every storm (pray and sing). He is going to redeem everything and justify everything we suffer through-all of our suffering will refine us like gold (1 Peter 1:7). He became human and endured the cross because our reconciliation is His joy (Heb 12:2). What do you place your hope in-what brings you through the furnace refined like gold, satisfied instead of destroyed?
Used these sources:
ch. 9-the knowledge of God (moral sense)
Hell: Isn’t the God of Christianity an angry Judge? Luke 16:19-31
This is covered in RFG ch. 5: How can a loving God send people to hell?
Suffering: If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world? 1 Peter 1:3-12
This is probably covered in RFG ch. 2: How could a good God allow suffering?
ch. 10-the problem of sin
1. If you agree that the “problem of evil” is a genuine problem for those who believe in a good God, then what is the source of ‘good’ from which this ‘evil’ departs? If there is no ‘real’ good-how can there be ‘real’ evil? If you think evil is a problem, perhaps that is a clue to your intuitive knowledge that there is a ‘real’ good: God (love). The real question is-what does a good, loving God ‘do’ about evil? Pick one: (1) prevent all suffering and prevent free will (to choose love), or (2) allow free will (to choose love) and allow all suffering.
2. “In short, hell is simply one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory into infinity” (Keller). It is not that God punishes you for all the stuff He knew you would do before you were even born – it is that God forgave you for it before you were even born – but He will not force love from you against your will, and so ‘hell’ must be a choice as well. What do you think about the thought that loss of belief in God’s judgment leads to less inhibition (an opiate) to violence? Do you think God’s judgment is in conflict with his love, or an expression of it?
3. Do you think there is no such thing as evil and suffering? “Is there anyone in the world right now doing things you believe they should stop doing no matter what they personally believe about the correctness of their behavior?” (Keller)
“If one puts aside the existence of God and the survival after life as too doubtful…one has to make up one’s mind as the the use of life. If death ends all, if I have neither to hope for good nor to fear evil, I must ask myself what I am here for, and how in these circumstances I must conduct myself. Now the answer is plain, but so unpalatable that most will not face it. There is no meaning for life, and [thus] life has no meaning.” – Somerset Maugham, The Summing Up
“It was true, I had always realized it-I hadn’t any ‘right’ to exist at all. I had appeared by chance, I existed like a stone, a plant, a microbe. I could feel nothing to myself but an inconsequential buzzing. I was thinking…that here we are eating and drinking, to preserve our precious existence, and that there’s nothing, nothing, absolutely no reason for existing.” – Jean-Paul Sartre, Nausea
“Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket-safe, dark, motionless, airless-it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.” – C.S Lewis
“God created things which had free will. That means creatures which can go either wrong or right. Some people think they can imagine a creature which was free but had no possibility of going wrong; I cannot. If a thing is free to be good it is also free to be bad. And free will is what has made evil possible. Why, then, did God give them free will? Because free will, though it makes evil possible, is also the only thing that makes possible any love or goodness or joy worth having.” – C.S. Lewis
“My argument against God was that the universe seemed so cruel and unjust. But how had I got this idea of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’?…What was I comparing this universe with when I called it unjust?…Of course I could have given up my idea of justice by saying it was nothing but a private idea of my own. But if I did that, then my argument against God collapsed too-for the argument depended on saying that the world was really unjust, not simply that it did not happen to please my private fancies. …Consequently atheism turns out to be too simple.”
The Truth…Is it all good? / Lewis Wolfe