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Discussion in 'The Literary Forum' started by Grillsy, Nov 30, 2009.
Can anyone out there point me to any quality reviews or critiques of this book?
Does anyone know of any other reviews out there? Preferably from a Reformed perspective also?
We've been reading it in men's Bible study. There are about 8 of us, and we all are in agreement he's not really Reformed. In chapter 6 he comes right out and says he thinks we go here through natural selection rather than being made as per Genesis. Several of the other men were disturbed by his tendency to be rather vague, as per NT Wright. None of us would read it again.
Thank you Tim. I am attempting to write a critique of the book right now. It is good to see that others have seen the red flags like I have. I am glad I am not the only one.
I disagree. It's one of the first books I'd pass out to a person wanting something to read about Christianity and such. He certainly doesn't back down from Heaven, Hell and the exclusivity of Christ. In my humble opinion, Lewis's "Mere Christianity" is useful but overrated and certainly not Reformed. Many people come to the Reformation gradually and Keller understands this. I can't think of anything else that is as readable as "Reason for God" and yet isn't simplistic or embarrassing windy neocon-generic-Christianity-culture war-stuff. The book is a place to start and obviously not intended to be the last word.
Keller's book has reached millions and I think it does much better than Lewis' at getting to the heart of the Gospel. I would rather an unbelieving inquirer read a Horton book but it probably would go over their head and so I would save it for later.
I've came to the conclusion and accepted that I would most likely never pass examination for the diaconate or eldership because my beliefs on origins and AOE. I still don't think it warrants throwing people off the Reformed bus entirely. Are Machen and Warfield not "really" Reformed anymore? It seems a century ago ecclessiology and sacramentology rated much higher in the definition of being Reformed than the age of the earth or length of origins.
It is interesting how you glowingly endorse Keller and then comment on how important ecclessiology used to be.
Do you consider the RPCNA's ecclesiology to be reformed?
I do think that the review is only valid if one considers presuppositionalism to be the only really reformed apologetic (never mind that it only came into being with Kuyper and Neo-Calvinism). I found it ironic that the reviewer was critical of the Neo-Calvinists who so influenced and shaped Van Til's thought.
I'm only kidding settle down, not trying to start a fight. And who said anything about Reformedness?
If one is a pure Vantalian Keller's book would not be the best. If one is a classicalist or a blende of the two then its fine.
It is a very good book. I read it & I give it to people to read.
BTW Timv, I must have lost my copy of the memo about 6day-ken-ham-creationism being part of the new definition of "Reformed". Could you forward me a copy please?
I can simply find no reason to employ a classic evidential approach to apologetics. In my experience, presuppositionalism is both devastating to the unbeliever's worldview and convincing that Christianity is necessary to a coherent one.
I find that many of the unchurched are very blessed by evidentialist approaches, and I view Keller's book as a good, even if imperfect, tool to give unsaved friends and family. There is an audiobook version too.
I read the review, and I think we can be more gracious. The Reason for God does not intend to offer a complete apologetic system or to fully articulate God’s call. It merely addresses questions and concerns so today’s unbeliever might be ready to listen to the Scriptures and hear the gospel. This it does with a rare combination of respect for the unbeliever and insistence on the atonement. We can learn from this.
It probably was a poor choice for your men’s group unless they truly were more serious about understanding the unbeliever than they were about proving themselves theologically superior. The book is not perfect. I too have been frustrated that for a fuller explanation of the gospel you have to look elsewhere (maybe to Keller’s The Prodigal God). But it can be a powerful starting point in the evangelistic process.
Dennison's review is overly harsh. He's a hard-core VanTillian, as am I. Keller does fall short in that regard. But Keller is heavily influenced by presuppositinalism, evidenced in the way he structured the book.
I think overall it is a very helpful book to expose the actual "religion" of unbelievers, and to wake them up to the fact that they are not nuetral or tolerant, something Van Til would certainly agree with. And, in all honesty, it's probably the most readable near-presuppositional book out there, in my opinion. I could never give a secular unchurched person Van Til or Bahnsen, or most other Reformed Apologists, simply because they're not accessible to those unfamiliar with Christianity. Keller is very readable. It is a very useful book, not only to engage a skeptic, but to give us talking points to engage skeptics ourselves.
That being said, there are a couple flaws which would have to be addressed if you are working through it with someone else. His chapters on sin and on hell are incomplete I think. And his statement that "Gen 1 is a song" is just plain wrong (but that's something even Reformed folks don't agree on). But I'm not sure why people would be worried about the fact that he says he believes in natural selection but not evolution. Natural selection is not the same thing as evolution. Natural selection simply states that some within a species survive better than others. That doesn't mean you believe those survivors actually evolve into something else entirely.
I'm of the same opinion here. While Keller's book may be lacking in some areas, I'm thankful that he has written a book that I feel comfortable giving to folks who are interested in serious-minded discussion about Christ and his Gospel. I get tired of the numerous and thoroughly helpful apologetics books written for Christians and the lack of such books written to unbelievers. Books aren't given in a vacuum, and so what might be lacking in Keller's book should be easily filled in with personal engagement with those we are seeking to win to Christ, which is the core of Keller's heart in this book.
From page 98
For the record I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as an All encompassing Theory. One commentator on Genesis captures this balance well:
That's called theistic evolution, although for some reason he won't come right out and say it. Rather he leaves by his ambiguity some sort of way of parsing his words to allow his supporters to say "well, he didn't really come out and say he believes in ordained evolution. He just believes in non ordained evolution, and you can't find one place where he's said he believes in ordained evolution."
We were using the first seven chapters or so of the book (the "objections" chapters) for a Wednesday night study, but I was very displeased with the chapter on science. He does make some good arguments there (and elsewhere in the book), but his interpretation of Genesis 1-2 is exegetically horrendous, in my opinion.
In Keller's defense (and he does consider himself Van Tillian to some degree, If I recall correctly), the book is meant to answer real world objections that one might face with regard to Christianity. He does employ classical arguments (like Thomas or Lewis) in the sense that he is demonstrating the reasonableness of Christian beliefs, but this is not the same thing as attempting to "prove" the existence of God using evidences to "prove" to existence of God. In that sense, the book is good in that it does not simply offer a philosophical argument, but a practical demonstration, of why Christianity is the only viable way of making sense of the world (as well as showing the flaws of objections to Christianity).
Another Review from Ref 21
In this 2-part review the author focuses more on the first part of the book.
The Reason for God: A Critical Interactive Review - Reformation21
The Reason For God: A Critical Interactive Review Part 2 - Reformation21
How can you NOT believe in theistic evolution?? We see it all around us every day. Are you saying natural selection doesn't happen? If so, you are ignoring what is easily observable on a daily basis. If not, then are you saying natural selection occurs outside God's sovereignty? That can't be right either. So the only answer is that God has guided and continually guides evolutionary processes. I don't see how you can believe to the contrary.
Keller clearly rejects Evolutionary Theory as an explanation for the origins of life and mankind. He accepts God's sovereign control of natural selection and other mechanisms of evolution. In that regard, I agree with him completely...
I enjoyed the book and found it helpful in many ways. However I was disappointed by his concessions to atheistic science and feminism. In fact the whole tone of the book seemed to be appealing to the modern man's way of thinking which is why, in my opinion, Dennison spoke so poorly of it.
On the other hand his work in New York and his many interactions with the 'modern man' has obviously shaped his style of apologetics and approach to speaking of the hope that lies within. In other words, I can appreciate and understand why he wrote the book in the manner in which he did even if I do not entirely agree with it.
Frankly, I have never witnessed one animal species "evolve" into another. And neither have you, nor the small army of scientists who claim that mechanism drives the universe. So the idea this theory is self-evident from observation is nonsense. Natural selection of the sort observable on a micro biology level does not necessitate macro changes required by modern evolutionary theory. It does fit well with the idea of life being created ex nihilo “after its own kind”.
The idea of theistic evolution has many logical as well as theological objections.
I never said macro-evolution or even speciation is observable. I said natural selection is observable, and it is. Not only has it been scientifically documented in numerous species, but it is clearly observable in the human race - one could even make the argument that the swine flu demonstrates very small scale natural selection.
I don't adhere to Evolutionary Theory, and don't believe Pastor Keller does either...at least according to the passage Tim provided.
I read the book. Much of it was good, but some of it was deplorable - for instance I thought his section on hell, while perhaps more palpable to modern sensibilities, was utterly nonsense. If I remember correctly, he based almost his entire doctrine on CS Lewis with a verse of Scripture tortured to make it seem like it jived with his position.
In all, he seemed to me to be much more a student of CS Lewis and then modern culture than of Scripture or the Confession to which he subscribes. Indeed, I recall so many of his remarks being so remarkably contrary to the Standards of the PCA that I was surprised it wasn't exhibit A in charges against him.
One other thing: In many ways the book seemed like a modernized "retooling" of Mere Christianity. My problem is this: One's arguments and positions should be consistent with one's beliefs. If not then there's a problem. And in the case of Keller, he's supposedly declared his beliefs, but his book in many places is written as if he doesn't really believe his denomination's position to be "right." Lewis could get away with his book because he was writing from a theological vantage point that is much more inclusive than is the Reformed position of the Westminster Confession.
Interview with Timothy Keller | Uncommon Descent
In The Reason for God, you make a very brief argument for the validity of evolution within a limited sphere. It would seem to me that apologists for the faith must address this issue at some point. But doing so can call into question the historicity of the Fall and the very need for a savior. How do you talk about evolution without confusing people?
Oh, it’s a little confusing, but actually I’m just in the same place where the Catholics are, as far as I can tell. The Catholic Church has always been able to hold on to a belief in a historical Fall—it really happened, it’s not just representative of the fact that the human race has kind of gone bad in various ways.
At the same time, if you say, “There is no God and everything happened by evolution,” naturalistic evolution—then you have “theistic evolution”: God just started things years ago and everything has come into being through the process of evolution. You have young-Earth six-day creationism, which is “God created everything in six 24-hour days.” To me, all three of those positions have perhaps insurmountable difficulties.
The fact is, the one that most people consider the most conservative, which is the young-Earth, six-day creation, has all kinds of problems with the text, as we know. If it’s really true, then you have problems of contradictions between Genesis 1 and 2. I don’t like the JEPD theory. I don’t like the theory that these are two somewhat contradictory creation stories that some editor stuck together—some pretty stupid editor stuck together. I think therefore you’ve got a problem with how long are the days before the sun shows up in the fourth day. You have problems really reading the Bible in a straightforward way with a young-Earth, six 24-hour day theory. You’ve got some problems with the theistic evolution, because then you have to ask yourself, “Was there no Adam and Eve? Was there no Fall?” So here’s what I like—the messy approach, which is I think there was an Adam and Eve. I think there was a real Fall. I think that happened. I also think that there also was a very long process probably, you know, that the earth probably is very old, and there was some kind of process of natural selection that God guided and used, and maybe intervened in. And that’s just the messy part. I’m not a scientist. I’m not going to go beyond that.
I do know that I say in the book, “This is an absolute red herring—to get mired in this before you look at the certainties of the faith. Because the fact is that real orthodox believers with a high view of Scripture are all over the map on this. I can line up ten really smart people in all those different buckets, which I’ll call “theistic evolution,” “young-Earth creationism,” and let’s call it “progressive creationism” or “semi-theistic evolution.” There are all these different views. And when you see a lot of smart people disagreeing on this stuff, well . . .
How could there have been death before Adam and Eve fell? The answer is, I don’t know. But all I know is, didn’t animals eat bugs? Didn’t bugs eat plants? There must have been death. In other words, when you realize, “Oh wait, this is really complicated,” then you realize, “I don’t have to figure this out before I figure out is Jesus Christ raised from the dead.”
Over the years—it’s not bad, but I’ve gotten sort of hit from both sides.
Maybe he only really believes in 'commissioned' evolution?
Why don't you ask him directly? I bet he'd tell you.
His argument there is that natural selection was used to produce humans, right?
When someone says that, unless he is an INCREDIBLY incompetent communicator, he is talking about the way humans came about from lesser life forms.
One might call it 'natural selection' in order to use a less inflammatory term, but if you argue that God used 'natural selection' to create men, I cannot understand it in any other way than to understand you to be saying that human beings arose from life forms lower on the evolutionary 'tree' by natural processes of selection, survival of the fittest. You're talking speciation.
Natural selection is not theistic evolution. Evolution of all sorts necessarily involves macroevolution and speciation.
Recall your question, How can you NOT believe in theistic evolution?? I cannot believe it because it necessarily involves (non-observable) macroevolution and speciation.
Perhaps I’m just having a problem understanding your use of terms.
Mason, you prove my point (his ambiguity). He says (thanks, Lynnie)
I read that and see clearly he thinks God guided a bacteria into evolving into Adam and Eve. You read that and clearly think that he's only talking about dogs with short legs and dogs with long legs.