Lee's Reviews > The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

The Reason for God by Timothy J. Keller
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U 50x66
's review
Mar 11, 2009

it was ok
Read in March, 2009

I didn't get this book to try to refute it. I was actually as excited to get it as I am with any non fiction book. The introduction was great and I thought it was going to be a good read. It's about 10 pages or so and I thought it was really well written.

Then starts the doubts and questions he has received and his reasoning against them. The questions are great ones that are very typical, so it's not like he's throwing himself softball questions. Another good point. To me a lot of these made sense, and I was starting to like the organization of the book, I could see how it could almost be used as flowchart to convince a skeptic.

But then I started seeing repetitiveness, and then some outright flawed logic, and then even MORE flawed logic. The repetitiveness was his circular logic. A lot of his stances boiled down to "I know you are but what am I". You call me arrogant for thinking I have all the answers, but you thinking I'm wrong implies that you have a better vantage point than I do which is in itself arrogance. I think there's a bit of truth in that, but not to the extent he does....there are specific examples in the book that I could list that the reasoning was SO flawed as to be laughable.

So yeah, I was excited to read this book and was left feeling disappointed.
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Reading Progress

03/25/2009 page 40
13.65% "So far, I can really see this to be a flowchart to convince a skeptic, but there are some glaring holes in the logic...."
04/06/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-10 of 10) (10 new)

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message 1: by Neal (last edited May 13, 2009 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neal I agree wholeheartedly. His logic at times made me laugh out loud, and I'm not being hyperbolic. Especially his straw men, which seem to pop up in every chapter.

Happy reading!

Zachariah Couldn't you guys post specific instances of flawed logic?

message 3: by Neal (last edited Oct 09, 2009 04:57PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neal Sure. A perfect example of the straw man logical form I am referring to is in Chapter 7: "You Can't Take the Bible Literally." Let's understand what that means. To take the Bible "literally" would, in a strong sense, mean to take everything in its most literal sense. The parables of Jesus then should be taken to be actual stories of true historical events. I don't think anyone legitimately thinks that, but that's what it would mean in a strong sense.

In a more "weak literalism" it might mean to understand that the Bible is not, in the Greek, Roman, and Norse senses of the word, "mythology," or, as Keller calls it, "legend." A legend is something we know to be false because of the claims it makes and our intuitive understanding of stories' inherent truth value. Keller claims that we can "take the Bible literally" because it isn't a "legend," which means that it is "historical."

Let's look at the logical form of that:
1. Something that is a legend can't be taken literally.
2. The Bible (for the reasons he gives) isn't a legend.
Conclusion: We can take the Bible literally.

It makes sense prima facie (at first glance, or on the face of it). But let's look deeper.

What does Keller mean by "legend" in the first sense? He means that the books of the Bible (more specifically, the Gospels) are not a myth. He says that anything that's not a myth can be taken "literally." By literally, he means "historically."

But can anything that is "not legend" be "understood historically?" On the face of it, maybe. But just because something isn't a "legend" doesn't verify the historicity of the stories in question. In other words, the simple fact that we can argue that the Gospels are not myths does NOT entail (or "logically necessitate") that they are historically accurate. It's flawed logic. More specifically, it's a kind of straw man argument. Keller claims that people are claiming that the Bible is a legend, when in fact the more accurate statement is that people are claiming that the Bible is not totally historically accurate. Are there accurate stories in the Bible? Probably. Are they ALL accurate, as Keller would like us to believe? Probably not. And his logic does nothing to prove otherwise.

I hope that this helps. I also hope you don't think I was being polemical. Just trying to clarify in regards your question. Let me know if I can clarify anything else. Also, I would suggest a different book, more "logical," more rigorous intellectually, and far more cogent: "There is a God" by Antony Flew.

Zachariah No, that was a great response.

I haven't read far into the book. But isn't he sort of going for a wide audience, the common Joe, and doesn't that almost demand a superficial dealing with topics?

I added Flews book to my list. It seems like less people like it than this one...
When I first saw Antony Flew, I thought, "Isn't he dead?" Because I'm pretty sure I read him in Philosophy, but I see he's not.

message 5: by Neal (last edited Oct 09, 2009 06:14PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neal Haha. No, he's not dead. He's an octogenarian though, so he's certainly old. I see what you mean about trying to appeal to a wider audience, but logic is logic is logic, if you see what I mean. Logic to wide audiences or to narrow ones is still logic, and if it's wrong in one it can't be correct in the other.

It would be akin to saying that 2 + 2 = 4 if you know what you're talking about, but if you don't know what you're talking about, then it's okay for 2 + 2 = 5. In that sense, logic is like math, it's either correct or it isn't. The difference between math and logic is defining your terms. In my example in my response earlier, the confusion is over the definition of the words "legend" and "literally." In math, 2 = 2 = 2. No ifs, ands, or buts about it. No way to argue that 2 + 2 does not = 4.

You can argue that Keller's logic is sound, but in all honesty, it isn't. He's giving us a straw man, one which is easy to tear down, not a sound logical defense of the Bible. I realize I didn't give you a recommendation for a book defending the Bible's validity as a historical document, but one for the existence of God. Honestly, that's due to the fact that I don't know of a good book defending the Bible as a historical document. That doesn't mean there isn't one, just that I haven't found one yet.

I am going to read F. F. Bruce's "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?" very soon, and I will try to post a review of it when I'm finished, but I've got so much reading on my plate right now, that it won't be for a little while.

I hope that helps to clarify a little bit more. If you've got any more questions, please don't hesitate to ask.

Neal Also: I just noticed that you added "The Analytic Theist" to your list. That's a great book. It's not "superficial" in any sense. It's a very rigorous, robust account of many very important ideas in the philosophy of religion from a leader in that field, Alvin Plantinga. But it's heavy hitting, so I wouldn't jump into it if you haven't had any philosophy background. He gets into metaphysics and epistemology early on, so if you aren't at least a little familiar, it might be difficult to get through.

message 8: by Neal (last edited Oct 09, 2009 06:37PM) (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neal I've seen that one, but I've read several very negative reviews of it. They claim that he clearly ignores evidence that he himself even adduces. They also claim that he is more than just a little biased, which is evident when his conclusions and his evidence are incommensurate. I've considered it, and I may still read it, but I would need to hear something very positive to convince me that it is worthwhile.

message 9: by Jason (new)

Jason I don't think you quite understand what a parable is.

WRT to taking the bible literally, I would say, as an active, practicing Christian, there is quite a lot that can be taken literally as historical events recorded by the varying authors of the Bible. Parables however, are by definition stories. In a sense, it's like saying Aesop, who we can agree is a real person, wrote a book of fables and you can take them literally as actual historical events.

On the whole, I don't grasp in the least what you're getting at. You talk a lot about logic, but in the end, all you're saying is that you can't follow what he's saying, so it's not logical, and therefore it's a straw man argument and can be safely ignored.

So, in closing, I find you're using a weak form of argument known as 'Ad Hominem'.

message 10: by Neal (new) - rated it 2 stars

Neal Hey Jason,

I appreciate you responding to my comments. I think that you may have misinterpreted what I wrote, or perhaps what I wrote was simply unclear. Let me attempt to clarify.

I was attempting to point out that Keller only says that the Gospels are not legend, but that *that* particular fact does not entail that the Gospels *are* historically reliable. In other words, just because the Gospels aren't legends, that doesn't mean that we can assume that they are historically reliable documents. I am *not* saying that the Gospels *aren't* historically reliable, only that Keller's logic does not prove that to be so. He commits the "straw man" fallacy by claiming that the aforementioned is sufficient logic/evidence to claim that the Gospels are historically reliable documents.

I apologize if that was not clear. I wish you the best.


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