RFG sermon series ideas: The Solution

Tim Keller’s The Reason for God sermon series ideas.

The Solution
Luke 1:1-4; Luke 24:13-32
Key Thought: Jesus’ bodily resurrection happened historically and is culturally and personally relevant and challenging, a challenge we cannot simply dismiss.
Historical Context:
· Luke investigates this matter thoroughly. Love makes Himself evident on the road to Emmaus and in the breaking of the bread.
Sermon Points:
I. Doubt: We Can’t Trust the Biblical Account of the Resurrection Historically
–The resurrection narratives of the gospels developed later, long after the events themselves.

Answer:

1. “The content is far too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends,” (104). Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision? Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal? Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure? Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men? Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105). Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter? None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106).

2. “The timing is far too early for the gospels to be legends,” (101). Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is to blame for a lot of misinformation, including the myth that Constantine decreed Christ’s divinity and suppressed all evidence of His humanity in 325 A.D., when clearly “no more than twenty years after the death of Christ, we see that Christians were worshipping Jesus as God (Philippians 2),” (103). The doctrine of Jesus’ divinity didn’t begin with Constantine-it was accepted from the beginning. Constantine didn’t help the church win-Constantine “backed a winner”. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: “the Syriac traditions in Thomas can be dated to 175 A.D. at the earliest, more than a hundred years after the time that the canonical gospels were in widespread use. …The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however, were recognized as authoritative eyewitness accounts almost immediately, and so we have Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. declaring that there were four, and only four, gospels,” (103). These documents wouldn’t have gotten off the ground and past the eyewitnesses unless the events actually happened. “The first accounts of the empty tomb and eyewitnesses are not found in the gospels … but in the letters of Paul, which every historian agrees were written just fifteen to twenty years after the death of Jesus,” (203). Jesus’ bodily resurrection was proclaimed from the very beginning. See for example 1 Corinthians 15:3-6. Paul not only refers to the empty tomb and resurrection on the third day (historical account; details not permitted to be changed) – he also lists the eyewitnesses … individuals, small groups, five hundred people at once – most still alive to easily corroborate (Luke 1:1-4; Mark 15:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6) or kill (safe and easy travel during the pax Romana) the story that remained alive because it was true. In order for altered accounts to gain acceptance, the eyewitnesses, and their offspring, must all be dead. If Jesus had never done or said the things the gospel writers and Paul wrote about – their writings never would have been accepted because the living witnesses would have stomped them down. Acts 26:26. The first eyewitnesses were women whose testimony in that culture was not admissible evidence in court-such details of the historical account were too well known to be changed, despite cultural pressure. If there had been no empty tomb, no one would have believed the sightings were of the ‘resurrected’ Jesus (as opposed to the ghost of Jesus), especially since…

3. The claim that Jesus bodily resurrected (individual resurrection) was not available to the Jewish imagination (was inconceivable), and would not have been well-received by those of either Jewish or Greco-Roman culture, and so does not work as a made-up excuse for why the tomb was empty (as some claim it to be). In the Greco-Roman culture, resurrection was not only impossible, but totally undesirable. The Gnostic “gospels” appealed to that culture when they spoke of being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation,” (106). Christians acknowledge our bodies as God’s sacred temple, His holy dwelling place-not something to escape, but something to be glorified in resurrection (Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods, Thomas Nelson, 2000). According to Jewish teaching, the resurrection doesn’t happen to one person in the middle of history – it happens to all believers at the end of history. Individual resurrections were not available to the Jewish imagination to write eyewitness testimony off as hallucination, or to write off the empty tomb as resulting from the disciples stealing Jesus’ body in hopes that others would believe He had been resurrected. In addition, “There were dozens of other messianic pretenders whose lives and careers ended the same way Jesus’ did. Why would the disciples of Jesus have come to the conclusion that his crucifixion had not been a defeat but a triumph-unless they had seen him risen from the dead?” (208). In addition, “it was absolute blasphemy to propose that any human being should be worshipped. Yet hundreds of Jews began worshipping Jesus literally overnight. The hymn to Christ as God that Paul quotes in Philippians 2 is generally recognized to have been written just a few years after the crucifixion,” (209-210).

“The Christian view of resurrection, absolutely unprecedented in history, sprang up full-blown immediately after the death of Jesus. There was no process of development. … They were just telling others what they had seen themselves,” (209). … To bail out by saying that miracle is impossible, is to leave such [issues] unanswered (refer back to third sermon on science/faith). People from the first century had just as much reason to be skeptical about an individual resurrecting, yet the church was born and grew because they let the evidence speak for itself.

4. “The literary form of the gospels is too detailed to be legend,” (106). This is an interesting section that says, if the gospels were fiction, they “suddenly anticipated the whole technique of modern novelistic, realistic narrative,” (C.S. Lewis) – which “only developed within the last three hundred years,” (106). Keller notes there is a lot of irrelevant detail that only makes sense to include if it actually happened and was part of the author’s recollective memory. He notes that “disciples in the ancient world were expected to memorize masters’ teachings, and that many of Jesus’ statements are presented in a form that was actually designed for memorization,” (106). He also notes Jan Vansina’s “study of oral traditions in primitive African cultures, in which fictional legends and historical accounts are clearly distinguished from each other and much greater care is taken to preserve historical accounts accurately,” (108).

5. If you do not accept the historical reality of Jesus’ resurrection: “You must then come up with a historically feasible alternate explanation for the birth of the church,” (202). Compare John 20:19 and Acts 2:14, and answer this question: what explains the change in Jesus’ disciples, from being full of fear, to being full of boldness? Answer: the resurrection.

I. Doubt: We Can’t Trust the Bible Culturally or Personally

1. Answer: “Here’s how I advised him and other people on how to deal with a Scripture text that appeared objectionable or offensive to them. … slow down and try out several different perspectives on the issues that trouble them. …the passage that bothers them might not teach what it appears to them to be teaching. Many of the texts people find offensive can be cleared up with a decent commentary that puts the issue into historical context. …”

2. More Specific Doubt: “‘The Christian God sounds like the vengeful gods of primitive times who needed to be appeased by human sacrifice.’ Why can’t God just accept everyone or at least those who are sorry for their wrongdoings?” (p. 187).

Answer: forgiveness is not ‘cheap grace’ — it is a death leading to resurrection. “[y]ou are absorbing the debt, taking the cost of it completely on yourself instead of taking it out of the other person. It hurts terribly. Many people would say it feels like a kind of death” (p. 189). Do you think that, if God is good, it would require that He has made His love of good and hatred of evil manifest? Would it require His love be optional, lest it not be love? Would it require He do something to bring evil to justice? Would you think that if He has not done that, He (given He exists) is not good? “Therefore the God of the Bible is not like the primitive deities who demanded our blood for their wrath to be appeased. Rather, this is a God who becomes human and offers his own lifeblood in order to honor moral justice and merciful love,” (192). “On the cross neither justice nor mercy loses out-both are fulfilled at once,” (197).

3. “To reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that you have now arrived at the ultimate historic moment, from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned. …

4. “To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. … If Jesus is the Son of God, then we have to take his teaching seriously, including his confidence in the authority of the whole Bible. If he is not who he says he is, why should we care what the Bible says about anything else? … If you don’t trust the Bible enough to let it challenge and correct your thinking, how could you ever have a personal relationship with God? … Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it,” (109-114).

Embracing the text: “were not our hearts burning within us as He opened to us the Scripture?” heart: seat of whole person burn: uncontrollable desire for someone – as He opened to us the Scripture. V.27 –It ain’t about anybody in the Bible (legalistic: be awesome!)–it’s about what God did through them and would do as Jesus. It’s about what our hearts burn for. If the Bible has no authority, if we don’t submit to it, we’ve got a Stepford God. We must be challenged, and that cannot happen if we pick and choose and put a chip in Him-make Him in our image. Jesus bled Scripture.

END: I liked the Tolstoy quote which began the chapter: (excerpt) “Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?” (201). “If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world,” (212). Because, if His resurrection happened, everything He taught is eternal truth we can discover and must accept, not just something He made up and can be easily dismissed.

Used these sources:

http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=category.display&category_id=29

ch. 12-the (true) story of the cross
ch. 13-the reality of the resurrection (IMPORTANT)
Literalism: Isn’t the Bible historically unreliable and regressive? Luke 1:1-4; 24:13-32
This is covered in RFG ch. 7: You can’t take the bible literally.

Questions

1. The timing is too early and the content too counter-productive and detailed for the gospel accounts of Christ’s resurrection to be legends. As an explanation for the empty tomb, Jews would never make up the claim that Jesus had bodily resurrected, because they did not believe in individual resurrection, and the Greco-Roman culture would have rather escaped the body, not returned to it. If Jesus’ resurrection is not the explanation for the birth of the church-what is?

2. What do you do when you read something in the Bible that offends you? Have you considered that you might have misinterpreted the passage? Have you consulted several commentaries? Do you actually prefer the offensive interpretation, because it validates your skepticism (suggesting a bias)? If your interpretation is correct, and it still offends you-what is the source of your definition of a ‘real’ good which is offended by what you read in the Bible? Would you prefer a Stepford God?

3. Love is not love without demonstration. If there is a ‘real’ source of goodness and love, wouldn’t it require that He has demonstrated that goodness, that love? Wouldn’t you think that if He has not done anything about evil, God is not good? Do you accept Jesus’ death and resurrection as a demonstration of God’s love of good and dealing with the problem of evil?

4. Compare John 20:19 and Acts 2:14, and answer this question: what explains the change in Jesus’ disciples, from being full of fear, to being full of boldness?

Quotes

“Is there any meaning in my life that the inevitable death awaiting me does not destroy?” – Tolstoy
“If the resurrection of Jesus happened, however, that means there’s infinite hope and reason to pour ourselves out for the needs of the world.” – Tim Keller

1. “The content is far too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends,” (104). Keller is answering the claim that “the gospels were written by the leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power, and build their movement,” (104). Keller asks, if that is so, why do they not have Jesus speaking on circumcision? Why invent the story of the crucifixion, which makes Jesus look like a criminal? Why invent Jesus’ Gethsemane experience, or crying out on the cross, which makes Jesus look like a weak failure? Why make (culturally incredible) women the first witnesses of His resurrection, rather than (culturally credible) men? Why paint the apostles as “petty and jealous, almost impossibly slow-witted, and in the end as cowards who either actively or passively failed their master?” (105). Why reveal the horrible failure of Peter? None of that makes sense if the claim Keller is countering is true – it makes more sense that the authors did not feel free to fictionalize or polish up the facts. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis appealed to Greeks and Romans, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation and their emphasis on the poor and oppressed,” (106). Quotes by Tim Keller.

2. “The timing is far too early for the gospels to be legends,” (101). Dan Brown’s “The Da Vinci Code” is to blame for a lot of misinformation, including the myth that Constantine decreed Christ’s divinity and suppressed all evidence of His humanity in 325 A.D., when clearly “no more than twenty years after the death of Christ, we see that Christians were worshipping Jesus as God (Philippians 2),” (103). The doctrine of Jesus’ divinity didn’t begin with Constantine-it was accepted from the beginning. Constantine didn’t help the church win-Constantine “backed a winner”. Look at the Gnostic “gospels” in comparison: “the Syriac traditions in Thomas can be dated to 175 A.D. at the earliest, more than a hundred years after the time that the canonical gospels were in widespread use. …The gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, however, were recognized as authoritative eyewitness accounts almost immediately, and so we have Irenaeus of Lyons in 160 A.D. declaring that there were four, and only four, gospels,” (103). These documents wouldn’t have gotten off the ground and past the eyewitnesses unless the events actually happened. See 1 Corinthians 15:3-6, Luke 1:1-4; Mark 15:21; 1 Corinthians 15:1-6, Acts 26:26. Quotes by Tim Keller.

3. The claim that Jesus bodily resurrected (individual resurrection) was not available to the Jewish imagination (was inconceivable), and would not have been well-received by those of either Jewish or Greco-Roman culture, and so does not work as a made-up excuse for why the tomb was empty (as some claim it to be). In the Greco-Roman culture, resurrection was not only impossible, but totally undesirable. The Gnostic “gospels” appealed to that culture when they spoke of being rescued from the dark, evil material world by secret gnosis, whereas the canonical gospels offended the dominant views with a “positive view of material creation,” (106). Christians acknowledge our bodies as God’s sacred temple, His holy dwelling place-not something to escape, but something to be glorified in resurrection (Ravi Zacharias, Jesus Among Other Gods, Thomas Nelson, 2000). According to Jewish teaching, the resurrection doesn’t happen to one person in the middle of history – it happens to all believers at the end of history. Individual resurrections were not available to the Jewish imagination to write eyewitness testimony off as hallucination, or to write off the empty tomb as resulting from the disciples stealing Jesus’ body in hopes that others would believe He had been resurrected. Quotes by Tim Keller.

“…how to deal with a Scripture text that appeared objectionable or offensive to them. … slow down and try out several different perspectives on the issues that trouble them. …the passage that bothers them might not teach what it appears to them to be teaching. Many of the texts people find offensive can be cleared up with a decent commentary that puts the issue into historical context. … To reject the Bible as regressive is to assume that you have now arrived at the ultimate historic moment, from which all that is regressive and progressive can be discerned. … To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. … Only if your God can say things that outrage you and make you struggle (as in a real friendship or marriage!) will you know that you have gotten hold of a real God and not a figment of your imagination. So an authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition for it,” (109-114). Quotes by Tim Keller.

The Truth…The Solution / Paul VK
http://redeemermodesto.com/sermons/2010/1/3/the-truth-the-solution

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About Maryann

Maryann Spikes is the past President of the Christian Apologetics Alliance and now coordinates the CAA Catechism. 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. You can follow her on Twitter @Ichthus77, connect with the Ichthus77 community on Facebook, or look her up on Google+.
This entry was posted in Apologetics, Keller's Reason for God, Reviews and Interviews. Bookmark the permalink.

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