http://www.reformation21.org/shelf-life … review.php
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.
If We Go on Sinning Deliberately
By David Westerfield
On April 24, 2008
Excerpt taken from http://cicministry.org/commentary/issue65b.htm
Recognizing allusions may also prove helpful in casting light on passages that are often considered “difficult.” This turns out to be the case with the warning found in Hebrews chapter 10:
For if we go on sinning willfully after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain terrifying expectation of judgment, and the fury of a fire which will consume the adversaries. Anyone who has set aside the Law of Moses dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. How much severer punishment do you think he will deserve who has trampled under foot the Son of God, and has regarded as unclean the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has insulted the Spirit of grace? (Hebrews 10:26-29)
While there are several issues evident within this complex passage, I wish to focus on the term “sinning willfully” in verse 26. Many have struggled with what exactly the author of Hebrews is trying to convey with this term. The confusion proceeds from the fact that every “sin” is indeed done “willfully” in the sense that all who “sin” do the act of their own volition, thus “willfully” in one sense of the word. Furthermore, the Apostle John makes it quite clear: “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us” (1 John 1:8). Thus, if we are to maintain that the Scriptures are consistent in its unified message, “sinning willfully” must have some other meaning than that noted above. The question then is: “What does the author of Hebrews have in mind when he writes the term: “sinning willfully”?
Light is cast on this difficult passage when we realize that the author of Hebrews is most probably alluding to a distinct yet similar warning found in the Old Testament. In Numbers 15 we find that those “under the law of Moses” were given instruction and warning regarding “sinning unintentionally” and “sinning willfully.” Note the following:
Also if one person sins unintentionally, then he shall offer a one year old female goat for a sin offering. The priest shall make atonement before the Lord for the person who goes astray when he sins unintentionally, making atonement for him that he may be forgiven. You shall have one law for him who does anything unintentionally, for him who is native among the sons of Israel and for the alien who sojourns among them. But the person who does anything defiantly, whether he is native or an alien, that one is blaspheming the Lord; and that person shall be cut off from among his people. Because he has despised the word of the Lord and has broken His commandment, that person shall be completely cut off; his guilt will be on him (Numbers 15:27-31).
Therefore, since the author of Hebrews clearly notes that he is making an analogy to the punishment of those who “set aside the law” (vs. 28-29), we get a somewhat clearer picture of what he means by “sinning willfully.” Since there was a distinction in the Old Testament regarding those who had received the revelation of the Lord through Moses of “sinning unintentionally” and “sinning defiantly,” the author of Hebrews makes the following point analogous to the Old Testament instructions and warning: If those who defiantly spurned the Law after receiving the knowledge of its truth were put to death, how much greater will be the punishment of those who defiantly spurn the Gospel of Jesus Christ after receiving the knowledge of its truth.
After carefully examining the passage and the roots that the author of Hebrews is relating it to, it becomes evident the definition of “sinning willfully” carries with it the meaning of one who defiantly blasphemes the Gospel after accepting the concept that it is indeed true. When this is done, only a fearful expectation of the eternal judgment of God remains for that individual.