Tag Archives: Tim Keller

Extended Quote of the Day – Tim Keller

tim-keller“On the other hand, if God exists but is unipersonal, there was a time when God was not love. Before God created the world, when there was only one divine person, there was no lover, because love can exist only in a relationship. If a unipersonal God had created the world and its inhabitants, such a God would not in his essence be love. Power and greatness possibly, but not love. But if from all eternity, without end and without beginning, ultimate reality is a community of persons knowing and loving one another, then ultimate reality is about love relationships.”

– Tim Keller, King’s Cross, 9.

Two Conference Sermons that Brought Enormous Clarity

preaching the gospel to yourself-01I’m preparing a sermon for Basileia about what it means to preach the gospel to ourselves.  As part of my prep, I’ve been mining the resources at the Resurgence, and I’ve come across two sermons that have helped me tremendously.  These two sermons are actually not about preaching the gospel to yourself, but actually help answer the question, “What is the Gospel?”  That topic is actually what I preached on this past weekend, and now I wish I had heard these sermons before I preached.  But oh well, they’re awesome anyway.

Gospel Above and Gospel Below – Matt Chandler

http://theresurgence.com/2011/03/02/matt-chandler-gospel-above-and-gospel-below

Dwelling in the Gospel – Tim Keller

http://theresurgence.com/2009/03/31/dwelling-in-the-gospel-video

 

 

Five Sentence Review: City of Man: Religion and Politics in a New Era – Michael Gerson & Peter Wehner

city-of-manI received this book from my brother for Christmas and was initially very intrigued because Tim Keller, a man whom I greatly respect, wrote the forward. Gerson and Wehner (the authors of the book) are not theologians, rather they are right-leaning politicians who happen to be Christians and care deeply about both faith and politics. The good thing about this book is that it’s not the same-ole’, same ole’ story from two Christians who have wholesale bought an unchallenged, stale Republican vision for how to make this country “God’s nation.” Gerson and Wehner lay a foundation for how Christians should understand both the role of their faith and the role of the government within a democratic society. My one caveat is that they fail to fully address many issues, and despite their intentions to move beyond the mistakes of the Religious Right, at times they still seem a bit short-sighted.

Verdict: A good introduction to the discussion of faith and politics, but a little too brief.

 

Three of Five Cups of Black Coffee.

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(Mini) Book Review: Generous Justice by Tim Keller

generous-justiceGo ahead and chalk up another home run for Tim Keller.  Generous Justice is a book about social justice, argued from a Christian perspective, and amazingly written with equal parts intellect, accessibility, challenge, and balance.  The hard part about this book will be applying it, but Keller argues (and I believe convincingly) that we are called to carry out social justice for the poor and marginalized because Jesus has changed us and made us new.  Keller carefully balances his writing so that it is neither Republican, nor Democrat, neither triumphalistic, nor apathetic, but balanced and biblical.  When I start reading a Keller book, I honestly get a bit covetous of his ability to write so well about such important subjects.  He’s just great.  I highly recommend this book.

Book Review – Church Planter by Darrin Patrick

church-planterAs I’ve said previously, I’m in the beginning stages of planting a church in Nashville Tennessee.  That being the case, I’ve been reading everything about the subject that I can get my hands on as I prayerfully formulate the vision for the church.  Deep Church by Jim Belcher was helpful.  Vintage Church by Mark Driscoll is a wonderful book.  Francis Chan’s Forgotten God provided a needed reminder that I must (and frankly long to) operate out the of the power that only the Holy Spirit provides.  And my latest read, Church Planter by Darrin Patrick, has been a much needed encouragement and reminder about what it is I’m supposed to be doing.

Patrick lays out the book in three sections:  The Man, The Message, and The Mission.  I immediately connected with the first section.  Personally speaking, I needed to be reminded and encouraged about my call to ministry and my call to church planting.  Patrick helped me to do this.  Section two of the book, the Message, was a good reminder of what the gospel is and how it needs to be preached.  I was less moved by this section of the book, but simply because most of its content is material that I’ve been swimming in for quite some time.  Section three was my second favorite part of the book (after section one).  I grew up hearing only a 50% gospel message.  I mean, I grew up hearing how Jesus died and rose again and how that should transform me morally, but I heard very little about how that message is supposed to send us on mission into our cities and communities.  The mission I mainly heard was, “tell people how to get saved.”  But the culture-transforming, missional-lifestyle aspects of the gospel were rarely touched upon.  And yet the Bible calls it the “gospel of the kingdom.”  It’s a message about how to be saved yes, but the saved are sent on mission to not only preach salvation but transform cultures and communities and families.  I don’t want to say that I never heard anything of this sort growing up, but it definitely wasn’t a key feature of the Christianity that I was accustomed to.  Men like Driscoll and Keller and Patrick continue to add clarity to my thinking in this area.

This is a great book, and honestly it’s usefulness goes way beyond church planting. If church members read this book and embraced its words, Godly pastors would rejoice at the wave of momentum that would occur.

Book Review: The Prodigal God by Tim Keller

prodigal-god

Three Down

The Prodigal God marks the third Tim Keller book that I’ve read this year.  All three books (The Reason for God, Counterfeit Gods, and now The Prodigal God) were gifts from my brother Andy and his family.  They’re all worth your time.

A Revealing Twist on a Old Favorite

Tim Keller has an uncanny ability to take Bible stories that you’ve heard many, many times before and reveal their relevance in previously unthought of ways.  The Prodigal God is a striking example.  The entire book explores the parable of “the prodigal son,” or as Keller likes to call it, “the parable of the two lost sons.”  As Keller’s renaming of the parable might suggest, he finds as much meaning and significance in the story about the older brother as he does in the story about the younger brother.

The title, “The Prodigal God” is also a bit of a twist on the normal understanding of this parable.  The word “prodigal,” according to Keller, means “recklessly extravagant,” or “having spent everything” (1).  And he aptly applies this title to God, who recklessly loves His people and who spent the life of His son for our redemption.  Keller claims that he has “seen more people encouraged, enlightened, and helped by this passage, when he explained the true meaning of it, than by any other text” (XIII).

I don’t think Keller is stretching the meaning of this story.  I think He’s right, and it’s amazing to see all the applications that this story entails.

Personally Speaking

For me personally, I can identify with “the older brother” in this parable.  I know my standing before God is one based on Jesus’ performance and not my own performance.  But sometimes, in the midst of life, I find myself believing that my performance is the ground upon which God is either proud or disappointed.  Sometimes in these moments, especially when I think I am excelling in my pursuit of God, I am the most judgmental person you’d ever want to meet.  I start expecting people to live up to my standards.  This is pride, and it’s older brother syndrome.  The Prodigal God, and about ten other things in my life right now, have helped remind me that I have plenty of faults, and I need to be humble.  After all, when I am humble, I am most useful to God.

This is a good book.  Easy to read.  Life-changing.  I wish it weren’t twenty bucks, because I’d buy about fifty copies and give them away.

Book Review: Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis

MereChristianityPrecursory Thoughts

It’s been my intention for quite a while to spend time with the writings of C.S. Lewis.  Four or five years ago I read nearly half of Mere Christianity, but at the time I was also reading several other books and attending seminary.  The mixture of busy-ness made it easy to put this book down half way through.

Lately I’ve read several other authors who, quoting Lewis, have increased my desire to pick up Mere Christianity once again and give it a go.  John Piper, whom I respect tremendously, often quotes Lewis; he does so especially in his seminal book, Desiring God.  Likewise Tim Keller,whom I also respect, refers to Lewis as a huge influence and quotes from him liberally in The Reason for God.  Lastly, Brian McLaren, whom I do not respect (his theology, not the man), also uses Lewis as a source of inspiration in some of his writings.  The problem with this of course is that two men whom I greatly admire and agree with, site Lewis as a large influence.  Contrariwise McLaren, whom I do not respect, sites Lewis as a reference too.  In fact I would say that many of the most-loathsome beliefs that McLaren espouses seem to be founded in the thought of C.S. Lewis.

Watching a recent talk by John Piper about Lewis has helped clear the air for me in many respects.  In the talk, which I encourage you to watch, Piper discusses some of the problems with Lewis, but he also discusses the rewards that C.S. Lewis has wrought within his own life.

Review

Mere Christianity was originally delivered as a series of Radio Broadcasts in the 1940’s, only later in 1952, was it developed into a book.  As a result, it’s a very approachable read with subjects divided into nice, bite-sized chapters.  The book is organized into four separate books each with its own chapters.  The books are as follows:  Book 1 – Right and Wrong as a Clue to the Meaning of the Universe, Book 2 – What Christians Believe, Book 3 – Christian Behaviour, Book 4 – Beyond Personality:  Or First Steps in the Doctrine of the Trinity.  Mere Christianity is essentially part apologetic for Christianity and part explanation of Christianity, and I have to applaud Lewis for doing a good job in his defending and explaining.

Personally, I enjoyed the apologetic in the beginning of the book and the thoughts on the Trinity at the end of the book most thoroughly.  The book is a bit slow in the middle.  Spiritually speaking, Mere Christianity gave me some interesting ways of thinking about Christianity.  In fact Lewis’ greatest contribution may be that he allows readers to see problematic portions of Christianity in a new light through his vivid descriptions.

This book wasn’t life changing for me, but it was definitely a worthwhile read.  If nothing else, I see portions of Christianity more clearly than I used to, and I have a bunch of Lewis quotes that will make me sound smart if I use them.  The problematic parts of Lewis’ philosophy make this a hard book for me to whole-heartedly recommend (see Piper’s talk).  Many will be blessed by its content and some may be led astray.  As always we must place the Bible’s revelation of itself ahead of man’s interpretations. Our personal interpretations are subject to the scrutiny of Bible.  I’m going to continue to read more of Lewis and see how my opinion develops after delving further.

Piper’s talk – http://theresurgence.com/why-cs-lewis-influenced-john-piper

Book Review: Through Painted Deserts by Donald Miller

throughpainteddesertsI’m not going to give a full review of this book because I’m not sure that it’s really necessary.  However, because I believe the academic exercise of reviewing books is a necessary one to synthesize thoughts concretely, I will at least provide a list of the highlights of my thoughts on Through Painted Deserts.

– This is Donald Miller’s first book in revised and rewritten form originally entitled Prayer and the Art of Volkswagen Maintenance.

– It’s apparent that this is some of Miller’s earlier writing.  While still a good book, it’s not as immediately accessible as Blue Like Jazz, Searching for God Knows What, To Own a Dragon,or A Million Miles in a Thousand Years.

Through Painted Deserts is less pointed in its spiritual approach.  This is more of a memoir of Donald Miller than a statement about God.   Miller does relate pieces of the struggle he had in his 20’s to believe in God over against Evolutionary and Scientific theories, but these struggles take a back seat to the overall story of the book.

– Having read this right after reading The Reason For God by Tim Keller, is was cool to see some of Keller’s arguments for God articulated in Miller’s real life experiences.  Keller talks about the beauty and longing found within art and nature as indications of God’s reality, and Miller expresses these same thoughts personally as he relates his story of traveling across America.  Miller also relates the insignificance he feels towards himself when observing God’s creation, a thought that is reminiscent of John Piper.  So in a real way, Miller helps flesh out the arguments of Keller and Piper.

– This is an enjoyable read, but I feel it is Miller’s least important work to date.  If you’ve never read Donald Miller before, I’d suggest reading any of his other books before reading Through Painted Deserts.

Book Review: The Reason for God – by Tim Keller

the-reason-for-godWhile Tim Keller’s book, The Reason for God, is only one book among many modern day apologetics for the Christian faith, it may be the best.  I’ve heard it said, although I’m not quite sure from whom, that “The Reason for God is the most important apologetic that’s been written since Lewis’ Mere Christianity.”  That’s high praise, and it’s well deserved.

Structure
This book is divided into two main sections.  The first seven chapters are responses to the most common arguments against Christianity.  The last seven chapters are arguments in favor of Christianity.  Between these two large sections of the book, Keller pauses to let the reader dwell on what has been argued so far.  He ends the book with an appeal to enter into Christianity whole-heartedly, not flippantly or easily.  In his own words, “it would be very easy in that condition (one of difficulty or need) to approach God as a means to an end.  Are you getting into Christianity to serve God, or to get God to serve you?  The later is a kind shamanism, an effort to get control of God through your prayers and practices.  It is using God rather than trusting him” (238).

This Book Rocks
This is a great book for at least three reasons.  The Reason for God is highly accessible, contains real-life, tested apologetic arguments, and adequately interacts with the all the major arguments against Christianity.

First and foremost this is a book that is accessible to a wide range of readers.  While dealing with philosophy, science, Biblical interpretation, and religious arguments, Keller manages to keep the book on a level that interested high school students could easily comprehend.  The book is filled with personal stories and pop culture references, and his style reminds me of the descriptions I’ve heard of Francis Schaeffer.  Keller gives you the feeling that he really knows and has thought about what he writes.

Part of the power of this book is that Keller has been living these arguments and discussions about Christianity for the past twenty years in New York City.  Each of the first seven chapters begins with quotes from people that Keller has actually interacted with.  Because this book is built upon real conversations between a Pastor and people who have attended his church, it’s congenial in tone.  The worst part about many apologists is their arrogance.  Keller takes no such approach.  His approach is firm and whole-hearted, but kind.

The arguments within The Reason for God are approachable and congenial and yet they still do adequate justice to the points of contention that many have with the Christian faith.  Keller doesn’t shy away from hard questions, and he doesn’t pretend his own arguments are water tight.  He knows that Christianity is ultimately built upon faith, and faith can’t be completely proven.  He leaves room for people to struggle and disagree with his own opinions, and yet he’s not weak or cowering.  This is a book that I believe will help convince many.  Seekers will go away challenged and questioning, not angry.

I love this book.  I feel wiser and more informed for having read it.  While I don’t agree with Keller’s arguments regarding creation, I appreciate the manner in which he explained his opinions.  Again, even though I have contention with something Keller said, his tone leaves me wanting to research and think rather than just react in a rage of disagreement.  If you love Jesus read this book!  If you don’t understand Christianity or have doubts, read this book!

Counterfeit Gods by Tim Keller

counterfeit-godsI recently finished Counterfeit Gods, The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters by Tim Keller.  Honestly, had it not been for my brother Andy, who gave me this book for Christmas, I probably would not have read it.  I’ve heard for quite some time that Keller’s books are amazing, but the title of this book just seemed so “I already know what that’s about.”  So, I wasn’t planning on reading it, but with Andy’s encouragement, I embarked on this rather accessible book and came away enlightened for the better.

Counterfeit Gods is a more in-depth study of the some of the themes in Louie Giglio’s book, The Air I Breathe.  If you like that book, and it’s examination of the worship that every person is offering to something or someone, then you’ll love Counterfeit Gods.  Keller begins with many of Giglio’s same tenants – 1) everyone worships something, 2) we can make an idol out of anything, 3) God is the only thing that will satisfy us, etc. – but he examines these ideas more thoroughly.  Reading this book will convict your heart, reveal personal idols that you were unaware existed, and draw you towards the glorious gospel of Jesus.

One of the most intriguing parts about Counterfeit Gods is Keller’s ability to unveil truths within biblical stories that previously seemed absent.  Listening to Keller explain a biblical story is like hearing the story for the first time.  Without stretching the biblical text one iota, Keller unveils newfound understandings and exposes untold truths.  This to me is Keller’s greatest accomplishment within Counterfeit Gods.  He helps the Bible become alive.

I would be remiss not to mention that Keller also accomplishes the task of relating all of this Biblical understanding to modern day culture as he waxes eloquently about culture.  He effortlessly relates everything to current cultural examples.  He’s a well-read guy and it shows.

I cannot thank Andy enough for turning me onto this book.  I honestly would have ignored Counterfeit Gods had Andy not sung its praises.  This is a seriously good read that is convicting and timely.  God has used it to speak into my life and reveal idolatry that I scarcely knew was present.