June 23, 2008

CT Interview: Tim Keller Reasons with America

The New York pastor explains why he's taking his ministry model on the road.
Interview by Susan Wunderink
posted 6/20/2008 07:11AM
Christianity Today


Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and cofounder of the Gospel Coalition, is behind some of the most ambitious — if not the most radical — efforts to reach urban professionals. Now he's expanding his ministry in book form, with the publication of The Reason for God, which moved its way up to number seven on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.

Are the doubts that believers face the same as the doubts that unbelievers face?

It's your society that gives you the doubts...But my guess is the personal issues are different...

You reject marketing apologetics like, "Christianity is better than the alternatives, so choose Christianity." Why?

Marketing is about felt needs...So marketing is showing how Christianity meets the need, and I think the gospel is showing how Christianity is the truth.

C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it's relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it's true. And if it's true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. But there will be many times when it's not relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. To be a Christian is going to be very, very hard. So unless you come to it simply because it's really the truth, you really won't live the Christian life, and you won't get to the excitement and to the relevance and all that other stuff.

Why have you avoided using arguments from intelligent design in your apologetics?
...I want to be noncommittal. I don't want the people who don't like one creation view to feel like now they can't listen to the rest of the gospel.

Instead, I point out that it's a red herring to go after that before you decide whether Jesus died and rose again. Two people said [last night at a Veritas forum]: "I can't believe in Christianity, because look at the fossils." And I was trying to say, "Because you believe in evolution does this mean that Jesus Christ couldn't be raised from the dead?" One said, "No, that has nothing to do with it." If he was raised from the dead, then you have to take seriously the Scripture and you have to work on all this. If he wasn't raised from the dead, who cares about Genesis 1–11?

Do you hear a lot of "I can't believe in Christianity because I believe in science"?
Yes — mainly from math and science people. They have different problems with Christianity than the artists do. Artists feel like Christianity is culturally regressive; it's a throwback, and it's keeping women barefoot in the kitchen. The math and science people ask me, "So if I believe the gospel, can I be a scientist?" [teci: SURE YOU CAN! :D]

The recent Pew study talked about changing patterns of belief in America. Has that affected your apologetics ministry?
...Many Christians say that the rationality of Christians' faith is not the obstacle for unbelievers; they reject Christianity because of what they see as bad behavior and toxic attitudes.

There are always three reasons people believe or disbelieve: the intellectual, the personal, and the social.

It's typical of postmodern people to say belief is all cultural, conditioned by your community.

Perhaps there was a day in which Christians thought that you evangelized largely through intellectual argument, but now I hear people saying, "No, it's all personal. If you're going to win people to Christ you just have to be authentic. You have to just reach out to them personally. You can't do the rational." In other words, Christians are saying the rational isn't part of evangelism. The fact is, people are rational. They do have questions. You have to answer those questions.

Don't get the impression that I think that the rational aspect takes you all the way there. But there's too much emphasis on just the personal now...

The Reason for God is available from ChristianBook.com and other retailers. The book's website
has MP3s from Keller's talks while on tour, a reader's guide, and other resources.

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