I first thought that Timothy Keller’s book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, focused entirely on a level of apologetics geared for the more seminally minded. His work, however, encompassed a much broader audience, from Bible scholar to church attendee, from the non-believer to confused believer. Keller wanted to capture all of us in our need to go deeper in our understanding for The Reason for God.
To one degree or another he exposes skepticism in all of us. I found myself one moment being reminded of responses to age-old arguments against Christian beliefs. Then realizing in the next chapter some of my own weaknesses that hinder stronger convictions about God.
Alongside Keller’s highly researched apologetics he continually incorporates the writings, teachings, movie script, and book quotes of both the skeptic and the noted theologian. Why? Not, to just validate his beliefs, but that we might better explore how to establish our own solid convictions. In this process we come closer to understanding the questions, struggles, and answers for a world that contrary to how many believe is often interested in biblical faith.
Yet, Keller explains we have become a “divided culture” of those desiring “non-religious and non-institutional personal beliefs,” and those devoted to a “conversion experience, orthodox, high commitment.” Keller clearly has an objective throughout the book to subtly lead believers by his example, and the example of others, in preparation to address this ever-changing culture. He draws us into the innate, greater, and defining elements of authentic Christianity.
I had numerous ear marked pages throughout Keller’s book due to his perspective of the scriptures and Christianity. I’ll share just a couple. “It is only grace that frees us from the slavery of self that lurks even in the middle of morality and religion.” Prior to that quote Keller describes what unconditional grace demands of those that have received it. We must give up control! Throughout the Bible, as well as today, we cannot ignore the constant struggle of humankind to embrace God’s grace as intended. Gospel grace releases us granting freedom for Christ to work in us; religious grace restrains our freedom in Christ, and we are left with ourselves.
“If you are avoiding sin and living morally so that God will have to bless and save you, then ironically, you may be looking to Jesus as a teacher, model, and helper but you are avoiding him as Savior.” For believer and non-believer alike Jesus is the Savior!
I appreciated Keller’s thoughtful discussion of perichoresis in his chapter on “The Dance of God.” Though I was familiar with the term Keller didn’t just define it, he unveiled its deeper meaning. “The Dance of God” that exists as perfect harmony within the relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit grants “infinite happiness” through their lack of “self-centeredness.” Humankind being created in the image of God, therefore, became invited into this harmony with the Triune God. But we lost the beauty of the dance when in the garden we separated from God. Jesus became the means to retrieve the dance that will one day be fully restored. In the meantime, we can participate through Christ by living selfless lives that bring blessing to relationships and creation.
About half of Keller’s book is devoted to argument tied to disbelieve in Christianity, and the other half to reasons for believing. I noticed a greater number of earmarks and highlighting in the latter, probably since that’s where I discovered some of my own personal areas of struggle.
Keller in his chapter on “The Problem of Sin” hit me between the eyes with his discussion on the consequences of a threatened identity. The author tries to convey the damage that lurks whenever we wrap our identity in our accomplishments regardless of our good intentions. I think the author covered every area we self-explode in seeking our identity outside of God. In addition, I have not always recognized this self-dependent behavior as sin. I came away from this chapter with several identified areas in my life to focus on changing.
Keller presents an excellent work on helping us understand, articulate, and defend The Reason for God. Great book on apologetics! Along with challenging even the mature believer to do some healthy self-examination.