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Customer Review

40 of 66 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A pointless book, 19 July 2013
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This review is from: Engaging with Keller: Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical (First) (Kindle Edition)
I bought this book with some sense of anticipation as well as dread. I will write a fuller review but for now let me say that this is probably one of the most discouraging, depressing and pointless books I have ever read. The main question is why would reformed evangelical Christians write a book which is quite clearly a sustained polemic against one of the leading reformed evangelical Christians of our day? I know that it is supposed to be irenic and loving and to enable theological discussion. But apart from the very first chapter by Iain D Campbell, I found it anything but. It is clear that the purpose is to warn people about the dangers of Keller's teaching - apparently he is not sound on hell, creation, the church, the social gospel, interpreting scripture and the Trinity. It is a pretty damning list - no matter how 'peacefully' and 'nicely' the words are put. The fact that none of the authors have actually engaged with Keller and only one has actually had any correspondence with him is itself indicative of what is wrong with this book. Is Tim Keller really that important that several ministers can find time to write about his writings? Why not just write about the subjects that concern them? This seems far more like a personal attack than a theological discussion.

The claims by a couple of the authors that Keller is just mistaken or does not really know what he is talking about (whereas of course they do) are breathtaking in their arrogance. I'm afraid this arrogance comes across in several (though not all) of the writers. DJ Hart's attack on working with other churches (through the Gospel Coalition) is particularly depressing. The first essay is, as I said, worth reading - it is well written and makes some good points - but I was struggling to find where Dr Campbell actually disagreed with Keller - he admits that he is 'sound' on the doctrine of sin - so it just seems to be about style and presentation. However after that the whole book descends into the pit pretty quickly. I found myself getting more and more depressed reading it. I suspect the book will sell reasonably well, because people like a fight, and they like gossip and they like to see 'heroes' being brought down a peg or two. I very much doubt it will achieve its intended purpose (to get people to talk theologically about hell, creation etc) - it will cause controversy and do harm. I know that God can bring good out of even the most pointless things. But the question still remains - what is the point and purpose of this book?

Incidentally I don't buy into the hero worship thing - although Tim Keller has been very helpful to me in his writings and sermons. It does not really work in British culture. And that for me is another problem - a group of writers, mainly associated with one tiny English (and Welsh) Presbyterian denomination have written a book which sadly makes them look small minded and petty. I doubt it will make much difference to the work of Tim Keller, but in American church politics (which can be as bad as church politics anywhere) I suspect this book will be widely used by those who have a dislike of and agenda against Tim Keller. That is why it is such a depressing book - why oh why does the church keep shooting its own people?! It may be that the authors are well intentioned (I cannot claim to know their intentions - although that does not stop a couple of them stating that they know what Keller's intentions are) but if so they are incredibly naive to think that this book will do anything other than stir controversy.
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Tracked by 4 customers

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Showing 1-10 of 10 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 23 Jul 2013 23:51:55 BDT
AndrewH says:
This is a disappointing review, offering little comment on the contents of the book but rather more on its authors. Although one reviewer on the Internet has stated, "I can't imagine anyone viewing this volume as a personal attack on Keller's character", Mr Robertson appears to have done so. He claims that "none of the authors have actually engaged with Keller," but surely that is precisely the purpose of the book - indeed, there exists a long tradition of mutual engagement between Christians by means of publications, most of it somewhat less eirenic than this book. There are those who have a more positive view of its value, expressed for example in the commendation by John R. McIntosh, Professor of Church History at the Free Church College, and there are those who are actively and critically engaging with the authors' arguments, e.g. at http://missioconfessio.wordpress.com/

In reply to an earlier post on 27 Jul 2013 08:53:39 BDT
Last edited by the author on 27 Jul 2013 15:13:08 BDT
DEG says:
I don't agree. Mr Robertson questioned why the book was written and with good reason. We don't need to be told what to think. If we want to know what Tim Keller believes we can read his books and listen to his sermons. (I've done a bit of both and feel I have benefited from him). I thought the book would be an attempt to learn from Tim Keller, not to find fault with him. Publishing a book like this almost smacks of envy: His ministry is having an impact, the church he serves is growing therefore he must be doing something wrong! So instead of learning from what he is doing right, lets see if we can find something he is doing wrong.

Posted on 28 Jul 2013 21:25:35 BDT
For those who want a more positive review: http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life/engaging-with-keller.php

I'm really looking forward to reading this. Love it when Christians manage to disagree gracefully :)

In reply to an earlier post on 29 Jul 2013 08:25:26 BDT
DEG says:
Yes, I'd already read that review when I posted my previous comments. But this won't do. If they wanted to disagree with him as a brother, could they not have written to him privately? Of course they could! But no, it is his name that will sell their book, not theirs. It's a bad show.

Posted on 29 Jul 2013 08:42:01 BDT
Yes, I can't help but feel that all the criticisms leveled by Mr Robertson at the book could be leveled at his own review. Is Engaging with Keller not irenic enough? His review doesn't even pretend to be. Is it a personal attack on Keller? His review seems a personal attack on the men involved that doesn't actually talk about the theological issues. Do they only engage with Keller's written work? So does Mr Robertson only engage with the authors' written work. Do they make "arrogant" truth claims? So does Mr Robertson. Do they make unwarranted assumptions about intentions? There seems to be such assumptions as well in this review.

"Why does the church keeps shooting its own people?" If we're never meant to discuss with others ministers then Mr Robertson's own review falls foul. And if we are meant to fight for the reformed truth then their attempt is valid. The fact that these ministers have written a book about Keller shows that they are very much concerned with how he states reformed theology.

Posted on 30 Jul 2013 16:54:51 BDT
Last edited by the author on 30 Jul 2013 16:55:11 BDT
Jonathan says:
I can only imagine that the reviewer failed to read the forward, where Keller is thanked and admired; the acknowledgements, where he is thanked; or the conclusion, where he is described as a brother on the same mission. One therefore wonders if he read anything in between.

The authors are critical of the way Keller communicates some things, but have no doubts about his overall orthodoxy, are grateful for his contribution to the church, and are hopeful, particularly in the light of his wide influnce, that he will communicate the gospel all the more clearly and powerfully.

I don't agree with everything weitten in the book, but it would be hard to find fault with the courteous and appreciative manner in whcih they have engaged with Keller.

Posted on 26 Dec 2013 18:28:18 GMT
Maverick says:
Thanks for the review. This book seems to be everything I suspected it would be. Depressing indeed.

Posted on 18 Jan 2014 16:40:33 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Jan 2014 18:05:28 GMT
Mr Robertson asks one of the strangest questions I've seen on Amazon:

"The main question is why would reformed evangelical Christians write a book which is quite clearly a sustained polemic against one of the leading reformed evangelical Christians of our day?"

Even if his description were accurate, rather than being a personal opinion, it would still be thoroughly naïve.

Without getting too detailed, one rather obvious answer would be: Because they thought it would be useful to other people.

Surely Mr Robertson doesn't think that people should only write books that h approves of? Personally I shall purchase and read the book because I have just finished reading Keller's "Reason for God", and though I found it to be excellent in some respects, I was also struck by several elements that seemed rather dubious. When I saw, in a review, that "Engaging with Keller" addressed at least some of my own concerns it seemed to be an obvious purchase.

In reply to an earlier post on 18 Jan 2014 17:54:43 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Jan 2014 18:06:51 GMT
DEG

May I commend Os Guinness' book "Dining With the Devil" to your attention.
Though written in 1993 it has turned out to be quite an accurate prediction about the "megachurch" movement which was at that time relatively new.
(Consider the debacle of Robert Schuller and the now bankrupt "Crystal Cathedral" in Orange County, California I am certainly not comparing Schuller and Keller - merely offering concrete proof that size is by no means automatic proof that all is well) as your *seemingly* sarcastic comment:

"[Keller's] ministry is having an impact, the church he serves is growing therefore he must be doing something wrong!"

In a nutshell, and as a *general* observation, if ever quantity becomes more important than quality and faithfulness to Christ's teaching, then "yes".

It is worth noting that there is experimental evidence that human groups begin to loose effectiveness. A church of 5,000 members, even when it conducts several services each Sunday, may well look impressive on the outside whilst suffering substantial problems on the inside.
As Guinness observes, one such problem is that a number of these "megachurches" only record new members coming through the front door whilst ignoring the people leaving through the service entrance. Thus, in absolute terms, church growth may be significantly overestimated, non-existent or even negative without anyone being any the wiser.

(I mention this simply to illustrate the unwisdom of making too many assumptions based solely on external appearances. Which in turn illustrates that learning a negative lesson may have actually positive benefits, whereas unwarranted optimism may turn out to have very negative consequences.)

Posted on 6 Jun 2015 22:52:47 BDT
Typical pontifical review by David Roberson. He doesn't 'get it' so we 'shouldn't get it'. Only others are 'small minded and petty'. He may very well multiply words without knowledge here (who can tell?) but it may just be ignorance 'squared' nonetheless! So very much of what David writes elsewhere is to be valued. It would be folly in the extreme, however, to assume that David is altogether always spiritually discerning. As for me; I now intend to buy this book as a result of David's review. As for Tim Keller and his words and writings? ..... Take heed what ye hear ... and read!
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