Reason For God Study Guide Chapter 7

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.

Reason For God Chapter 7  You cant take the Bible Literally

Interpretation 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?


Study Questions:

How can we trust that Jesus is real and the Bible is real?

  • Based in history. The quest for the historical Jesus has not historical creditability
  • We can trust the gospels
    • Jesus Seminar:  Only 20% of Jesus sayings and actions historically validated.
    • The timing is too early for the gospels to be legends.  Written during the time of living eyewitnesses.
    • There were also living opponents to the gospels  while they were written.
    • With all the contemporary eye witnesses in place it would be impossible for the new faith to spread in the way that it did if these were made up stories. Acts 26:26. “this did not happen in a corner.”

Da Vinci Code;

  • The source information apparently believed by Dan Brown has no root in History.
  • Constantine did not declare Jesus as divine. This was an already recognized pillar of the church.
  • The disciples must have been taken to heaven immediately with Jesus for the gospels to become legend.
  • Common skepticism/Da Vinci Code copycats are basing their opinions on scholarship that arose a century ago. The problem is that scholarship has been eroded quickly in the past 100 years and is seen as not credible any longer.

The content is too counterproductive for the gospels to be legends.

  • Liberal scholars say that the gospels were written by leaders of the early church to promote their policies, consolidate their power and build their movement.
    • Have they read the NT?
    • If so then Jesus would have had opinions about what was happening in the early church. – no evidence of this exists.
    • They wouldn’t have included the crucifixion.
    • They wouldn’t have had women as early eyewitnesses to the resurrection.
    • Why constantly show the apostles as petty and jealous, slow witted and cowards?
    • Mark is the strongest about Peter’s failures. This would only have happened if Peter was the source, which is the belief of inerrantists.
    • Gnostic gospels suck up to the powers of the ancient world, the gospels don’t.

The literary form of the gospels is too detailed to be legend.

  • The form of the gospels is not like ancient fiction. It is like an eyewitness account. Modern fiction has details and character development. Ancient fiction does not. Ever read Beowulf or the Illiad?
  • The way Jesus taught was meant to be memorized. And disciples were expected to memorize teachings.

We cant trust the Bible culturally

  • People are frustrated with what they see as outmoded and regressive teachings of the Bible. Women and Slaves particularly. (Also probably homosexuality. my speculative addition.)
  • Slavery
    • Slaves obey your masters.
      • Advice: slow down and try out several different perspectives on the issues that trouble you. That way you can continue to read, learn, and profit from the Bible even as your wrestle with its concepts.
      • The passage may not teach what you think it may be teaching.
      • You may be thinking about African slave trade or sex slave trade. This is not the situation of slavery in Rome. There was not a big difference between slaves and an average free person. Looked and lived like everyone else. Were paid and not usually poor. They could buy themselves out of slavery. Few slaves were slaves for life. Most only 10-15 years.  New world slavery people were seen as property and a thing.
      • The Bible prohibits kidnapping and trafficking in slaves. 1 Tim 1:9-11 and Deut 24:7.
      • 1st century Christians did not go against slavery but later Christians did because it was wrong.
    • Be on guard against an unexamined belief in the superiority of your historical moment over all others.
      • Do not universalize your time anymore than you universalize your culture.
      • To think that we are at the ultimate historic moment where we can discern all that is progressive and regressive is narrow minded and exclusive.
      • Wouldn’t it be tragic if we threw the Bible away over a belief that will soon look pretty weak or wrong?

Distinguish between the major themes of the Bible and its less primary teachings.

  • Open hand vs. Closed hand. – pyramid of belief.

Do you want a stepford God? One that never contradicts you?

  • Only if you find a God that changes and challenges you will you find a God worth serving.


An authoritative Bible is not the enemy of a personal relationship with God. It is the precondition of it.

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