Tim Keller: “Absolutely different from every other religion or philosophy”

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“A gospel is an announcement of something that has happened in history, something that’s been done for you that changes your status forever. Right there you can see the difference between Christianity and all other religions, including no religion. The essence of other religions is advice; Christianity is essentially news. Other religions say, ‘This is what you have to do in order to connect to God forever; this is how you have to live in order to earn your way to God.’ But the gospel says, ‘This is what has been done in history. This is how Jesus lived and died to earn the way to God for you.’ Christianity is completely different. It’s joyful news. How do you feel when you’re given good advice on how to live? Someone says, ‘Here’s the love you ought to have, or the integrity you ought to have,’ and maybe they illustrate high moral standards by telling a story of some great hero. But when you hear it, how does it make you feel? Inspired, sure. But do you feel the way the listeners who heard those heralds felt when the victory was announced? Do you feel your burdens have fallen off? Do you feel as if something great has been done for you and you’re not a slave anymore? Of course you don’t. It weighs you down: This is how I have to live. It’s not a gospel. The gospel is that God connects you not on the basis of what you’ve done (or haven’t done) but on the basis of what Jesus has done, in history, for you. And that makes it absolutely different from every other religion or philosophy.”

– Tim Keller, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, p. 16-17

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Tim Keller on the definition of idolatry

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“[An idol] is anything more important to you than God, anything that absorbs your heart and imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.”

“A counterfeit god is anything so central and essential to your life that, should you lose it, your life would feel hardly worth living.  An idol has such a controlling position in your heart that you can spend most of your passion and energy, your emotional and financial resources, on it without a second thought.  It can be family and children, or career and making money, or achievement and critical acclaim, or saving ‘face’ and social standing.  It can be a romantic relationship, peer approval, competence and skill, secure and comfortable circumstances, your beauty or your brains, a great political or social cause, your morality and virtue, or even success in the Christian ministry.”

“When your meaning in life is to fix someone else’s life, we may call it ‘codependency’ but it is really idolatry.  An idol is whatever you look at and say, in your heart of hearts, ‘If I have that, then I’ll feel my life has meaning, then I’ll know I have value, then I’ll feel significant and secure.’  There are many ways to describe that kind of relationship to something, but perhaps the best one is worship.”

– Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods, Introduction