Tim Keller Reasons with America
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and cofounder of the Gospel Coalition, is behind some of the most ambitious if not the most radical efforts to reach urban professionals. Now he's expanding his ministry in book form, with the publication of The Reason for God, which moved its way up to number seven on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.
Keller's book tour, hosted by the Veritas Forum, has attracted 6,000 attendees to universities around the country. Many readers are saying that the book provides satisfying answers to the questions that churched and unchurched people commonly raise about Christianity. CT assistant editor Susan Wunderink sat down with Keller as he passed through Chicago.
Are the doubts that believers face the same as the doubts that unbelievers face?
It's your society that gives you the doubts. If you go to the Middle East and ask people what makes Christianity implausible, they're not going to say, "Because there can't be one true religion." They're going to say, "Because of how oppressive America has been as a Christian nation, and if you look at their culture, it's lascivious and debauched."
If you ask Americans, "What makes Christianity implausible to you?" they're not going to say, "Your popular culture is filled with sex and violence." They will say, "How could there be one true religion?"
Christians are living in the same culture that is blasting them with this is what's implausible about Christianity. If they lived in another culture, they'd be blasted with something else. So they probably are dealing with the same things [as non-Christians are] intellectually.
But my guess is the personal issues are different. If they came from a very homogenous, insular Christian community and they go to college and their roommate, who they think is wonderful, is Hindu, and they really feel like all Christians would be better than all Hindus, then they're confused.
I do think a lot of Christians because they don't understand the grace narrative get out into the world and find it very tough to navigate. I think it's because they don't understand the gospel, not because they can't answer all the theological questions.
You reject marketing apologetics like, "Christianity is better than the alternatives, so choose Christianity." Why?
Marketing is about felt needs. You find the need and then you say Christianity will meet that need. You have to adapt to people's questions. And if people are asking a question, you want to show how Jesus is the answer. But at a certain point, you have to go past their question to the other things that Christianity says. Otherwise you're just scratching where they itch. So marketing is showing how Christianity meets the need, and I think the gospel is showing how Christianity is the truth.
C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it's relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it's true. And if it's true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. But there will be many times when it's not relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. To be a Christian is going to be very, very hard. So unless you come to it simply because it's really the truth, you really won't live the Christian life, and you won't get to the excitement and to the relevance and all that other stuff.
Why have you avoided using arguments from intelligent design in your apologetics?
James Boice was a great preacher at Tenth Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia years ago. When he preached on Genesis 1, he talked about young-earth creationism, theistic evolution, and progressive creationism. He went through the gap theory (that there were essentially two creations on either side of the gap in Genesis 1:2). He went through all the various theories that evangelical Christians with a high view of Scripture have come to. He showed the strengths and weaknesses of every one.