I respect the theologians, writers, and pastors over at www.Reformation21.org. I frequent that site because of the great commitment to uphold the Gospel in all of life, teaching, and preaching, as well as their commitment to Reformed theology. However, I’m going to jump right to the chase on this one: this review is unhelpful. And there is more to come apparently. I believe David Robertson is well-intentioned, but I do not see a whole lot of value to his critiques of the book, other than his few points against modern society. (Can you tell I’m siding with Tim Keller on this one?)
“Firstly I have a problem with the title. I am not sure what it means.”
The Reason for God. It is a defense of God’s existence, His character, His nature, and His actions in the world. Summed up, it is, well, the reason for God. A defense, an apologetic. It is a title that has an allure (at least in my mind) to an unbelieving, doubt-filled, skeptical, postmodern audience. Also, Robertson is not a postmodern so of course he is not going to get the point of the title. It’s not really meant to appeal to him. Postmoderns’ presuppositions consist of doubt, not just questions. They doubt the existence of God, the character of God, His nature, His actions, and His “representatives.” And they especially doubt the God of the Bible. Is that not kind of the point of the book? To engage unbelieving, postmodern, skeptical audiences? And also to give believers some rock-solid arguments to witness with? I believe this is a petty point to critique.
“Maybe it’s my Europeanness but I tend to think that God does not need a reason.”
Yes, He does not need a reason for anything. He is God and answers to no man. I agree. But try using that same language with a rebellious, Gospel-resisting postmodern in witnessing and you will likely get shut down right away. You have fulfilled their presupposition in this case. Anything said after that statement (that “God does not need a reason”) will bounce a lot of times (though of course God can speak through and use anything He well pleases and is constrained by no instrument of man – Jonah?).
“The subtitle ‘Belief in an age of Skepticism’ also causes a question in my mind – is this really an age of scepticism? …
… Speaking of doubts I have a slight question about the use of the term doubt. There is surely a difference between a question and a doubt. If a students says to her teacher ‘I have a question about what you are saying’ this is different from saying ‘I doubt what you are telling me.'”
To the first statement: Yes, this is an age of skepticism. People question everything now in our society, while never arriving at a knowledge of the truth; always searching, but never finding. That’s what is popular now. Most people in our culture, particularly postmoderns, have presuppositions about what they think Christianity says. So as soon as you open your mouth they think they already know what you are going to say. This is why you must start with presuppositional apologetics to knock out those underlying doubts from under their feet, removing blockades so they can hear the message of the Gospel in a way they may not have been able to before. Is that not the point of apologetics, to remove stumbling blocks as much as possible until you finally present them with Christ crucified for sinners? Apologetics for the Gospel?
Anyway, these presuppositions are in the form of doubts, not merely questions, because that is the way people are educated in our society now within the universities. “Doubt, prod, and question everything” is now a received dogma in our society. Regardless, because of these presuppositions, questions inevitably arise when confronted with the old Gospel message, but in the form of cautious, hesitating, skeptical doubt. They will ask a sometimes rhetorical question such as, “How can you believe in the Christian God? He’s so angry and narrow.” What they are really saying a lot of times is, “I highly doubt that type of a God exists on the basis of what I know and feel to be true in my heart.”
“At a time when the default position for the vast majority of people in the West is a form of agnosticism or practical atheism (living as though God did not exist) we need to make sure that we do not deify doubt.”
I agree with his statements concerning agnosticism and practical atheism making their home in people’s minds and souls, but that’s a side point. Deify doubt, though? I hardly think Tim Keller is coming anywhere close to doing that. He is appealing to unbelievers’ presuppositional doubts by answering the most common (doubt-filled) questions people have asked him in his over 20 years of ministry in the thick of one of the most postmodern, urban environments in the world, NYC. He’s not setting doubt itself up as an idol! Silly argument, at least against the book. Now the only people I would tend to say that Robertson’s analysis is true of is the Emergent church (ope sorry, not supposed to label it so as to not put it in a box, how rude of me :]). I do believe they deify doubt and have made it the lens through which they approach the Bible and it is tainting the pure message of the Gospel by saying we can never really arrive at a “knowledge of the holy and sacred” (their own – paraphrased – words).
Regardless, I am convinced Tim Keller engages the doubts honestly, takes them apart lovingly, and then shows the reader that maybe they are not the center of the universe through which all reality (“their reality”) is determined. It seems to me that most of David Robertson’s qualms with the book come from his lack of understanding the American postmodern mindset. I mean Tim Keller has been engaging a postmodern audience a bit longer than he has. By no means am I an expert on American postmodern thought, but the points Robertson chooses to critique, at least to me, show his ignorance of defending the truth and witnessing to postmoderns in particular. I could be wrong though, because I know nothing about the man really as far as his background is concerned.