Go to the nearest Barnes and Noble and take a stroll through the section of Bestsellers. You might be surprised to see so many books that are hostile towards Christianity (or theism in general). Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion and Christopher Hitchens’ God is Not Great (among others) are flying off the shelves, telling readers that “religion poisons everything.”
Thankfully, today you might find Timothy Keller’s new book on the shelf as well: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.
Keller pastors Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, one of the strongest church-planting congregations in the United States. The subtleness of Keller’s preaching style translates well into book form. The Reason for God exudes warmth in its simple and understated style, a manner of writing that stands in stark contrast to the exaggerated antics of Keller’s atheistic foes.
The Reason for God is divided into two halves. In the first part (provocatively titled “The Leap of Doubt”), Keller takes six common objections to Christianity and unmasks the hidden assumptions behind each. For example, in the chapter on religious exclusivity, Keller takes the criticism that “there can’t be just one true religion” and shows how the hidden assumption behind this criticism is actually exclusive and arrogant. Keller charts a similar path with other common objections (the problem of evil, the injustice of the church, the compatibility of religion and science, hell, etc.).
In the second half of the book (“The Reasons for Faith”), Keller makes his case for Christianity. He explains with how we can know God, he defines sin, and he lays out the differences he sees between “religion” and “the gospel.” Particularly helpful are his chapters on the cross and resurrection. The result is a terrific case for the importance of faith in our world today.
The Reason for God is bound to upset many people. The radical atheists will most likely respond with harsh invectives towards Keller and his reasoning. Some Christians will shudder at the ecumenical “mere Christianity” that Keller advocates in the book. Others will not appreciate the way he wears his Protestantism on his sleeve, especially in the chapter on the cross.
In making his case for Christianity, Keller walks a fine line between avoiding denominationalism altogether and promoting his own denominational distinctives. Personally, I think he avoids both extremes quite well. In the final chapter, Keller encourages people to join the church (which he compares to the ocean – enormous and diverse). Some may quibble with the fact that Keller does not make the case for conservative Protestantism, but perhaps Keller’s Reformed theology is coming through here, as he trusts in the sovereignty of a God who will lead his people to right belief and practice.
I look forward to using The Reason for God as a reference in my conversations with skeptics, in my teaching a class of 20-somethings, and in my own personal struggles with faith and doubt. The Reason for God will most likely be judged a “classic,” a book that resembles Mere Christianity and other apologetic works that have impacted the Christian church. Pick up this book and read it. Better yet, buy several copies and start giving them away. You won’t be disappointed.
written by Trevin Wax © 2008 Kingdom People blog