The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism – Timothy Keller
Keller systematically addresses the assumptions that form barriers to faith in our American urban intellectual context. “All doubts, however skeptical and cynical they may seem, are really a set of alternate beliefs” (Keller, Kindle Location 201). Truth claims to exclusivity, the presence of suffering, the straight jacket nature of Christianity, the injustice sourced in religion, the paradox of a loving God that returns judgment and sentences people to hell, the authority and authenticity of scripture, and the scientific proof against the Christian narrative – return reasons to doubt the Christian view of reality. Why is the skeptic’s “belief” about religion a better view of reality than the worldview that the gospel provides? “We are all exclusive in our beliefs about religion, but in different ways” (Keller, Kindle Location 443).
These doubts confront both the unbeliever and believer in our culture. The difference according to Keller is that the believer finds reasons to believe. Faith need not blindly ignore the reasoned arguments for doubt. Keller responds with seven reasons to believe in God and to embrace the Christian faith. Keller’s first appeal is that the scientific requirement for absolute empirical proof of God is not necessary for reasonable belief in the existence of God. Proof of God is not necessary for faith, rather the hints to God’s existence are sufficient for the rational mind to embrace God. These hints to God’s existence answer questions that science cannot resolve. Understanding God as the creator and maintainer of the universe answers the open questions of how did the universe come to be and how is it that things continue with regularity. Put another way if the “Big Bang” was the event that brought the universe about what caused the “Big Bang” to occur? Keller challenges the natural science view that belief in God was simply necessary evolutionary coping mechanisms allowing primitive man to survive. Drawing on Romans 1 and 2, Keller affirms that all men have the knowledge of God written in their hearts. Keller sees the existence of conscience and morality as indicator of God’s presence. Nothing in the naturalist view explains why justice and human rights should exist.
Keller’s concluding chapters shift focus to why the Christian view is necessary. First, the gospel is needed to solve the problem of sin and evil. Second, the cross and resurrection solves the demands of God’s justice and provides means of relationship with God, allowing a people of God to be established.
The Christian reader finds easy agreement with Keller’s case for Christ, but the theology summary is more sermon than discussion as he exhorts his readers to embrace the Christian life. The Reason for God effectively establishes reason for doubting the prevailing secular worldview. Keller offers convincing argument for existence of God. Keller frees the skeptic to begin discerning their innate knowledge of God, but it’s not clear that Keller has created enough equity with his skeptical readers to establish the case for Christ. The reader has not been successfully transitioned to commitment. The reader certainly has reason to seek the God who is there. A limited restatement of orthodox Christian theology, by Keller, seems to serve as stop gap in case the reader wants to make a commitment. Keller feels obligated to make sure they believe the right things. Would it not be better to establish the case for the reader to seek God and consider Christ rather than convince them of Christian theology and try to close the deal? Fanning the reader’s need for healing, purpose, and significance would be the next best step to encourage the reader to consider Christ. Transforming testimonies of changed lives of believers in this context would clearly mark the way forward with Jesus as the answer.