HERE WE GOOOOOOO!!
FIRST EVER REVIEWWWW!!!
“You sure you want to review a Tim Keller book?”
Reviewing a Tim Keller book as a novice is not an easy task. First, why would you review a New York Times Bestseller? Second, as one guy puts it:
“It’s THE Tim Keller!”
Nevermind, I’ll just go with it.
First off, this book was chosen because it has spoken to me deeply. The author repeatedly mentions that this book is for “skeptics” – those who doubt God’s existence. This post however, is not meant to be apologetic but is a fair review of a book that has struck a complex chord in me. I was never a strong skeptic but again it’s always nice to have meticulous explanation of your faith. I bought this book during my “Great North America Shopping Spree”two years ago (you’ll see more books coming up), when I impetuously shopped for more than 20 books and more than half of which are still intact.
Tim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, also one of the founders of The Gospel Coalition. Statistically speaking, he is my favourite author: I have five of his books sitting on my shelf, more than any other authors.(Yes, you’re right, I haven’t read the other four). I follow his reading list and watch some of his keynotes on conferences (e.g. during the 2015 The Gospel Coalition National Conference). He is also an avid fan of C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien.
- Title: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
- Author: Timothy Keller
- Category: Apologetics, faith, skepticism
The book is reviewed in its entirety.
Keller divides the book into two big parts: The Leap of Doubt (Part I) and The Reasons for Faith (Part II). It’s almost like a question-answer setup. In Part I Keller explicates common doubts that skeptics have with regards to Christianity, or “reasons for disbelieving Christianity.” Among those are:
- There can’t be just one true religion;
- How could a good God allow suffering?;
- How can a loving God send people to hell?;
- Science has disproved Christianity.
He does these propositions justice. Most of the times he dissects these doubts and only spends the last quarter of a chapter to make his point that a certain proposition DOES NOT hold. I’ll give you a foretaste: The following are axioms taken from Chapter 1 , There Can’t Be Just One True Religion:
Each religion sees part of spiritual truth, but none can see the whole truth.
To which Keller responds:
How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?
Religious belief is too culturally and historically conditioned to be ‘truth’.
To which Keller responds:
If you insist that no one can determine which beliefs are right and wrong, why should we believe what you are saying?
I can go on to the other chapters, but let’s move to Part II. As the title suggests, this part lists reasons why your faith in a Christian God is a provable one (“there are sufficient reasons for believing it”.) Again, let’s draw samples. My favourite chapter in this part is Chapter 13, The Reality of The Resurrection. It deals with the problem of proving that Jesus did actually resurrect. Keller inserts his classic answer to the doubtful:
If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.
He goes on to arguing why the account on resurrection is too challenging to have been fabricated, listing reasons such as the number of witnesses (as recorded in 1 Corinthians 15:3-6), the fact that the first witnesses were women was not a good way to present a fabricated account, except only that it was indeed true, and so on. Other strong reasons set forth by Keller in other chapters include the story of the Cross and the problem of sin.
Mind you that the book does not solely revolve around Christian works or the Bible. References to secular thinkers are often made. The Notes subsection at the end of the book lists many references to academic scholars. The arguments presented are well-crafted and are well-directed towards the heart of the matter.
To me, the book is an Apologetics 101 textbook for advanced learners. I find the reading a bit too heavy for laypeople, and it implicitly requires you to have some background knowledge on the discourse of atheism. Maybe Keller was aware of this problem, and he has decided to write a prequel to this book. It’s called Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical.
I however, like how the book is set up. The Intermission section in the middle serves as a steady bridge between the two parts, so readers are aware of the connection between the two. He puts the cherry on top with Where Do We Go from Here, which reminds the reader of what motives should be pursued after he/she discovers faith in Christ through the book. I like the confidence he displays; it’s as if he can already see how a person would feel after finishing the book.
Making Sense of God was just released last month. As with any other good series, I strongly recommend you to start with that first before reading The Reason for God (that makes the two of us). If you love the wit of Tim Keller, you might probably want to check out his other books.
How did I do? Please let me know your thoughts!
Outlook: The next review will be on a business book.