Apparently the original thread died with the older V-I, so I thought I’d start a new thread–a general discussion thread on Christianity. I recently watched a conversation with Tim Keller that made me search for this thread. I wanted to comment on two points he made. I’ll do that in the first comment post.
7 thoughts on “Christianity Corner”
Keller makes two claims that made me bristle a bit, and I wanted to discuss that here. Before I do, I should acknowledge that Keller has to respond to very difficult questions, and doing so when some or many of his answers are complex and nuanced. He’s in an extremely difficult position, and overall, I think he does a good job. In this clip, I think I agree with him far more than I disagree—at least on the major points. Again, my problem have to do with some of his arguments, which some might see as nitpicking on my part. I’ll let readers decide. First, here’s the clip:
Keller starts off by claiming that everyone—including omnists, i.e., those who believe all religions are true—is exclusive. To me, this was closer to sophistry than a sound or fair claim—at least not without some important caveats. The inclusiveness of an omnist is precisely what prevents him from accepting a belief that only one religion is true (or superior). Does that make him exclusive? Technically yes, but to be inclusive, he would have to accept something that contradicts his belief. Additionally, I’m pretty sure this type of exclusiveness would not offend most people, whereas the idea that one religion is true and all others are false would likely offend many. It would be more intellectually honest for Keller to acknowledge this. Additionally, he (and others who believe that only one religion is the true one) should acknowledge an arrogant undertone to this the claim that one real—or at the very least, it can create that impression, implying they’re wiser and more enlightened than those who do not believe in their religion. (I believe there is a way this belief is not so arrogant and offensive, and I’ll try to explain that later.)
Having said that, I do think Keller is correct on some level—namely, omnists can be exclusive in an offensive way, similar to the way Christians and other fundamentalists can be. This occurs if omnists take a more absolutist view of their beliefs and militantly pushing them on others, disallowing expression of people who believe that only one religion is true.
Really, I think main the problem isn’t the stance on religions so much as the attitudes and certitude behind these stances. Are the attitudes driven by hubris or humility? Is there certitude or circumspection when people express and discuss their religious beliefs? My sense is that the answers to these questions are more critical than the actual religious positions. And I think that’s essentially Keller’s point. I tend to think he could make this point, without the claim above and also acknowledge the problematic nature of the Christian position. Indeed, I think that may strengthen his point. (In another interview of this series, I thought Keller has a persuasive way of addressing this problematic element.)
I am not a fan of Timothy Keller. The only thing I really know of him is his marriage and family work, which to me is a bit simplistic, and while, perhaps, “gospel centric”, serves to reinforce a first century power dynamic where man good, woman not so good, or not as good, while not necessarily taking into account or caring about the evolution of humanity over the last 2000 plus years.
Now, having said this, I happen to agree with Keller. Not about the eternal destination of those who don’t believe as Keller believes, but when it comes to religion, faith or non religion, everyone believes they are right, and everyone else wrong, or at the very least, not as right as those who believe in the same way. I believe what I believe because I think I’m right. If I didn’t think that, I would believe something else. We believe what we believe to be right, or else we would believe something els.
I don’t really know Keller’s views on marriage, or men and women, but I’m wondering if you listened to the click. If so, what did you think of his positions, besides the two you mentioned? And what else don’t you like about Keller?
I did listen, twice, in fact. I’m not sure what I missed. I don’t remember the initial question about the eternal destination, “is it fait…,” or, “Is it unfair…”, and Keller gave a one word response, and I don’t remember if i9t was yes or no, and I don’t think it really matters. The fairness or unfairness of it all, is irrelevant, at least to my thinking of Keller’s thinking, if that makes sense at all. Fair or unfair, to Keller’s way of thinking, it doesn’t matter. The rues are the rules. If you believe this way, you go to heaven. If not, so sorry, go to hell, go directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
I’m not sure what I missed, but if you’d like me to comment on somethingh, let me know.
I didn’t listen to the clip in a while, so I wasn’t sure about the number of topics Keller spoke about it–but I guess it was basically about who goes to hell and inclusive vs. exclusive attitudes towards religion.
Does he come across as this glib and even callous? I don’t get that sense, although my impression is shaped by other videos from the series as well as some of his podcasts. He does give a curt, “Yes,” when the interviewer asks, “Is it fair?”–so I can see how you get that impression.
I don’t know if I would characterize Keller’s response as callous. I think the glibness comes from me more than anything else. In much of my early Christian experience the church was obsessed with “saving” people for heaven from hell. I would later refer to this as a “cosmic game of salvation”, hence the, do not accept Christ, go to hell, go directly to hell, do not pass go, do not collect $200.
OK, got it.