Saturday, 30 June 2012

An Answer to Sceptics (Book Review)

The Reason for God
Timothy Keller 
(Buy on Amazon)

The subtitle for this book is 'Belief in an Age of Scepticism' which pretty much sums The Reason for God up. Tim Keller, a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in Manhattan, New York, tells in the introduction of how his move to plant a church in inner city New York was ridiculed by those around him; that no one in Manhattan is bothered about religion. Those who generally live in this area are single, career-orientated people, sceptical of the traditions of Christianity, but Keller has now a 5000+ strong church there and this book is a testament to how that was achieved.

Split into two parts, The Reason for God first addresses the many objections to Christianity Keller has been met with over the years from sceptics in NYC, including 'how could a good God allow suffering?', 'science has disproved Christianity' and 'you can't take the Bible literally'. Keller gives an answer to each of these using his personal experiences, quotes and teachings of philosophers and theologians of the past and the themes of the Bible itself. Some arguments are stronger than others but each is very logical and persuasive. After all, many have asked these questions to Keller in the past and are now a part of the church in Manhattan!


The second half of the book then puts the emphasis on Keller as he attempts not just to answer the sceptics but to give sceptics a reason to believe.  Chapters such as 'The Clues of God' and 'The Reality of the Resurrection' put forward some great points and arguments using similar methods as before but using much more theological language, as you might expect.  Keller ends the book with a very useful epilogue 'Where Do We Go from Here?' with some guidance on responding to what he has been talking about throughout the book and writes in a non-patronising yet to the point way.

I would have liked to see some more Biblical quotes in The Reason for God, especially in the second half, but Keller knows the audience he has really intended this New York Times best seller for: sceptics of Christianity.  Bible quotes would not be useful for this audience so Keller is very clever in coming through this book from the right angle to reach his audience.  The book is useful for Christians too in helping work through doubts they may have and even helping them reach their unbelieving friends and family who also have those doubts.

This is not to say that Keller doesn't use the Bible in The Reason for God (the Bible is how he has come to these conclusions) and he has written other literature which is intended more for the Christian.  One I have come across, which I would definitely recommend, is The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness (available from 10ofthose.com), and there are more around from this godly man.

The Reason for God is informative and persuasive and a very good read for believers and seekers alike.  As Rick Warren says in the quote on the front cover of my copy, it is a great book for 'serious spiritual seekers or sceptics'.