A Christian Agnostic
I used to be in camp with the Christians. Now, I find myself digging a deeper hole and am firmly entrenched with those who say the question of God cannot be known with certainty by any religionist or atheist. I side with the atheists, though, on evidence: evidence for God only appears when you begin with ‘knowing’ that it is true. If you begin with doubting, you will look for a long time for any evidence.
But I’m a wistful agnostic, a Christian agnostic, trying, but not succeeding, in wedding the logic of faith to my experience. I hoped that Tim Keller’s The Reason for God would make a cogent enough argument for me to bring these together. It didn’t. Keller introduces nothing new, and I don’t think he intends to. Instead, he lays the common cards on the table and lets the reader choose from among them. It’s likely that you’ve seen these cards before.
Complaints Against Christianity
He addresses common complaints against Christianity in the first half of the book, and does his best to sort them out, but fails, I think. He fails in the same way that other apologists fail: he begins with his experience and uses that as his jumping off point. Fair enough for those who share that experience. What I want, though, is something that starts from my vantage, and then addresses my questions. He starts in the camp that ignores or downplays any lack of faith. All men have faith, he argues. It’s the stuff we breathe. He would argue, and he is correct, that I have faith that when I walk into my house after work, believing that there is no one behind the door waiting to stab me with a knife. It’s faith, he says, because I cannot know this from outside of the door. But, it’s an absurdity to paint this in the same light as faith in god or religion. It’s absurd to argue that I thus have faith, and then wonder why I shirk from a faith in a man who, the story is told, was dead and then rose up from being dead, 2000 years ago.
The Primacy of Christianity
In the second half of the book, Keller makes an argument for the primacy of Christianity vs. other worldviews. He makes headway here, but, again, if you start with Jesus, and are wondering about Jesus, He seems easy to find. But, if you start without Jesus, Keller’s arguments lead to less robust answers.
The ‘Intermission’ is the best and most definitive chapter of the book. I took away an insight, here, and an important nuance: religion, and specifically Christianity, is not a physical thing. And as a historical idea, it shouldn’t be, and can’t be, parsed using the same tools we use for, say, genetics. It must be judged by another set of metrics. I like what some Orthodox say: we don’t care about the logic of the Bible. It wasn’t written to be logical. Each one of us must figure it out for ourselves. But this is anathema to the Evangelical. And to the scientist.
In all, Keller gives it a good try that makes for interesting reading but writes for the choir only. Those who have taken the same path will nod heads in agreement. For those on another path, for those who doubt what Keller takes for granted, he offers little direction.
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