Making Sense Of God: An Invitation To The Skeptical, by Timothy Keller
In general, although I am not part of the intended audience for this book, I found a great deal to appreciate in it. That said, this is not a perfect book, and it contains at least some important flaws that I will discuss later. For the moment, though, it is worthwhile to examine why it is that a Christian would read this book, which is aimed at intelligent but fair-minded skeptics. A large part of that reason is simply to see how one engages in the task of preparing the ground to make an argument to skeptics in the first place. Before one can demonstrate that Christianity is probable, one must often make the case that it is conceivable, and that requires a great deal of work in dealing with the thought processes of the people one is aiming at. One can only engage in a conversation with someone, at least a fruitful one, to the extent that there are authorities in common between the people engaged in the conversation. Where there is no overlap between beliefs or understandings or worldview, there is little that can be said beyond the most trivial comments–and even there one may be out of luck. This book does a good job at providing an example of that preparatory work for the task of evangelism to skeptics.
At about 250 pages or so, this book is short enough to be a pretty easy read. The author begins with a discussion of the faith of the secular, placing Christianity on an even playing field with the faith of secular humanism to start out with. After that, the author spends two chapters in the first part of the book asking why anyone needs religion (I), pointing out that religion is not going away (1) and that both secularism and religion are based on both faith and evidence (2). After that the author moves on to discuss that religion is more than meets the eye (II), with a discussion of the meanings it provides to life (3), a lasting satisfaction (4), a critique of the freedom that many skeptics seek (5), the problem of the self (6), identities that are not exploitative or exclusionary (7), and a hope that allows someone to face anything (8), as well as a discussion of the problem of morals (9), and a justice that does not creative new oppressors (10). It is only at this point, about 80% done with the book, that the author closes with a discussion of why Christianity makes sense (III), moving to the reasonableness of believing in God (11) and in Christianity in particular (12). After this there is an epilogue as well as acknowledgements, notes, and suggestions for further reading.
While this is, in general, an excellent and worthwhile book, it is not a perfect one. At times the author shows that he is a Hellenistic Christian and not a biblical one, most obviously when he says that the New Testament has no Leviticus as a way of arguing against the burden of having to keep a law. The reason why the NT has no Leviticus, though, is because it does not need one. The Bible that we follow is not only the New Testament but the whole scripture, and that already includes Leviticus. Given the jarring nature of this kind of error, it suggests that the author wishes to persuade skeptics into following an antinomian faith that does not fully reconcile mankind with God in obedience. To be sure, this is better than an absence of faith, but it is not the biblical faith that one ought to strive for. We can only convert people to what we are, though, and when (as is the case here), the author’s own faith is defective by lacking a proper understanding and respect for God’s law, we cannot expect the writer to convey this truth properly to others.