Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Timothy Keller. Viking. 336 pages. 2016
This book is considered to be a prequel to Tim Keller’s excellent 2008 book Reason for God. The author wrote the book to bring secular readers to a place where they might find it even sensible and desirable to explore the extensive foundations for the truth of Christianity. He compares the beliefs and claims of Christianity with the beliefs and claims of the secular view, asking which one makes more sense of a complex world and human experience. He challenges both the assumption that the world is getting more secular and the belief that secular, nonreligious people are basing their view of life mainly on reason. He then compares and contrasts how Christianity and secularism seek to provide meaning, satisfaction, freedom, identity, a moral compass, and hope—all things so crucial that we cannot live life without them.
Who is the book written for? The author states that if you think Christianity doesn’t hold much promise of making sense to a thinking person, then the book is written for you. In addition, if you have friends or family who feel this way, the book will be of interest for you and them as well.
He gives us two reasons to read the book. The first is practical. He first states not whether religion is true, but only to make the case that it is by no means a dying force. The second reason is a personal one. He writes that if you are experiencing unquiet and dissatisfaction in your life, they may be signs of a need for God that is there but which is not recognized as such.
This is a weighty read, not one that you will read through quickly. Of the many topics that he covered, the two that I got the most out of were his discussions of identity and particularly the problem that morals pose for secular people.
The author includes a list of five books for further reading that will give readers a good overview of Christian beliefs presented in the context of most contemporary arguments for and against their validity.
This was one of the best books I read in 2016, and I highly recommend it. Click on this link to read more reviews of Tim Keller’s books.
15 Great Quotes from Making Sense of God: An Invitation to the Skeptical by Tim Keller
- Belief in God makes sense to four out of five people in the world and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future.
- Only evangelical Protestants, among all religious bodies in the United States, are converting more people than they are losing. In the non-Western world the growth of Christianity is stunning.
- Don’t love anything less; instead learn to love God more, and you will love other things with far more satisfaction. Don’t stifle passionate love for anything; rather, redirect your greatest love toward God by loving him with your whole heart and loving him for himself, not just for what he can give you. Then, and only then, does the contentment start to come. That is the Christian view of satisfaction.
- Everyone looks to something for their meaning in life and whatever that is becomes their supreme love. And whatever is the object of your meaning and satisfaction ultimately controls you. You are never your own master, never actually free in the contemporary definition. Something else is always mastering you. Modern people are simply in denial about this.
- If there is no God, you will have to turn some created thing into a god to worship, and whatever that thing is, it will punish you with inner fears, resentment, guilt, and shame if you fail to achieve it.
- Christianity is the only religion that claims God gave up his freedom so we could experience the ultimate freedom—from evil and death itself. Therefore, you can trust him. He sacrificed his independence for you, so you can sacrifice yours for him. And when you do, you will find that it is the ultimate, infinitely liberating constraint.
- What is your identity? It consists of at least two things. First, it consists of a sense of self that is durable. Besides a sense of self, identity also includes a sense of worth, an assessment of your own value.
- What if we were created by a personal God and given a personal mission and calling? Then neither does the individual take precedence over the group (which can lead to social fragmentation), nor does the community take precedence over the individual (which can lead to oppression). What matters is not what society says about me, nor what I think of myself, but what God does.
- A Christian’s identity is not achieved but received. If you believe the Gospel and all its remarkable claims about Jesus and what he has done for you and who you are in him, then nothing that happens in this world can actually get at your identity.
- When we stop building our identity on career, or our race, or our family, or any other created thing and rest in God, the fears and drives that enslaved us recede, and we experience a new freedom and security.
- If I build my identity on what Jesus Christ did for me and the fact I have an everlasting name in him by grace, I can’t, on the one hand, feel superior to anybody, nor do I have to fear anybody else. I don’t have to compare myself with them at all. My identity is based on somebody who was excluded for me, who was cast out for me, who loved his enemies, and that is going to turn me into someone who embraces the Different.
- Secularism continues to lack even a rudimentary explanation of why moral obligation exists if there is no God.
- The Bible gives us the strongest possible foundation for the idea of human rights.
- Ultimately, nonbelief in God is an act of faith, because there is no way to prove that the world and all that is within it and its deep mathematical orderliness and matter itself all simply exist on their own as brute facts with no source outside of themselves.
- If he is what is claimed, and if he rose from the dead, then we have, as it were, a strong case not just that God exists but that he is the God of the Old and New Testament Scriptures. So Jesus himself is the main argument for why we should believe Christianity.