The GeoChristian

The Earth. Christianity. They go together.

The Reason for God — $8.99

ReasonForGodI saw The Reason for God by Timothy Keller at Costco for only $8.99. Or you can get it for $10.88 on Amazon. You decide.

As I have said before, I recommend this book for

  1. Skeptics — If you reject Christianity because what you have read from the New Atheists, you owe it to yourself to read this book.
  2. Doubters — If you are struggling in your faith because of intellectual doubts, this might be the book for you.
  3. Mature Christians — If you want to be more effective in your discussions with skeptics and doubters, this book can add some apologetics tools to your toolbox.

Grace and Peace

August 21, 2009 - Posted by | Apologetics, Christianity

10 Comments »

  1. Heretofore, I have encountered many many arguments for Christianity, and exactly every one so far not only fails to be a good argument, they all fail to even be non-retarded. Surely this book will be the exception.

    Or at least a bit of blog fodder.

    Like

    Comment by scaryreasoner | August 21, 2009

  2. Scaryreasoner:

    I’ve seen plenty of bad arguments for Christianity as well. I think Keller does a great job of acknowledging and tackling the tough questions.

    Thanks for your comment.

    Like

    Comment by geochristian | August 21, 2009

  3. scaryreasoner,

    I’m curious… Who have you read so far that have given only retarded reasons for Christianity? C.S. Lewis? William Lane Craig? N.T. Wright?

    If you’ve read none of them, you may want to do yourself a favor and pick up some of their works in addition to Keller’s book.

    Like

    Comment by Kenny Johnson | August 22, 2009

  4. I haven’t read C.S. Lewis, William Lane Craig, or N.T. Wright. I have read Timothy Keller’s book, and as I stated elsewhere, I found his answers to the tough questions to be easy and unconvincing.

    His answer to the key question, “If God is good and all-powerful, why is the world such a source of misery?” boils down to “Mysterious are the ways of the Lord.”

    He devotes all of 12 pages in Chapter 2 to the question, “How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?”

    He says, “Just because you can’t see or imagine a good reason why God might allow something to happen doesn’t mean there can’t be one.” Really? There was a good reason to create ebola and amoebic dysentery. There was a good reason to send a tidal wave to drown babies in their cribs in December 2004, to cook them in volcanic cinders at Pompeii, to crush them under countless earthquakes, to allow them to starve to death, die of thirst, or be stricken with fatal diseases which take them before they even learn to speak.

    There was a good reason, because God is good, and certainly powerful enough to have prevented all of these tragedies, if He’d chosen to. Since He didn’t, He MUST have had a good reason. But you’re not smart enough to understand it. “Mysterious are the ways of the Lord.”

    Color me unconvinced.

    He then turns to C.S. Lewis, and with rationalizations that would make sufferers of Stockholm Syndrome proud, argues that evil and suffering may actually be evidence FOR God.
    “The nonbeliever in God doesn’t have a good basis for being outraged at injustice” because such a stance requires “the reality of some extra-natural (or supernatural) standard by which to make your judgment.”

    Uh, no. Pain and suffering are undesirable, and it doesn’t require some belief in the supernatural to recognize that.

    Keller then digresses into a discussion of Jesus’ suffering, and continues, “If we ask again the question, ‘Why does God allow evil and suffering to continue?’ and we look at the cross of Jesus, we still do not know what the answer is.”

    I think I know what the answer is. That all-good, all-powerful God you’ve imagined exists nowhere except in your imagination.

    Keller closes the chapter promising that after we die, things will be better, and we’ll feel it EVEN MORE BETTERER because of all the pain along the way.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, the notion that things will be perfect beyond the grave, and getting punched in the gut is good for us in the meantime (and will help us appreciate “the good times” when they come) is an idea that anyone can see is flawed when a husband abuses his wife. Good people don’t inflict pain on those less powerful than themselves so the less powerful will appreciate it more when the pain stops. We hold mere people to a higher standard, but believers will avert their eyes and make excuses that don’t really excuse anything.

    For me, the book has empty platitudes and easy answers, but no solid response to the “hard questions.”

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | August 25, 2009

  5. lightsmith,

    I haven’t read Keller’s book, so I can only comment on your comments. :)

    Most Christians will admit that the problem of suffering is easily the toughest objection to Christian theism. There are complete books dedicated to this subject alone (not just 12 pages). It sounds as if (and it seems affirmed elsewhere) that Keller was actually trying to practice a bit of humility in his answers — which if true, I actually find impressive and refreshing. But for you, his inability to give an easy, pat answer frustrated you.

    However, I will say it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to figure out why God would allow bad things to happen and make have a good purpose for it. For one, you cannot have compassion, helping, and people acting out of love and altruism without suffering. Perhaps there is a good reason God would want that. The other issue is. What is our purpose of existing anyway? If it’s to eat, drink, and be merry, then yeah, I think suffering could seem completely meaningless. I think we have a greater purpose than that though. But anyway, there a lots of perspectives on this from a Christian point of view. Greg Boyd has his own ideas that are very different from WL Craig’s — and you’ll likely have different views from Calvinists and Non-calvinists in how God interacts with his creation.

    However, I think Keller (and Lewis’) argument that atheists have no reason to be outraged at suffering and evil is absolutely correct though. Atheists are making a moral judgement against God for allowing suffering. But who says that it’s wrong to do that? By what measure do you think that we must trying to prevent the suffering of others? I think Keller and Lewis, in this regard absolutely mute the objections from atheists about the problem of evil.

    I think it’s hard for me to defend Keller though without having read his book. It may very well be weak in argumentation (though I’ve heard from others that in some ways that was purposeful — i.e. he didn’t want to pretend he had all the right answers).

    If you want more straight-forward arguments for God, check out William Lane Craig:
    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=scholarly_articles_main

    http://www.reasonablefaith.org/site/PageServer?pagename=popular_articles_main

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/articles.html

    http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/menus/debates.html

    I think his debates are particularly good, because you can then hear him respond to specific objections — many of which you may share with his debate competitors.

    Like

    Comment by Kenny | August 25, 2009

  6. Kenny, thank you for your response. I don’t know Greg Boyd or W.L. Craig, so I’ll just be responding to the ideas you’ve expressed.

    I disagree with your claim that “you cannot have compassion, helping, and people acting out of love and altruism without suffering.” I know that with my own children, I have not found it necessary to make them suffer to help them with their homework, or to act out of love and altruism in trying to provide an environment for them in which they would NOT suffer. Perhaps you’re right that a bit of pain is required for displays of compassion, but even if that’s granted, there’s plenty of pain to bring out the compassion in people without fatal diseases and natural disasters. It would be one thing if, as many claim, all the pain and suffering in the world could be traced to human causes. Two guys who want a romantic relationship with the same woman means inevitable disappointment for one of them, which gives everyone an opportunity to display compassion without sweeping babies out to sea in a tsunami.

    I agree with you that atheists have no reason to be outraged at suffering, unless it’s caused by human beings (whether by acting or failing to act). We can seek to overcome problems, but expressing outrage at forces of nature is a pointless waste of energy. Better to use that energy to understand why things happen, and what can be done to prevent or diminish the bad stuff.

    I don’t really make any moral judgments against God, because I don’t believe there is an all-powerful moral agent which chooses to permit suffering. In these kinds of discussions, that may not always be clear. I’m really saying, “Okay, let’s pretend that there is such a thing, and explore what the implications of that would be in light of the facts we have about the world.”

    If there really was a being which had the power to prevent the December 2004 tsunami, and did nothing, in my mind that would be unforgivable negligence. I honestly don’t understand how Christian theists can say they believe there is a being which knew the tsunami would happen, could have stopped it, but didn’t, and yet somehow “it’s all good.” If I see a truck rolling down a hill toward a playground, and I can prevent the deaths of dozens of children simply by jumping into the cab and applying the brakes, what kind of monster would I be to choose not to do so because mounds of dead children will provide opportunities for my fellow citizens to show compassion?

    I don’t think there is a good response to the problem of such suffering by those who believe in an omniscient, omnipotent, and omnibenevolent God. There is a recent book, God’s Problem, by Bart D. Ehrman (a former theist), which considers half a dozen traditional responses (both Biblical and philosophical) to the problem of suffering. I haven’t read it myself, but I can understand why believers would prefer to accept easy answers like those Keller offers rather than grapple deeply and honestly with the issue. There’s really no way to reconcile that view of God with the world in which we find ourselves.

    I’ll check out your links at some point, but I don’t have a lot of spare time right now, so it may not be right away.

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | August 25, 2009

  7. Thanks for your response.

    I can tell you that many theists and Christians such as myself don’t just look at all the suffering in the world and say to themselves, “it’s all good.” I find the problem of suffering and evil to be greatly challenging. In my own family, I have 2 nephews who have terminal muscular dystrophy with a short lifespan outlook. I don’t have an answer as to why God allowed them to be born that way and then suffer. And I’m sure that question is much tougher for them to answer and deal with. I can’t even pretend to know.

    But does some tough question about my faith mean I’m going to abandon everything else I feel I know? Absolutely not. I believe I know God and he knows me. My faith isn’t all just personal experience, but it is part of my faith. While that may not be objective (at least to outsiders) and convincing to others, it’s something that makes sense to me. But my faith isn’t ONLY based on my own personal experiences. I believe my faith is rational. In fact, I find it to be more rational than atheism. I just can’t make sense of a world without a creator. I’ve always had a sense of belief in a God, but I didn’t become a Christian until I was in my mid 20s. And I largely accepted the Christian faith (over others theistic understandings of God) because it made the most sense to me based on my searching. I don’t want to go into detail here…

    So, I’m simply not going to abandon all I feel I know about God because I have a tough time understanding some bits about my faith. I’d guess that most honest and informed atheists would have to deal with some hard challenges to atheism as well.

    But I have also listened to debates and read the challenges and explanations for the problem of evil within the theistic worldview and while I admit they are challenging, I don’t consider them to be devastating either. There is room in my theology that allows God to allow evil and suffering without making him not good. I may not be able to articulate it well here, but others have done so and I find it satisfying enough for my soul.

    By the way… this question is something that the writers of the Bible themselves struggled with. Read the book of Job for instance where the characters in the story wrestle with this problem in a slightly different context. And how does the book answer the problem? It doesn’t — leaving it a mystery just as Keller did.

    Like

    Comment by Kenny Johnson | August 25, 2009

  8. Kenny, I’m sorry to hear about your nephews.

    I’m not trying to get you to abandon your faith. I respect your position. I don’t have all the answers either, though a world without a creator seems sensible to me. Life is challenging, but I never really thought of those challenges as a challenge to atheism.

    If I can say science is great even though I don’t know why I can see through five miles of air but can’t see through a sub-millimeter sheet of aluminum foil, I guess you can say God is great even though you don’t know why He allows suffering. Nobody has all the answers, we just do the best we can.

    I sincerely hope medical research provides some help for your nephews.

    Like

    Comment by lightsmith | August 25, 2009

  9. Thanks, I really appreciate that. :)

    Like

    Comment by Kenny | August 26, 2009

  10. I don’t have a great deal of time, so here’s the problem of God in a nutshell. All of the intelligent design community; whether it proceeds from the unlikely nature of the universe, or nature, or information in DNA, or anything else; actually proves atheism beyond all doubt. And here is why. ID’ers say that existence is extremely (near infinitely) improbable due to things like design and information (or some other source of improbability). Therefore you say that the answer is an Intelligent Designer (God). However, the design, information, etc. that must comprise God is infinitely greater than the improbability that you folks say gives rise to God! In short, if the probability of existence is nearly zero (~1/I, where I is “near infinity”) given our understanding, then the probability of God, using the same measure, is “infinity squared”. I call this the Munsick Improbability Axiom (MIA):

    If P(existence) = 1/I, then P(God) = 1/I^2

    In other words, the probability of God’s existence will always remain infinitely smaller than anything that mortal man comes up with as an unlikelihood of existence.

    Like

    Comment by Gregory A. Munsick | August 30, 2009


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