Book Review: Tim Keller’s “Making Sense of God”

3 Jan

Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, is a prolific writer and influential leader in the evangelical world. There is none of the bluster with him which is commonly associated with evangelical preachers, in his speaking or his writing. Keller is a calm, measured voice committed to what he sees as biblical truth.

Keller’s book, Making Sense of God, is something of a follow-up to his book The Reason for God. Keller went with a more conventional apologetic approach in The Reason for God but in this latest book he acknowledges that while this approach has its place, for many people today it is necessary to establish why considering the truth of Christianity is something that is even worthwhile to do. Many people in today’s world consider Christianity irrelevant, outmoded, unnecessary in an age of science, reason and technology. Keller’s aim in Making Sense of God is to gently undermine this view of Christianity and to show the superior value of a Christian worldview.

Keller begins by challenging the notion that the world is becoming more secular. He also challenges the idea that non-religious people live by reason while religious people live by faith. Keller contends that a variety of factors lead us to embrace our worldview. In these first two chapters Keller leans on the work of Charles Taylor to understand contemporary Western culture. The goal of these first two chapters seems to be to cause the disinterested or the skeptical to question their assumptions and crack open the door to the Christian worldview.

In the heart of the book, Keller takes eight chapters to show how Christianity presents us with an integrated worldview, which gives meaning that suffering can’t take away, satisfaction not based on circumstances, a life of self-giving love, an identity that doesn’t crush the individual or cause her to exclude others, a hope that can face anything, true morality and a justice that does not create oppressors. This section of the book presents a compelling case for the value of Christianity. Throughout this section Keller also consistently contrasts the Christian worldview with the secular/humanist worldview and shows the secular view lacking in providing us with a holistic path forward in the world.

Keller concludes the book with two chapters and an epilogue on the issue of believing. Keller says at the outset of this section that he can not demonstrably prove that religion is true. Nor, he says, can the secularist demonstrably prove his view. Keller’s view is that we need to weigh the evidence of the worldviews. Which makes the most sense emotionally, culturally and rationally? Keller made the argument in the second section of the book that Christianity is the most compelling worldview and therefore is worthy of our allegiance. Keller concludes the book with a more traditional apologetic for the existence of God and the reality of Jesus as a way to address the nagging doubts of those who may have cracked open the door in the first section and opened it in the second section of the book but are still hesitant to cross the threshold to faith in Christ. In chapter 11, Keller marshals the most common arguments for God’s existence, being careful to note that while none of these arguments is conclusive in itself, taken together they form a rational basis for belief in God. But Keller goes on in chapter 12 to the person of Jesus Christ, the heart of Christian faith. He says we could come away from chapter 11 convinced of the existence of God but this would not make us distinctively Christian. So Keller takes time for a defense of the reasonableness of faith in Jesus, using the common arguments for the authenticity of His life and ministry. The Epilogue fittingly concludes the book with the story of Langdon Gilkey, a humanist who was imprisoned in China during the Japanese invasion. Gilkey’s worldview crumbled under the increasingly difficult circumstances he found in the prison camp. At the same time, Gilkey saw a living example of the Christian worldview in the person of Eric Liddell, the former Olympic champion who was working in China as a missionary when he was captured and imprisoned. The process of change in worldview that happened in Gilkey’s life is the same change Keller hopes to see in others who take up and read his book.



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