Fencing Bear Finally Gets It, or Why Christianity Properly Understood is Not a Religion

"This may seem the greatest paradox of all.  The most liberating act of free, unconditional grace demands that the recipient give up control of his or her life.  Is that a contradiction?  No, not if you remember the points of Chapters 3 and 9.  We are not in control of our lives.  We are all living for something and we are controlled by that, the true lord of our lives.  If it is not God, it will endlessly oppress us.  It is only grace that frees us from the slavery of self that lurks even in the middle of morality and religion.  Grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose.

"The gospel makes it possible to have such a radically different life.  Christians, however, often fail to make use of the resources of the gospel to lives the lives they are capable of in Christ.  It is critical for anyone reading this book to recognize this fundamental difference between the gospel ["salvation through grace"] and religion ["salvation through moral effort," i.e. believing that it is possible to save oneself through spiritual practices or by living according to a particular moral code].  Christianity's basic message differs at root with the assumptions of traditional religion.  The founders of every other major religion essentially came as teachers, not as saviors.  They came to say: 'Do this and you will find the divine.'  But Jesus came essentially as a savior rather than a teacher (though he was that as well).  Jesus says: 'I am the divine come to you, to do what you could not do for yourselves.'  The Christian message is that we are saved not by our record, but by Christ's record.  So Christianity is not religion or irreligion.  It is something else altogether."

--Timothy Keller, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (New York: Dutton, 2008), pp. 182-83.

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