The Reason for God Study Guide Chapter 5

I am posting a study guide for Tim Keller’s The Reason for God that I created to lead my small group through. I hope it is a blessing.  This chapter is a great read particularly in light of the recent controversy with Rob Bell’s “Love Wins”.

Reason for God Chapter 5

How can a Loving God send People to Hell

Ice Breaker:

What are your thoughts on Hell?

Study Questions:

  • What was your favorite part of this chapter?
  • What made you struggle in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about God in this chapter?
  • What did you learn about yourself in this chapter?

Idea 1: A God of Judgment simply cant exist:

  • 80% of Americans believe you should get your beliefs on God independent of any church or synagogue.
  • Moral truth is relevant to individual consciousness
  • What do you think about C.S Lewis saying Magic and Science were twins. One died and the other lived. 16th and 17th century.
    • they are both about subduing reality and are willing to do even terrifying things to do it.
    • Ancient wisdom was trying to conform the soul to reality and used, knowledge, self discipline, and virtue.
    • Ancients:  there was power outside ourselves that we conform to. You need to change to fit the world.
    • Science/Magic: We can change the world to fit our desires.
    • C.S. Lewis: Modernity was born in “dreams of power.”
    • The spirit of modernity gave us the responsibility to determine right and wrong.
      • It seems unfair then to think that it would be fair for God to punish us for things we think are ok.
      • We feel we have our own rights that we have determined for our selves to be inviolate.
    • Not everyone in the world believes this though
      • Why aren’t you offended by the idea of a forgiving God?
      • Other cultures actually dislike the idea of a forgiving God.
    • Imagine that if Christianity is not the product of any one culture but is actually the transcultural truth of God. If this is the case then it would contradict and offend every human culture at some point, because human cultures are ever-changing and imperfect. If Christianity were the truth it would have to be offending and correcting your thinking at some place. Maybe this is the place, the Christian doctrine of divine judgment.

Idea 2. The God of Judgment cant be a God of Love.

The big idea is : God shouldn’t be angry:

  • All loving persons are filled with wrath sometimes – because of their love.
  • God is angry and evil and injustice because it is destroying its peace and integrity
  • Volf:
    • If God did not make and end to violence then he would not be worthy of worship.
    • The concept of prohibiting violence in human is based on the concept that God will take vengance for us.
    • It takes a peaceful home in the suburbs to believe that human non violence is because of God’s non-violence. But this dies in the real world.
    • The lack of believe in a God of vengeance secretly nourishes violence.
    • Humans desire to make perpetrators of violence pay for their transgressions.
      • If we aren’t careful we will get sucked into a vortex of retaliation.
      • if you don’t believe that God will put things to right someday you will have to put them right yourself.
  • People think that a God of Judgment will lead to a more brutal society.
    • History shows that a lack of God’s judgment leads to brutality.  Nazi Germany and Communist Russia
    • Opium of the People: a belief in nothingness after death. Czeslaw Milosz
    • We think we will not have our evil judged.  All religions recognize our deeds are imperishable.
    • God’s final judgment is a necessary under-girding for the human practices of love and peacemaking.

Idea 3: A Loving God Would Not Allow Hell

Fighting and injustice are one thing but sending people to hell is another. How does eternal punishment fit in with the love of God. – it is an understandable recoiling

Modern People: Hell works like this – God gives us time, but if we haven’t made the right choices by the end of our lives he throws your soul into hell for eternity. As people fall into hell they say please don’t punish me!!!

  • This is a misunderstanding of the very nature of evil.
    • Sin separates us from God.
    • God is the source of our ultimate purpose.
    • Being separated from God totally is hell. No ability to give or receive love.
    • Image of Hell in the Bible- Fire.  Fire disintegrates.
    • Sin disintegrates us and consumes us. What if hell is an eternity of that? Self-absorbed self-centered life forever.
    • Hell is one’s freely chosen identity apart from God on a trajectory to infinity
      • The Rich man’s identity is intact. Doesn’t ask to be out of hell. Still is asking Lazarus to be his slave.
      • Hell Writ Small:
        • Disintegration
        • Isolation
    • Hell is the greatest monument to Human Freedom C.S. Lewis
      • God Gave them up to their desires. Romans 1:24
      • Two kinds of people.  Those who say, “God thy will be done” or those to whom God says “thy will be done.” All those who are in Hell choose it.

Idea 4: Hell and the Equality of People

Christians are not narrow minded because they believe in hell.  They are not any more narrow minded than someone who believes that there is no hell.

  • Both Christians and Liberal secular persons believe that there are terrible moral and spiritual errors.
  • Christians think the errors go with them forever, Liberal secular people think errors only last with a person while they are alive.

Christians are not discriminatory to people in this life, because they do not know who will be going to hell and who wont because people change in this life.

Idea 5: I believe in a God of Love

What makes you think God is love?

  • NO other religion outside the Bible teaches that God is love.
    • Buddhism is very selfless but does not believe in a personal god so there is no love because love is the action of a person.
    • Muslims think it is disrespectful to speak of anyone knowing God personally
    • Skeptics who cant believe in the God of the Bible because of his wrath must answer where do they get the concept that God is love?
      • Can you look at the world and infer that?  Wars and demise?
      • Religious texts?
      • The place we find that God is love is from the Bible, and it also tells us God is a God of Judgment who sets things right in the end.

The belief in a God of pure love who accepts everyone and judges no one – is a powerful act of faith.

  • There is no evidence for it in nature (it is cruel), nothing historical, not religious proof, outside of Christianity.


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