I recently finished the book The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and I must say that I’ve found a new book that I would recommend for skeptics and new believers to read to learn about Christianity. In my journey to Christianity, two books were instrumental in pushing me over the hump and convincing me that Christianity had reasonable answers to some of the most crippling critiques. Those two books were More Than a Carpenter, by Josh McDowell, and The Case For Christ, by Lee Strobel. I would still recommend these two books very highly, but I would urge that people read The Reason for God first.
The reason being is that in this book, Keller presents the case for Christ and Christianity in two parts: The negative case and the positive case. In the negative case, Keller answers the seven biggest critiques that skeptics have leveled against the Christian faith, such as:
- How can Christianity claim to be the one true religion?
- How could a good God allow suffering?
- Christianity is too restrictive
- The Church is responsible for so much atrocity in history
- How can God send people to hell?
- Hasn’t science disproved the bible?
- How can you take the bible literally?
These questions are the general categories for the hundreds of questions that Pastor Keller has fielded in his years of ministry at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in the heart of Manhattan. What I like about Keller’s approach in answering these questions is that he takes them very seriously. In other words, he is willing to engage the skeptics head-on with respect and sincerity. Another thing I enjoy about Keller’s method in this book are the hints of a pre-suppositional approach to apologetics. By that I mean Keller takes the time to detail the opposing position and then demonstrate the logical inconsistencies of that position; thereby showing the Christian position to be the better explanation of the facts at hand.
In the positive case, Keller builds a progressive argument in order to give us reasons for faith. He argues in chapter 8 for the clues of God — several individual arguments for God’s existence, which when taken together, provide a compelling case for God. The next chapter discusses our inherent knowledge of God; that knowledge built in all of us that knows God exists. From there Keller talks about our sin problem (chapter 10), the difference between religion and the gospel (chapter 11), the story of the cross (chapter 12) and the reality of the resurrection (chapter 13). He ends this section with a chapter called the Dance of God, which looks at the overarching meta-narrative of Scripture and the drama of redemption.
It is a very compelling book in ways that the other two I mentioned aren’t. Namely, the other two books (More Than a Carpenter and The Case For Christ) deal more with the evidentiary case for Christianity. “Well, what’s wrong with that?”, one might say. Aren’t we required to make the evidentiary case for Christianity? Yes, of course we are, but evidence is always viewed through the lens of our preconceptions. The battle for faith is not waged by Christians marshaling their evidence to combat the evidence of the skeptics. Christians and skeptics are looking at the same evidence, but each interprets the evidence based on preconceptions and worldview. The real question is which interpretation makes the most sense given the evidence at hand. That’s the main difference between Keller’s book and Strobel’s and McDowell’s books.
As far as logistics go, the book is a quick and entertaining read coming in at 336 pages with plenty of end notes. Keller’s writing style is measured and instructive. He tends to sound professorial, but in a manner that is very approachable.
I give this book my highest recommendation (5 out of 5 stars)! There is a new champion in popular Christian apologetics!