Saturday, November 15, 2008

More on the book review

My buddy James let me know that he was a little unclear on some of my criticisms of The Reason for God. I went back and read my post through two more times, and James is right -- I don't think I expressed myself very well. Here's another try.

The intended audience for Keller's book is non-Christians. Atheists and agnostics, mostly, but he's writing to followers of other religions as well. The book is laid out into two sections -- the first covers the most common questions posed about Christianity (why does God allow evil, why did Jesus have to die, etc...) and the second half lays out his take on some of the most foundational Christian principles -- grace, love, spiritual disciplines, etc...

So given all of that, I have to think that at some point he wants the reader to ask the question that is asked multiple times in the New Testament: "What must I do to be saved?"

It's the call to action. Every church I've seen has some sort of answer for this question. Some say you must accept Jesus with a statement of faith, others perform baptism, others have a longer-term process with multiple steps of commitment.

Keller doesn't answer the question at all. He spends 300 pages telling non-Christians why they should change their minds, yet if the book actually succeeds in this, he leaves the non-churched reader wondering about the next step. I found this strange.

So this is my main critique with Keller's book:

1) He says that non-Christians are lost and destined for hell (see here on his church website for more on the topic). We'll call this "point A" in a spiritual journey, just for the sake of example.
2) He says that Christianity is not only the key to going to heaven, but it's the key to living the best life on earth. We'll call this point B in the spiritual journey.
3) He says nothing about how to get from point A to point B.

That seemed odd to me.


Bob said...

I wonder if maybe he does not have, or believe in, an exact, specific formula? (Remember I haven't read the book; I'm just speculating based on what you have written). Jesus said "believe." When he encountered people -- the woman at the well and the guy next to him on the cross, for example -- there is not account of him going through the "plan of salvation" or inviting them to say the "sinner's prayer." Of course he was also there in the flesh.

But I still have to wonder if maybe Keller is saying, simply, to believe and purposely does not give a formulaic definition of what that means.

t.k.foster said...

Personally I think the age of skepticism is the response for the most recent events. I am glad that the next generation is much more secular and atheistic than our parents; considering what they have done for the world and the next generation (I can't think of a positive thing), I'd hate to see the world left the same way.

Perhaps this generation won't be thinking "when we get raptured," but rather how can our decisions affect those in the next generations positively. That will make a much better world.

Redlefty said...

You guys could be right, but my sense in reading the book is that he most definitely thinks there's some kind of formula, and he's definitely focused on the "next life" with his eschatology.

This should theoretically lead to the book's "climax" of answering the question of how to be saved, right?

If I visisted his church and responded wanting to become Christian, I wonder what they would do with me? :)

Don said...

Michael, I think you are right in your response to the comments. Knowing no more than what you have presented, he does seem to have left out a lot of info (his formula). It only reinforces the comment I made on the previous post. It is simply irritating to me to have someone wax eloquently about the grace and love of God only to drop the "law bomb" on your head following that "love" session. It certainly appears odd of him to construct a book as he did.

Debby said...

I read a review of this book on an atheist's blog. Since I am convinced of God, by God, I see no reason to read the book. I don't feel a need to argue what I believe, only to display it at each opportunity. God has created a big world, and I've no doubt that he's greater even that that world. Celebrate that God is, and that He loves us, even still. We display a great range of belief even in these comments, an even greater range in this world. And yet God is big enough for all of us.

Redlefty said...

Debby, I really like how you said you are conviced of God, by God.

That flows into something that's been gurgling around unformed in my brain. I think it's almost ready to be written now; thanks.

Bob said...

I look forward to reading that, Michael, whatever it is.

If you were to go to his church and express a desire to become a Christian, I think he would have an answer for you. I really do.

Although those of us who believe might not find much of use in a book such as this (apologetic) I believe it still has its place. Faith is still the huge component of believing, but there are still those who are brought to faith via logic.