The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Scepticism – Tim Keller
Timothy Keller’s book The Reason for God: Belief in an age of Scepticism takes an in-depth look at the reasons for and against the existence of God. The book is split into two sections. The first half of the book looks at a number of typical reasons why people doubt the existence of God today, such as, How could a good God allow suffering? and Science has disproved Christianity. Keller’s response to each of these ‘doubts’ is measured. He attempts to be a counter-balance to the likes of Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris who have written a plethora of books attempting to disprove the existence of God. Right from the start, Keller is up front about his own beliefs and views, but tackles the questions from an objective and academic stand point. He presents us with hard-core evidence and hard-core reasons why these are irrational ‘doubts’ and his responses are thought-provoking and clear.
In one chapter; You can’t take the Bible literally, Keller looks at one view of many academics and literary scholars that the Bible is just stories passed down through generations, each culture shaping the stories to support their own beliefs and policies. These scholars argue that because of this ‘Chinese whispers’ effect it is impossible to define what is historically accurate. Keller argues: “In Mark 4, we are told that Jesus was asleep on a cushion in the stern of a boat. In John 21 we are told that Peter was a hundred yards out in the water when he saw Jesus on the beach. He the n jumped out of the boat and together they caught 153 fish. In John 8, as Jesus listened to the men who caught a woman in adultery, we are told he doodled with his finger in the dust. We are never told what he was writing or why he did it. None of these details are relevant to the plot or character development at all. If you or I were making up an exciting story about Jesus, we would include such remarks just to fill out the story’s air of realism. But that kind of fictional writing was unknown in the first century. The only explanation for why an ancient writer would mention the cushion, the 153 fish and the doodling in the dust is because the details had been retained in the eyewitnesses’ memory.”
The second half of the book looks at the ‘proofs’ for the existence of God and takes a less objective tone. Keller starts by pointing at the clues within the world that point to God – creation, man’s conscience, moving on to the problem of sin, then dedicating a chapter to the cross and a chapter to the resurrection. Once again, Keller’s arguments are eloquent and profound. Keller constantly quotes well-known philosophers, writers, poets, scientists and theologians and uses what they say about God to strengthen his arguments. A good example of this is in the chapter entitled The Knowledge of God where Keller argues that humanity has an inbuilt sense of moral obligation and justice. He writes;
“The fact is, says Leff, if there is no God, then all moral statements are arbitrary, all moral valuations are subjective and internal, and there can be no external moral standard by which a person’s feelings and values are judged. Yet Leff ends this intellectual essay in a most shocking way:
‘As things are now, everything is up for grabs. Nevertheless: napalming babies is bad. Starving the poor is wicked. Buying and selling each other is depraved….there is such a thing as evil. All together now: Sez who? God help us.’”
Finally, Keller concludes his book by stating the reasons why he believes Christianity is the truth as well as giving some practical guidelines for those who want to know more.
This is a book aimed at those who are seriously seeking God and have serious questions. It will appeal to those who are looking for airtight ‘proofs’ of God’s existence and those rational thinkers who are always asking the difficult questions. It is a book for students who are maybe studying these particular issues or just discussing them in forums with fellow students. Ultimately it is a book about Jesus Christ and you won’t go far through these pages without finding Him.
“Why then did Jesus have to die? Even Jesus asked that question. In the Garden of Gethsemane he asked if there was any other way. There wasn’t. There isn’t. On the cross, in agony he cried out the question, ‘Why?’ Why was he being forsaken? Why was it all necessary? The answer of the Bible is – for us.”
To purchase The Reason for God click here