Timothy Keller: The Reason for God

Updated by Edna Davidsen ∴ Wednesday, April 12, 2017

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“We have come to a cultural moment in which both skeptics and believers feel their existence is threatened because both secular skepticism and religious faith are on the rise in significant, powerful ways. We have neither the Western Christendom of the past nor the secular, religionless society that was predicted for the future. We have something else entirely.” (Timothy Keller: The Reason for God)

Timothy Kellers quote from The Reason for God is spot on. We have something else entirely, he says. After I had read the book, I got a clear picture, what this ‘something else entirely’ is. An online discussion on a Christian forum caught my attention the other day.

A book review of a book with the best arguments from Christians and Skeptics.
A book review of a book with the best arguments from Christians and Skeptics.

Alex and Dr. Greg Bahnsen

Alex, a young Christian man, said: “I see very few old people who have any interest in debating the 'big' philosophical questions, such as free will, the theory of knowledge, metaphysics, and so forth. Other than my grandfather, who was a philosophy professor at UCLA, I can barely name anyone above forty who's willing to have a friendly, off-hand discussion on philosophical topics. It seems to be a thing for young people. Would your experiences confirm or deny it?” Another participant in the discussion, Dr. Greg Bahnsen, replied: “I would agree. I think this largely has to do with our public education system. Philosophy is seldom if ever taught. We're taught to know facts and memorize them, not to account for our worldview and its implications.”

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A Book for Alex and Dr. Greg Bahnsen

I think The Reason for God is a book for Alex and Dr. Greg Bahnsen. They’ll enjoy Timothy Keller’s thoughtful off-hand philosophical discussions and accounts for his worldview. For Alex, It’ll be like looking back on when he discussed free will, the limits of what humans can know, and metaphysics with his grandfather. For Dr. Greg Bahnsen, it’ll be an example how philosophy can be used to convey modern Christianity. In a delightful interview with Anthony Sacramone, Timothy Keller talks about why he wrote The Reason for God. He says, he wrote it: “because some people in our church who had come from non-Christian backgrounds and non-Christian families just felt that the stuff they were getting at Redeemer [The Manhattan Church where Timothy Keller is pastor: ED] was so helpful to them and helped them justify their beliefs they wanted it to be more available than it was at the time.” The book’s intention is to assist Christians who come from non-Christian backgrounds justifying their beliefs. Manhattan is a place, where people demand real arguments. The book helps me to address the question: ”how do I witness properly?” With the book, the arguments for Christianity have become more available.

A Gifted Christian Thinker

I’m thankful Timothy K. took the time to write the book. As a Kindle eBook, it has become available to anyone with an Internet connection. Today, people outside New York can enjoy the possibility to tap into T. Keller’s thinking and to understand Christianity, the skeptics, and modern culture. 1. July this year Timothy Keller steps down as pastor. He will still be active in the church community teaching Christian leadership. When the news came out on religionsnews.com Peter Charnley wrote this comment: “I am British and have never set foot in a Redeemer church or met Tim Keller personally. But his writing and preaching have greatly strengthened my own Christian faith over the years. He is undoubtedly one of the most important beacons of the unadulterated Word of God in the modern era. I wish him well and thank him from afar for the work he has done in an age that is increasingly challenging the real Christian message, inside and outside the church, and for the help, he has given me.” Peter Chanley and I are just two of various persons, who have got a strengthened Christian faith by reading some of Timothy K.’s more than 15 books, listed on his website. Peter Chanley is British. He and others can follow Pastor Keller online. He’s on Twitter and Facebook. This enables people outside New York to learn from him, without attending the Redeemer Church.

About The Author

When I read The Reason for God, it was like a face 2 face conversation with a friend. The other day, I saw the movie Paul Blart: Mall Cop. It’s a movie with Kevin James playing Paul Blart, who works as a security officer at a shopping mall. It’s a great movie. Kevin James is one of my favorite actors. When Kevin James plays a role, it’s easy to sympathize with him. He’s straightforward, to the point, and honest. Timothy Keller is a kind of ‘Kevin James’ for me, among Christian authors. I see the same straightforwardness, doubt-revealing honesty and a ‘to-the-point-attitude’ in his writing as I observe in Kevin James acting. Some people have a unique gift connecting with people in their professional life. Timothy Keller and Kevin James have the gift. The Reason for God is relatable and well-structured. The writing style is humble, yet filled with authority that gave me a perspective to understand the points. The author uses two story types to cast a light on points. 1. Stories from church members. The church members are characterized as: • New Yorkers • Living the modern lifestyle a secular place • Postmodern thinking • Attending a diverse, urban congregation The stories from people the pastor has met through his professional life show the need for this book. The book’s material is fueled by the conversation Timothy K. has had with New Yorkers. The church member stories give the book authenticity and enable city people to see themselves through the church members. 2. Stories from the Bible My favorite Bible story in the book is Joseph’s story.Joseph, who was hated by his brothers, imprisoned and sold into a slavery life in misery in Egypt. It’s a story Timothy Keller often brings into conversations about Christianity. He says: “Whenever I preach on this text, I hear from many people who identify with that narrative. Many people have to admit that most of what they really needed for success in life came to them through their most difficult and painful experiences. Some look back on an illness and recognize that it was an irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth for them. I have survived a bout with cancer, and my wife has suffered from Crohn’s disease for years, and we would both attest to this.” (p. 24) The pastoral background enables the author to include the stories historical context. The Bible stories are combined with relevant questions about Christianity today for people living a modern city life. The Bible stories and discussion about the historical context gives the book an extra dimension. The dimension shows an author knowing how to convey the Christian message to modern people.

Context: History, Philosophy, and Science

The author draws on knowledge from three main life areas when he sets up the book’s scene: History, philosophy, and science.

History

Keller uses history in two ways. First, it provides a context for the biblical stories, for example when he explains words that had different meaning at the time, the Bible was written. Keller’s knowledge about the Hebrew, Greek and European cultures is impressive. Second, it’s bridging the gap between history and today’s culture, because it’s important according to T. Keller not ”ignoring the cultural and historical distance between us and the writer and readers of the original text.” (p. 110) Timothy K. lays out how the classical ideologies have had an impact on how the world looks today, seen from a Christian perspective. An interesting aspect of the historical context, the author, operates with, is the fact, Christianity grows in many big cities. It’s well-documented, both with references to newspapers and academic papers.

Philosophy 

The book’s philosophical part comes from Timothy Keller’s view on Christianity and the world in general. He puts forth the idea; I should question my beliefs because it’s a way to get a solid foundation for the faith. The approach requires an openness and honesty concerning doubts from me. Sometimes I think “how do I stop questioning everything and just have faith?” Keller suggests another path. Embrace the doubt instead. On the other side of the doubt, it’s possible to justify belief in a stronger form. In the book, the author reveals how he went through the process himself. Timothy Keller writes: “During my college years and my early twenties I, like so many others, questioned the Christian faith I was raised in.” (p. 81) The attitude of questioning faith has followed the author until today. It has resulted in a bright and humble attitude towards Christianity and other religions, found in the book. In The Reason for God’s introduction, Timothy K. emphasizes why doubt is substantial: “People who blithely go through life too busy or indifferent to ask hard questions about why they believe as they do will find themselves defenseless against either the experience of tragedy or the probing questions of a smart skeptic. A person’s faith can collapse almost overnight if she has failed over the years to listen patiently to her own doubts (p. 24) The world is filled with smart skeptics today. Unless I do my best to keep up with science and modern thinking, it’ll be difficult to connect with people outside the church community. Furthermore, dealing with doubt lower the fear of losing faith overnight. The book is an attempt to show why, after all, Pastor Keller finds Christianity to be the most reasonable religion, despite the doubts. Timothy K. uses two disciplines from philosophy when he conducts his conceptual analysis, epistemology, and metaphysics. The philosophical discipline epistemology investigates what distinguishes justified beliefs from opinions. The word epistemology originates from Greek epistēmē - it means knowledge. The author uses the discipline to seek the borders of knowledge about Christianity. He questions what I can know about my faith. The philosophical discipline Metaphysics deals with the first principles of things and abstract concepts such as substance, cause, identity. T. Keller uses the discipline of metaphysics to dive into the discussion about ‘a first cause’ found among today’s scientists. The questions often relate to the theory of big bang and discoveries in biology. The book deals with the main objections against Christianity. It does so by using the two disciplines from philosophy to set forth the objections in their strongest form, before evaluating if they are valid. I am meant to draw my conclusions. The author gives a helping hand, as he structures the topics so I can take a qualified stand. The book entails the best arguments from both sides, more than about proving God’s existence.

Science

The most serious objection against Christianity today find their strength and arguments in science. Therefore, it’s important Christian thinkers understand the problems in science, giving rise to the Christianity critic. Without the understanding, it’s difficult to connect and communicate with the skeptics living the modern lifestyle. In the process pushing forward the strongest arguments against Christianity before considering if they are valid, Timothy K. shows he understands the objections. He sets them forth with respect and an open mind. As the author says: “It is no longer sufficient to hold beliefs just because you inherited them.” (p. 24) I must justify my belief. It’s a compassionate approach to understand science first and face the doubts relating to what is the central truth of Christianity? Timothy Keller’s The Reason for God was a pleasure to read because the author combines the academic criteria for documentation with an easy-to-read writing style.See: Tools for Christians in Business. See: About Edna Davidsen. See: Christian Women Entrepreneurs.

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