Wednesday, 18 April 2018

Making Sense of God

This was a great book. To cut to the chase, if you are a Christian, sceptic, atheist, cultural critic or someone who wants a consistent worldview that provides freedom, meaning, purpose, morals, and satisfaction than read this book. Some of Keller's books I think are alright, but in this one, he makes very astute observations about our current culture and points out how it is inconsistent and doesn't provide what it really means to be human.

The book is split into three uneven parts, with the middle section taking most of the pages. First Keller sets up the rationale for the book, pointing out that religion is not going anywhere, and that religion and secular thought are both based on some foundational claim, a faith claim if you will. The trick is to live consistently in one that works, aligns with reality and is satisfying. Throughout the rest of the book, Keller would hold up what our materialistic, post-modern, secular society believes and says and contrast that with Christianity.

In part two Keller looks at six givens in human life - meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, hope, and justice. He compares them to what society is telling us and shows that "in each case the secular narratives, while often partially right, are not self-evident and are attended by a host of difficulties." He showed that Christianity offers "a meaning that suffering cannot remove, a satisfaction not based on circumstances, a freedom that does not hurt but rather enhances love, an identity that does not crush you or exclude others, a moral compass that does not turn you into an oppressor, and a hope that can face anything, even death."

Part three was a quick summary of his book he is bouncing off, The Reason For God, where he quickly surveys the classic arguments for God's existence, showing they don't prove God, just that it seems more reasonable to believe them - that it takes more faith, more conditions or more exceptions to not believe there is some sort of deity. He then argues for Jesus and Christianity.

Keller is balanced by pointing out the good of what society is saying and how compared to other cultures and time period we are doing pretty well. But he is honest about the contradictions, problems or the oversight our culture is missing. I have heard it said that Keller is a "third way preacher", in that he normally puts forward the traditional two positions like religion and atheism, democratic and republic, West vs East and then he gives another way, a third way, to help us see that both sides are wrong in some places and both sides are right in others. He also seems to lean on Charles Taylor a little bit which makes me want to read something of his own work.

Throughout the book, I don't think Keller provides any strawman arguments to people's position on morality, freedom and a sense of purpose. This book has like 85 pages of footnotes at the end to justify his research. But this was also a sore point for me. The footnotes were at the back of the book, and in general, that just annoys me, but also since this was a reasoned critique of culture and a defense of Christianity, I thought that in some parts the people who I would like to give this book to may not read it or finish it. It was a little dense in parts so those who don't want to think about their lives in the whole, those who don't want a consistent worldview, those who ignore any nagging sense that their life doesn't have real meaning or satisfaction will not be drawn to read this book. It may have been Socrates who said "the unexamined life is not worth living" but lots of people do live unexamined lives and think that is ok. I think they should read this book, but I don't think they will.

Like Keller did with his Reason for God book, he also spoke at Google on this book and spent some time on Q&A. This would be a good intro into this book for those who are interested.

Other books by Tim Keller I have reviewed:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for reviewing the book. It lead to me watching his google talk...and I think its likely I'll be reading one of his books at some stage.