So I just FINALLY read The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Tim Keller (which in my circles is like having just traded my Nokia black and white pay-by-month flip phone for an iPhone 5 – I have finally gotten with the times, people). Most people know Tim Keller as the intellectual powerhouse apologist who leads a mega-church in the middle of Manhattan, and that’s essentially what this, probably his best known work, is: an intellectual powerhouse book of apologetics.
Granted, I’ve always been more of a John Piper, R.C. Sproul, and Mark Driscoll gal, rather than a Tim Keller gal. He doesn’t really run in those Reformed circles, though, but rather weaves in an out of them, kind of doing his own thing down there in NYC. I did see him talk at the Gospel Coalition New England conference two years ago (with Piper), and he’s done much work on urban church planting, which is important to me since I’m part of an urban church plant. He’s more apologetics, though, than straight theology, more college lecture than Piper’s passion-preaching, and if he’s a Reformed guy he’s not vocal about it. Still, we started watching some Keller videos in Neighborhood Group, and I borrowed The Reason for God from a friend who’s moving, and since I needed to return it I figured I’d read it!
First, apologetics (which keeps tagging on my spellcheck – no, it is a noun, WordPress). What is it? The word “apology” actually does not mean to say you’re sorry or remorseful, it means to make an explanation for something (so when someone says, “I apologize” you can say, “Oh you’re not sorry, you’re just trying to explain yourself!”). So apologetics is the act of explaining something. A definition from online more explicitly states it as “the branch of theology concerned with the defense and rational justification of Christianity.” If you ever wanted to learn how to defend your faith, read this book.
Keller draws on his years as a pastor of a NYC church and the questions he’s been asked by his congregation to populate the chapters in The Reason for God. The book is divided into two sections: Questions people ask of Christianity, and a layout of the Gospel. Shouldn’t he lay out the Gospel first as a foundation, and then address the questions people have? I believe he did this deliberately: When was the last time you patiently listened to a whole explanation of something when you just wanted your question answered? Ever had someone not do something you asked them to, and then get this big long explanation blah blah blah that you tuned out and then at the end you were like, “So why didn’t you do the thing I asked you to?” We don’t wait through the explanation; we want answers. But once our questions are addressed, and a dialogue has begun, won’t we then have patience for the explanation? Keller does just that. He leaps right into the hard questions of morality, justice, faith, belief, culture, etc., and breaks down arguments and debates in light of a Christian worldview. He essentially debunks relativism (it’s not hard) and gets to the root of where morality originates from. He addresses suffering and the doubts we have about our faith, he looks at the accusations leveled against Christians, such as hypocrisy and genocide, and talks frankly about justice, judgement, and fairness in light of God’s structure and plan.
Granted, this book is an intellectual pursuit. But intellectual Christian books are needed today; if it’s one thing Christianity has lacked, it’s being on a level intellectual playing field with the rest of society. We should be the ones with the answers. We should be the ones who take the intellectual giftings the Lord has granted us and apply it towards reason, logic, and theology. Above all, we should be able to give knowledgeable, inspiring answers about our God, the center of our lives. Trite answers are ineffective at communicating the Gospel, and give a terrible representation of God’s people.
If you’re a Christian, read this: It will help you address the questions friends, coworkers, and strangers have about God and life.
If you’re not a Christian, read this, if you have an open mind to understand what Christianity is all about.
If you’re seeking answers about the bigger, existential things in life, read this.
If you like philosophy, read this.
If you’re an atheist, read this book with a Christian friend and get into some awesome conversations about the content.
Don’t read this book if this kind of intellectual theology is not your thing. You will get frustrated.
Also, don’t read this book if secular questions make you crazy (“Jeez, why can’t people just get it!”). I’ve been there. Pray, humble yourself towards genuinely wanting to engage in the questions others ask in order to love them better and help steer them rightly, and then read this book.
Have you read The Reason for God? Let me know what you thought in the comments!