Ain’t That Good News: What African-American Spirituals Teach Us about Heaven and Hell (Open Forum) – Gospel in Life

Ain’t That Good News: What African-American Spirituals Teach Us about Heaven and Hell (Open Forum)

Tim Keller |  March 22, 2009

Download Agreement

By downloading this file, I confirm I understand Gospel in Life's Copyright & Permissions policies and agree to only use this file for personal usage and will not upload it to any third-party platforms.


  • Heaven and Hell
  • Suffering
  • Hope
OF 43


Open Forums are specifically designed for skeptics or those wrestling with the claims of Christianity. Each Open Forum included a brief concert by guest artists followed by a talk and open mic Q&A with Timothy Keller. This audio recording includes the talk only.

1. The power of hope

Looking at the difference between not believing in anything beyond this life (secularism) and the deep faith found in African-American spirituals, we see the strength that comes from belief in a higher power and life after death. This faith gave people hope and the ability to endure even during the harsh times of slavery. Famous people like Woody Allen and Tolostoy had a hard time finding a purpose in life because they didn’t believe in an afterlife. African-American spirituals, however, show us how much hope and meaning can come from faith, even in the midst of suffering.

2. The foundation for justice

The songs of slaves often spoke about the day of judgment, showing a strong belief that God was fighting against their oppression and that one day justice would win. These songs, based on the idea of natural law, upheld the idea that God’s law is higher than any human law. This inspired people to seek justice and peacefully stand up against unfair laws. The idea of a day of judgment also discourages personal revenge, encouraging trust in God’s ultimate justice.

3. The promise of peace

African-American spirituals gave people hope, a reason to fight for justice, and a promise of peace, turning lives that felt worthless into lives of importance. These songs portrayed heaven as a place of honor and reunion, emphasizing that our personal identities will remain, unlike in some Eastern philosophies. These songs weren’t just symbols, they were seen as literal truths that give us a glimpse into God’s plans and inspire a yearning for a future free from injustice and suffering.



The Freedom of Hope

By Tim Keller

The Culture of Pride

By Tim Keller

The Wounded Spirit

By Tim Keller

May Book Offer

Share the reason for the hope within you!

In The Reason for God, Tim Keller examines literature, philosophy, real-life conversations and reasoning to present how faith in Christ is a sound and rational belief with intellectual integrity.