Sunday, March 1, 2009
Book Review: The Reason for God
Sometimes I find an author who makes strong apologetic points, and sometimes I find an author whom I'd really like to meet in person. Sometimes, as here, I find both.
Timothy Keller's The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism is a highly readable defense of the main doctrines of the Christian faith. It is written as a kind of personal letter from one post-modern person to another.
In the introduction, he sets forth his key thesis, which is that we all believe something. He states, "If you come to recognize the beliefs on which your doubts about Christianity are based, and if you seek as much proof for those beliefs as you seek from Christians for theirs--you will discover that your doubts are not so solid as they first appeared." (1).
In Part I, The Leap of Doubt, Keller addresses the following objections to Christianity: 1. There can't be just one true religion, 2. How could a good God allow suffering?, 3. Christianity is a straitjacket, 4. The Church is responsible for so much injustice, 5. How can a loving God send people to Hell?, 6. Science has disproved Christianity, and 7. You can't take the Bible literally.
On suffering, he notes, "With time and perspective most of us can see good reasons for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life. Why couldn't it be possible that, from God's vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them?" (2)
Part II, The Reasons for Faith, Keller discusses, 1. The clues of God, 2. The knowledge of God, 3. The problem of sin, 4. Religion and the Gospel, 5. The (true) story of the Cross, 6. The reality of the Resurrection, and 7. The dance of God.
While Keller is generally accommodating and respectful in his tone to skeptics, he also makes several blunt statements such as, for example, "I think people in our culture know unavoidably that there is a God, but they are repressing what they know." (3).
He also explains why the Resurrection is so significant: "If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead." (4)
The work covers many topics and, for this reason, it does not present a comprehensive discussion of all of them. However, it would not be fair to demanded this of any single volume, especially one of this size. In any event, Keller makes many important and interesting points on each of the topics he addresses.
Also, although I am sure that Mr. Keller is a man of deep personal commitment and faithfulness to God, I do not think the chapter on sin says enough about the struggle against sin and for holiness. For these important topics, an Orthodox Christian will have to turn to the rich heritage of the Fathers.
Overall, I think this work is incredibly powerful and valuable for the post-modern believer and skeptic alike. It should be read (at least twice) by anyone interested in the issues and questions that face post-modern people.
(1) p. xviii
(2) p. 25
(2) p. 146
(3) p. 202