Thursday, October 27, 2011

Finishing The Prodigal God Study

Last night was the final night of my church’s Bible study group, in which we went through Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God, a book about Jesus’ Parable of the Prodigal Son. My pastor told me that we’ll have another Bible study group in the Spring, and (if I’m still here) my plan is to attend that.

The theme last night was how believing in Jesus helps us to get through life’s problems. On the DVD that we watched, Tim Keller said that—-if we have a foretaste of the eschatological banquet—-we will feel more secure when people reject us, or when we experience other problems. In the group’s discussion, one lady referred to someone who was sick who said that we’ll all get through this with the grace of God. And another lady told about how, when her mother died, her Christian faith kept her from hopelessness, and she and other Christian relatives shocked another relative when they were laughing and going through old photos, reminiscing.

I agree that life is not very secure. Many of us spend our lives having relationships that end on account of death. I personally would not know what I would do if my parents died, for they have been a source of wisdom and help to me over the course of my life. Regarding life’s problems, I often find myself saying that I’ll cope well with life, unless such-and-such happens. I have a hard time meeting life with hope. It’s a challenge. Tim Keller and other Christians may say that we can do so by believing in Christ, but, with all the religions and philosophies in the world, why should I assume that Christianity is true? And, as I and others have asked before, why should I expect God to take care of me, when he does not appear to take care of so many people in the world? But, of course, that brings me to Matthew 25, which someone in the group cited, in which Jesus says that we should feed the hungry and visit the prisoners, for helping the least of these is the same as helping him. I must confess that, although I have a record of helping the poor, I haven’t done a whole lot for the poor during the past ten months.

I find that I have some sort of faith, however. For example, I do not believe that this life is all that there is. I think that there’s an afterlife. I do not believe that evangelical Christianity is the only game in town in presenting what the afterlife is like, however, for there is anecdotal evidence for reincarnation, or ghosts. But my opinion is that this life is not all that there is.

At the same time, if I accept a non-Christian view on the afterlife, am I sacrificing something? What I liked about Tim Keller’s book was that he showed how Paul rooted his ethical exhortations (about giving to the poor and the relationship between wives and husbands) in God’s act of grace through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross. As Tim Keller noted, the Gospel of God’s grace is not just the starting point for the Christian life, but it is the Christian life from A to Z. Without Christ’s sacrifice, I suppose that I can have a concept of God’s love, but it’s not a love that cost God something. In Christianity, God was so loving that he was willing to become flesh and to die for us, just to get us back.

But some people have tried to reconcile Christianity with, say, ghosts. I know one Christian universalist who believes that Christ’s death saved everyone, and yet that some souls after death are ready to enter the light, whereas others are not.

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