Thursday, June 05, 2008

The Reason for God

I read Tim Keller's new book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, while I was on vacation last week. Dr. Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and a major influencer of church-planting in urban settings around the world. He has long had an influential ministry because of his church planting residency program at Redeemer, but in this book, you can see why so many people are attracted to his preaching. He is a great writer because he is a great thinker. This is one of the clearest and most gracious books on apologetics that I have ever read.

I loved the book because of Keller's interaction with so many other scientists, philosophers, and authors. I always enjoy reading a pastor who is well-read and uses his brain. But more than that, I enjoy reading a theologian who has a pastor's heart for people and for his city. His graciousness to those who doubt is apparent on every page, while his argumentation is clear and strong.

I really appreciated his insight that every worldview contains faith statements. Even those who say, "I only believe in science," are making a statement of faith, because their statement goes beyond factual observations to conclusions about the metaphysical world. I also really liked his perspective on how we all live like there is a God even if we don't articulate it that way. In NYC, Keller does ministry around many young people who are passionate about poverty and human rights in different parts of the world. Consistently, however, Keller asks these young people what basis they have to argue against injustice and for human rights? Why should the majority not dominate and subjugate the minority as we witness in the animal kingdom? If evolutionary philosophy is correct (not the science, but the philosophy), then the stronger dominating the weaker should be normal, yet it outrages us when we see it. Keller's question is simple: why does it outrage us? What foundation do we have to stand on to say that people have value and should not be treated as animals? Without a belief in imago dei (image of God in man), there is no foundation for these values. See Al Mohler's discussion of this topic - very helpful.

In the second half of the book, Keller moves from doubts to why the biblical narrative of Christianity makes the most sense of the world we live in. I really appreciated that Keller puts the gospel into context in this part of the book. We constantly see that many people say they have made a "commitment to Jesus at some point in their life that is important to them" while they do not adopt a Christian worldview. Keller shows how the gospel only makes sense inside of the grand narrative of the Scriptures - the person and nature of God, the brokenness of humanity, the problem with religion, etc. It is by far one of the best explanations I've read on why the gospel makes prefect sense inside a Christian worldview. Keller's work has challenged me to again rethink evangelism away from "pray this prayer" to trust in the Christ of the NT whose life and death and resurrection mean these things inside the narrative of the whole Bible.

Overall, very insightful read. We have asked some of our neighbors this month to read it with us and come over to our backyard for some conversation. We'll see where it goes.

One more note. If you do read it, don't skip the notes in the back - they contain some jewels, especially Keller's thoughts on Kierkegaard's view of sin as centering our lives on anything other than Christ.

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