Many people have legitimate, honest, difficult questions about Christianity. And many, many books have been written in an attempt to answer those questions.
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Some are written confrontationally, with an almost argumentative tone.
Some barely scratch the surface and don’t seem to answer the questions at all (at least not satisfactorily).
Some are so intellectual or philosophical you end up with far more questions than you started with.
Then there are the rare ones that are honest, thorough, and clear enough to address the difficult questions without making the sincere skeptic feel stupid, or wrong, or “sinful” for even asking the questions.
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, by pastor Timothy Keller is just such a book.
It is thorough, but not overwhelming. It is clear, yet not overly-simplified. It is honest, and hopeful. It is Christ-focused, and inviting to the skeptic.
The Reason for God isn’t a new book. 2008 isn’t old, but it’s also not hot off the presses. That said, it’s one of the best books I have ever read on the subject. My next podcast episode will be dedicated to the other books on this list.
For today, I thought I would take a very different approach than in the past. The Table of Contents itself clearly lays out what questions and topics Tim Keller tackles in The Reason for God. So, I’m simply going to lay out each of the chapters (in Keller’s own wording) and share one of my favorite quotes from each chapter.
After taking a look at these, if any of the questions or topics piques your interest – get this book! Here we go…
Section One: The Leap of Doubt
Chapter 1: There Can’t Be Just One True Religion
Skeptics believe that any exclusive claims to a superior knowledge of spiritual reality cannot be true. But this objection is itself a religious belief. It assumes God is unknowable, or that God is loving but not wrathful, or that God is an impersonal force rather than a person who speaks in Scripture. All of these are unprovable faith assumptions.” (page 12)
Chapter 2: How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?
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. We can know that God is truly Immanuel – God with us – even in our worst sufferings.” (page 31)
Chapter 3: Christianity Is a Straightjacket
Disciplines and constraints, then, liberate us only when they fit with the reality of our nature and capacities. A fish, because it absorbs oxygen from water rather than air, he’s only free if it is restricted and limited to water. If we put it out on the grass, its freedom to move and even live is not enhanced, but destroyed. The fish dies if we do not honor the reality of its nature.” (page 47)
Chapter 4: The Church Is Responsible for So Much Injustice
What if, however, the essence of Christianity is salvation by grace, salvation not because of what we do but because of what Christ has done for us? Belief that you are accepted by God by sheer grace is profoundly humbling. The people who are fanatics, then, are so not because they are too committed to the gospel but because they are not committed to it enough.” (page 58)
Chapter 5: How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?
If I don’t believe that there is a God who will eventually put all things right, I will take up the sword and will be sucked into the endless vortex of retaliation. Only if I am sure that there is a God who will right all wrongs and settle all accounts perfectly do I have the power to refrain. (page 77)
Chapter 6: Science Has Disproved Christianity
We modern people think of miracles as the suspension of the natural order, but Jesus meant them to be the restoration of the natural order.” (page 99)
Chapter 7: You Can’t Take the Bible Literally
To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible’s teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn’t have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense?” (page 116)
Section Two: The Reasons for Faith
Chapter 8: The Clues of God
Evolutionists say that if God makes sense to us, it is not because he is really there, it’s only because that belief helped us survive and so we are hardwired for it. However, if we can’t trust our belief-forming faculties to tell us the truth about God, why should we trust them to tell us the truth about anything, including evolutionary science? If our cognitive faculties only tell us what we need to survive, not what is true, why trust them about anything at all?” (page 142)
Chapter 9: The Knowledge of God
If you believe human rights are reality, then it makes much more sense that God exists than that he does not. If you insist on a secular view of the world and yet you continue to pronounce some things right and some things wrong, I hope you see that deep disharmony between the world your intellect has devised and the real world (and God) that your heart knows exists.” (page 162)
Chapter 10: The Problem of Sin
Sin is the despairing refusal to find your deepest identity in your relationship and service to God. Sin is seeking to become oneself, to get an identity, apart from him.” (page 168)
Chapter 11: Religion and the Gospel
The devil, if anything, prefers Pharisees – men and women who tried to save themselves. They are more unhappy than either mature Christians or irreligious people, and they do a lot more spiritual damage.” (Page 184)
Chapter 12: The (True) Story of the Cross
Forgiveness must be granted before it can be felt, but it does come eventually. It leads to a new peace, a resurrection. It is the only way to stop the spread of evil.” (Page 196)
Chapter 13: The Reality of the Resurrection
I sympathize with the person who says, ‘So what if I can think of an alternate explanation? The resurrection just couldn’t happen.’ Let’s not forget, however, that first-century people felt exactly the same way. They found the resurrection just as inconceivable as you do. The only way anyone embraced the resurrection back then was by letting the evidence challenge and change their worldview, their view of what was possible. They had just as much trouble with the claims of the resurrection as you, yet the evidence – both of the eyewitness accounts and the changed the lives of Christ’s followers – was overwhelming.” (Page 220)
Chapter 14: The Dance of God
Because creation was made in the image of a God who is equally one and many, the human race will finally be reunited and yet our racial and cultural diversity will remain intact in the renewed world. The human race finally lives together in peace and interdependence. Glory to God in the highest goes with peace on earth.” (Page 233)
So…there you have it.
Few books have challenged me, inspired me, and reaffirmed what I believe and why I believe it as much as The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Pastor Timothy Keller.
I highly recommend grabbing your own copy. This might need to be one of those books I put on my “Read Every Couple Years” list.
[reminder]What is your favorite book when it comes to answering doubts and questions about Christianity? [/reminder]