Title: Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical
Author: Timothy Keller
A couple years ago, one of my coworkers — a Christian — told me he earnestly believes the earth is flat. It was a stunning conversation, made worse by the fact that he used Bible verses to back up his claims.
I’m sure you’ve had moments like this, when a Christian you know says something patently unwise, biased, or, at the very least, questionable. Not only is it embarrassing, it’s also awfully discouraging.
Are Christians really this foolish? you find yourself wondering. Is the Bible that irrational? Should we walk away from faith entirely?
For me and countless others, Tim Keller is a welcome voice of empathy, intellect, and perspective within the church. His teachings have given hope to many a doubting believer by reminding us that yes, you can be a wise, thoughtful person of faith.
One of Keller’s latest books — Making Sense of God — beautifully underscores that premise. I would highly recommend reading it if you haven’t already.
But first, be warned: Keller does not employ straw man arguments when describing critiques of religion. To read his books is to come face to face with some of the most difficult criticisms of religion. Not merely dumbed-down caricatures of unbelievers’ views, but real arguments from the likes of Thomas Nagel, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Bertrand Russell.
In Making Sense of God, Keller first challenges the notion that religion is dying. Although the faith landscape is changing, people around the world are continuing to turn to religion for meaning, morality, and transcendence. These are all deep, innate desires that secular worldviews struggle to satisfy.
“People believe in God not merely because they feel some emotional need,” Keller writes, “but because it makes sense of what they see and experience. …They embrace religion because they think it is more fully true to the facts of human existence than secularism is” (p. 23).
One of the most riveting points from Keller’s book is his critique of free individualism. Even though, as Keller points out, our freedom to live more or less however we want is a wonderful blessing, that freedom to create your own life can actually be quite daunting, because it is very difficult to create meaning from scratch that is both durable and meaningful.
Freedom to create your own life can actually be quite daunting, because it is very difficult to create meaning from scratch that is both durable and meaningful
After all, Keller points out, if you wrap your personal identity around your appearance, or your socioeconomic status, or the difference you’re making in the world, then isn’t your sense of self ultimately quite fragile? Wouldn’t it better to base your meaning on something beyond yourself — something that can’t be taken from you? Something, ideally, that the end of the universe won’t erase?
What we should seek, Keller proposes, is discovered meaning — a “devotion to something more than ourselves” (p. 70), to “something beyond this life and even this world” (p. 73). Yes, created meaning can be enjoyable for a time, but it is frustratingly temporary and unable to satisfy us as fully as we would hope. He then goes on to explain why the discovered meaning offered by Christianity is uniquely fulfilling and able to make sense of our human condition.
Here are a few additional notable excerpts from Keller’s book:
Keller is like a modern-day C.S. Lewis, communicating the core truths of Christianity and how they apply to our lives, without getting distracted by unhelpful secondary topics. I greatly appreciate his respect for the viewpoints of non-Christians and his willingness to hear out their arguments. I also admire his honest assessment of the Christian church’s many shortcomings.
Although many secular arguments are persuasive and compelling, believers who read books like Making Sense of God will be much better equipped to understand the timeless truths behind Christianity and know how to process difficult doubts and questions that come our way. In this book, Keller provides us with a wonderful collection of solid arguments that will help encourage believers and equip us to thoughtfully articulate our faith here in the 21st century.
In our next But God book review, we’ll explore a collection of brutally honest messages between a young Christian man and his father, who was an agnostic. These exchanges became part of a bestselling book and should be a real encouragement to anyone struggling with doubts or wondering how to speak with sceptics about Christ. Stay tuned!
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