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The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

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Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical, is a prequel to The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.

The End of Faith. The God Delusion. God Is Not Great. Letter to a Christian Nation. Bestseller lists are filled with doubters. But what happens when you actually doubt your doubts?

Although a vocal minority continues to attack the Christian faith, for most Americans, faith is a large part of their lives: 86 percent of Americans refer to themselves as religious, and 75 percent of all Americans consider themselves Christians. So how should they respond to these passionate, learned, and persuasive books that promote science and secularism over religion and faith? For years, Tim Keller has compiled a list of the most frequently voiced “doubts” skeptics bring to his Manhattan church. And in The Reason for God, he single-handedly dismantles each of them. Written with atheists, agnostics, and skeptics in mind, Keller also provides an intelligent platform on which true believers can stand their ground when bombarded by the backlash. The Reason for God challenges such ideology at its core and points to the true path and purpose of Christianity.

Why is there suffering in the world? How could a loving God send people to Hell? Why isn’t Christianity more inclusive? Shouldn’t the Christian God be a god of love? How can one religion be “right” and the rest “wrong”? Why have so many wars been fought in the name of God? These are just a few of the questions even ardent believers wrestle with today. In this book, Tim Keller uses literature, philosophy, real-life conversations and reasoning, and even pop culture to explain how faith in a Christian God is a soundly rational belief, held by thoughtful people of intellectual integrity with a deep compassion for those who truly want to know the truth.

293 pages, Hardcover

First published February 14, 2008

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About the author

Timothy J. Keller

394 books4,606 followers
Librarian Note: There is more than one author in the Goodreads database with this name.

Timothy Keller was the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, which he started in 1989 with his wife, Kathy, and three young sons. For over twenty years he has led a diverse congregation of young professionals that has grown to a weekly attendance of over 5,000.

He was also Chairman of Redeemer City to City, which starts new churches in New York and other global cities, and publishes books and resources for faith in an urban culture. In over ten years they have helped to launch over 250 churches in 48 cities. More recently, Dr. Keller’s books, including the New York Times bestselling The Reason for God and The Prodigal God, have sold over 1 million copies and been translated into 15 languages.

Christianity Today has said, “Fifty years from now, if evangelical Christians are widely known for their love of cities, their commitment to mercy and justice, and their love of their neighbors, Tim Keller will be remembered as a pioneer of the new urban Christians.”

Dr. Keller was born and raised in Pennsylvania, and educated at Bucknell University, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, and Westminster Theological Seminary. He previously served as the pastor of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church in Hopewell, Virginia, Associate Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and Director of Mercy Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America.

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Profile Image for Paul Bryant.
2,194 reviews9,458 followers
January 10, 2021
This is book three in my quest to find a good explanation of the Christian faith. Once again, I don't think this book is it. But in mitigation, I can now see that Christianity is so very very difficult to explain without drifting off into shimmery two-shakes-of-Four-Quartets-and-a-dash-of-Revelations language that my heart goes out to these guys who take on this task. Okay, my heart almost goes out to these guys.

Part One of this book is where TK challenges and in his own eyes overcomes seven major doubts which people like me have, such as "there can't be just one true religion" or "how can a loving God send people to Hell". On that point, TK concludes that God indeed is a God of judgement and will send sinners to Hell :

The belief in a God of pure love – who accepts everyone and judges no one – is a powerful act of faith. Not only is there no evidence for it in the natural order, but there is almost no historical, religious textual support for it outside of Christianity. The more one looks at it, the less justified it appears.

Actually, this chapter is frankly not very frank. TK avoids saying who is going to get the big heave-ho. Does he think God will reject all non-Christians, for instance? Even if they're really excellent people? I had a friend once who in all seriousness thought I myself was going straight to hell - me! Inoffensive mild mannered me! It was because of my atheistical views. But he suspected he was also going to hell, because of certain other matters it would not be appropriate to discuss just now. So I wasn't too offended. But he did seem pretty casual about my burning in physical torment for all eternity.

First devil: Yes, of course I believe you when you say you're sorry. You'll have a very long time to be sorry, Mr Reviewer. In fact, you might want to start thinking of some synonyms - "sorry" will get really monotonous. I suggest contrite, apologetic... anyway, you're supposed to be good with words, you'll think of something.

Second devil : This one is too easy to torture, Colin. Can we give him to the new trainee and find somebody more challenging?


I hardly agree with TK about anything, but I give him points for fearlessness and fiestiness. He plunges in and at least asks himself a lot of the right questions. And it would be interesting to discuss the whole book, but these religious reviews are getting way too long. So I'll stick to one chapter.


For me this is always the big one.

TK says, in essence, If you can't figure out why there is evil and suffering, please don't conclude there is no reason. It's because your brain is very small. Be a bit more humble.

If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped the evil and suffering in the world, then you have at the same moment a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you don't know.

So there's a reason why the driver of a bus taking kids home from their skiing trip had a heart attack as he was driving through a tunnel in the Swiss alps this past week so that he drove his bus right into a wall killing 22 children. Well, TK does admit that suffering like this is a genuine problem for the believer. But then he says that actually

evil and suffering may be (if anything) evidence for God

I think it goes like this: the atheists believe in evolution and natural selection, a process which is amoral (lots of suffering and death involved). But then they also believe that suffering is wrong, unjust. Where did this idea of wrongness and unjustness come from?

The non-believer doesn't have a good basis for being outraged at injustice… 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 to make your judgement.

Here is a thread which runs all the way through the book. TK simply doesn't accept that there are such things as secular humanitarian values. He thinks all the atheist humanitarians have got their values from God but are in denial or are just ignorant of the source of their values.

But I look at things differently.

Certainly religion was where moral philosophies were formed and our most profound and ancient ideas (such as the Golden Rule) are necessarily based in religion because until the Enlightenment that was the only game in town. But gradually, by fits and starts, secular education and a scientific empirical point of view formed and over the centuries floated free from its religious moorings. Keller appears to think that if I accept evolution in all its implications then I accept human beings are part of that and are subject to its laws which are the bloody and merciless laws of natural selection. The strong eat the weak and no room whatsoever for compassion - Darwinism is natural untrammelled fascism. But I say that this overlooks two unique things that happened to humans -




And these two remarkable things freed us from being natural Darwinian fascists. Maybe God gave us self-consciousness and language but I think we did that ourselves. By natural selection. Our secular hearts and minds are in the business of self-improvement, they have been for 50,000 years, it's a trial and error thing, they're still doing it, it's unstoppable. So we don't shrug at the latest serial killer and say well, he was a little too darwinian, but still, that's what us mammalian life-forms do, heh! Survival of the one with the most guns!

So that's one strange idea the TK has, that non-religious people should be cool about evil and if they're not then they're crypto-religious.

He returns to this idea later and quoted Arthur Leff :

The fact is, says leff, if there is no God then all moral statements are arbitrary.

I'll rephrase that :

If there is no arbitrarily designated ultimate source of morality then all moral statements are arbitrary.

But actually, he does provide some excellent examples of the uneasiness of morality – such as the female anthropologist who is convinced that each culture is to be cherished and protected and yet works earnestly to improve the conditions of women wherever she goes.

The other idea he has relating to the problem of evil and suffering is one which boggled me. God has an afterlife in store for us in which all the evil and suffering will not only be redeemed but will be made to have never happened in the first place. Or maybe I'm not reading this bit right.

the Bible teaches that the future is not an immaterial 'paradise' but a new heaven and a new earth… resurrection – not a future that is just a consolation for the life we never had but a restoration of the life you always wanted. This means that every horrible thing that ever happened will not only be undone and repaired but will in some way make the eventual glory and joy even greater. … All will be healed and all the might-have-beens will be. …Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost.

So, to summarise, another great old Byrds song which has fabulous harmonies:

Farther along we’ll know more about it,
Farther along we’ll understand why;
Cheer up, my brother, live in the sunshine,
We’ll understand it all by and by

But in the end I didn't dislike Timothy Keller at all, I warmed to him even in his weird-ass contorrrrrted-logic frankly ridiculous stuff about, say, the Bible's views about women. If I ever see him in a bar I'm going to buy him a beer and ask him one more question that's not in this book that's been really bugging me recently. It's this.

Do all the universe's civilisations get a Jesus? In a galaxy far far away was there once – or will there be – an eight-tentacled Jesus? My old granny would have had a conniption fit at the very thought, but the 20 billion people on the Planet ZZGGFZZ need to be saved too, so they should get their Jesus too.

What do you think, Timothy?
Profile Image for Josh Crews.
26 reviews33 followers
March 21, 2008
I was converted from "educated" secularism in 2003. Every objection I had is addressed by this book for my background AND it's done by showing God in Jesus, and Jesus crucified.

When I became a Christian, 3 other books: the New Testament, The Case for Christ, and Desiring God were primary in my conversion. The Case for Christ proves the Resurrection as a historical event. The New Testament self-authenticates itself as God's Word and shines Jesus Christ out to the reader. Desiring God presents that God is zealous for his glory, as he should be, and we humans can glorify him best by being satisfied totally by God and only by God.

The Reason for God would be a perfect 4th book as making sense of the intellectual barriers to faith that have built up in the modern worldview.
Profile Image for Jori.
33 reviews
May 30, 2008
Sitting across the table from a Christian friend, I find myself again and again shaking my head in wonder at our different paths, beliefs and motivations. There are differences between us that I suspect we both pray over in our own ways. Conversations sometimes reach a point where we can only look at each other from a distance as over a river raging with spring melt. We wish to bridge that gap and yet, often, cannot. Still, I want to be engaged in these differences. The antagonism between "sides" that dominates most public discussions related to faith yields too few attempts at mutual understanding and produces even fewer solutions. In my own life, I want to build relationships with "those people" on the other side of so many issues that matter most to me. It was within this context that I was loaned and read Tim Keller's apologia, _Reason for God_. The book is perfect for anyone yearning to listen to a Christian answer to seven fundamental doubts that people express about Christianity (the first part of the book) and to an intelligent and compassionate Christian's defense of his Bible-based faith. I imagine that Christians reading this book might find their own faith bolstered and deepened and so would recommend it to them, too.
Keller challenges non-Christians to doubt their doubts and recognize the unprove-able beliefs (faith) upon which their own relativist/humanist/etcist values rest. It is this challenge that I value most from the book, as well as a stronger understanding of how a Christian might respond to some of my own doubts. As far as whether Keller's reason swayed my own-- we come again to that river between us. If you only knew what I know, if you only read what I read, if you only had the conversations and the courageous, intelligent contemplation that I have had, you would believe what I believe. This is what divides all us believers. I found myself deeply sad at several points in the book where I saw the river grow too wide for any bridge. And I often felt sheer love for Keller's faith and kindness. This is obviously a subjective reading. I am not interested right now in an intellectual debate about faith (like all of us, I've had those conversations) because right now I am just seeking understanding and connection. Is this irresponsible? Intellectually weak? Perhaps. But listening w/ out reacting is where I am in my practice right now.
Profile Image for Ty.
4 reviews1 follower
August 27, 2008
Keller's book came recommended by virtually every thinking Christian I know, billed as the theological answer to recent mass-market agnosticism. Indeed there are many out there who have artfully defended a belief in the Christian God, but Keller does not meet the mark. The first half of his book, written for skeptics, is very soft on logical/rational arguments. His response to evolution (a whopping two and a half pages), for example, is to say that if you pin him down, he believes in the process of evolution by natural selection, but that Christians must accept their faith first, and then move to evaluating foundation-shaking science only after they have positioned themselves beyond doubt. Fine for believers, but he won't win converts from among rationalists with arguments like that. Throughout the book, Mr. Keller applies a thick coat of scholar-like varnish, yet his logic is far from solid oak.
Profile Image for Judith.
1,502 reviews73 followers
April 1, 2009
This is one of those, "Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus" books. i didn't pick up this book to make fun of it. i read it because i would like to hear an intelligent plausible argument for the existence of God. I am sure there is one, but you won't find it in this book. To paraphrase the author: why did Jesus have to die for our sins? Well, if your neighbor accidentally ran into your wall and it wasn't covered by insurance, someone would have to pay for the damages. So even if you forgave your neighbor, he'd still have to pay for the repairs. Thus, God sent his son to pay for the damages of our sins, even though he forgave us. Want more logic like this? Basically God exists because the author just can't imagine how we could have such a wonderful world without God. Why is there pain and suffering? The answer is for Him to know and for us to find out. ( ie., mere mortals can't be expected to figure out the answer.)
Profile Image for Natalie Vellacott.
Author 18 books858 followers
January 6, 2020
"A life not centred on God leads to emptiness. Building our lives on something besides God not only hurts us if we don't get the desires of our hearts, but also if we do. Few of us get all of our wildest dreams fulfilled in life, and therefore it is easy to live in the illusion that if you were as successful, wealthy, popular or beautiful as you wished, you'd finally be happy and at peace. That just isn't so."

"Most people believe that, if there is a God, we can relate to him and go to heaven through leading a good life. Christianity teaches the opposite. Jesus does not tell us how to live so we can merit salvation. He comes to forgive and save us through his life and death in our place. God's grace does not come to people who morally outperform others, but to those who admit their failure and need of a Saviour."

I'll be honest, I'm not a fan of Keller for a number of reasons. However, other Christians who are dubious about some of his other writings have recommended this book. It was a freebie.

The first half of the book is apologetic. Keller tackles the objections raised by non-believers. As an evangelist myself, I can confirm that, with the exception of the straitjacket comment, these are the things people most often raise on the street:

-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

The biggest one of these is the issue of absolute truth vs relativity. Keller spends some time dealing with this. He answers each of the questions thoroughly enough although I would have liked to see a clearer statement that Christians are Christians because they believe Christianity is the truth. If Christianity is true, that Jesus is the only way for us to be saved from our sin, then none of the other religions or atheism can be true because they all say different things. Therefore, logically, they cannot all be correct. It's a simple argument, but it's amazing what a few decades of post modernism has done to people's brains....

Unsurprisingly, I had a few issues with some of his statements. In the section about Christianity being a straitjacket, he suggests that people might think that a relationship with God is inherently dehumanising because God is forcing us to adjust to Him- that there is no way that God could adjust to and serve us. He then suggests that through the incarnation and atonement God has adjusted to and served us:

"God has said to us, in Christ, 'I will adjust to you, I will change for you. I'll serve you even though it means a sacrifice for me."

He then argues that we can and should do the same for God and for others. Maybe it's just the way this is worded, but it feels wrong. God didn't adjust to us or change for us. He doesn't change. He met His own conditions in order to rescue us from our sin knowing it was the only way for us to be saved. He did this out of love for us.

In the section about the church being responsible for so much injustice, he argues that because people who've led harder lives and who are lower on the 'character scale' are more likely to turn to God, we should expect standards of behaviour within the church to be worse than outside it!! He uses the analogy of the health of people in a hospital being comparatively worse than people visiting museums.

Whilst it is true that people may turn to God at a crisis point or when they reach the end of themselves, the work of the Holy Spirit in a person's life should create a visible difference effective immediately. It's also about the way a Christian responds to sin which should be markedly different to a non-believer. If there is more sin in the church than outside it then where is the evidence of the power of God to sanctify and change a person? Where is the public testimony that will draw others? I find this argument by Keller to be beyond bizarre especially as it contradicts a lot of the rest of the book.

In the section on science, Keller reveals that he is a theistic evolutionist believing that parts of Genesis are poetic. Also that he believes in the Big Bang. I don't have much time for Christians that meddle with Genesis as it undermines everything else. (Prof Andy McIntosh from Truth in Science is in my church!) If we have death before Adam in any capacity then why did Jesus die?

In the middle of the book, Keller states that he is making claims about the truth of Christianity in general and is deliberately avoiding becoming denominational or focusing too much on issues that divide the Christian church. However, he chooses to include Catholics in his list of Christians, so not only is he being non-denominational but also ecumenical. This is something I cannot support as most Catholics are trusting in a religion of works in addition to Christ. Keller spends a lot of time elsewhere ensuring readers are clear that we are not saved by works, then ruins all his good work by refusing to be clear.

The second half of the book is better effectively explaining the problem of sin and the Gospel message. The final chapter encourages readers to make a decision or to resolve unanswered questions before it's too late.

In conclusion, this was better than I was expecting. However, there is far too little reference to Scripture (especially in the first half of the book) and too much reliance on quotations from historians, scientists and even atheists. There is no real mention of unbelievers being blinded to the truth so that they cannot believe unless God opens their eyes. Unsurprisingly, there are a lot of angry people that have given this book one star reviews because the "weak arguments" have irritated them without providing the answers they need. Christians must pray that God opens the eyes of these people so that they can see the truth in Jesus.

Not without its flaws but worth a read.
Profile Image for Maxwell.
1,135 reviews8,140 followers
October 16, 2021
Lots of good stuff to think about in this one. Reading this type of Christian non-fiction definitely pushed me out of my comfort zone which was good. I have really been enjoying listening to Keller's sermons, and I think while he has his flaws (who doesn't though?), his way of looking at the world helps me understand my own better. I'm a very logical person. Faith is inherently something I desire but also fight back against. It's hard for me to fathom trusting and putting my faith in something that I can't perfectly explain or articulate. I think a lot of people, believers or otherwise, understand that struggle. It's a life-long journey to accepting that there are thinks we cannot know or ever fully arrive at, on this plane of existence. I think Keller put it best this way:

"The faith that changes the life and connects to God is best conveyed by the word “trust.” Imagine you are on a high cliff and you lose your footing and begin to fall. Just beside you as you fall is a branch sticking out of the very edge of the cliff. It is your only hope and it is more than strong enough to support your weight. How can it save you? If your mind is filled with intellectual certainty that the branch can support you, but you don’t actually reach out and grab it, you are lost. If your mind is instead filled with doubts and uncertainty that the branch can hold you, but you reach out and grab it anyway, you will be saved. Why? It is not the strength of your faith but the object of your faith that actually saves you. Strong faith in a weak branch is fatally inferior to weak faith in a strong branch."

What I can do, though, is continue to try and strengthen my faith while also recognizing it's not ultimately about me at all. This book simultaneously confirmed and challenged my beliefs, and I'm happy to have read it!
Profile Image for Jim.
1,789 reviews61 followers
November 9, 2015
I was really disappointed by this. I actually picked it for a group read with some friends, having read Keller before and been impressed by him. I wasn't impressed with this.

The full title of the book is The Reason for God: Belief in the Age of Skepticism. And the back suggests that Keller "addresses the frequent doubts that skeptics...have about religion." And goes on to say that "Keller explains how the belief in a Christian God is, in fact, a sound and rational one." And then, "to skeptics, atheists, and agnostics, he provides a challenging argument for pursuing the reason for God."

Unfortunately, I feel like he didn't meet this at all. Let me caveat this by saying that I do believe in God. My point here is that, if I didn't, this book wouldn't sway me an inch.

The first half of the book addresses several skeptic arguments. But they are really straw men in comparison to real skeptic arguments. Instead of addressing things like, "I see no evidence to indicate that there is a personal God described in the Bible," he addresses things like "Christianity is too exclusive" and "there can't just be one religion". The more I think about it, the more I feel like he's just trying to argue that Christianity is better than the other world religions. Which is completely different than arguing for the existence of the Christian God.

The second half of the book gives reasons to believe in God. This would be better addressed to evangelicals as Keller's "this is why I believe in God." A couple are somewhat compelling, and might have value to strengthen the faith of someone who is already a believer, but as any sort of proof or evidence, they are a poor apologetic.

Keller starts off in this book on the wrong foot. In the first chapter ("There Can't Just be One True Religion), I counted 6 different logical fallacies alone.

1. Bandwagon. This suggests that something is true because everyone believes it. (It's a fallacy because things need to be argued on their own merits, not because everyone thinks they're true.) Keller states: "Religion is not just a temporary thing that helped us adapt to our environment. Rather it is a permanent and central aspect of the human condition." In other words, I read, it's always been here, it's always going to be here, therefore God exists?

2. Burden of Proof. This one is his favorite. He tries to put the burden of proof on those that do not believe; but the burden of proof is on those that do. If you say unicorns exist, and I say they don't, the burden of proof is on you to prove they exist. If I say "God exists" and you say "I don't see any evidence for God" then the burden of proof lies on me. But he wants to put them in the same camp, as if "believing" God exists and "believing" God doesn't exist are the same thing.

3. Tu Quoque. (Pronounced "too kwo-kwee".) This is the "so are you!" argument. He wants to suggest that Christianity is better, but rather than presenting proof that it is, he just says that "the insistence that doctrines do not matter is really a doctrine itself." In other words, instead of presenting evidence that God holds us to a specific doctrine and way to live and worship; Keller responds that if we don't think he holds us to a specific doctrine, then that's the specific doctrine we believe he holds. Yes, it's very confusing.

4. Generalization. He likes to use this in reference to "secularists" and "atheists." "Skeptics believe that any exclusive claims to a superior knowledge of spiritual reality cannot be true...They believe the world would be a better place if everyone dropped the traditional religions' views of God and truth and adopted theirs." C'mon, Tim - that's not true of everyone.

5. Straw Man. This is related to Generalization in that, if he can generalize atheists enough, he can set up a straw man to knock down. He says, "For example, some think that this material world is all there is, that we are here by accident and when we die we just rot, and therefore the important thing is to choose to do what makes you happy and not let others impose their beliefs on you." I realize he says 'some', but this is a commonly held belief of non-believers by believers: 'Non-believers don't really have morals'.

6. No True Scotsman. This is his second favorite - he does this a lot later in the book, too. But toward the end of chapter 1, he describes a Christianity I would believe in, but don't see practiced, and compares it to other religions. "Most religions and philosophies of life assume one's spiritual status depends on your religious attainments." He doesn't come out and say it, but if I were to argue that I don't think a lot of Christians practice the things he suggests makes a true Christian, he would argue 'That's not real Christianity.'

And that's just chapter 1!

He uses the No True Scotsman fallacy all through the book - describing a Christianity that may reflect the teachings of Jesus, but that do not reflect the actions of the millions of Christians around the world. He makes many statements about all Christians that may apply to a few - but definitely don't apply to the majority of the ones I've known. (For example: Christians don't believe they are saved based on how good they live their lives. Or, Christians know that because they are flawed many people who aren't Christians will be more morally upstanding. I'd like to meet those Christians, Tim!)

He sets up atheist straw men throughout the first half of the book, too. He doesn't address people who have investigated belief in God and come away with the belief that there isn't enough evidence to support the belief in the personal, Christian God. Which to me would be the biggest reason to be an atheist. Not just because "a loving God wouldn't send people to Hell."

In chapter 2 (How Could a Good God Allow Suffering), he suggests that if you think anything is bad or "evil", you are stating a belief in God. His argument seems to go something like this: (1) Evil exists. (2) If evil exists, then good exists. (3) If good exists, it was created by God. Therefore, since evil exists, there is a God. He goes on to quote Dostoevsky, basically saying we should believe in God because it consoles us in our suffering. Nothing in this chapter argues a reason for the existence of God. Just for a belief in God - because it makes us feel better.

Chapters 3 through 7 are just as flawed. Filled with fallacies, they knock down straw man arguments, make generalizations about skeptics, and use an ideal (perfect) version of Christianity in their arguments (rather than the real (flawed) version of Christianity that exists).

The rest of the book are arguments for God. The first chapter of this section isn't terrible, but it is lacking. Looking at the creation, at beauty, this is an argument for Deism, but not necessarily the Christian God. Morality proving God is just a re-work of an old C.S. Lewis argument. The idea that because we need meaning in our lives proves that there is a personal God is a poor argument.

And some of the valid points point toward Deism - but just because you believe in God doesn't mean you believe he did everything that the Bible describes.

And the rest of the points have to do with Christian theology. The cross. The resurrection. Which would all be great things in a book written for Christians about "why Tim Keller believes in the Christian God", but not in a book to prove to skeptics that God exists.

One thing that really bothered me Keller quoting N.T. Wright at the end of chapter 7. They both seem to agree that if the resurrection stories in the Gospels didn't happen exactly in the way they described, then there is no point to being a Christian, following God, or indeed caring for other people. This just seems like really shitty theology. From both Keller and Wright.

And then, finally, we come to the last paragraph of the book. I realize I'm missing the point of this last paragraph; Keller is trying to say that God seeks us. But in this (true according to Keller) story, the person searching for God keeps praying, "God, help me find you." And God continually ignores her. But someone told her to, instead pray, "God come and find me." And then He did.

What I want to say to Keller here is that if you want people to believe in an all-powerful, loving, personal God, don't make Him out to be some sort of petty asshole that ignores people's honest pleas, until they change that to very specific language.

Would a loving God really do that??
Profile Image for Caroline.
503 reviews562 followers
September 6, 2019
I liked this book a lot, because it gives a fundamentalist perspective (primarily based on the idea that the Bible is the literal world of God, or Bible inerrancy)....and it was great to see that so clearly defined. I thought that Keller argued this viewpoint incredibly well.

I couldn't begin to comment on all the points raised in the book, but some major issues concerned me.

Firstly, I was very disconcerted by Keller's insistence that only one of the major religions is right and other religions are wrong.

"If Christians are right about Jesus being God, then the Muslims and Jews fail in a serious way to love God as God really is, but if Muslims and Jesus are right that Jesus is not God, but rather a teacher or prophet, then Christians fail in a serious way to love God as God really is. The bottom line was - we couldn't all be right about the nature of God... "

How about the viewpoint instead that we are all striving to worship God as best we know? Insofar as we all have different traditions can't we accept that God is going to be generous in his attitude towards the fact we are trying, albeit in different ways? Think of the aggression between some of the Sunni and Shia Muslims, or the Troubles in Ireland, or the Mormon missionaries, trying their hardest to convert us to their Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints? I'm not saying for a minute that all religions are equal, but we are all trying to do our best to love and worship God in the way we know how, and surely God is going to be responsive to that good intention?

About suffering, Kellor says that the way we suffer can be paths to growth. "Many people have to admit that most of what they really needed for success in life came to them through their most difficult and painful experiences. Some look back on an illness and recognise that it was an irreplaceable season of personal and spiritual growth for them ....Though none of these people are grateful for the tragedies themselves, they would not trade the insight, character and strength they had gained from them for anything. With time and perspective most of us can see good reasons for at least some of the tragedy and pain that occurs in life. Why couldn't it be possible that, from God's vantage point, there are good reasons for all of them."

"If you have a God great and transcendent enough to be mad at because he hasn't stopped evil and suffering in the world, then you have (at the same moment) a God great and transcendent enough to have good reasons for allowing it to continue that you can't know. Indeed, you can't have it both ways."

Whilst I understand that experiences of suffering can often encourage empathy for other people's misfortunes, and a greater appreciation of the things that matter in one's own life, I just can't accept the idea of a loving and omnipotent God who chooses to allow it on the basis of possible spiritual growth. I prefer an idea I saw discussed by an elder in The Church of Scotland, (Lesley-Anne Weir) who used to be a lawyer. She talks about "natural evil" and "moral evil", terms apparently used in philosophy. Natural evil is things like earthquakes, tsunamis and cancer. Moral evil is people doing bad things. This idea proposes the concept of a non-omnipotent God, one that needs to work with natural laws, so that when s/he created the world had to follow the natural laws of physics and chemistry and so forth, and as a result life is a process which naturally includes both triumphs and suffering. This makes so much sense to me....far more than the idea of an omnipotent God who chooses to allow suffering when it could be stopped - especially suffering on the scale that we see so often see happening in the world.

Kellor also discusses sinning, judgement, and hell - and how Jesus has delivered us from our sins. He also stresses time and time again that we have to give our lives to Jesus. It's not enough to try and live a good life, you have to give him your all. He says we don't give him our lives because we have too, but because we love him so much we want to give everything, and that he will then shape us as he wishes us to be shaped.

As someone who had a very authoritarian father I find it difficult to take these ideas on board as an overarching theme. Not least because there are lots of bits in the Bible talking about judgement and hell for those who don't work their hardest to be good Christians.

Finally, another issue in the book that really interested me was that Kellor also believes that all good moral outlooks are based on religious values. Even if those values aren't acknowledged - for instance we in the West are obviously the product of a Christian tradition, even if we aren't Christians ourselves. I struggle with this. I can't wholly dismiss it in the way that I would like to. As a long time follower of sociological and psychological ideas, I feel I ought to say this is wrong....and yet I feel he has an important point.

Having raised the above issues, I am nevertheless very grateful to this book. It has helped me clarify my ideas. Whilst I totally appreciate that a fundamentalist reading of the Bible is the easiest way to read it, (and I have a lot of sympathy for those who do read it literally....) I am however going to continue to approach it differently - listening to those who have a more liberal understanding of a message written 2000 years ago, in a society very different to the one we live in today. As Keller points out, of course today isn't necessarily "right" in the way we see things, but I truly believe we have made headway in a lot of important spheres.

Finally, to return to the beginning of the book, Keller talks about how Christianity is growing in the developing world....about how whilst Christianity may be shrinking in the West, it is growing exponentially in other parts of the world. "There are now six times more Anglicans in Nigeria than in all the USA. There are more Presbyterians in Ghana than in the USA and Scotland combined. Korea has gone from 1% - 40% Christian in 100 years, and in China Christianity is growing very fast too. "

He adds "And the faith that is growing in these countries is not the more secularized, belief-thin version, rather it is the robust supernaturalist kind of faith, with belief in miracles, scriptural authority and personal conviction."

In spite of Keller's excellent arguments in this book, defending a fundamentalist approach. I feel quite concerned about that.
Profile Image for Dan Brent.
23 reviews3 followers
February 15, 2010
There are much better texts on theology, ethics, belief in a god or gods. When compared to the well educated writings of Bonhoeffer, Kant, Satre, Anselm, Dawkins, Aquinas this book is woefully lacking. I might add, it read as you would expect a privileged and sheltered American new age preacher would write. Anything outside of his "expertise" is met with derision and ignorance. I would be shocked if this man ever saw a Mosque, Synagogue, Buddhist temple, let alone read the works of their major prophets.

The argumentative style would make Plato, Aristotle, and Socrates physically ill. A Freshman in college taking a basic logic of philosophy class can see through all of the arguments from ignorance, appeals to authority, straw men, and slippery slopes.

If you are seeking to further your understanding of religion, of the god debate, I implore you to look of the authors I mentioned prior. If you are looking for more self satisfaction that the religion forced upon you by your parents known as Christianity is perfect, this book is for you. Or if you are a Muslim, Jew, Buddhist, Atheist, Confucian, Native American or Central American looking for confirmation that Christians are simply myopic crusaders, then this book may be for you as well. If you are a professor of philosophy and need illustrations of bad arguments for class, this book is for you.
5 reviews1 follower
March 28, 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.
Profile Image for Amora.
189 reviews142 followers
December 27, 2019
This is good start for Christians who want to learn about apologetics. Keller, articulate as always, uses biology and physics to make the case for God. It’s not the strongest, but it’s something. If you’re looking for more advance apologetics I suggest reading Frank Turek’s “Stealing from God” or Dinesh D’Souza’s “What’s so Great About Christianity.” Another good one is “Bearing False Witness” by sociologist Rodney Stark. All are equally great.
Profile Image for Jeremy.
Author 2 books229 followers
May 21, 2023
Intending for this book to be a modern Mere Christianity, Keller interacts with ideas from philosophers, artists, theologians, authors, and more to show that Christianity really is the best explanation for what we encounter in this world. Read this for a Sunday Morning Bible Class at ECBC. Keller talks about the book here.
206 reviews6 followers
March 16, 2008
Tim Keller's The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (TRG, hereafter) is the result of the many questions about God and Christianity pastor Keller has received over the years during his time at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York. Keller writes in a smooth, conversational tone. He addresses in clear language, 'real' questions from those who have crossed his path over the years, using every day examples to illustrate his points, and he does so with a pastoral heart (which is nevertheless well-reasoned rather that overly subjective or emotional in its appeal to the reader). Pastor Keller is clearly well read, and marshals a number of useful quotes from all sides (e.g., from atheists, agnostics, capitalists, communists, Arminian theologians, Calvinist theologians, authors of the classics, and, of course, lots and lots of C.S. Lewis). The quotes alone may well be worth the price of the book for those pastors who like to use a "As some of your own poets have said..." (Acts 17:28) approach to apologetic preaching (cf. "How does the Gospel Preach in a Culture of Paganism?" by Ted Hamilton, CWIPP lecture, Feb 21, 2007, www.cwipp.org). TRG can be read in a couple of sittings.

TRG comes in two parts. Part one is called: The Leap of Doubt. Keller asks both believers and unbelievers to doubt. Believers should not be afraid to wrestle with their doubts. To find answers rather than ignore them. Struggling with your doubts will make your faith "your own," rather than something you inherit. Believers should look for reasons behind their faith. To the unbeliever, Keller asks them to look into, and then treat with "doubt," the (what he calls) "faith assumptions" which under gird their objections, or doubts, to Christianity. "You cannot doubt belief A except from a position of faith in belief B." Keller doesn't really define what he means by "faith," and I think he's a bit simplistic here. Of course, it is true that beliefs are like potato chips, no one can have just one. So, all beliefs are connected to other beliefs. We should examine all those other beliefs. If this is all he means, fine. One major problem, though, is that he calls these underwriting beliefs "leaps of faith" because you cannot "prove them empirically, nor are they truths of reason" (xvii). But, later he claims that the "clues for God" are not "proofs" for Christianity, they have not been proven empirically, and they are not truths of reason, yet he doesn't want to call them "leaps of faith" (cf. 117-121; 127-28). On the one hand, he calls these unrpovable (in the above sense) "leaps of faith," on the other, he calls them "reasons for God." He seems to hold the unbeliever to a higher standard than he later holds himself to.

Part one proceeds by examining the various doubts people have brought to Keller over the years. The strategy here is to point out that all the doubts rested upon claims that the unbeliever had not thought out thoroughly, or were dubious assumptions, or were self-refuting, or they required an argument otherwise lest deck of cards collapse. This is a fine strategy to be sure. Nothing inherently wrong with it in the least. And, Keller does make some insightful observations, helpfully shinning the light on unexamined presuppositions and unargued biases. This is helpful. The draw back, as I see it, is that he often leaves the debate after pointing out one of these assumptions. He gives the impression of a shallow unbeliever who is stopped dead in his tracks after his assumptions are exposed. Many unbelievers, not just university professors, have thought through their implications more deeply than Keller seems to let on. Therefore, readers will need to do their homework in preparation for dealing with unbelievers. Not all of them will not stop dead in their tracks once you've pointed out their assumptions in the manner Keller does. Thus, Keller provides a good model for dealing with doubts, but you will need some more material to fill in the form.

Keller also takes some positions that will not sit well with many Christians, especially those in his own denomination! For example, he seems to lean socialist in many areas, and he holds to theistic evolution. He also seems to be too hard on Christian throughout history. No doubt we have had our embarrassing moments, but in many cases we can offer sufficient justification for some of the charges. It seems to me that Keller gives to much to the critic in this area, but this isn't to say that his responses are bad, in general. They are useful for generalities, but some specific cases may not warrant his apologetic (not as in a defense, but as in saying sorry) attitude.

Part two presents positive reasons for belief (I said reasons (plural), perhaps the book should have been called "The ReasonS for God."?!), and is called: Reasons For Faith. Keller presents some good arguments here... well, he actually doesn't do much arguing so much as to point you to others who have made the arguments. Nevertheless, he appeals to some good arguments and some pretty good contemporary philosophers, ones I wish more Reformed Christians would read. Besides C.S. Lewis (who is not contemporary but is seen on almost every page, and was nevertheless a asset to our faith), he cites Alvin Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument Against Naturalism, Robin Collins' design arguments, makes reference to Victor Reppert (author of C.S. Lewis' Dangerous Idea, and excellent book in its own rite), Darryl Bock, Ben Witherington, Richard Bauckham (for purposes of Gospel reliability), and N.T. Wright (for purposes of the resurrection). He also appeals to Francis Collins in many areas as well, especially his anthropic arguments.

His approach here he calls "critical rationalism." This basically means that though there is no knock down, silver bullet argument for Christianity, we shouldn't be skeptics about the possibility of knowing that Christianity is true, or rationally believing its claims. He admits that rational people can avoid all the arguments. Nothing rationally compels a rational person to be forced to assent to the argument's conclusions. They can be resisted. All this is fine and good. My major problem with this section is that he gives off the wrong impression. I don't think he's too fair with the opposing side. He will frequently say that an argument can be rejected, and then gives some of the weakest reasons unbelievers have marshaled in support of their denial of that particular argument. This gives the impression that unbelievers only have weak responses. That they hang by a shoe string in order to deny the arguments. For example, he has his unbeliever denying his argument (again, nothing like a robust argument was presented here, but that's not his purpose) from the uniformity of nature by saying, "We don't know why things are the way they are." But, non-Christians have given much more cogent reasons for their belief in the Uniformity of Nature than that! So, the impression is: on the one hand you have these excellent reasons the Christian can give, on the other, puerile, sophomoric responses by the unbeliever. Now, I personally believe the unbeliever is in a bad situation here, and I try to show that given their best responses to the various problems.

I have other problems with this section, but only have time for one more. His treatment on morality is entirely too basic. He seems to have no familiarity with the best of atheistic moral realists arguments, relativists, or non-cognitivists. Or, if he does, he's misleading about the state of the debate. He also makes some blunders which lead me to believer he has not read many non-Christian approaches to ethics. Some mistakes he makes are: (i) no relativist can believe in moral absolutes. Wrong. Subjectivists can. They simply say, since their beliefs on the matter make the moral truths: "I say it is absolutely wrong to rape." Or, (ii) no relativists can believe in an ethic outside themselves. Wrong again. Maybe the subjectivist can't, but the cultural relativist can---the culture exists outside himself and is the objective standard for his moral beliefs. Now, it is true that no relativist can account for universal, absolute, objective ethics (not all ethical principles are absolute, though). He also claims that no atheists can believe in a moral law that exists. Well tell that to sophisticated moral realists (Russ Shafer-Landau, for example). They believe, for example, that moral obligations are necessary truths that come in the form of hypotheticals and thus can have a true truth condition regardless if people exist to instantiate them or not. They believe these are immaterial and eternally existent, just like, say, laws of logic are. And, they don't think they need a "law giver" just like, say, laws of gravity don't need a "law giver" (I happen to think they do, cf. John Foster's The Divine Law Maker, Oxford, 2004)

Despite these problems, which should set constraints on who you give the book to, or who you use its arguments on, it is still a good book. Keller definitely has a heart for the lost, and I think he succeeds in showing people that Christianity has the best answers to some of life's most practical problems and questions. I would recommend his book with the above qualifications taken into consideration.
Profile Image for kelly.
271 reviews1 follower
January 24, 2019
Here’s my three-sentence summary of this book if you don’t care to read the following rant: Keller essentially says, “Yah, Christian beliefs about the nature of things are unprovable, but so are yours. However, our beliefs are still better because they give us reasons to do good, along with warm fuzzies; Yours don’t, see?”

At first, I was happy to read in the Introduction a desire for open-mindedness and respectful dialogue between the religious and the non-religious. Consider his humble plea:

“At the end of the process, even if you remain the skeptic or believer you have been, you will hold your own position with both greater clarity and greater humility. Then there will be an understanding, sympathy, and respect for the other side that did not exist before. Believers and non-believers will rise to the level of disagreement rather than simply denouncing one another. This happens when each side has learned to represent the other’s argument in its strongest and most positive form. Only then is it safe and fair to disagree with it. That achieves civility in a pluralistic society, which is no small thing.” [p. xviii-xix:]

While Keller admirably “rose to the level of disagreement” rather than simply denouncing, he failed to represent the other’s argument “in its strongest and most positive form.” As I read on, his comments reveal a misunderstanding about the non-religious/non-theistic which is every bit as unjust and misinformed as the misunderstandings about Christianity he is seeking to correct!

This is the unjust representation that frustrates me most: He says that if you don't believe in God, you have no reason to do good. I understand this viewpoint; I once shared it many years ago. But if he really sought to understand the non-theistic, he would know perfectly well the reasons non-theists have to be good. And it's infuriating that he ignores them. For example, take this quote:

"...their own worldview undermines any motivation to make the world a better place. Why sacrifice for the needs of others if in the end nothing we do will make any difference?" [p. 212:]

Is he really implying that it's only worth helping someone if there's something to show for it eternally? Why does something have to be eternal for it to matter? To me, saying it's not worth trying to make the world a better place unless doing so had eternal consequences is like saying, "Why give birth to a human being if he or she is just going to die?" Because, Keller: even if life is not eternal, it can still be beautiful and worthwhile.

Most of his arguments for God struck me not as arguments for why they’re true, but for why and how that belief system produces a better human being or better world. In nearly every chapter, he justifies a religious belief based on the positive behavioral outcomes of that belief.

Of course, some atheists play the same game, but with a contrary goal: they try to discount Christian beliefs by showing how they lead to undesirable behavior (violence, dogmatism, etc.) And some of us watch wearily as the ball bounces yet again back to the other court as Christians try to discount non-religious beliefs by showing how they have led to undesirable behavior. (For example, I have noticed that both try to blame slavery on the other, or show how the first abolitionists shared their beliefs.)

In spite of these frustrations, I suppose I can say I now “hold [my] own position with both greater clarity and greater humility.” And I still maintain the same understanding, sympathy and respect for Christians that I did before reading this book. However, for me, this book is evidence that both “sides” have a lot of work to do to better represent the other’s argument in its strongest and most positive form.
Profile Image for Jonathan Terrington.
593 reviews559 followers
November 15, 2012

This non-fiction work by Timothy Keller, a noted pastor, was required reading for my last year of schooling. At my school Christian Education was compulsory and even despite my beliefs I found it a drag since most of what was discussed I already knew a lot about and was repetition. This book and the surrounding discussion was a cut above everything else we were looking at. This is because rather than merely looking at the Bible itself we looked at other belief systems and at apologetics, something which has always interested me since I read some of the other works of C.S. Lewis. In order to ground ones beliefs I see that it is important to understand to a degree other beliefs. And in fact since reading this book I went on and read The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity, a more philosophical look at apologetics and one I found interesting.

In this book itself Timothy Keller brings up the main points of contention and doubts of people he has met. He looks at the existence of pain, the challenge of science and belief, evil, hell and many others I can't quite remember. I may not agree with everything that Keller states but I do like his approach to writing and discussing belief. Rather than attacking and stating 'you're wrong' he takes time to work through the whys and hows of belief.

I admit that Keller does not look at these subjects as convincingly as some philosophers and theologians I have seen. However his writing style and arguments are relaxed, easy to read and draw in many cultural and literary figures, utilising the ideas of other authorities outside of Christian circles.

I love the title Keller chooses to use for his book. I do feel that we live in an increasingly sceptical age, an age where nothing is sacrosanct and everything is up for questioning. I accept that questions are necessary for growth and development, I believe that there are many elements of life which are 'set in stone'.

I also question the mentality in which we as humans today have 'evolved' and 'know better' than in centuries past. I don't see that. If anything we are just as failed a group of people as years ago. Our advances in technology give us greater ways in which to fail. Think about the numbers of people addicted to internet gambling or drugs or relationship hopping. I state that we are just as messed up as we were years ago, just in different ways. It seems to be the mentality these days though that 'God is dead' and instead we become the gods ourselves. I hear so many matter-of-fact statements about 'our bodies are our own' and 'we have the right to choose when to die or live' but in this age of questioning I hear few people questioning the validity of those statements. Either way I shall stop this rambling on and cut to the conclusion of my review.

This is a book written not just for those who don't believe or for Christians who want to challenge other people's beliefs like so many other books around. It is not a book that claims to have the answers to make people believe like some books ridiculously claim. It is a book that invites discussion about beliefs. It is a book for those who have doubts about what they believe in regards to the Church and God as well as those who are interested in knowing what Christianity true claims are. As an honest, thought provoking book that invites people to look at their doubts I enjoyed this book a lot and certainly want to get a copy. In an age where few people want to have honest discussions about belief, preferring to forcefully express what is a correct opinion, this is a book that I respect for its honesty.
Profile Image for Barnabas Piper.
Author 11 books896 followers
July 2, 2012
While this was the book that made Keller famous (or famouser), it was distinctly different from his other books all of which I love. It is much more an apologetic and reasoned argument than it is sermonic. Keller is a great thinker and follows in the footsteps of Christian intellectuals like C.S. Lewis. I appreciated his calm, measured, and reasonable tone and arguments throughout the book. He makes it easy for readers to process his ideas without being attacked or bombarded. A very good book.
Profile Image for Marina.
108 reviews11 followers
April 8, 2011
Had every good intention of liking this book as it was recommended (gifted, in fact) by a friend whose intellect I respect. Sadly and disappointingly, it lost me from the Introduction. It started admirably by recognising the polarisation between the camps of theists and sceptics but before long it started making pronouncements about sceptics which don't reflect the views of at least this particular member of that group (along with many others I know).

Keller insists that non belief in God is a belief unto itself. "All doubts, however sceptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs." No, doubts can be based on sheer lack of evidence! In fact, the author does not make the distinction between thinking and believing. Most of his arguments are of the order of "since this and this doesn't explain a certain situation, God must be the explanation." Some of us are comfortable or at least accepting of the fact that we don't know everything about life and the universe and such, and still don't feel that that gap in our knowledge needs to be filled by any old story.

"So, if we embrace the Christian teaching that Jesus is God and that he went to the cross, then we have deep consolation and strength to face the brutal realities of life on earth." I think that the power of religion to provide hope and consolation to those who look for it there, is not in doubt. What's in doubt is the *truth* behind the story that is told to console ourselves or draw strength from.

Dogma is often employed by the author as an argument when all else is exhausted: the weak or naive arguments, as well as attempts at refuting Marx's views as if Marx is the best representative of the non-theist camp.

I felt I owed it to my friend to read through the entire book but once I got to Chp 9, The Knowledge of God, where Keller, after his long discussion on morality and human rights, condescendingly proclaims: "If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, then I hope you see the deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real wold (and God) that your heart knows exist" I knew it was time to throw in the towel. The presumptuousness and arrogance of that statement destroyed any willingness on my part to give the author the benefit of the doubt till the end of the book.

Skimming through Chp 10, The Problem Of Sin, and reading some more bits of dogma ("Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God.") convinced me that as a (now confirmed) sinner, it was time to cut my losses and spend my time on other books.
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,785 reviews306 followers
January 22, 2019
The Faith behind the Religion
21 January 2019

This is probably one of the very few Christian books that I have read of late, probably because these days I tend to find Christian books to be, well, rubbish. However, I have found something quite refreshing when it comes to Keller in that he seems to write is a way that is certainly not fundamentalist, and also is actually grounded in reality. I guess that is the problem when it comes to a lot of these books, and that is that if they aren’t fundamentalist in nature, they tend to be so theoretical that I wonder what the purpose of the book is, and why I’m actually bothering to read it.

In a way I find that to be the problem with churches today, particularly a lot of the mainstream churches – they seem to be so caught up in academia that they tend to forget that there is a real world out there, a world where people are suffering and struggling to survive. The other thing is that some of the writers simply seem to be producing what is in effect a thinly veiled support for the conservative parties, parties that I was put off of ever since they went to war against Iraq.

I think the problem with Christianity isn’t so much the God that they claim to worship, but rather the churches that make up the faith. Many of the churches that I have visited are so conservative that it is not funny. In fact, many of them literally push a right wing economic philosophy, a philosophy that I simply cannot support. Take education for instance – while they support education, they don’t like the way that the government is doing it, and in fact treat the government as one of the big evils of the day. Yet, when they reject mainstream science, it makes me wonder how it is that these schools are actually able to produce students that can survive beyond and into university – especially where they have spent most of their formative years being told that evolution is wrong, and that to be a Christian they need to support a creationist view of the world.

This is what I like about Kellar because he doesn’t go down these roads. In fact, he stays well away from it because, well, he knows that it is unhelpful. Christianity isn’t based on what we do, but what has been done for us. There are some core tenants, but the thing is that outside of those core tenants, such as how the Earth came into being, it really doesn’t matter what you believe. Interestingly, he also shys away from the use of the term ‘fundamentalist’ when referring to these extreme right-wing churches because he doesn’t see them as such. In fact, he doesn’t seem to view them as having what he would consider a Biblical view of Christianity. In a sense, once you start adding to the tenants of the faith, then all of a sudden you are moving away from Christianity as it was originally supposed to be.

One interesting point that he comes up with when he is exploring the objections to Christianity, and that is that nobody can actually be outside of some form of religion. The athiests seem to always argue that they have no religion because they don’t believe in God, but the reality is that their firm stance in not believing in a God makes them religious anyway, just a different form of religion. Honestly, why is it that they go to great lengths to attempt to convince people that there is no God – isn’t that just the same as Christians attempting to persuade us that there is a God? In my mind it certainly sounds like it.

Look, I can appreciate where they are coming from, particularly when it comes to the huge historical baggage that Christianity drags with it, but in all honesty, Christianity isn’t the only religion that has baggage. Hindu nationalists rampage against apostates in India, extremist Muslims do the same in the Middle East, and just as we were thinking that maybe Buddhism was a religion of peace, the Burmese government goes to war against the Royhinga people. Oh, and then there is also the issue with Stalin and Pol Pot.

Yeah, every religion has its extremists, and every religion is guilty of some form of genocide, but does that mean that all the the adherents to that particular religion are guilty. Well, no, not really. Take communisim for instance, when I jokingly told some friends that I had voted for the communist party (namely as a way of saying ‘it is none of your business who I voted for’) they looked at me in horror because Stalin murdered his people. As it turns out, the Christians murdered the Jews during the crusades, and forcefully converted Muslims during the reconquista in Spain, yet these particular people absolutely refused to be tarred with that brush, though they were more than happy to tar me with the Stalin brush.

The thing that got me the most in this book was Kellar’s discussion of hell. Many of us want to reject God because, well, apparently he sends people to hell. The reality is that God doesn’t send people to hell, people go to Hell of their own accord. Hell is actually a question of selfishness, our desire to live our lives our way and everybody else can go jump. It is sort of like being invited to a party, and you decide that, well, you don’t actually want to go to the party and that you would rather spend your time doing something else. An interesting thing he points out is that people don’t actually want to leave hell either because, well, they are actually satisified with being there. Once again, using the party analogy, it is like refusing to go to the party, sitting home board, and while you know you can change your mind, you simply do not want to. However, the best discussion of Hell would have to be C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce.

Yeah, the biggest issue I have with Christianity is the church – that can actually be the make or break factor for many people. Honestly, there are a lot of churches out there that are simply not welcoming, and if they are, then they are manipulative and self absorbed. In fact it can be very, very hard to actually find a decent church, particularly one that is going to accept you for who you are as opposed to what they want you to become. I’ve actually discovered that when you are transformed, that is something that happens to you naturally as opposed to being bombarded and harrased by the church and the leadership. Sure, there does need to be some form of encouragement, but sometimes I feel that many church leaders, despite what they say, have this deep seated fear that they are going to be judged based upon how their congregations turn out, and as such go into such a frenzy whipping their congregations into shape that they end up doing more harm than good.
Profile Image for Kris.
1,296 reviews174 followers
April 17, 2015
Shallow, arbitrary, and unsound. Disappointing and unsatisfying. I was almost going to give it three stars, but it just kept getting worse and worse, and it still did not end on a good note for me.

He is preachy and simplistic, and I guess it's not surprising, as this was written by a pastor, who does not seem to be an academic. While Keller does make some good points, flaws abound within his arguments, and he doesn’t dive anywhere nearly deep enough into apologetics to give adequate answers to these hard questions. Keller has bitten off more than he can chew here, and it shows.

For instance, when Keller tackles the problem of evil and suffering, he writes that we simply can’t know the reasons for all the problems in the world and that God has a different perspective than us (God can see the good resulting from devastating disasters where we can’t). But that’s barely scratching the surface, and it isn’t nearly enough of an intellectually and emotionally satisfying answer for this issue. Keller doesn’t address the fact that the world was cursed after the fall, and therefore sometimes bad things happen in nature/by accident as a result of the fallen world we live in (purely the fault of no one but Adam and Eve).

Keller also takes a very “wish-washy” approach to the relationship between science and religion. In his discussion on science, he makes no distinction between microevolution and macroevolution. He gives nowhere near enough discussion on the presence of Intelligent Design in nature. And he doesn’t even cite specific verses from Genesis 1 and 2 and contrast them with evolutionary theories.
Basically Keller blatantly chooses to ignore the deep, foundational conflict between Creationism and Evolution, sweeping their very apparent irreconcilable differences under the rug. He seems to be of the belief that evolution/natural selection and the creation account in Genesis work together just fine (although he provides no specific proof/basis for this claim). He even cites several people who believe that God “used” evolution in His creation of the world, while carefully skirting around the issue himself, avoiding implications of Deism.
Therefore, he ends up proving neither belief, because he doesn’t let the natural consequences/implications of each worldview develop enough to actually impact weighty issues like the origins of the universe, the nature of humanity, or the relationship between man and nature. In doing all this he whitewashes both points of view and accomplishes very little.

C. S. Lewis and Alister McGrath come up fairly often, but I feel that he’s taken their words out of context, using their famous quotes to prop up his own shallow ideas, providing nowhere near the same type of deep-seated, deliberative, apologetic framework they do.

Keller also cites Rick Warren, and similar “feel good” preachers, which I always take to be a little dubious. He ends on the stereotypical "pray this prayer and you're saved" junk, never acknowledging the importance of baptism and communion for a Christian's life. In other places it feels like Keller is just giving a selling pitch for his Presbyterian church in Manhattan, distracted from the topic at hand with how well he’s drawn “modern” and “young” people into his large congregation (church-growth movement).

I would not recommend this to any non-Christian, or to a Christian looking to deepen his faith.
Profile Image for Josiah.
68 reviews5 followers
September 11, 2012
Sometimes I have this nagging feeling that, when one particularly able Atheist writer (now deceased) cleverly turns a humorous phrase in the midst of an important logical point, he has somehow made a deal with the devil. Perhaps his craft isn’t really honed by years of experience, but by witchcraft and satanic bargains.

No. I’m not entirely sane.

Though apparently I’m not the only one, because Timothy Keller seems to suffer from this same strange neurosis and goes to great lengths to prove himself to be anything but in league with the devil.

You may think I am over stating the case, but my point is driven more home by the fact that at one point in the book Keller makes an almost overt attempt to separate two chapters which, back to back, would lead to a whole ‘nother set of skeptical assaults. How does one rectify human suffering on earth with the similar set of human suffering in hell? For this Keller has no answer, and squeezes two throwaway chapters in to make sure we’ve forgotten his answer to the first one when it does not really jive with the second.

Now C.S. Lewis’ Mere Christianity, at least, was an argument of the spit and twine verity and, he more than anyone, has refashioned Chrisitanity in such a way as to guide it, staggering and wheezing, into the 21st century. Keller seems quite content to fill Christianity’s IV with poisoned and empty arguments to garner for himself “treasures in heaven” if heaven means adulation of the New York religious establishment.

I never thought I’d be critiquing a left coast “liberal(?)” in this way, and to be fair, I really should have seen this coming.

So I’ve sat for the last few weeks, with a mechanical pencil scratching at the margins, reading Keller’s rhetorical sludge. Every time I tried to find something good in his arguments, some point that I hadn’t ever thought of before, more angry grey scrawls would grow across the pages.

I initially thought he failed to understand the Atheist position clearly (given his choice of mostly straw men skeptical positions in the first half of the book), but I was mildly surpised that, when reaching the end of the book, he quite clearly understood the textual criticism of the gospel story. So why should he refuse to present the stronger arguments early on? To me it seems like cynical manipulation. Then again, there’s also a point where Keller feels most comfortable: as a pastor. When he’s talking about religion and not touching problems of logic, philosophy, and sociology, Keller shows the confidence of a teacher. But this is also, as anyone who has disagreed with an authority figure knows, can be a form of manipulation.

I even thought I’d let him do all the talking during this latter half of the book. Instead I continued to write responses to his claims finding as much wrong with his arguments for his position as his attacks on the flimsy arguments of lazy secularists.

You might accuse me of fluff at this point. So far I’ve only really managed ad hominem attacks on the noble Rev. Keller. That is fair. If I could somehow show you the mess I made of 240 mostly innocent pieces of paper you’d see I’m not lying. Hardly a single page remains untouched. So when I say that Keller fails, it’s because its easier to summarize than to pick anyone of dozens of problems.

In an attempt to be positive, there were at least 3 areas that Keller did well.
#1. He made an interesting point I had never heard of before:
The Gospels represent a type of literature that would have been alien to the culture at the time. At the very least, they are an innovation over a millennia before the invention of fiction and biography. True? I’m sure literary scholars and historians alike would rub their temples and say… “Well it depends…”
#2. Overall I also agreed with his “Clues for God” though I tend to think they would point more to some sort of mindless “Gaia” type being than any personality.
#3. He correctly stated that discussions between theists and non-theists are important, should be perused, and each side should work to understand the other’s argument. Though, in counter point to that last bit, Keller apparently never really worked hard to understand the stronger arguments against religion.

In an attempt to be brief, I’ll attempt to pick (more or less at random) the 3 largest problems with the book:
#1. As I mentioned above, his answer to the problem of suffering does not at all jive with his answer to the problem of hell, and the resulting chapter layout seems to hint at a magician’s misdirection.
#2. His solution to any problems a person might have with the Bible or Biblical morality can be boiled down to a 3 step process: Understand the Historical Context, Apply Historical Relativism, then (if the first two don’t work) it must just be a minor issue having nothing to do with the main message of the Bible.
#3. At no point does Keller attempt to show us how to get from the understanding that some Divine Judge must exist, to the Christian God. He simply makes a chapter leap. Sure, from time to time he’ll mention the uniqueness of the gospel story, but every religion has unique claims. Many of the same sorts of reasoning he uses could be used to defend other religions, and he avoids dealing with them to assume that the duel is simply between the secularist outlaw and the theist sheriff.

I should let the matter rest. Yet a couple of quotes from Keller might be worthy of a perusal and I’ll leave you to draw your own conclusions.

On page 165 he states: “An identity not based on God also leads inevitably to deep forms of addiction.”

On page 223 he claims that: “Outside of the Bible, no other major religious faith holds out any hope or even interest in the restoration of perfect shalom, justice, and wholeness in this material world.”

Maybe those don’t irk you the same way they did me. After all, I admitted at the beginning I’m not entirely sane. I’ll also admit, I’ve probably made it clear by now that I never sold my soul to anyone with the power to grant good writing skills. Given that, I’ll drop any further explanation and just summarize: Keller has a few good points here and there, but his refusal to engage in the harder questions and his blatant inaccuracy makes him hard to take seriously.
Profile Image for Brent McCulley.
558 reviews41 followers
October 9, 2013
This was the first book I read as a Christian - I mean - after I became born again in the summer of 2011, I picked up this book, which had been sitting on my shelf for the past four years collecting dust, and prayed over it: 'God, please teach me.' As a new believer - who at that point didn't even own a Bible! - I was embarking through a piece of theological work that was to help formulate my life thenceforth. I've never been so thankful for a book out of sheer gratitude for its existence than I have with Keller's 'Reason for God.'

The book is not overtly theologically heavy - at least in comparison to reading the tomes of Jonathan Edwards or John Calvin - but nevertheless, it is a serious work of scholarly insight, that proves to not only convey common objections for God's existence and their rebuttals, but also, to share personal stories from the lives of Keller and other people: people just like you and me. The book is filled with anecdotes that draw out compassion and empathy from the reader, all the while equipping him to defend the faith, by formulating a solid theological and philosophical basis for the existence for God - our Beautiful Savior!

In conclusion, this is a book that everyone should read - from the layperson, to the seeker; from the new Christian to the aged pastor; from the atheist to the Methodist. Timothy Keller has written a classic.
-Brent M McCulley (10/9/13)
Profile Image for Karen L..
408 reviews1 follower
October 15, 2008
This is a wonderful book for skeptics. Finally one you can give a friend and not be embarrassed about any overly didactic preaching. His skillful speaking abilities and knowledge come from years of pastoral experience at a large Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. His method of persuasion is gentle, pastoral, and a very "Socratic" approach. What I liked about Keller's way of handling the questions of skeptics, is he is highly respectful in his treatment of people who do not have faith, but have questions. The book deals with all the common questions skeptics ask like : "There can't just be one true religion, How could a good God allow suffering...," and more.

I especially enjoyed the later part of the book and his beautiful explanation of the Trinity, titled appropriately, "The Dance of God."
Profile Image for L.C. Tang.
Author 1 book108 followers
October 21, 2022
This book arrived in my hands as a gift from a fellow parishioner. I personally would not have purchased this book because I am not a skeptic. After reading this book, I can honestly say I prefered Lee Strobel's: The case for Christ, The case for Faith and The case for Heaven. However, for some people this was a good read as it was well received back in 2008. Author Keller is renowned for his clear, reasoned approach to Christian apologetics and his book THE REASON FOR GOD: BELIEF IN AN AGE OF SKEPTICISM was named Book of the Year for 2008 by World Magazine. I will pass this book along to another.
Profile Image for Lesli.
35 reviews
June 19, 2009
I'm happy to read both sides of the faith question, and so bought this book with the hopes that Keller would come up with something new. In fact, his logic is often poor and easily refuted. I'm about half way through it, and though I intend to continue and finish, I've "lost faith" in the author's ability to reason logically.

For example, he claims that skeptics have a "faith" of their own when they claim that doubt is, itself, a "leap of faith." It is not a leap of faith to posit that no invisible pink unicorn is staring over my shoulder, just as it is not a leap of faith to posit that no supreme deity exists, since no proof of one has been produced. If you make an extraordinary claim, you must have extraordinary proof. He has none.

I'm also fond of his Pascal's Wager reasoning: "The speaker is betting his or her life that no God exists who would hold you accountable for your beliefs and behavior is you didn't feel the need for him." This is a childish scare tactic. The bogeyman will get you if you don't believe! In fact, he misses the point. It isn't that I don't believe in (his version of) God because I don't want to; it's because believing in (his version) of God is no more reasonable or logical to me than believing in Thor or Isis.

As to "the big questions," such as why God allows suffering, his answers are mundane: evil and suffering serve a greater good. We might not know what that greater good is, but that doesn't mean there isn't one. Apparently, I am more merciful than the god he worships, because his god allows suffering that I could never allow. He then takes a little side trip to explain to us how being a Christian allows you to deal with suffering more easily, even if there's no conceivable silver lining to your agony. In fact, we then get pages and pages of Jesus' death and resurrection, to prove to us... what? I'm not sure. That dying was hard for Jesus, too (though if Jesus is also God, his three days of agony are pretty paltry against an eternity as a supreme deity!). His final argument concerning suffering is that it makes us appreciate the good times. He illustrates his point: "A few years ago, I had a horrible nightmare in which I dreamed that everyone in my family had died. When I awoke my relief was enormous--but there was much more than just relief. My delight in each member of my family was tremendously enriched....Everything sad is going to come untrue and it will somehow be greater for having once been broken and lost."

It reminds me of an old joke:

A man complains to his rabbi, "My life is miserable! I have no money, my wife is a nag, my kids won't behave, and all 5 of us live in a tiny, filthy apartment. What should I do?"
The rabbi says, "Buy a goat, and come back in a moth."
"Just do it."
So the man buys a goat. The goat, of course, starts eating everything in sight, wrecking the apartment, stomping all over the place, and makes a horrible mess since, of course, it isn't housebroken. The whole family is miserable. The man returns tot he rabbi.
"The goat idea is horrible! I have even less money because the goat is breaking things, my tiny apartment is a wreck, the kids are behaving even worse because the goat keeps them up all night, my wife is nagging me about everything the goat eats and breaks... What do I do?"
"Get rid of the goat," says the rabbi.
The man sells the goat and comes back to the rabbi. "Oh, rabbi, things are so much better! The apartment no longer stinks, we have more money, we can sleep at night, and there's nothing for my wife to nag me about. We've never been happier!"

In other words, Keller's answer to suffering has been "done," in a borscht belt joke, no less.

This man can't take off his God-colored glasses long enough to actually understand and refute skeptics' arguments. I will finish the book, but I'm singularly unimpressed with it so far.

Update: I finished the book. The second half was almost entirely proselytizing. a poor effort to convince the reader that not only is there a God, but there is a particular one, Jesus is his son, and so on. Since he wasn't able to convince me of the initial proposition, the second half was a waste.
Profile Image for Lancelot Schaubert.
Author 30 books273 followers
August 27, 2021
This book is fundamentally overrated as an apologetic work and its popularity as an intellectual piece only betrays the vapidity of the modern American mind. Are there great moments? Of course. There’s a great sense in which Dr. Keller speaks to the pre-Christian and post-Christian mind as easily as the seeker and he Christian. There are moments where it seems the very best of his preaching emerges in the text.

But the text — like almost all modern Christian books, which is an indictment on the category itself — reads like a series of oral manuscripts for lectures or, what is far more likely, sermons. Therefore the argument builds not, predicates not, and simply hops from topic to topic without much progress.

This leaves the most — THE MOST — important categories of Christian thought wanting. Keller’s explanation of contingency is so atrocious that he (I assume unknowingly and unwittingly for the alternative is too much to bear) relegates God to merely be a god, a part of the known universe, an idol. In so doing he subjects himself to the proper scorn of the new atheists, who, if this is the God in whom Christians believe, are truly right and justified to say there is no God.

I prefer to say as a Christian, I do not believe in the god in whom atheists disbelieve. Precisely because I believe in God who donates his being to every contingent thing and space and idea and universe. Everything that is, every thought, every interaction of matter and form contains not the cause of its being. Not merely it’s efficient causality, as Keller asserts, but it’s permission to exist at every measurable moment and in every measurable space.

This fundamental flaw IS the fundamental flaw of the presbyterianism Keller upholds and betrays why such an idea as Calvinism has such a timebound misunderstanding and limitation upon God and his providence and therefore upon man and his choices and the universe and its consequents.

I honestly wish I hadn’t read this book. Lost a ton of respect for the man in the intellectual sphere.

He’s still going to make a lasting contribution to the history of homiletics. But as much could be said of Spurgeon.

The intellectual whom presbyterians sold me?

He doesn’t seem to exist in the way he’s sold.

And, from what I’ve seen of Keller in person, I doubt he’d disagree with me. He is, if nothing else, humble and deferential.

And his ministry in the city shows through with this.

Great books for parishioners in NYC and freshmen. Terrible for those who want an accurate view of the central theological concepts of Theism.

TL;DR — If you don’t understand that nothing contains the cause of its being and that being is therefore donated, you don’t understand contingency. If you don’t understand contingency and claim to worship God, really you simply worship a part of the known universe and atheists are right to mock you, even if your name is Tim Keller.

If you add to that ignorance the rather idiotic idea that said god consigns infant children to worse tortures than Guantanamo Bay from eternity, then this god you worship is likely a demon. I would implore you to consider what Jesus said about letting the little ones come to him.
Profile Image for Debbie Droege.
29 reviews9 followers
February 24, 2014
I started reading this book because I started attending one of the Redeemer churches in NYC which Keller refers to founding in this book. I find the attitude of the church to be similar to the tone of The Reason for God.

As someone raised in the church (Lutheran) who went through several years of struggle with religion, I found this book to helpful and enlightening. It also made me feel better about my continued struggle with Christianity as a religion and my personal relationship with God.

Keller addresses many of the objections I've felt or considered since I was a teenager. He appeals to both intellect and emotion. The book is about faith, but also historical context, philosophy, science, literature, etc. I appreciated Keller's integration of many religious and secular writers across many fields.

It seems impossible to capture what this book has done for me in this brief review. So I'll say this, if you are someone who has questions about Christianity, was raised Christian but have trouble coming to terms with the religion of your childhood, or have trouble coming to terms with the way the Christian church is represented by society (and people who claim to be delivering a Christian message), or if you are Christian but want to deepen the intellectual side of your faith, or are Christian and want to understand the questions and objections of non-Christian friends--then this book could be the one for you. And even better, Keller can show you a list of other books and people to read when you're done. The book is clearly referenced and has a thorough end notes section.

As a Christian pastor, Keller is (of course) biased, but he's also a PhD who is clearly used to talking to skeptics, cynics, atheist, doubters, and people struggling with faith, life, and so much more.

Keep in mind, it is a book that needs and deserves full attention. I took my time going through it and frequently put it down for lighter fiction.
Profile Image for Lostinanovel.
144 reviews18 followers
July 21, 2009
Powerful. Several thoughts.

Keller's logical progression reminds me of a philosophy class. I can't figure a way out of his logic. In fact, he makes such a strong case for the existence of God that a nonbeliever is left to throw up their hands and simply deny reason and (ironically) have clinging faith in their disbelief. His argument that Christianity is the one true religion also is compelling, certainly it seems to be the one of broadest logical appeal.

Everyone should read the first section, a great defense of some of the more unfair criticisms of christianity.

The hard part is the same as always-the acceptance of Christ as the Messiah who rose from the dead. He acknowledges the difficulty of this in part because of the implications of its acceptance. I like the quote from U2's Bono which pretty much said Christ cannot be accepted as simply another prophet or a teacher, because He claimed to be the Messiah. Since he made that claim, he is either the Messiah or he is a nutcase. If the latter, you can ignore him. If the former, you must change your life. There's really no in between. Nonetheless, the evidence of the resurrection is hard to believe. Can't help but be skeptical, despite the testimonies. I like the quote from the Bible, that Keller cites, saying that when several of the apostles saw Jesus, after his death, some stared in disbelief. Its comforting somehow to realize that even among the eyewitnesses, this is a tough story to swallow. What makes it doubly difficult is that if one does accept it, you MUST change your life. Not easy. I go to sunday mass, I like hearing the thoughful teachings, I like taking the quiet thoughtful time to inventory my life, I like to pray, I like the church community. But honestly, that acceptance hasn't come to me. I can't explain why not. Not yet at least.
Profile Image for Sameh Maher.
146 reviews72 followers
February 16, 2014
الكتاب شيق جدا ومفيد جدا فى الرد على افكار الملحدين
خلاصة الكتاب ان اثبات وجود الله بالدليل القاطع غير ممكن
الا ان مفاتيح ودلالات وجوده اكثر منطقية من دلائل النفى
العالم فى وجود اله اكثر منطقية وثبات منه فى حالة عدم وجوده
الكتاب جمع اكثر الاسئلة المحيرة التى قد تدور فى اذهانالناس وحاول الاجابة عليها بالمنطق وليس بالايات او حتى الاثباتات العلمة
كتاب مفيد جدا فى التحرك نحو وجه معينة ويكفى كبداية
انصح الجميع بقرائته
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