My Rating: Must read
Level: Medium length, around 250 pages; moderate read, some parts are a little philosophical or scientific.
The title is fairly clear. This is an apologetic work for why Keller thinks there is a reason for God’s existence, specifically the God of the Bible. The book is broken into two parts – The Leap of Doubt, and The Reasons for Faith. The former deals with criticisms or issues that skeptics may have for God, while the later gives proofs. There is also a introduction and an epilogue.
Each of the parts are broken into seven chapters: There Can’t be Just One Religion, How Could a Good God Allow Suffering, Christianity is a Straightjacket, Science has Disproved Christianity, and You Can’t Take the Bible Literally for part one. Part two includes: 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, and The Dance of God.
So, my first thought is that since this book is a little old, and highly influential, not much may seem new to you. Obviously, Keller didn’t invent arguments for God, he is using what is out there, but the way he so intelligently and succinctly puts everything together really stands out and has permeated the reformed/evangelical world over the past decade plus.
Even with that, I think this is a must read for most Christians, as it is more or less an Apologetics 101 in a relatively short book. Again, I think some of the arguments may seem well known, especially the the response to the ‘critique’ that all religions are the same. In some ways this critique is so intellectually lazy, that it should be ignored, but it really can’t be. For one, most Christians don’t take the Bible seriously enough to care whether it is true, but more importantly, on a philosophical level, the idea that the divergent thoughts of some many religions could all ‘be the same’ really needs to be shut down quickly. Now, that doesn’t get you to a ‘god’ and certainly doesn’t get you to the God of the Bible, but this line of thinking is internet atheist level ignorance.
Overall, I think the defense (part 1) section of the book is valuable in teaching people the critiques that are out there, even if some are weak. That isn’t to diminish some of the questions, most of these are thinks Christians have wrestled with for centuries. I think this section is especially valuable for new Christians or high schoolers (or parents of high schoolers), because that is about the time when people will go off and find their first criticisms of religion, especially as the go on and live their beliefs on their own.
I have mixed thoughts on the second part, not because isn’t good (it is great, actually), but because of my own views on the ‘self-evident’ type arguments. On one hand, I believe the proof chapters are the most important, but on the other, I find some to be less compelling. I’m skeptical of arguments for clues of God or knowledge of God. Now, Romans tells us that the ‘law’ is written on the hearts of all people, and there is some clear acknowledgment of this. For instance, read Sapiens or many high level works on Physics, and you’ll get to some ‘universal constant’ or ‘unifying theory of all’, but I wonder how compelling this is to non-believers. For the angry/internet atheist, they already believe in God, they are just angry at him. For the agnostic, they know there is something out there, their question is more on the comprehensibility (even if the couch it in ‘knowability’). Keller admits, even if someone acknowledges some level of ‘higher power’, we still don’t necessarily have the Trinitarian God of orthodox Christianity.
Which is why I think the latter part of section two is so important. Modern evangelism is over run with ‘the feels’, an everlasting by-product of Charles Finney (and the impact of Schleiermacher and the Enlightenment), in which we describe what we ‘know’ about God/Christ by how it has impacted out life. We explain Christ in what he has done for us. This is a non-Biblical practice. We don’t know Christ is Lord because he is ‘in our hearts’, we know because the resurrection is fact.
The most skeptical thing you can say is that the earliest believers accepted the resurrection as fact. I think this is truly the starting point for anyone interest in apologetics or skepticism. People died for this belief, people only decades after Christ died. There has to be a reason, and it also lends credence to truth and reliability of the Bible. Far too many Christians are unaware of this, either through lack of care or critical thinking or challenge or knowledge of history. Again, this is a great, important section for new believers and high schoolers, especially those headed to college, because these are the base facts of our beliefs.
Paul himself says that if the resurrection doesn’t exist, we (that is Christians) are the most of all to be pitied. Yet far too many of us can’t easily explain why we believe what we believe as a truth (often, if we can, it is only as a ‘feels’). This book is a must read for all Christians either as your first run, teaching you the basics of reason and understanding, or the older Christian as a reminder on the basics of the truths to which we believe.