Archive for the 'Book Review' Category

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.