Several years ago, Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, published The Reason for God, a book that introduced skeptical readers—and many a believer—to logical arguments pointing to the existence and goodness of God. Encounters with Jesus: Unexpected Answers to Life's Biggest Questions, based on previous talks given to students and businessmen, is a kind of companion volume, that lays an emotional groundwork for embracing the rationality of Christian faith. Owen Strachan, professor of theology and church history at Boyce College, spoke with Keller about how discovering Jesus can change people's hearts and lives.
You've been doing apologetics and evangelism for an audience of skeptics for years. Why this book at this time?
There are ten chapters, and the first five were talks I did at Oxford University in February of 2012. Every three years, the Oxford Inter-Collegiate Christian Union does a campus-wide mission, and they bring in speakers to speak at lunchtime and in the evening. It's a really big deal, and very well done. It's an honor to be asked. I gave five talks that were the first five chapters of the book—Nathanael, Nicodemus, the woman at the well, Mary and Martha, the wedding feast, and Mary after the resurrection. Each of them was an example of someone whose life was changed by encountering Jesus, and so that's the basis of the book.
This book seeks to reach the heart, though I give much philosophical argument. I don't think people would actually sit down and listen to The Reason for God unless they already might wish that Christianity does make sense. A lot of people aren't going to give the time it takes to think it through ...