The Reason for God is truly an exceptional book – perceptive, well written, theologically sound, as well as evangelistic. I highly recommend it for the thinking Christian who wants to be able to speak more intelligently to non-believers about his/her faith in Jesus Christ. I would also recommend it to that rare skeptic who is willing to read and really think through a case for God and historic Christianity. The author, Timothy Keller, is a well-read intellectual who pastors a large and growing church in the center of the most influential metropolis in the world, New York City.
Instead of just taking my word about the book, here’s a review that appeared in Bookreporter.com not long after it was published:
“In its hardcover edition, THE REASON FOR GOD landed on the New York Times bestseller list. That in itself tells you that someone is noticing. And it helps that author Timothy Keller is founder and pastor of a church in Manhattan. In 20 years without a lot of ‘bells and whistles’ the Presbyterian congregation has grown to encompass more than 5,000 worshipers, primarily young adults who gather for something more than ‘Sunday entertainment.’
The Reason for God is like CS Lewis in the 21st Century. The ideas, thoughts and arguments from the book are very profound and well thought out.
The first part of the book argues why the existence of God makes more sense than any other argument. (Chapters 1-7). The second part of the book argues why Christianity makes more sense than any other faith (Chapters 8-14).
- 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 Clues of God
- The Knowledge of God
- The Problem of Sin
- Religion and the Gospel
- The (True) Story of the Cross
- The Reality of the Resurrection
- The Dance of God
Enjoyed the most
What I enjoyed most about the book are the compelling arguments that Keller gives to the various objections to the existence of God, especially in the first seven chapters. These answers are to questions from actual people he has met during his time ministering in Manhattan. The answers show a depth of thinking, a breadth of reading, and spiritual insight. I found them penetrating and hope to refer back to them again and again in my own ministry.
One of Keller’s best answers is to the question: Why did God have to send His Son to die on the cross? This sounds so barbaric. Couldn’t He just forgive us? I highly recommend chapter 12, pages 186-200.
After a couple of hundred pages of making a case for the existence of God, as well as the problem of sin, the gospel, the cross, and the resurrection, Keller speaks more evangelistically to the reader about the need for repentance and faith in Christ, as well as the importance of becoming a part of a Christian church, as flawed as he or she will find its members to be.
Near the very end of the book the author speaks a significant word regarding the big picture that sometimes we evangelicals fail to see:
“How do we respond to this? When we look at the whole scope of the story line, we see clearly that Christianity is not only about getting one’s individual sins forgiven so we can go to heaven. That is an important means of God’s salvation, but not the final end or purpose of it. The purpose of Jesus’ coming is to put the whole world right, to renew and restore creation, not to escape it. It is not just to bring personal forgiveness and peace, but also justice and shalom to the world. God created both body and soul, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both body and soul. The work of the Spirit of God is not to save souls, but also to care and cultivate the face of the earth, the material world.”
A couple of pages later he writes about the Christian life:
“The story of the gospel makes sense of moral obligation and our belief in the reality of justice wherever they can. The story of the gospel makes sense of our indelible religiousness, so Christians do evangelism, pointing the way to forgiveness and reconciliation with God through Jesus. The gospel makes sense of our profoundly relational character, so Christians work sacrificially to strengthen human communities around them as well as the Christian community, the church. The gospel story also makes sense of our delight in the presence of beauty, so Christians become stewards of the material world, from those who cultivate the natural creation through science and gardening to those who give themselves to artistic endeavors, all knowing why these things are necessary for human flourishing. The skies and the trees “sing” of the glory of God, and by caring for them and celebrating them we free our voices to praise him and delight us. In short, the Christian life means not only building up the Christian community through encouraging people to faith in Christ, but building up the human community through deeds of justice and service.”
If you haven’t done so already, I challenge you to devote the mental energy necessary to thoughtfully read The Reason for God. You will be enlightened and better equipped both to speak and to live the gospel of Jesus Christ “in an age of skepticism.”