Tim Keller: „Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical“ | Talks At Google

Der großartige Timothy Keller, Pastor einer Gemeinde für Hipster, Kreative und Intellektuelle in New York stellte im Oktober 2016 sein neues Buch „Making Sense of God“ auf Google Talks vor.
Eine gute Zusammenfassung findet Ihr auf Haniel Strebels Blog, das Exzerpt der gesamten Rede findet Ihr hier:

TIM KELLER: Hi, thanks for having me here. It’s always hard to convey a book, especially one as dense as this one, quickly. I’ll try to think about half the time conveying the book, what the book’s about, and about half the time questions and answers. So the book is about how belief in God or religious faith or Christian faith can make sense to somebody today. It’s about how it’s possible for that to make sense. Now, I would like to make the case right now that should be of some interest to you, no matter who you are. Chapter one tries to make that case that no matter who you are, you should at least care about how people come to their faith positions, how their beliefs come to make sense to them. In chapter one, I make the case that there’s actually two trends that are marked in the world with regard to religion. Here’s the one. The one is– and I know what I’m going to say is going to sound counter-intuitive to you, but the book explains it and there’s really not much doubt about this — that in general, the world is becoming more religious and will for the next 30 to 50 years at least. It’s getting more religious. The reasons for that, which are laid out there– everything here is brief. You can always ask more later– is that both Christianity and Islam are both converting people at a rate faster than the population is growing. And that’s the reason why they’re growing. Secondly, it’s also true that religious people have a lot more children than secular people and unbelieving people. So you put all that together, all of the demographic projections are that actually the number of people today in the world that say they’re secular, no religious preference, is close to 17%. Over the next 35 years, that’s going down to about 12% because of these trends I’ve just mentioned. So on the one hand, the world’s becoming religious. On the other hand, parts of the world are becoming more secular than they’ve ever been before. Parts of the world are going to be marked by more and more people who say religion doesn’t make sense to me. Belief in God doesn’t make sense to me. Now, what this means is that there’s two kinds of slogans that you should never believe. One is that religion is going away. It’s just not. I mean, I do hear it a lot that religion is dying out. Younger people are less religious. What younger people? The people I know. OK, we have to look at the world. And it’s not true that religion is dying out. And it won’t. So the idea that religion is going away is just not true. But the idea that in some triumphalistic sense that religion will triumph or Christianity will triumph in the world, that’s not going to happen either. And since both these trends are true, religion is not going away, and yet part of the world are going to become less religious than they’ve ever been, what that does mean is it should matter to us how people come to their various positions. Increasing numbers of people are finding that belief in a universe without God makes sense to them. They believe in a universe without God. And that makes sense to them. And other people are finding that belief in God and a universe filled with God makes sense to them. How do they get to those positions? We actually often do not really talk enough about that because people don’t want to say, how do you get there? By the way, people who lose their religious faith usually say, I just saw the truth. And people who get converted usually say, I just saw the light. But that’s not very illuminating. Instead, I’m going to make the case that the process by which we come to our beliefs, to believe in a universe without God or believe in a universe with God, are actually more complicated than that. So in chapter twp what I do– and I want to spend a little time here with you just for a moment to lay out what I do there– is I tackle this simplistic idea. So for example, one of the things that people say a lot– I see it on the internet all the time, and I talk to people in New York all the time who say this. And that is this. It’s a popular belief to say belief that there is no God is arrived at mainly through using reason. So if you come to the conclusion that there is no God, that happened through reason. But if you come to believe there is a God, that’s a leap of faith. So belief that there is no God, through reason. Belief that there is a God, through faith. I’m here to tell you actually that is wrong. It’s naive. It’s simplistic. The fact of the matter is both sides use a combination of reason and faith. So to press a little bit, here’s a thesis I put out in chapter two. And I’ll try to defend it in about four or five minutes here. And here’s the thesis. The move from religion to secularism, the move from religious faith to a secular belief that there is no God or maybe there is no God — so to move from religious faith to secularism is not so much a loss of faith as a shift to a new set of beliefs, to a new community of faith where the lines between orthodoxy and heresy are just drawn in different places. So if you’re religious, you grew up in a church, say, or a synagogue, and then you move to being non-religious– I’m a secular person, I actually don’t believe in God– that’s not so much a loss of faith as actually a movement from one set of beliefs to a new set of beliefs, from one community of faith to another community of faith, from one standard of orthodoxy and heresy to another standard of orthodoxy and heresy. I know that’s kind of a provocative thesis and not most people think that. Let me show you, I think, how I can demonstrate that. Secular people that I know– I’m not saying all of you– if you say, well, I consider myself a person who doesn’t really believe in God, so I consider myself something of a secular person– I’m not saying this is true of everybody. I’m saying plenty of people I’ve talked to who say I’m secular or I’m a non-religious person actually have two sets of beliefs. And they are beliefs. What are they? I will call them proofism and humanism. Now, what’s proofism? It’s a coined word. It’s not the most felicitous phrase. But I’m trying to get at this. What many people will say to me is, I’d be happy to believe in God if you could prove it to me. I’d be happy to believe in Christianity if you could prove it to me. But since there isn’t any evidence, you can’t prove it to me, therefore I shouldn’t believe it. Now, that statement is wrong on a number of levels and actually is a statement of faith. Well, number one, when you say you shouldn’t believe something unless it can be empirically proven, the problem is that that statement can’t be empirically proven. For about 100 years, philosophers have pointed that out. To make a claim like that, to make a claim that you shouldn’t believe something unless it’s proven, is itself a statement that can’t be proven. It’s an assertion. It’s not an argument. It’s just a sweeping statement. And it can’t be its own criteria. Secondly, when people say to me, well, I could be happy to believe in God if you could prove it to me, But if you can’t prove it to me, I can’t believe in a god. The problem is that everybody bases their lives on beliefs that they can’t prove. If you believe in human rights, if you believe we ought to take care of the poor and not trample the poor, can you prove that? Of course you can’t. Actually, everybody bases their lives on deep convictions. They just can’t be proven. So it’s quite wrong to say, for example to Christians, you’ve got to prove your beliefs. But then I don’t have to prove my beliefs. The fact is nobody, frankly, could prove the most important beliefs on which their life is based. And thirdly– by the way, you probably would guess, actually those of you with a philosophy background, is there’s not a lot of agreement on what the word proof means. It is true that I think most people agree it’s possible to prove that substance x boils at temperature y at barometric pressure z. And therefore, if I can demonstrate that, then we could say that’s been proven. But beyond that, how do you prove historical claims? When is a historical claim, that something happened 300 years ago, when has that been proven? Or how do you prove any moral values? Again, how do you prove that human rights are important or that they’re there? The answer is nobody actually agrees on what proof is, because some people say, that was proven. Other people say, well, how do you define proof? So in the end, if you’re a person who says, because of my rationality, I cannot believe in God or Christianity, what you’re actually doing is you’re assuming a set of beliefs about how rationality operates that are really a set of beliefs. And they’re not self-evident to everybody. They’re contested. So they’re really a set of beliefs. To say I can’t believe in Christianity because you haven’t proven it is a set of beliefs. Then the other thing besides what I call proofism, which is a set of beliefs about rationality, which can’t be proven. Most secular people I know also are what you might call a humanist. Humanism means they believe it’s important that every human being be treated with dignity, that people’s rights not to be trampled upon, that we not oppress people, that we share our goods and our power with others and not exploit them. Right? When you say most, I mean, let’s put it this way– most of the atheists and most of the secular or non-religious people I know believe that. But here’s a question. How do you prove that? What is that? Not only is that a set of beliefs, but frankly, those beliefs take more faith to believe in. See, if you’re a Hindu, you believe the world is such that you will get off the cycle of reincarnation if you live a good life. If you don’t live a good life, you keep getting reincarnated. If you live a good life, you can be taken off the cycle of reincarnation and go into eternal bliss. If you believe the bible, sp if you are an Orthodox Jew or you’re a Christian believer, you believe that God made the world, a loving God made the world, and you should love your neighbor so that you’re like God, and you can know him, and you can be saved. In other words, to live a good life of humanistic values fits in with the Hindu view of what the universe is like. And it fits in with the Christian view or the Jewish view of what the universe is like. But what is the secular view of the world? It’s what’s called a materialist view, which is to say there’s no supernatural. There’s only natural. There’s no soul. There’s no heaven. It’s just everything has a natural cause. So just to show the problem with that, or I’ll just say the amount of faith it takes that humanistic values with that view of the world, last year I found this. This was written in the „New York Times.“ It was actually a letter. It says there are 30,000 galaxies of over 13 billion years old. So there’s 30,000 galaxies 13 billion years old with many trillions of stars and many, many more trillions of inferred planets. So how significant are you? He’s talking to individual people. How significant are you? You are not special. You’re just another piece of decaying matter on the compost pile of this world. Nothing of who you are and what you do in the short time you were here will ever matter. Everything short of that realization is vanity. Therefore, or he says so, celebrate life. In every moment, admire its wonders and love people without reservation. Now, the word „so,“ most of us think the word „so“ means this logically leads to that. When you say „so,“ we think that somehow what comes before the „so“ should lead you to do what comes after the „so,“ right? Here’s a question. The first part of that statement is a bracing, wonderfully honest look at what it means to believe in a materialist universe. You’re not here for any purpose. No one put you here. You came up through evolution, red and tooth and claw. You know, the strong eating the weak. You’re only here because your ancestors killed weaker organisms. And in the end, eventually, you’re going to die. Then the sun is going to die. Then civilization will die. And in the end, whether you’re a genocidal maniac or whether you’re an altruist and philanthropist will make np difference in the end. There won’t be anybody around to remember anything that anyone’s ever done. So in the end, nothing you do will matter, right? Therefore, he says, love one another. See, here’s the question. If that’s the case of the nature of the universe, why should I love other people? If my ancestors got here by destroying and eating the weaker organisms, why should I now suddenly become unselfish? And the answer is if you want to believe in humanistic values– I’m glad, by the way. I am really glad. The more people that believe in humanistic values, I think the better the world will be. But it doesn’t follow from your view of the universe at all. It’s a huge leap of faith, unbelievable leap of faith. It doesn’t take huge faith to go from the Hindu view of the universe to humanistic values, or from the Christian view of the universe to humanistic values. But it does from the materialistic, the secular view to humanistic value. You can believe them. But don’t tell me that that’s not a leap of faith. It’s an enormous leap of faith. And you know who’s going to tell you? Nietzsche. Friedrich Nietzsche is going to say– and this is what he did say, and he argued incredibly– I would say in an incredibly convincing way– he would say, if you say I’m an atheist, and then you say but we should not starve the poor and we should honor their equal rights, he says you’re still a Christian, whether you admit it or not. Because, he says, those ideas came historically into the Western society when people believed in the Christian understanding of the universe– that you’re here for a purpose and you’re made by a loving God and you’re made the image of God and all human beings are children of God. He says those values made sense when we believed the Christian view of the universe. But we don’t believe that anymore. And therefore, if you hold on to those values, you’re actually being a Christian, and a very, very inconsistent person even though you won’t admit it. I don’t think you can answer Nietzsche. So now here is what we are. Fundamentally, there are no irreligious people. At one level, absolutely everybody has a set of beliefs, including secular people and irreligious people, have a set of beliefs about the universe that A, you can’t prove empirically, B, are not self-evident to most of the rest of the world. See, even if you can’t prove something, sometimes you can say, but everybody knows that. Well, you can’t say that about any particular set of beliefs about the universe. So in other words, you can’t prove it. If you’re a secular person, your beliefs you can’t prove. B, your beliefs are not self-evident to most people in the world. And C, as I’m going to show you here in a second, is your beliefs have as many contradictions and problems that attend to them as any religious faith does. So what does that mean? Does that mean, oh, there is no way to know the truth? No, no, no, no. See, I’m trying to say everybody gets their position– religious people and irreligious people– get to their beliefs– because in the end, what you hold is a belief– by a combination of reason and intuition. So for example, how do you use a reason to come to a conclusion? One is you look at the logical consistency of your beliefs. That’s using reason. Another thing you ask– do the things I believe fit in with what’s out there in the world? Does it fit in with what I see happening in the world? That’s using reason. But then there’s alsp a part, frankly– everybody to some degree or other also uses their emotions when it comes to believing what they believe. And they also look socially. They say, I see other people who have these beliefs. And how is that affecting their life? So basically, the way any particular set of beliefs comes to make sense to you is for emotional, cultural, and rational reasons. It has to make sense to you emotionally. It has to make sense to you socially, culturally. You see how the belief fleshes out in the lives of other people. And then thirdly, it does have to be logically consistent. And there doesn’t need to be rational reasons too. And so everybody uses those three things to get to their beliefs. Now, what I do in the rest of this book– and the other book’s already been mentioned– The Reason for God– is I lay out mainly in this book the emotional and cultural reasons why Christianity tends to make sense to a lot of people. And then at the very end, I start going into the rational reasons, the more traditional kind of arguments for God and Christianity. But I start it– but on the other hand, I finish it, you might say, in The Reason for God.“ So somebody asked me, what’s the relationship of Making Sense of God to Reason for God? They say, is Making Sense of God a sequel to Reason for God? I said, no, it’s a prequel. Because basically, the way we get there is we use our emotions. We use our relationships. And we use our reason to decide what we think about the universe. Now, what I’m going to do in only six, seven minutes, I guess, is I’m going to actually tell you what I say in these other books as the emotional and social and rational reasons why Christianity does come to make sense to a lot of people. But I’m actually going to dp it as a series of assertions. So this can be infuriating to many people. So I’m really hoping that here at Google, we’re all civilized, that you don’t rush the podium snarling at me. Because I’m not going to make the case for any one of these assertions. I’m going to say people whp find Christianity making sense come to believe this. And in the books, I actually lay out all kinds of reasons for why. So there’s nothing I’m about to tell you is really groundless. In the end, if you read the books, you might disagree. But what I’m saying is not arbitrary or groundless, OK? They were all kind of worked out in the books. But if I was going to make a case in five minutes, which I am, for why Christianity can make sense for a lot of people and how it makes sense for other people, I would say Christianity comes to make sense for us when we see three things– when we see the faith that takes to doubt it, that is Christianity, the faith it takes to doubt it, the problems we have without it, and the beauty we see within it. Now what do I mean by that? First of all, fast here, the faith it takes to doubt it. One of the ways in which people who are doubting Christianity come to embrace it is when they realize that all their doubts, every one of their doubts, is always based on a leap of faith, which is harder to justify than the thing you’re doubting. Follow that? Wasn’t that easy? No. In other words, every time you say, I doubt Christianity, your doubt is based on actually an assumption of faith which itself needs to be justified, and very often can’t be. So let me give you three examples. Number one, one of the objections I hear to Christianity all the time is there can’t just be one true way to believe. There can’t be one true faith. There can be one true way to God. There just can’t be one true way to believe. And here’s the problem with that. How do you know that? I mean, that’s an assertion, not an argument. How do you know that there’s not one true way? The only way to know that there is not one sure way to God would be actually if you have the ultimate perspective on truth that you just said nobody is allowed to have. And actually, what that means is that your doubt is based on an assessment of your perspective, which actually is a major leap of faith, and I think is hard to justify. Here’s the second one. People say, I can’t believe in a God whp allows such evil and suffering. And by the way, I’m a pastor. I’m not a scholar. I’m not an academic. I’m not a person whp mainly does thinking. I’m a pastor, so I’ve walked with plenty of people through horrible suffering. So what I’m saying here I dp not mean to be so cursory. I told you this is the problem with what I’m about to do. But here’s the point. When someone says I can’t believe in God because he allows such evil and suffering, what you actually are saying is this. Because I can’t think of any good reason why God would allow evil and suffering, therefore, there can’t be any good reason. Because I can’t think of it, he can’t possibly have one that I can’t think of. See, the only way to walk away from God is to assume there can’t be a good reason. And why can’t there be a good reason? Because you can’t think of it. But why in the world, if there is a God, couldn’t he might maybe– maybe he’s got an idea that you don’t have. And you see, ancient people, philosophers will point out the ancient people, though they struggled with evil and suffering, never thought evil and suffering was a reason not to believe in God. You know why? Because they were humbler about the human reason. We are not so humble. We have an assumption that we have the powers of exhaustive surveillance, that we should be able to look at the universe. And if we can’t think of anything, I mean, our ancestors would never have been this arrogant. Because we can’t think of any good reason for evil and suffering, therefore there can’t be any. So you see, you’re actually assuming something. You have a doubt, but it’s based on a faith in yourself, which how justifiable is it? Here I’ll give you one more. There are lots and lots and lots of objections to various parts of the bible. And you need to realize that virtually all the objections you might have to things the bible teaches are based on high faith in your culture and the superiority of your culture. So for example, years ago, not too long ago, I once talked about Christianity to a Chinese graduate student– brilliant young man. I was in Britain when I was at the time. And you know what? He had no problem with the idea that God would send people to hell, no problem at all. Because, he says, I’m not a Westerner. And so the idea that God might have the authority to send people to hell doesn’t bother me. I have no problem with that exercise of authority. But he says, what I can’t accept is this– the individualistic nature of Christian salvation means that if I believe in Jesus Christ, I would not be with my ancestors. And I don’t want to believe anything that would separate me from my ancestors. And my guess is the average Manhattan young professional, that’s not the main problem they have with the bible. c OK, I talked to a Middle Eastern intellectual over there. And what she believed, interestingly enough, what she says, I have no problem with the idea that God would send people to hell, no problem at all. If there is a God, why couldn’t he do that? He created us. Doesn’t he own us? But then, she said, but she cannot accept what the bible says about forgiveness, this idea that we are obligated to forgive no matter what the other person has done, that we have to forgive. And even though most young Manhattanites don’t think about the difficulty of that, generally speaking, that’s another reason why it’s probably not the average New Yorker’s problem with the bible that it talks about forgiveness too much. However, the average New Yorker is going to say, I just can’t accept a God whp would send people to hell. You know why? Because at that moment, what you’re saying is my cultural location is superior to theirs. My culture is absolutely right. And it’s never going to change. For all you know, 100 years from now, your great-grandchildren will think that your approach to things is stupid. In fact, inevitably they will, by the way. If the record of your political views is somehow preserved, your great-grandchildren will think you are horrible. And yet on the basis of your cultural location, which you’re kind of absolutizing on the basis of your historical moment which your kind of absolutizing, you’re going to throw the whole bible over. See, every doubt of the bible is based on incredible faith in something else which is really hard to justify– the faith it takes to doubt it. Do you see that? Virtually always, Christianity starts to make sense when you begin to see what incredible faith it takes to doubt it. Secondly, the problems you have without it. Now, I’m really going to be fast. But here’s the point. There are emotional, cultural, and rational problems with not believing in God. Now here, I’m kind of going at secularism. And of course, you do have to weigh Christianity and other religions to secularism. But I don’t have time for that unless you want to ask me about it. But here’s the problems. Number one, if you don’t believe in God, there is a problem with meaning. Because the meaning that you create for yourself will be too thin for you to handle suffering. The secular culture, unlike religious cultures, make you find your meaning and life in something here, which means suffering can take it away. And every other culture, whether it’s Hindu or Islam or Christian, every other kind of religion helps you locate your meaning and life outside of this life so that suffering can actually help you accomplish your meaning in life. But if you’re a secular person, suffering will destroy your meaning in life. And secular culture gives its members less resources to deal with suffering than any culture in the history of the world. And we are much more traumatized by it. Number two, just these. Secularism, the idea there is no God, gives you a view of identity which is incredibly fragile. Every other religion says you find who you are by connecting to something more important than you. The secular culture says you find your identity by looking inside and doing whatever you think you want to do most. And you assert it over and against everybody else. And lots and lots of studies have shown that kind of identity, which is really unique– it’s not the way it works in the rest of the world or in history– makes you incredibly fragile because you desperately need a kind of recognition that it actually can enslave you. Thirdly, it’s not just the problem of meaning and a problem of identity, it’s also the problem of freedom. Modern culture defines freedom as the absence of restrictions. Isaiah Berlin, the philosopher Isaiah Berlin, said there’s twp kinds of freedom. There is negative freedom and there’s positive freedom. Negative freedom is freedom from. Positive freedom is freedom for. Negative freedom simply says, I’m only free if I have no restrictions. And I hope you all know if that’s really what freedom is, then that is antithetical to love. Because the more committed your love relationship is, the less free you are. And yet, by the way, the more you are in a wonderful committed love relationship, generally the happier you are. The fact is we’ve got a culture and a belief set that doesn’t support positive freedom. It only supports negative freedom. As a result, freedom actually tends to eat up love relationships. It’s one of the reasons why we have fewer and fewer lifetime committed love relationships because the view of freedom that comes from highly individualistic view that goes along with the secular view undermines that. There’s a whole lot of emotional problems. But then there’s the rational problems. And I’ll just simply mention them. There’s the problem, by the way, of existence itself. There are really good arguments that say it’s difficult to understand if there is no God why there’s something rather than nothing. If you want ask me about that, we can go into it. But it’s one of the problems you have if you don’t believe in God. Another problem you have if you don’t believe in God is the problem of moral obligation. If you don’t believe in God, no trouble accounting for moral feelings. You have moral feelings, right? Everybody in this room has some things you feel. I feel this is right. I feel this is wrong. And if you don’t believe in God, no problem explaining it. It could be evolution. That’s why we have those feelings. Or it could be your culture has taught you those things. Or it could be an existential choice of yours. Whatever. But if there is no God, it’s hard to see how there could be moral obligation. See, a moral feeling says, I feel this is wrong. A moral obligation is to say you must stop doing that, whether you feel it’s wrong or not. See? How can you say to another person even though you feel it’s OK, it’s wrong. And you ought to– obligation– stop doing it. See, why should your feeling trump that person’s feeling? Well, the only way to say that is to say there’s a higher law. There’s something outside. There’s a moral source outside of both of us. We all have to honor that. But what can that be if there is no God? You know, Martin Luther King, Jr., in his famous letter at Birmingham jail, put it like this. He said, if there is no higher divine law, if there is no God, no higher divine law, there will be no way to tell if a particular human law was unjust or not because it would just be my feelings versus your feelings. Big problem. Lastly, the beauty. The beauty that we find within it. Christianity has a beauty to it. I mean, first of all, there’s the idea– the Christian idea of God is that God is not an individual. But God is a trinity of three persons who have known and loved each other from all eternity. And you all know, if you’re into a real love relationship, that’s when you’re really the happiest. So if you have Father, Son, and Holy Spirit according to Christian teaching having perfect love relationships for all eternity, we’re utterly happy– totally happy, you might say. Why would you create a world filled with other personal beings if you’re already perfectly happy? And the answer is to share your happiness with them. There’s no other good reason. You already have everything. So the Christian idea is that God actually created us to share his happiness and love. Then secondly, the Christian story is that we turned away from him. And that’s the reason why things fall apart. The center cannot hold. Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world. Christianity has a story of what happened to the universe that explains both the ruin and the glory of the human race. Any story that just looks at human beings as trash or any story that looks at human beings as basically good and does not recognize the good and the evil in them doesn’t really account for how things are, doesn’t lead you to expect what’s going to happen tomorrow. And so Christianity, the beauty of the story is, God, who wants to share his love and unhappiness with us, an account of what’s wrong with us, then thirdly, a love story. He comes into the world as Jesus Christ. Dorothy Sayers– one of the first women whp ever went to Oxford, and she wrote detective novels. And one of her detectives was Lord Peter Wimsey, and she wrote a series of stories and novels about him. He solves mysteries. And halfway through the stories, suddenly a woman shows up to him, Harriet Vane. She’s one of the very first women who went to Oxford, and she also wrote mystery stories. So Harriet Vane character shows up in the Peter Wimsey stories. She’s one of the first women graduates of Oxford. She writes mystery stories. And she’s not particularly good-looking. Wait a minute. Who is this? Dorothy Sayers, many people believe, looked at this character that she had created, saw how lonely he was, and wrote herself into the story out of love. And Harriet Vane saves him. And of course, the Christian story– you might say, oh, that’s sweet. What a sweet idea. The Christian story, that’s exactly what God did. He looks into the world he created. He sees us harming each other, ruining each other. And he writes himself in the story. And in Jesus Christ, he goes to the cross and dies to pay for our sins so that God can forgive us and still be a just God. If you’re a judge, you can’t just forgive people. You know, the law needs to be paid. You can’t just say, oh, it doesn’t matter what you’ve done. Go off. Well then, justice falls apart. But how could God be both just and forgive us? And the answer was Jesus Christ. God, in a sense, writes himself into the story because he loves us and does all that for us. And that’s the reason why, in the end, by the way, if you read the gospels, one of the main reasons that people come to believe in Jesus Christ is they read the gospels, and they see Jesus. They see his claims. They see his humility. They see his grace. They see his courage. And you read through the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. And you’re amazed at this. And some years ago, there was a pastor I knew who was confronted by a non-believer who said, I would believe in God if you can give me a watertight argument. And the minister said, read the New Testament. And he said, you mean, there’s a watertight argument there? He says, well, not exactly. There’s Jesus Christ. And he says, you know, what if God didn’t give us a watertight argument to lead us to himself? What if he gave us a watertight person against whom, in the end, there is no argument? Read him, and you’ll see there’s almost no way to account for the beauty of this person unless maybe he is who he said he is. OK, slightly longer than I wanted to go and also slightly faster than I wanted to go. So I’m just an unhappy guy. So let’s see what we can do. So those are some ways why we need to worry about and be concerned about how people come to their beliefs, and how it’s possible for Christians to make sense even today. Questions? The best way to do it would be to go to your mic because otherwise, you will not be picked up for the recording. Yes, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: Well, first of all, thank you so much for coming. This has been really interesting and a great opportunity. And I wanted to ask. I know you talked a lot about the arguments for religion and the arguments against secularism, but I wanted to ask you about spirituality, in that I and some of my peers very much do believe that there is a higher power. And we don’t believe in secularism. There is something that connects us all that created us on this Earth. But that doesn’t necessarily translate into religion. And there’s a lot of the dogma. And Christianity and other religions don’t necessarily appeal. They make us uncomfortable, especially the way it can be used sometimes for hate today.
AUDIENCE: And also, necessarily kind of figuring out the differences between them. Why would one choose Christianity over Judaism, over Hinduism, when they all have these different beautiful ways of bringing people together?
TIM KELLER: They do.
AUDIENCE: But you’re obviously a pastor and of the Christian faith. So you made a choice.
TIM KELLER: Well, yeah.
AUDIENCE: So if you have any thoughts on that.
TIM KELLER: You only have– generally speaking, it’s hard to have more than one career. It’s hard to be both Muslim and a Buddhist and a Christian cleric, five years of each. It doesn’t work. I’ll tell you what. I would suggest two things. I’m going to read you something out of the book, believe it or not. Thank you, actually. You asked a question that gets me to the book. Oh, were you finished with the question?
TIM KELLER: OK, I would suggest on the multiple faiths, there is a book by John Dixon– he’s Australian– who wrote a book called The Spectator’s Guide to World Religions. Now, like me, he’s a Christian minister. But I read the book recently. And he said, I’m trying to create five small vignettes. He did Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Judaism. And he lays it out very, very as objectively as he possibly can. He does everything he possibly can. He says, I’m sure critics will say it’s obvious to see even the way you handle Buddhism that you’re a Christian. But he said, I tried real hard. Besides that, everybody whp would write a book like that would have to come from some position generally. And it’s a really, really helpful book. Because what it does is it just lays out the differences and tries very hard to say, now, you make the decision rather than him doing it. That’s one side. Here’s the other side though. The last part of this book is actually the story of a guy named Langdon Gilkey. Langdon Gilkey was a young man whp graduated from Harvard with a philosophy degree with honors in the 1930s and went to China to teach at a university there. And when the Japanese overran that part of China, he was put intp a detention camp. It was a really, really, really difficult place. 2,000 people in less than a city block. Everybody had something like– there was 20 toilets for 2,000 people. It was a very, very difficult situation. And when he went there, growing up, he had lost his church faith. He had actually believed in the goodness of human beings, and rationality is the way to overcome our problems, and that religion actually wouldn’t help much. When he was there, he basically came to see that there is absolutely no way. Human beings are basically selfish. He actually says at one point– I marked this in case somebody asked this question. He says he came to believe what the bible said about sin. He said self-interest seemed almost omnipotent next to the weak claims of logic and fair play. As the months went by, he constantly faced intractable self-centeredness. And he actually said, he says, the fundamental bent of the whole human self in all of us was inward toward our own welfare. And we’re so immersed in it that we hardly are ever able to see this in ourselves, much less extricate ourselves from our dilemma. He says everybody he saw who were really being cruel, they always gave rational and moral reasons for what they were already determined to do. He says even the most moral and religious people– because there were a lot of priests and missionaries there who had been working in China who were thrown in with everybody else– he says the most religious people found it incredibly difficult, not to say impossible, to will the good and to be objective and to be generous and fair. And what they actually did, though, was they always gave religious reasons for what they were doing. So he got incredibly disillusioned. Because here was the secular people. They were being incredibly selfish. And here were the religious people. And they were being every bit as selfish. The secular people were using rational reasons for why they were being selfish and cruel to the other neighbors. They were just trying to survive. And he says, the religious people were using religious reasons. So he started being pushed back toward belief in sin. But then, there’s one guy– now the guy in the book, the guy’s name is Eric Ridley. But it’s actually Eric Liddell that you might know was in „Chariots Of Fire.“ He was a Presbyterian Scottish guy who wouldn’t run on Sunday, but then did win the 400-meter gold medal in the 1921 Olympics. He went to China as a missionary. And he was put in the camp. And he died of a brain tumor in there at the age of 43. But he had an amazing impact. And this is actually, believe it or not, is answering your question.
He had an amazing impact on Gilkey. Gilkey said, it’s rare indeed when a person has the good fortune to meet a saint. But he came as close as anyone I had ever known. Eric Liddell was concerned to minister to the teenagers of the camp. He cooked for them. He supervised recreation for them. He poured himself out for them. He was about the only person that Gilkey saw in the whole camp who was always overflowing with humor, love of life, sacrificial kindness for others, and inward peace. And when he died of a brain tumor suddenly, the entire camp was stunned. So he was trying to say, what made this guy different? I mean, there were a lot of missionaries. There were a lot of religions. What made him different? And this is what he said. Liddell– this is what Gilkey says– was a committed Presbyterian missionary who believed in Christ, but that his salvation was accomplished by God’s sheer and free grace. He did not believe– and this is a Christian teaching– you do not believe that that God loves you because you are living a good life, because you are surrendering your will, because you’re charitable to people. Believes it’s totally sheer grace because of what Jesus did. And Gilkey then points out that religion all by itself does not necessarily produce the changed heart capable of moral selflessness. Often, religion can just make our self-centeredness worse, especially if it leads us to pride in our moral accomplishments. So he came to see religious people were kind of self-centered in their religiosity because they thought, my religiosity makes me a good person. That’s why God loves me. And he says, it actually didn’t make them less selfish. It made them part of the problem, people just scrambling and trampling other people so they can survive. Gilkey says, in Liddell, we have a picture of what a human being could be if he was both humbled and yet profoundly affirmed and filled with the knowledge of God’s unconditional love through undeserved grace. And this is the last thing Gilkey says. He’s quoting Reinhold Niebuhr here. He says, religion is not the place where the problem of man’s egotism is automatically solved. Rather, it is there that the ultimate battle between human pride and God’s grace takes place. If human pride wins the battle– that is to say, if you adopt a religion that makes you more proud of your goodness– he says, if human pride wins the battle, religion can and does become one of the instruments of human sin. And this is what you’re talking about. But if there is a self that does meet God and surrenders to something beyond its own self-interest, the grace of God, religion may provide the one possibility for a much needed and very rare release from our common self-concern. So I would say check out all the different religions. But the genius of Christianity, even though many people who are professing Christians don’t see it, is that religion by itself actually makes you as bad as everybody else. In fact, it can make you worse because it makes you a Pharisee. But the doctrine of the grace of God that you’re saved by sheer grace humbles you, and yet affirms you at the same time. You’re so bad Jesus had to die for you. But you’re so loved that Jesus was willing to die for you. And so Gilkey saw, here’s a guy who actually got it. And he was different. So that would be my answer. The reason it was long was because it was a great question, my answer, and alsp because I wanted to say it. Anyway, yes, sir. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: Hey, thank you for speaking. It seemed to me like a lot of your argument against secularism or humanism was predicated on this idea that human evolution and evolution in general is sort of Hobbesian and ruthless. And I’m wondering how you would respond to an alternative hypothesis, which is that humans, like some other species, actually evolved having a lot of benefit of social cooperation and in group goal-setting. And nested within that, there’s actually a huge benefit for us to tell stories and have beliefs in order to get us to work together as a group. And if that’s plausible, why it wouldn’t actually make more sense for us to by some democratic process come up with a new form of philosophy, rules, governance, social norms that lead us to collaborate and have a lot of the humanist ideals that I think many religious people and many secular people would find advantageous to us as a species.
TIM KELLER: Right. Three things by which I will defend myself. That’s a great idea. Great thoughts there. Number one, I would say that wouldn’t be most of it. Yes, you’re right in saying that’s part of my argument against secularism. But it’s not the whole thing. So number one. That’s a minor one. Number two, as you know, not everybody believes that groups survive because they learned to be altruistic and to take care of each other. There is a huge amount of debate about that. You say, if it could be shown, well, it hasn’t been yet. It might be. But even there, by the way, you do know, do you not, you might be able to make the case, for example, that people in your clan or tribe survive because they were unselfish with each other. It is hard to know how we came to the place where, through evolution, we actually believe that it is good to take care of anybody at all. In other words, my feeling that it would be not only good to take care of my own kind, but to be kind to somebody who’s not my own kind, how could that have ever allowed somebody to survive in the past? That’s part of the debate that white people are saying maybe what you’re saying isn’t provable. But here’s the third thing. Even if it was true, even if it comes to be proven, all that proves is that it’s selfish to be unselfish. All that proves is not that it’s wrong to be unselfish, but that it benefits you to be unselfish. So in the end, it’s a selfish, pragmatic argument that doesn’t say that it’s wrong to be unselfish, just that it would be in your benefit. See, I think most of us believe not that killing an innocent person is practical. It’s impractical. In other words, the best that you could argue for is that killing somebody else or being unkind is impractical. We don’t believe that. We believe it’s wrong whether it’s practical or not. So in other words, evolution can never give you an ought. It can only give you a what would work. In the end, it can only support pragmatism, and not the moral intuitions that all the religions have, that something’s wrong whether it’s impractical or not. All you could dp is to say it would be impractical to be unselfish. But in the end, weirdly enough, you’re appealing to selfishness, selfish motives, to be unselfish. And this, by the way, Nietzsche also took that idea apart. He takes apart the idea that you can appeal to someone’s self-interest to make them unselfish. You can appeal to their desire to survive to teach them to care for other people. In the end, it doesn’t really work. So I’ve got three objections. And yet, I want people to have humanistic values for any reason at all, frankly, because it does make the world a better place. So in the end, would religious people like this approach? Yeah, I would. But I just try to show you where I thought there’s still some holes in it.
AUDIENCE: Well, we can agree on that last part. Thank you.
AUDIENCE: So again, thank you for being here. In addition to filling out this room, we actually have crowds in California and a number of our other global offices that are tuning in. And so I just wanted to take a minute. There’s actually several questions that came in in [INAUDIBLE].
AUDIENCE: I wanted to write one that came from Ambrose in California. And he asks about technology and faith, which I believe your church has a initiative going on in this area. He said, technology has an immense power to improve people’s lives and make a positive difference in the world, which is why many of us are here at Google. Does the Christian world view have an opinion about how technology should be used? Are there categories or problems that technology can’t solve, or at least improve?
TIM KELLER: Well, I think Langdon Gilkey– I’d say Langdon Gilkey would say– that the basic selfishness of the human heart, which most of us don’t see. It hides. He says, when you get intp a place like the Shantung Compund– when he was in that compound, and everybody was in close, he says when it’s about survival, he says, very, very few people are kind and open. And he says, human beings are so selfish and so out for themselves, they hide it from themselves till push comes to shove. I don’t know how this technology changes that. In fact, what Gilkey actually says– what he actually says is if you love yourself, if your highest good is your own self, then it’s going to make you selfish. If your highest good is your people, it’ll make you a racist. If your highest good is your family, it’ll create patriarchy and paternalism. He says really the only way that you can make decisions about right or wrong is what is your highest good? And if your highest good isn’t God, it’s got to be one of these other things. And you’re going to turn that into an absolute. And that’s going to actually be another vehicle for self-interest. But not only belief in God, but an experience of the grace of God can actually change that inner self-absorption, self-centered, which is the reason for all of the problems in the world. And my friend, just a minute ago, I was trying to make the cases that if the best thing you can do is sort of harness it by appealing to selfishness, then you’re really still not going after the root. What you’re doing is you’re trimming it. In fact, that’s what we do with our kids. Generally out of selfishness, we teach them to be unselfish because frankly, it’ll get them where they want to go. I mean, I’m afraid a lot of that happens. To really get at the root, according I think as a Christian minister, you’re going to need spiritual reasons. Spiritual resources, not just technology. Technology, ultimately, is a tool. But it’s an instrument. It’s a means. But it’s not an end. You’re going have to decide what your end is. Yes, sir? Were you going to do some others? Or was that? OK, go ahead.
AUDIENCE: We have two minutes.
AUDIENCE: OK, I’ll be fast. Dr. Keller, I like the way that you talked about those who are religious and those whp are secular and the things that are actually very similar between them, even though they might not recognize it.
TIM KELLER: Oh yeah.
AUDIENCE: One of the things that the tech community in particular and the broader community in general has been focused on is gender equality and gender balance. And it’s been a big struggle in the tech community. And I don’t have a perspective on this from the Christian perspective. From an outside point of view, a text that talks about God the father and Jesus the son and the twelve apostles has a very male perspective on it. And I was kind of curious if you could talk about how you see the Christian community and your fellowship struggling with some of these things that are interesting both to seculars and people who are religious.
TIM KELLER: Did you hear the lady? Two minutes.
AUDIENCE: In the remaining 60 seconds.
TIM KELLER: You’re not helping.
Gee. Look, at the very beginning of the bible, it says God made humanity in his own image. And then it says, male and female, he created them. And there is indications not only that obviously male and female are both equally made in the image of God. But there’s even maybe a hint– though this is debatable– there’s even a hint that male and female together reflect all the glories of God better than either male or female. What that would argue for– and this is basically what I think Christianity– not all, I mean, there’s great differences. I’m making this a short answer so I can take one more question. But basically, I think the Christian approach would be to say male and female are equal, and not absolutely interchangeable. In fact, a lot of feminism would say, no, they’re not. There is a female way to lead that is going to be different. That they are equal, but they’re not interchangeable. And yet, at the same time, frankly, they should be, they’re irreplaceable for each other. In other words, each one brings certain of God’s glories and strengths into a process, into an event, into a community the other one can’t bring. And because of that, we desperately need each other. So they’re equal, not interchangeable, but equally important. And actually, we’re interdependent. We really can’t live without each other. And that’s whether we’re married or not. We need to be intp communities where both male and female are using their gifts and their abilities. That’s about it. Do you want to do that one more question? Or Barbara, do we feel like we don’t? Yeah, do we have one more from outside of the– yeah, and that’ll be it.
AUDIENCE: This is alsp coming from Mountain View. It says, I’m a twentysomething Christian and an American. I’m often told by older Christian friends and family that America is becoming increasingly secular. Christian morality is disappearing. Society is degradating. And we’re at a perilous point in history. Do you think that’s a valid assessment? Or should Christians be concerned? How do you think Christians should respond to cultural shifts toward secularism?
TIM KELLER: Well, we’re in luck, because that’s an easy question to answer, believe it or not. The point is that it’s both good and bad news. The answer is I don’t like the full decline narrative. If God is in charge, and America is getting more secular, then God’s got some good purpose for that, OK? And one of which I think is to humble Christians and say to some degree, when we were more in power, we didn’t use our power very well. So it’s time to really rethink who we are and what it means to relate in the world. So it’s just not all bad news. But on the other hand, it is getting more secular, yes. And the future will be, I think, difficult for Christians to adjust– American Christians– I’m so glad he said, I’m an American and a Christian. Because frankly, there’s almost nowhere else in the world where Christians have this memory of a sort of past influence. Because most everywhere else, Christians are a minority. And they learn how to be good neighbors and still to lift up what they believe and still serve others. American Christians are going to have to humble themselves and become, frankly, better neighbors than they have been in the past. And that’s not bad news. But there will be some sad things happen too. There will be some things lost in our culture too. OK.
BARBARA: All right, thank you, Dr. Keller.
Thank you all. Awesome.

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