Monday, February 27, 2017

The Story of Reality

In the genre of apologetic writings, it can be difficult to find new books that aren’t covering the same set of arguments in slightly various ways. While this is not bad in itself – most offer fresh angles and insights into the same “old” arguments – The Story of Reality is a breath of fresh air. Often when reading, I find I hear the voice of the author speaking the text in my head because the writing style parallels the authors speaking style. Such was not the case with this. However Greg Koukl devised to write this text, it is a uniquely fresh and enjoyable read. It covers a lot of ground in a thorough yet winsome way. The arguments are basic and clear without getting bogged down in details.

My only caveat is his assertion that every worldview has four elements: creation, fall, redemption and restoration. I’m not sure many atheists or agnostics would agree that the elements after “creation” are a part of “reality”.

What I would like to do is share some “clips” of what I thought were his more significant thoughts concerning God’s Wrath, The Trade and Perfect Justice, some of the more controversial aspects that are unique to the Christian story.


It is hard to imagine anything in religion more repugnant to people than the wrath of God. And it’s easy to see why.

First, God’s wrath is unsettling when we are the ones standing in the dock. Law abiding citizens do not object when criminals pay their due. Only the felon finds fault. Second, we are so well acquainted with our own failures that familiarity has largely removed any deep sense of their gravity. We are inclined to consider ourselves as, generally speaking, basically good folk.

The notion of a “vengeful” God strikes us as inconsistent with a God of love.

“Why doesn’t God do something?” we wonder. Yet we cry foul when we learn God will do something decisive about evil and we are the evil doers.

God would not be good if he truly hated evil but was benign toward those who consistently cause it. Justice means exacting an appropriate payment for a crime. No payment, no justice. No justice, no goodness. Is God “vengeful”? No more than any good, fair, noble, just judge who must pass sentence on lawbreakers. (97)

The Trade

Each of the dead is judged by his own behavior, not by comparing one person with another but simply by a raw accounting of each person’s conduct recorded in books for all to see. Every misdeed has been logged, every sin has been written down, and every careless word has been noted.

If God is good, he must punish the guilty, and if he is good he can only punish the guilty.

None will find safe harbor in his own merit since all things hidden will be revealed. In the final reckoning, every man will be shown to be a debtor to God – something each of us already knows deep in our own hearts.

Before the white throne, each person who is judged by his own behavior is found guilty, the record in the books silencing every appeal. It will be clear to all that God is justified when he speaks and blameless when he judges. The books leave no room for debate, no ground for petition or plea.

When a debt was owed in the first century, a “certificate” of debt was made. When the obligation was settled, it was officially resolved with a single Greek word placed upon the parchment’s face: tetelestai.

When Jesus dies on the cross, when the full payment is made, when the last of the debt of those who trust him melts away, when the justice of God is fully satisfied, Jesus simply dismisses his spirit into the Father’s hand and dies. But before he does, a single word falls from his lips. It is the word tetelestai - “It is finished.” His goal has been reached; his task has been achieved. The divine transaction is complete. Jesus takes our guilt. We take his goodness. Theologians use terms like justification or substitution or redemption or propitiation. We will simply call it what Christians of the past have called it, the “Marvelous Exchange”. (127-129)

Perfect Justice

How is an eternal hell an example of a loving God? Hell is not an example of God’s love. It is an example of his justice. His love is demonstrated by his free offer of pardon from hell, which many decline. But they will not be able to decline his justice.

If God simply let wicked people go free, then he would not be good at all. And if he were not good, it is very difficult to see how he could be loving. Since God’s love and justice are both good things, they are not in conflict with each other.

If you still insist that a loving God would never send anyone to hell, then you must settle in your mind that desperately evil acts will forever remain unpunished. Yet isn’t part of our complaint about evil that evil people get away with the evil they have done? Have you thought about what that would mean?

There is no contradiction between God’s love, which is wonderful, and God’s justice, which is terrifying. I want you to see that they come together in a breathtaking way when his love and his justice and his mercy all converge at a cross. (162-163)

So is Mr. Koukl right? Do the puzzle pieces fit? Does the Christian world view tell the “true” Story of Reality? Don’t take my word for it, check it out for yourself, read the book, don’t wait for the movie.

Have a little hope on me, Roger

Koukl, G. (2017). The Story of Reality. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

1 comment:

Chris Falter said...

Excellent review of an intriguing book. Thanks for the post! I'm adding the book to my queue (pile?).

I think that even an atheistic worldview could have views on fall, redemption, and restoration, even if the worldview does not use that terminology.

Fall = a way to distinguish identify the not-good from the good, i.e., a moral view. This is often present implicitly in the worldviews that deny the existence of any true morality; for those worldviews, the not-good might be trust in God ("the opiate of the masses"), etc.

Redemption = Whatever good can be salvaged from the not-good. In a materialistic worldview, the rise of science out of a religious culture would be an example of redemption.

Restoration = a path for reducing the not-good and increasing the good. In a materialistic worldview, the path might be science.*

Does that make sense? Does Koukl propose something like that in his taxonomy of worldviews?

Chris Falter

* Note that I do not dispute the value of science as an aspect of what God calls us to do as those who are made in His image. I only dispute that the view that science is the sole or even dominant path to restoration.