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.


Prayer Time


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Reason for God Chapter 4

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 Week 4

The Church is responsible for so much injustice.



  • When have you felt treated unjustly?

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

Truth:  Many people take an intellectual stand against Christianity do so against a background of personal disappointment with Christians and churches.

Behavior of Christians that have undermined the plausibility of the gospel.

  1. Christian’s character flaws
  2. War and violence
  3. Fanaticism

Character Flaws

  • Shouldn’t Christians be better than non-Christians?
  • Mistaken belief about Christianity.
    • Common Grace James 1:17.  All goodness is from God, an is given to all humanity.
    • Not Perfect but forgiven.  The Bible speaks that real Christians are flawed.
      • This means that the church will be filled with broken and immature people.
      • Hospital for sinners not a museum for saints.
    • Good character is primarily due to a good home and family. You are not responsible for that.
    • You can measure the power of the gospel from how much life change happens in their life.

Religion and Violence.

  • Christopher Hitchens- religion takes racial and cultural differences and aggravates them.
  • Religion transcendentalizes ordinary cultural differences making them seem like a cosmic battle of right and wrong.
  • The problem is that non religious regimes have done the same.  French Revolution
  • Alistair McGrath – when the idea of God is gone, a society will transcendentalize something else or concept.
  • Violence done in the name of Christianity is wrong.  It is not Christian
  • Violence is rooted in the human heart.


  • Perhaps the biggest deterrent is fanaticism.
  • People try to understand Christianity on a scale of nominalism to fanaticism.
    • they think the best kind of Christian is in the middle.
    • The problem is that this view thinks that the Christian faith is some sort of moral improvement.
    • We should be fully fanatical but in a different way.  Fully committed to being loving and giving.
    • What seems over fanatical is actually a failure to be fully committed to Jesus.

The Biblical Critique of Religion

The way to run from oppression and injustice is not to tone down your beliefs but to pursue a fuller and truer faith in Jesus.

  • Jesus critiques the religious people in the sermon on the mount.
  • Jesus cannot be manipulated by our good works or moral performance.
  • True faith is marked by a profound concern for the poor and marginalized.
  • The way we treat them is how we treat God.

Where do we get the list of virtues that we criticize the church?  The BIBLE

  • Many cultures think it is ok to use power to get what you want. Including Islam and Evolution
  • Being others centered is a Christian Ethic.  Example of Anglo-Saxon’s self based shame culture.
  • The crusades are a result of Anglo Saxons not fully understanding the gospel.  Hadn’t penetrated their culture fully.  The Shame based culture of pride and respect was still intact among the leadership.
  • The right way to understand and criticize the Church is to not abandon the faith but move to a deeper and fuller understanding of the gospel.



  1. Christians first understood that Slavery was wrong.
  2. they eradicated slavery in America and Britain.
  3. Even almost broke the British government. Racism

Martin Luther King Jr.

  1. Did not call churches to become more secular.  He called them to become more true to the gospel.
  2. Desmond Tutu
    1. Commission for Truth and Reconciliation.


  1. Catholic Church in Poland
  2. Forgiveness in Jesus’ name

Nazi Germany

  1. Deitrch Bonhoeffer – He went to Germany and made an illegal seminary
  2. It is not a religious act that makes the Christian but participation in the sufferings of God in the secular life.

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Reason For God Study Guide Chapter 3

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 is one of my favorite chapters in the book.

IReason for God Chapter 3

Christianity is a Straightjacket


Ice Breaker:

How did you know you were in love with your spouse?


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:

Can someone share the objection to Christianity?  Christianity keeps us from being who we really are and can become. It limits us unnecessarily.

  • Is believing in absolute truth the enemy of freedom?
    • Christianity calls some things heresy and others immoral.
    • It keeps people outside of its community.
    • Governor of Alabama who said that his Christian family is his real family.


What is freedom?  Is freedom that there is no overarching purpose for which we were created?

  • True freedom is freedom to create your own meaning and purpose.
  • The idea of freedom from an evolutionary perspective is found in Stephen Jay Gould’s quote.
  • What did you think about that quote?

The world is making mistakes on the nature of truth, community Christianity and liberty itself.


Some say all truth claims are power-plays.

What does this mean?

  • That every truth claim has a desire to control others through it.
  • It is ultimately self defeating
  • “To see through all things is the same as to not see.”
  • Even believing this is a power-play
  • What this really is, is skepticism fully formed.  It leads you nowhere.

There must be absolute truth somewhere.  We have more to live in than just an empty existence.



Community can’t be completely inclusive.

  • Do you agree with this statement?

Critics say that Christianity is not open to all.  All human communities should be completely inclusive open to all because we are human.  This is called Liberal Democracy. All that is important is to be respectful of the privacy and rights of others.

What is the matter with this view? Over simplification.  Liberal Democracy is based on an extensive list of assumptions.

  • Preference of individual to community rights
  • Division between private and public morality
  • The sanctity of personal choice.

The idea of a totally inclusive community is an illusion.

  1. All the ideas in Liberal Democracy foreign to many other cultures. Not all the shared commitments of are shared by Non Western Cultures.
  2. Every human community holds in common some beliefs that necessarily create boundaries, including some people and excluding other from its circle. (GLTB  board illustration.)
  3. Any community that did not hold its members accountable for specific beliefs and practices would have no corporate identity and would not really be a community at all.

What do you think about this idea?

Do you have any examples of this?

  • You cant be a fan of both Duke and UNC
  • You cant consider a group exclusive because it has standards for its members.

What do you think about Keller’s proposed new guidelines to determine if a group is open or closed?

  • Which community has beliefs that lead its members to treat persons in other communities with love and respect, to serve them and meet their needs
  • Which community’s beliefs lead it to demonize and attack others who violate their boundaries rather than treating them with kindness, humility and winsomeness?

Christianity isn’t Rigid

  1. What do you think about how Christianity has adapted itself to honor other cultures?
  2. Christianity changes the core and redeems the culture.


Christianity supposedly limits our personal growth and potential because it constrains our freedom to choose our own beliefs and practices.

Kant:  an enlightened human being is someone who trusts in his or her own power of thinking rather than in authority or tradition.

  • You become god.
  • Freedom to determine our own moral standards is considered a necessity for being fully human.

Oversimplification.  Freedom cant be defined in only negative terms of absence of confinement and constraint.

Confinement and constraint make you free sometimes.

  • Practice and discipline can make you great at piano.
  • Discipline also can be negative if it is trying to make us into someone we are not.
  • Freedom is finding the right restrictions that can liberate us.

The belief that we each should determine our own morality is based on the belief that the spiritual realm is nothing at all like the rest of the world.

  • Do you believe that?
  • Great question:  Are there people in this world who are doing things that they think are ok but you think they should stop regardless of what they think because it is wrong?
  • Doesn’t that mean that you do believe that there is some kind of moral reality that is ‘there’ that is not defined by us, that must be abided by regardless of what a person feels or thinks?

Love, the ultimate freedom is more constraining than we think.

  1. Love is the most liberating freedom loss
  2. You have to lose independence to attain greater intimacy .
  3. What do you think about freedom and love in the context that Christianity is a love relationship with Jesus?
    • We have to limit ourselves to be in love with him.
    • We have to say no to other loves
    • He has limited himself by being in love with us.

Freedom is not the absence of limitations and constraints but it is the finding the right ones that fit our nature and liberate us.


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Reason For God Study Guide Chapter 1

One of my favorite books is “The Reason for God” by Tim Keller. It is a great book that answers questions that many skeptics have concerning the gospel. I led my small group through this book  this spring and created a study guide/cliff notes for my group.  I will be sharing them with you in the coming weeks. I hope you enjoy them and use them for your own spiritual nourishment or in leading a group.  To download a copy of this in Microsoft word, click here:

Here is chapter 1…

Reason For God Chapter 1

Ice breaker:

Share with the group your name, favorite book, and what you are looking forward to learning in this study.

Introductory Questions:

  1. What did you like best about this chapter?
  2. What did you like least about the chapter?


Discussion Questions:

  1. What do you think about the claim that their cant be just 1 religion?
  2. Why do people want to make all religions equal and the same?
  • It denies the reason for the cross.
  1. What do you think about the results of people trying to minimize the divisiveness of religion:  Outlaw, Condemn, or Radically Privatize it?
    1. Outlaw
      1. i.     What do you think about the decision to outlaw religion?
      2. ii.     It hasn’t worked.  those who say religion is intolerant and violent have done the most violence and intolerance in the 20th century.  IE, communism in China and Russia
      3. Condemn
        1. i.     What is the failure with the idea that all religions are the same?
        2. ii.     Religions at their core have differing values.
        3. iii.     That is assuming you know the truth and that is an entirely different religion.
        4. iv.     What do you think about his comments on Moral relativism?  That Berger says that relativity, relativizes itself. If you hold to a socially relative view there can be no absolute truth.
        5. v. We all make truth claims and we have to do as best as we can to figure out which ones are true.
        6. vi. What do you think about the claim that it is arrogant to think that you are right and convert others?
        7. vii. This is contradictory – It’s an ethnocentric idea to claim that you are ethnocentric by converting others and to think you alone are right. Most religions think it is ok to be right.  Our idea of this comes from western thought of self-criticism and individualism.
        8. viii. Big Idea: Every worldview is a religious worldview.  Even Atheism or skepticism
      4. c. Radically Privatize
        1. i. Why do people say we should keep religion out of the secular world?
        2. ii. Why is this impossible to do?
        3. iii. This is the most important part of most people.
        4. iv. What is Religion?  It is a set of believes that explain what life is all about, who we are, and the most important things human being should spend their lives doing.
        5. v. Religion really means worldview.
        6. vi. Conclusion:  you cant keep the religious private.  Impossible


  1. What do you think about his claim that Christianity can save the world literally?
    1. Christians respect other faiths.
    2. Christians don’t expect to be perfect.  They are forgiven.
    3. Example of Christians in the Romo-Greco world.  Loved the poor, accepted everyone
    4. Christian fundamentals are what gives people hope for a loving world.


Close with Prayer