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The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism Paperback – August 4, 2009
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-The New York Times
"In a flood of bestsellers by skeptics and atheists...Keller stands out as an effective counterpoint and defender of the faith. The Reason for God makes a tight, accessible case for reasoned religious belief."
-The Washington Post
"It's a provocative premise, in pursuit of which Keller...takes on nonbelievers from evolutionary biologists to the recent rash of atheist authors."
-The Boston Globe
"Reverend Tim Keller [is] a Manhattan institution, one of those open urban secrets, like your favorite dim sum place, with a following so ardent and so fast-growing that he has never thought to advertise."
-New York magazine
"An intellectually compelling case for God."
"I thank God for him."
About the Author
Timothy Keller was born and raised in Pennsylvania and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. His first pastorate was in Hopewell, Virginia. In 1989 he started Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City with his wife, Kathy, and their three sons. Today, Redeemer has nearly six thousand regular Sunday attendees and has helped to start more than three hundred new churches around the world. He is the author of The Songs of Jesus, Prayer, Encounters with Jesus, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, Every Good Endeavor, and The Meaning of Marriage, among others, including the perennial bestsellers The Reason for God and The Prodigal God.
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Tim doesn't try to "prove" Christianity or that God exists- no one can do this. But he makes excellent, well articulated and reasoned arguments for why it is reasonable to believe in God. If you are looking for theology, this is not your book (this book is much more philosophical if anything). But if you are looking for a book that argues the rationale for belief in God from a reasonable perspective, this is your book! Very highly recommended!
Preference: Tim starts off with a strawman of an atheist, “To be a secular person – to believe, for example, that there is no God…” Yes, an atheist may believe there is no god. However, the majority of atheists lack a belief in a god. Or a better way to say it is they cannot accept the claims made by humans that a god exists; in most cases due to lack of demonstrable and verifiable evidence. Here are the definitions of faith: Complete trust or confidence in someone or something OR strong belief in a god or the doctrines of a religion based on spiritual apprehension rather than proof. I have neither of these, so I do not have faith. He has now clearly set up a strawman so he can argue against and defeat that strawman. In this case he wants his readers (mostly Christians) to believe that non-believer has some kind of faith, when in fact most do not.
Intro: Here is a quote from Tim: “But even us believers should learn to look for reasons behind their faith, skeptics must learn to look for the type of faith hidden in their reasoning. All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs. You cannot doubt Belief A except from a position of faith in Belief B. For example, if you doubt Christianity because “There can’t be just one true religion,” you must recognize that this statement is itself is an act of faith.” First, I do not doubt Christianity for the reason he gave. I doubt Christianity because Christians have failed to provide sufficient evidence for me to believe.
Part 1: The Leap of Doubt:
1. There can’t be just one true religion: I would never make this claim. Each religion is required to provide sufficient evidence for belief. So far, I have found none that can meet their burden of proof.
2. How could a good god allow suffering: A good human would attempt to elevate unnecessary suffering of other humans. If there were a god, it should be held to the same standards. In reality, suffering happens for many reasons and we humans must simply deal with it.
3. Christianity is a straightjacket: This section does not apply to me. It talks about absolute truth being the enemy of freedom. This chapter is really about absolute morality. All morality is subjective at some level. We humans have shared morals because we understand what it feels like to be human. So we know what gives us pleasure and pain. We can understand that other humans feel the same way. So we understand the potential benefits of giving pleasure and the potential consequences of causing pain. That is the baseline of human morality; human wellbeing (an to a lesser extent animal wellbeing). Ultimately Tim can not demonstrate absolute morality exists.
4. The church is responsible for so much injustice: People cause injustice; the church is just a group of people. This is not relevant to demonstrating the claims made by Christians or the bible are factually accurate.
5. How can a loving god send people to hell: First, this one makes a lot of assumptions such as, a god exists, a soul exists, there is such a place as heaven, and there is such a place as hell. All of these claims must be demonstrated to be true and there is no use in speaking any further about theoretical eternal suffering or bliss until we have proof of the existence of the above mentioned.
6. Science has disproved Christianity: Science does not have an agenda to disprove religion. However, there have been demonstrable and verifiable scientific findings which conflict with information presented in the bible. Tim does into how scientists have a bias against the supernatural. Here is the issue; we have absolutely no way of investigating anything genuinely supernatural, therefore we humans have no means of differentiating between a claimed supernatural event and something that does not exist at all. Theist who claim supernatural occurrences have happened must demonstrate that actually supernatural occurrences happened. So far no one has been able to demonstrate a genuine miracle; we currently only have unverified claims.
7. You can’t take the bible Literally: Here Tim attempts to prove the factually accuracy of the bible by appealing to history. I agree that there are actual places, landmarks and people mentioned in the bible. However, history alone cannot prove miracle claims actually happened. For example: we have information written by historians about Alexander the great. We also have additional cooperating evidence such as many coins with his image, sculptures of him by several artists, monuments and cities named after him, and accounts written by others (both allies and enemies). We can accept he was a real person with a high degree of confidence based on this evidence. However, we should NOT accept the claims that he was born of a virgin and his father was a god. This extraordinary claim requires a much higher standard of evidence to prove it is true.
8. The Clues of God: Here comes the standard apologetics: 1. The first cause or cosmological argument. Why there is something rather than nothing. If you are claiming a god did it you must demonstrate that god exists. 2. The fine-tuning argument. Again, if you are claiming an entity did the fine-tuning you must demonstrate that entity exists in some demonstrable way. 3. The laws of nature argument. Yet again, if you are positing a god you must demonstrate it exists. 4. The argument from beauty. Beauty is subjective and is an emotional reaction. What one person finds beautiful another may not. If you are stating a god created beauty you must demonstrate that god exists. 5. The existence of cognitive faculties. Our current understanding would be evolution. However, if a god did it, please demonstrate that god exists. 6. Tim goes on to claim that we all have an “unfulfillable longing” or “innate desire” within us which cannot be satisfied here in the real world and states it is a clue for god. This is simply an unjustified, and extremely vague, claim. Tim, please demonstrate what this longing is and how it connects to a god… and then prove that god exists.
9. The knowledge of god: Tim is claiming our morals come from god. Yet again please demonstrate your god actually exists.
10. The problem of sin: Humans do things that others consider to be immoral (not in the best interest of human wellbeing). Yes this is true and we potentially face real world consequences for these actions. In order to demonstrate sin exists you must demonstrate there is a god who created divine laws which we broke.
11. Religion and the gospel: Here Tim uses the claims made in the bible to attempt to prove the claims made in the bible are true. This is circular reasoning. Tim claims that Christianity is not a religion because Jesus claimed to actually be the way of salvation himself. This does not follow. Tim must demonstrate the Jesus described in the bible was a real person as well as a supernatural being. Can he do that? He certainly does not do this in his book.
12. The (true) story of the cross: This chapter is about why Jesus had to die for god to forgive man’s sin. Tim has not yet demonstrated that Jesus was a supernatural being, a god exists and sin exists.
13. The reality of the resurrection: Here is a quote from Tim “…if you disbelieved the resurrection you then had the difficulty of explaining how the Christian church got stated at all.” Nope. It started just like any other religion. Someone convened them a god (or gods) existed, they believed, then they got organized. This one is ridiculous because there have been thousands of religions. They all started in a similar way.
14. The Dance of God. Here Tim tries again to make Christianity should special because they have a triune god. So what! There have been religions with an actual single god (Judaism for example) and religions with many gods (Greek). Just because you claim you have a single god that some how is really 3 gods does not make the claim true. You must demonstrate this claim is true.
Epilogue: Not much more to say here. Mostly just preaching to Christians.
This book contains no actual evidence for the existence of a god or for any of the supernatural elements contained in the stories found in the christian bible. I find it a bit sad that all of the christian apologetic arguments simply fail. I found nothing new in this book that I haven't read in other christian apologetic books. Although these types of books are not written for skeptics, atheists or people who adhere to other religious beliefs because these people would most likely not find any of the information convincing. These books are written as christian propaganda for christian believers to bolster their "faith."
Please forgive any typos.
Some have commented on how little Timothy Keller addressed evolution, and the fact that he comes out in favor of what many would call Theistic Evolution. While I disagree with Timothy Keller's position on evolution, I would not consider his position a test of whether he is a Christian or not, since he still affirms that God created our world and the rest of the Universe.
I greatly enjoyed Timothy Keller's answers, and feel this is a book I may want to read again sometime in the future. It really gave me a lot of food for thought, especially in terms of how people's everyday choices and behaviors either draw them closer to God and Heaven, or push them farther away from God, and toward Hell. I've been challenged to look at my own Christian life - even after following Christ for 40 years.
I strongly recommend this book to anyone who is open to considering the claims of Christianity, and to hearing out how common objections to Christianity can be resolved in a manner that 21rst century people can understand.
Top international reviews
I think he relies a little too much on C. S. Lewis for quotes. Although Lewis' reflections on Christianity are profound, Keller's book would have more credibility if he used a wider range of sources.
Also, I was disappointed that he didn't address one of my big 'issues' with my Christian faith: what happens to the souls of those who never had the chance to hear the Gospel?
Some chapters are weaker than others, but overall this is a fantastic resource and is highly recommended to Christian or those who are seeking (sceptics are likely to feel affronted as Keller is quite critical of the secular mindset!).
At the same time, I do feel that Keller neglects or significantly underplays some key features of the evidence for the truth of Christianity, and I would have liked to have seen some more discussion of the miraculous elements in the Bible, some more examination of the nuances of the historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection, and some more consideration of contemporary Christian testimonies about the supernatural. I feel that a book which also included those things would be more complete. It is one of my ambitions to write such a book.
Is well written and covers a broad selection of premises against religion and the Christian faith.
Though this book is chiefly written for unbelievers, it is immensely useful for believers too. Keller puts forth counter-points to many of the assertions/doubts that come against belief in God in general, and then puts forth the reasons for believing that the message of Christianity is the true revelation of God. The believer will be equipped better able to deal with the honest questions that come from friends, family etc in a way that is not unattractively dogmatic, but by making the inquirer see for himself or herself the problems and inconsistencies of their viewpoints. The reader is then equipped for demonstrating that the Christian message is the revealed truth from God in a way that assumes no knowledge of Christianity and with frequent, helpful references to the popular and cultural world in which we live.
But it shouldn't be seen solely as an apologetics book. It refreshes the mind and heart of the believer. The chapter on the forgiveness is one of the best, where, after building on more personal illustrations, Keller eloquently describes the substitutionary nature of Christ's death, and one is truly drawn into seeing the divine transaction take place. In that description he shows that the Christ had to be God-incarnate, and the illustrations used will be helpful when answering the door to knocking Jehovah Witnesses.
A fair criticism within Christianity is that people build their altars but have no fire, and there are others who seek the fire but without building a solid altar: namely that there is either knowledge or passion. This book will help with both.
Timothy Keller seems to be able to answer these calmly, logically and reasonably in a way that leaves me thinking, 'Of course that makes perfect sense'.
He also manages to do this without belittling the fact that people do have these questions and he says that Christians should not get all defensive about answering these questions but see them as legitimate and in need of answering.
Complicated to follow some of the time ( straightforward most of the time ) but these are big questions so what should we expect.