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The following 20 quotes caught my attention as I read Tim Keller’s important new book, Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical (Viking) [interview | review]. Thanks to Tony Reinke for inspiring the 20 quotes idea.

“To move from religion to secularism is not so much a loss of faith as a shift into a new set of beliefs and into a new community of faith, one that draws the lines between orthodoxy and heresy in different places.” (31)

“The declaration that science is the only arbiter of truth is not itself a scientific finding. It is a belief.” (35)

“It is assumed, not proven, that a God beyond our reason could not exist—and therefore we conclude that he doesn’t exist. . . . Our background beliefs set up our conscious reasoning to fail to find sufficient evidence for God.” (37) 

“Russian philosopher Vladimir Solovyov sarcastically summarized the ethical reasoning of secular humanism like this: ‘Man descended from apes, therefore we must love one another.’ The second clause does not follow from the first. If it was natural for the strong to eat the weak in the past, why aren’t people allowed to do it now? . . . Given the secular view of the universe, the conclusion of love or social justice is no more logical than the conclusion to hate or destroy. These two sets of beliefs—in a thoroughgoing scientific materialism and in a liberal humanism—simply do not fit with one another. Each set of beliefs is evidence against the other. Many would call this a deeply incoherent view of the world.” (42–43)

“The humanistic moral values of secularism are not the deliverances of scientific reasoning, but have come down to us from older times . . . they have a theological history. And modern people hold them by faith alone.” (43).

“If you say you don’t believe in God but you do believe in the rights of every person and the requirement to care for all the weak and the poor, then you are still holding on to Christian beliefs, whether you will admit it or not. Why, for example, should you look at love and aggression—both parts of life, both rooted in our human nature—and choose one as good and reject one as bad? They are both part of life. Where do you get a standard to do that? If there is no God or supernatural realm, it doesn’t exist.” (47–48)

“Why is freedom so important [today]? Why is that the absolute, unquestioned ‘good’—and who gets to define it as such? Are you not assuming a value-laden standard that you are using to critique all other approaches to life? Are you not, then, actually giving a universal answer to the Meaning question, namely, that the meaning of life is to have the freedom to determine your own meaning? Are you not, then, doing the very thing you say should not be done?” (63–64)

“Western societies are perhaps the worst societies in the history of the world at preparing people for suffering and death.” (74)

“It is hypocritical to claim that today we grant people so much more freedom when we are actually all fighting to press our moral beliefs about harm on everyone.” (105)

“Through faith in the cross we get a new foundation for an identity that both humbles us out of our egoism yet is so infallibly secure in love that we are enabled to embrace rather than exclude those who are different.” (147)

“All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.” (166) 

“While there can be moral feelings without God, it doesn’t appear that there can be moral obligation.” (178)

“Modern, secular people [are] in the position of insisting that other people’s morals are constructed yet acting as if theirs are not. In theory we are relativists, but in practice and interaction with those who disagree with us we are absolutists.” (180–81)

“A moral judgment about something can never be made apart from an examination of its given purpose. . . . How, then, can we tell if a human being is good or bad? Only if we know our purpose, what human life is for. If you don’t know the answer to that, then you can never determine ‘good’ and ‘bad’ human behavior.” (186–87)

“[These are] Christianity’s unsurpassed offers—a meaning that suffering cannot remove, a satisfaction not based on circumstances, a freedom that does not hurt but rather enhances love, an identity that does not crush you or exclude others, a moral compass that does not turn you into an oppressor, and a hope that can face anything, even death.” (216)

“If there is no God, then either original matter sprang from nothing, or original matter has always existed without a cause, or there is an infinite regress of causes without a beginning. Each of these answers takes us out of the realm of science and the universe we know. They are nothing short of miracles.” (218)

“If your premise that there is no God leads most naturally to conclusions you know are not true—that moral obligation, beauty and meaning, the significance of love, our consciousness of being a self are illusions—then why not change the premise?” (227)

“Jesus himself is the main argument for why we should believe Christianity.” (228)

“Jesus is one of the very few persons in history who founded a great world religion or who, like Plato or Aristotle, has set the course of human thought and life for centuries. Jesus is in that tiny, select group. On the other hand, there have been a number of persons over the years who have implicitly or explicitly claimed to be divine beings from other worlds. Many of them were demagogues; many more were leaders of small, self-contained sects of true believers. What is unique about Jesus is that he is the only member of the first set of persons who is also a member of the second.” (237)

“In the whole history of the world, there is only one person who not only claimed to be God himself but also got enormous numbers of people to believe it. Only Jesus combines claims of divinity with the most beautiful life of humanity.” (237)

“As long as you do not begin with an imposed philosophical bias against the possibility of miracles, the Resurrection has as much attestation as any other ancient historical event.” (242)


Editors’ note: Keller will be giving several talks at The Gospel Coalition 2017 National Conference, April 3 to 5 in Indianapolis. Browse the speaker list and register soon.

Previously in the “20 Quotes” series: