Tim Keller’s ‘The Reason For God’

Last week I picked up Tim Keller’s new book A Reason for God. The purpose of the book is twofold. In the first seven chapters Keller addresses what he believes, according to 20 years of pastoral experience in New York, to be the most common objections to the Christian faith. This half of the book was surprisingly not frustrating, and actually helpful. Typically, when I see books with title’s like Keller’s I am confronted with an onslaught of not-so-nostalgic memories of Lee Strobel’s A Case for Faith and other such catastrophes. However, after also having listened to several talks by Keller, I know that he believes in a presuppositional approach to apologetics (revealing the inconsistency in one’s thought according to their own terms), which he models well. Due to his experience, Keller really seems to understand and appropriately address today’s zeitgeist.

He seems able to do this, partially, because he is so well read, which comes across in the number of people Keller cites. C.S. Lewis is on about every other page, but interspersed among the Lewis quotes are top shelf philosophers like Thomas Nagel (someone no Christian knows unless he actually reads philosophy) and Alvin Plantinga, as well as various other theologians, scientists, news journalists, playwrights, et al.

The second half of A Reason for God is composed of seven more chapters giving reasons for faith. I appreciated Keller’s balanced approach to this section as well. Early on in this half of the book Keller says,

How can we believe in Christianity if we don’t even know whether God exists? Though there cannot be irrefutable proof for the existence of God, many people have found strong clues for his reality… (p. 127, my emphasis)

Books in this genre often load the reader down with so many ‘irrefutable’ scientific and empirical facts that once someone finds a way to sink the argument, or reject the empirical data altogether, the Christian’s confidence is shot. However, Keller understands that Christianity does not rest on such arguments and that demonstrable, watertight ‘proofs’ for the existence of God (much less the God of Christian theism) themselves don’t exist. Keller goes on to demonstrate, though, that such arguments can be indicators or ‘clues’ to the existence of God. He says that these clues aren’t immune to philosophical challenge, but when combined and looked at altogether have much more explanatory power if God exists than if he doesn’t. And, after having read what he has to say, his assertion is compelling.

Keller goes on to explain and defend the tenets of the Christian faith- the cross, sin, forgiveness, the person of Jesus, the resurrection and even the new heavens and new earth (and, thank God, there was no reference to anything like the Shroud of Turin). He doesn’t shy away from an explicitly Christian understanding of things and yet explains it in a way that is not overbearing or annoyingly confrontational.

The book was written for Skeptics, but I would recommend it to all. For the Christian, Keller explains a lot of issues from a Christian perspective such as addiction, living morally, freedom, culture, injustice, eternal judgement, etc. And, I believe that already believing Christians, could still learn from and be encouraged by what Keller has to say. For those interested in apologetics, Keller’s book is a must read for a clear example of how to do it. And, for the skeptic that wants to read something other than a caricature of the Christian faith, Keller’s book gives you a real opportunity to reject Christianity on its terms. Understand what you are reading, though. If you are looking for something like Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, you won’t find it here. That is not Keller’s audience. Keller is addressing the popular objections in a straightforward, easy to understand kind of way.

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3 Responses to “Tim Keller’s ‘The Reason For God’”


  1. 1 Justin Catanoso June 11, 2008 at 10:58 am

    While doing research for my own book about a relative who was canonized by Pope Benedict XVI (Padre Gaetano Catanoso), which forced me to confront my own lapsed Catholicism, a priest friend told me:

    “For many people, there comes a time when you just start asking fewer questions because you accept that there are no answers to be had; you have to trust. You search and you search until ultimately, you have to say: I believe. I don’t know if that’s going to happen to you, he told me. You’re a pragmatist. You’re a rationalist. You’re very American. That doesn’t mean you’re doomed. You have to be true to yourself. You have to be honest. But basically, it all comes down to one thing: faith is a gift. Are you accepting the gift?”

    Justin Catanoso
    http://www.mycousinthesaint.com

  2. 2 PhillyChief June 20, 2008 at 8:43 pm

    Keller goes on to demonstrate, though, that such arguments can be indicators or ‘clues’ to the existence of God. He says that these clues aren’t immune to philosophical challenge, but when combined and looked at altogether have much more explanatory power if God exists than if he doesn’t. And, after having read what he has to say, his assertion is compelling.

    First, if anything, it proves people have believed and that they’ve tried to logically prove there’s a god, not that there is one.
    Second, how does a looking at a pile of failed arguments for a god somehow give a clue that there is one? Sounds to me like Hillary Clinton’s rationales for why she should be the nominee despite losing.

    Justin: Your priest friend doesn’t give much of a reason for belief either. Instead he seems to be preying on intellectual fatigue resulting from failure to solve some great questions. If ultimately you say, “I believe”, you’ve simply given up and accepted a non-answer. Essentially what he’s saying is for many people, accepting “I don’t know” won’t cut it, so they take the “gift” of lying to themselves, which he calls being true to yourself and honest.

  3. 3 syinly August 8, 2008 at 7:55 pm

    In College our professor asked us what sex organ did we think God had. Some students were very upset. I was surprised but I realized he wanted us to think. I realized I thought of God as a white male and being a black female that created some problems because of my beliefs about prejudice and race. I think hormones affect Gender more than anything else. Yes some men are better at performing female gender than women and I sure some women are better at performing male gender than men. Appearance( dress and physical) does not make one man or female.


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