Monday, August 25, 2008

Review: The Reason for God

Tim Keller's The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism is the perfect title for a book that offers a logical and refreshing apologetic for Christianity.

As Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, a C.S. Lewis fan, and an admitted "egghead" philosopher, Keller has eagerly engaged inquirers, skeptics, strugglers, and critics for many years and is uniquely qualified to write this 2-part book. The first half, entitled, "The Leap of Doubt," tackles seven questions often raised against Christianity:
  • There can't be just one true religion
  • How could a good God allow suffering?
  • Christianity is a straitjacket
  • The church is responsible for so much injustice
  • How can a loving God send people to hell?
  • Science has disproved Christianity
  • You can't take the Bible literally
In short, Keller's answers these questions showing how everyone operates with a world view, even the secularist who claims no religion, and probes the result of such a view. So on the question of a good God allowing suffering, Keller writes:
"People, we believe, ought not to suffer, be excluded, die of hunger, or oppression. But the evolutionary mechanism of natural selection depends on death, destruction, and violence of the strong against the weak--these things are all perfectly natural. On what basis, then, does the atheist judge the natural world to be horribly wrong, unfair, and unjust? ...If you are sure that this natural world is unjust and filled with evil, you are assuming the reality of some extra-natural (or supernatural) standard by which you make your judgment."
Part two, entitled the "The Reasons for Faith," methodically works it way toward Jesus Christ and the hope Christian faith offers:
  • The clues of God
  • The knowledge of God
  • The problem of sin
  • Religion and the Gospel
  • The (true) story of the cross
  • The reality of the resurrection
  • The dance of God
  • Epilogue: Where do we go from here?
The approach in this section corrects common misunderstandings of the Gospel and goes on to present an affirmative case for the Gospel. For example, in the section on religion and the gospel, Keller illustrates the internal difference between the Christian and the moralist:
"Religion operates on the principle 'I obey--therefore I am accepted by God.' But the operating principle of the gospel is 'I am accepted by God through what Christ has done--therefore I obey.' Two people living their lives on the basis of these two different principles may site next to each other in the church pew. They both pray, give money generously, and are loyal and faithful to their family and church, trying to live decent lives. However, they do so out of two radically different motivations, in two radically different spiritual identities, and the result is two radically different kinds of lives."
The Reason for God is an instant classic. As a narrative, it draws you in. As a dialogue, it makes you think and allows you to draw you own conclusions. Above all, it lifts up an orthodox view of God and gives good reasons to believe.

1 comment:

Jack said...

Hello friend,

The logic in the paragraph on the question of a good God allowing suffering seems horribly flawed. Perhaps I'm not understanding it clearly because its one paragraph sitting out of its context, but it seems to make statements and assumptions that simply aren't valid.

A couple quick examples. The natural selection process does not depend on violence of the strong against the weak. That may be one possible facet of survival of the fittest, but I think it is deceptive to add that to a list of things on which natural selection process depends. (And, honestly, "death and destruction" are oddly worded, too.)

And it is a *huge* stretch to say that if an atheist believes there to be significant injustices in the world then s/he inherently believes the world is "full of evil" and therefore assumes the existence of some supernatural standard.

Sure, it seems crazy that we have a world so rich in resources with tremendous disparities between the wealthiest and poorest. But, the fact that we have behaved so badly as a global society doesn't imply the world is "full of evil." And, even if it did, is it not possible to have a definition of evil that exists without assuming the existence of supernatural beings? The author's assumption that the nature of evil necessitates a supernatural being is simply using a hypothesis to prove itself.

Take care, amigo!
Jack