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VINE VOICEon 29 February 2008
The Reason for God is one of the best books I have read on why Christian belief is true belief. It is an engaging essay on how and why a clear-thinking sceptic can take the Christian worldview seriously. It forces you to think about what you think about the world, not just what you don't agree with.

Keller's thesis is that no-one is a pure sceptic. Everyone believes things about the world and people and God. He believes that compared to the alternatives, Christian belief is the closest to the truth about things. Combined with this, he argues that everyone knows God exists, even if they don't admit it to themselves.

The first half of the book addresses common objections to Christian belief. The second half argues for the Christian worldview. There is an intermission halfway through which briefly considers other issues, like why beliefs differ between Christians and Christian denominations. The final chapter explains the implications of his argument for readers.

When I say this is one of the best books I have read, that's because it crosses boundaries in the same way that our own experience does. It has philosophical clarity, it asks us to consider our own experience, it looks to literature and art and science and the world to make things clearer for us.

If you have specific issues, such as questions about a particular philosophical argument, there are other, more comprehensive works dedicated to such things. But for most people this is the most competent overview of all the issues.

Like Mere Christianity by C.S Lewis (somewhat dated now), I would recommend it to sceptics for the reasons above, but also to Christians as an example of how to communicate what they believe clearly and compassionately.
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on 4 February 2009
I bought this book without any particular expectations. I was put off by seeing it described as an 'apologia' for Christianity. Also words like 'evangelical' and 'born-again' are a big turn-off for me. I am moving from a lifetime of atheism towards faith and am reading widely to help me to develop my own (possibly idiosyncratic) system of belief. In the event I was pleasantly surprised. This is not a heavyweight book but it is intelligently written and helped me with some areas that I am having difficulty with. The author does at times resort to assertions which he does not sufficiently explain or back up but in spite of disagreeing with him in some areas it was a worthwhile read. I don't think that this (or perhaps any other) book will convert anyone to Christianity by the force of its arguments but then why should it? Its purpose and value is to help you with areas of difficulty and enable you to make up your own mind in a thoughtful way about what you believe.
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VINE VOICEon 23 April 2008
This book really deserves wide readership. So here are a load of reasons for getting hold of it and, more to the point, reading it!

* It is very readable - in fact it is basically a précis of countless conversations Keller has had with various archetypal Manhattan sceptics. The standard format is "X asked me this... and Y asked me that ..."; "and this is how I answered them...". So it is not exposition as such (a small point is that the book could have benefited from more explicit biblical material), but it is fair to say that it is thoroughly `bibline` (to use Spurgeon's great coinage about John Bunyan).

* The format is not accidental - because the aim of this book is to tackle all the big ones that people ask - or rather, all the big ones that sophisticated New Yorkers ask. So it may be that these are not necessarily the questions your friends are asking. So for example, the American political context (with its caricatures of `liberal left' and `religious/evangelical right') is such that it is necessary to say more about how the gospel transcends these boundaries - in our more secular European settings, the presenting issues are slightly different. But i would think that there are few questions out there that have not been addressed in some shape or form by this book.

* It is full of thought-provoking angles and arguments, and helps to put things on the front foot by exposing the flaws in current thinking. As a small snapshot, here is one example. In a chapter about the problems with taking the Bible as authoritative because of our progressive ways of thinking have outgrown it, there is a very helpful paragraph:

Of course, we think of the Anglo-Saxons as primitive, but someday others will think of us and our culture's dominant views as primitive. How can we use our time's standard of `progressive' as the plumbline by which we decide which parts of the Bible are valid and which are not? Many of the beliefs of our grandparents and great-grandparents now seem silly and even embarrassing to us. That process is not going to stop now. our grandchildren will find many of our views outmoded as well. Wouldn't it be tragic if we threw the Bible away over a belief that will look pretty weak or wrong? To stay away from Christianity because part of the Bible's teaching is offensive to you assumes that if there is a God he wouldn't have any views that upset you. Does that belief make sense? (The Reason for God, p112)

* Keller has read deeply and widely - and it shows. By that I don't mean that he does this in a showy way - it is all very constructive and handled with a very light touch. So it is not like reading one of those doorstops in which there seems to be footnote for every line or Notes pages taking up more space than the main book. The point is that Keller is constantly tapping into popular culture and secular thinking in order to engage. I am convinced that this is both fundamentally necessary for us all as we seek to communicate to our culture and provides a very strong model. I think this is particularly powerful in his articulation of the problem of sin (a more unpalatable or culturally incorrect subject one could perhaps not find these days!). Check this out:

How does this destruction of social relationships flow from the internal effects of sin? If we get our very identity, our sense of worth, from our political position, then politics is not really about politics, it is about us. Through our cause we are getting a self, our worth. That means we must despise and demonize the opposition. If we get our identity from our ethnicity or socioeconomic status, then we have to feel superior to those of other classes and races. If you are profoundly proud of being an open-minded, tolerant soul, you will be extremely indignant toward people you think are bigots. If you are a very moral person, you will feel very superior to people you think are licentious. And so on.
There is no way out of this conundrum. The more we love and identify deeply with our family, our class, our race, or our religion, the harder it is to not feel superior or even hostile to other religions, races, etc. So racism, classism, and sexism are not matters of ignorance or a lack of education. Foucault and others in our time have shown that it is far harder than we think to have a self-identity that doesn't lead to exclusion. The real culture war is taking place inside our own disordered hearts, wracked by inordinate desires for things that control us, that lead us to feel superior and exclude those without them, and that fail to satisfy us even when we get them. (The Reason for God, p168-9)

* So there is LOTS here to stimulate and encourage Christians. But it is not a book to hide in the ghettos. It is a book to LEND to people who are of a more intellectual bent. And that is thrilling. It doesn't dot every apologetic `i' or cross every `t' - but it is a great springboard for further discussion and inquiry. And there are not many books around pitched at this level that could be said to do all of that.

Incidentally, there is a great website to tie-in with the book: [...] and this makes some great resources available - include sermons to download and an excellent guide for study groups.
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on 30 June 2012
The subtitle for this book is 'Belief in an Age of Scepticism' which pretty much sums The Reason for God up. Tim Keller, a pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in Manhattan, New York, tells in the introduction of how his move to plant a church in inner city New York was ridiculed by those around him; that no one in Manhattan is bothered about religion. Those who generally live in this area are single, career-orientated people, sceptical of the traditions of Christianity, but Keller has now a 5000+ strong church there and this book is a testament to how that was achieved.

Split into two parts, The Reason for God first addresses the many objections to Christianity Keller has been met with over the years from sceptics in NYC, including 'how could a good God allow suffering?', 'science has disproved Christianity' and 'you can't take the Bible literally'. Keller gives an answer to each of these using his personal experiences, quotes and teachings of philosophers and theologians of the past and the themes of the Bible itself. Some arguments are stronger than others but each is very logical and persuasive. After all, many have asked these questions to Keller in the past and are now a part of the church in Manhattan!

The second half of the book then puts the emphasis on Keller as he attempts not just to answer the sceptics but to give sceptics a reason to believe. Chapters such as 'The Clues of God' and 'The Reality of the Resurrection' put forward some great points and arguments using similar methods as before but using much more theological language, as you might expect. Keller ends the book with a very useful epilogue 'Where Do We Go from Here?' with some guidance on responding to what he has been talking about throughout the book and writes in a non-patronising yet to the point way.

I would have liked to see some more Biblical quotes in The Reason for God, especially in the second half, but Keller knows the audience he has really intended this New York Times best seller for: sceptics of Christianity. Bible quotes would not be useful for this audience so Keller is very clever in coming through this book from the right angle to reach his audience. The book is useful for Christians too in helping work through doubts they may have and even helping them reach their unbelieving friends and family who also have those doubts.

This is not to say that Keller doesn't use the Bible in The Reason for God (the Bible is how he has come to these conclusions) and he has written other literature which is intended more for the Christian. One I have come across, which I would definitely recommend, is The Freedom of Self-ForgetfulnessThe Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, and there are more around from this godly man.

The Reason for God is informative and persuasive and a very good read for believers and seekers alike. As Rick Warren says in the quote on the front cover of my copy, it is a great book for 'serious spiritual seekers or sceptics'.
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on 15 December 2008
Weirdly enough I had to go to my very own highstreet outlet of Waterstones to find this book as the christian shops didn't have it in yet. I had been looking forward to reading this for a while and I certianly wasn't let down. If your looking for hard hitting apologetics this may not be what your looking for, however for the new believer or someone whom is interested in the claims of christianity this will do the job. This is certainly a book I wouldnt feel ashamed to give to a friend due to its honesty in tackling some tough questions and its well written pages. Could I be going to far in refering to it as the 21st centuries Mere Christianty? Good work Mr keller.
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on 26 November 2008
Just like how I believe all Christians should read 'The God Delusion', all atheists should read this book, so that they know what they're talking about. There will be no greater challenge to you than to read this book, and no matter what your world view you need to challenge and question it from time to time. Furthermore, I honestly believe the majority of believers don't really understand what their faith is about, I thought I did until I read this.
I've never read a more coherent argument for the existence of God - read it, whether you believe or not.

In a word: watertight.
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on 26 August 2008
Yes, this is a compelling and persuasive read. I think what makes it different is that the author has refined his arguments in the hothouse of a Manhattan culture full of 'skeptics, critics and cynics'. One can almost hear the persistent voice of the doubters and the patient answers from a thoughtful and considerate Timothy Keller. OK, some of the arguments are well worn but there is something fresh about the way they are presented with some new 'twists' or angles and I would definitely give this book away to a serious seeker after truth.
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on 8 February 2009
How fantastic in this day and age to have a book written for the sceptical (and perhaps sometimes not so sceptical) modern audience. It is refreshing that we haven't been forgotten. I found Keller to be open minded and subtly persuasive, his writing style is easily accessible and ideas presented in a clear and intelligent way. His continual references to popular culture and literature I found reassuring, and astute. Definitely worth reading, potentially a life changing book.
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on 17 February 2009
I bought this book solely on the commendation by Rick Warren on the back of the book: "This is the book I give to all my friends who are serious spiritual seekers or sceptics". Having read the book, I heartily endorse Rick Warren's sentiments, and will be giving the book to a number of friends who are not Christians. In the book, Tim Keller looks at both the reasons against and for belief in the God (something that seems quite unusual for an apologetics book). He tackles head-on and honestly the sort of questions and issues that many people have, and as the book is written after "The God Delusion", he is able to interact with and answer Richard Dawkins' arguments. The book is written with clarity, and uses a wide variety of quotes (from books, films, interviews, conversations etc) and frequent illustrations, which makes the book very readable. The chapters are also not too long! It is a book that would be suitable both for the thinking sceptic and for any Christians wanting to think through more fully the reasons for their faith. I would be more than happy to give this book to any of my intelligent atheist friends!
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on 15 February 2016
Some attempts to defend (conservative evangelical) Christianity are frankly embarrassing – you would not even think about giving them to an intelligent but sceptical friend. If I were to give this book to such a friend it would only be after cutting out large chunks of it but it does recognise the key issues and it does contain some genuine insights and is at least a serious attempt to address the all too obvious fact that for many people Christianity simply makes no moral or intellectual sense in the 21st century. Keller is the pastor of a fairly conservative church in New York and he sets out his stall as a traditionalist early on. Whether his church is full because of its traditionalism or despite it is hard to say but unfortunately any attempt to defend conservative evangelism is going to fail because it is in essence indefensible. The author towards the end lists some questions which may prevent belief – content issues (specific doctrinal claims), coherence issues and cost issues; it is in attempting to address the first two types of obstacle that the author fails in his task, as any author who attempts to defend biblical inerrancy, exclusivism and damnationism is bound to.

At the core of this book is the notion of sin as misplaced self-worth; as with all evangelicals he rather overdoes the self-denigration bit but we can accept with him that Christianity is about looking to God rather than to our own efforts for salvation. We are, he says, accepted by God not conditionally because of anything we have done (true enough) but unconditionally because of what Jesus has done. No real explanation is given for why Jesus’ death should be a necessary condition for God accepting us – the author clearly sees it as in some sense substitutionary, as God (in Jesus) paying the penalty for our sins so we do not have to but he does not set out a full blown doctrine of penal substitution, perhaps because he does not believe in it. Underlying this is the idea that love requires substantial sacrifice and that forgiveness is necessarily painful but as is clear from his discussion of the trinity and from our own knowledge and experience this is not in fact the case. Furthermore, the idea that in some sense the requirements of justice required a death is fundamentally erroneous – justice is not served by the death of the innocent (and may not be truly served by the death of anyone at all).

The sections of the book which deal with the ‘clues’ that suggest that God really does exist and that the resurrection was a real event and the ways in which he shows that Christianity at its core is truly different to what is normally regarded as ‘religion’ can be said to constitute the ‘baby’ in this book but there is far too much bathwater. His defence of biblical inspiration involves an apologia for slavery; his discussion of science fails to address the key question of how evolution can be reconciled with a doctrine of the fall; he sets up straw persons to knock down such as a God who does not judge as the only alternative to one who sends sinners to Hell and cites the now infamous C. S. Lewis false ‘trilemma’, here expounded by no less a theological luminary than Bono; he fails to see that Christianity has to take responsibility for the actions of the church and he defends Christians and Christianity not as they are but as he would wish that they were; in all the joy of creation and restoration he has no answer to the origin of evil and ignores the miserable suffering in Hell of those he suggests have brought their fate on themselves; his account of the Trinity – ultimate reality as a community of persons in a dance of mutual love – comes perilously close to tri-theism and the claim that God has to be three in one if He is to be fundamentally love raises not only the question of what love might possibly mean between omnipotent self-sufficient Beings but how God can also be just, merciful, forgiving etc. without a creation to be just and forgiving to.

At the end the reader is told that there are two things he or she has to do to be a Christian – repent and believe (in certain doctrines and in God). The phrasing is certainly unfortunate as it implies salvation by human effort, a sort of semi-pelagianism if not exactly salvation by works. A few pages on he briefly refers to the importance of grace but offers no explanation of why grace might be poured out on some and not others unless it is because they ask for it.

The sort of Christianity defended here is incoherent – God is love and acts to redeem His creation yet much of it ends up excluded from His kingdom, salvation is by grace but you have to do something to obtain it – and that is why this book is flawed. But there is enough wheat among the chaff to justify getting it from your local library as I did.
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