COUNTERFEIT GODS – Timothy Keller (2009)

kellrTim Keller has a special gift for digging below the surface.  He applies his unique gift in the pulpit and in many of his books.

In Counterfeit Gods, Dr. Keller tackles the thorny subject of idolatry.  John Calvin put his finger on this pernicious sin in the 16th century when he said, “Every person is an idol factory.”  Keller notes that anything can become an idol – especially good things.  Keller adds, “Anything that becomes more important and nonnegotiable to us than God becomes an enslaving idol.”

The idols of money, sex, and power are the central topics of this excellent volume.  Keller notes, “The secret to change is to identify and dismantle the counterfeit gods of your heart.”

Counterfeit Gods is a convicting read and will no doubt encourage many believers to demolish their idols and cast their hope and trust in the living God.

4.5 stars

CENTER CHURCH – Tim Keller (2012)

kellerI have been reading books about the church for almost thirty years now.  Most of the best material is being churned out by Mark Dever and the boys at 9Marks.  Tim Keller’s, Center Church is a welcome guest in the growing list of books on ecclesiology.

Keller sets out to communicate one central message which is summed up in the subtitle: Doing Balanced Gospel-Centered Ministry in the City.  Center Church is encyclopedic in nature.  It covers every subject conceivable and is a helpful tool in every pastors prospective tool chest.

The discussion about gospel contextualization (chapter 7) is deeply encouraging and highly instructive.  The author notes, “Contextualization is not – as is often argued – ‘giving people what they want to hear.’  Rather, it is giving people the Bible’s answers, which they may not at all want to hear, to questions about life that people in their particular time and place are asking, in language and forms they can comprehend, and through appeals and arguments with force they can feel, even if they reject them..”

Keller warns against the temptation to use contextualization as a clever means of compromise (which I find many pastors doing).  He adds, “The call to contextualize the gospel has been – and still often is – used as a cover for religious syncretism.  This means not adapting the gospel to a particular culture, but rather surrendering the gospel entirely and morphing Christianity into a different religion by over-adapting it to an alien worldview.”

Center Church is filled with helpful instruction on doing gospel ministry in the city.  It is a long read but worth plodding through for the treasures along the way.

Highly recommended for pastors who love the gospel!

THE MEANING OF MARRIAGE – Timothy and Kathy Keller (2012)

0525952470_lThe Meaning of Marriage by Timothy and Kathy Keller is a thoughtful look at marriage through the lens of Scripture.  The Keller’s pull no punches.  This book is honest and transparent.  They reveal some of the struggles they have overcome in their marriage and point readers to biblical solutions.  The Meaning of Marriage definitely has a “Keller-like” feel to it.  Much of the book is deep and serious (one of the many reasons why Keller’s popularity continues to escalate), but it is filled with practical help for newlyweds and marriage veterans alike.

The thesis of the book is that “through marriage, the mystery of the gospel is unveiled … marriage is a major vehicle for the gospel’s remaking of your heart from the inside out and your life from the ground up.”

The major strength of the book is the continual return to the gospel: “The only way to avoid sacrificing your partner’s joy and freedom on the altar of your need is to turn to the ultimate lover of your soul.  He voluntarily sacrificed himself on the cross, taking what you deserved for your sins against God and others.”

The Meaning of Marriage affirms complementarianism and rejects the growing tide of egalitarianism.  The apologetic for complementarianism is offered in a gracious manner and emerges in what may be the best chapter of the book (chapter six) which is authored by Kathy Keller.

My only complaint is Keller’s argument that remarriage may be an option even when a previous spouse is still living.  While he does not develop his argument at length, the popularity of the Erasmian view is alarming.  Readers should refer to John Piper’s work, This Momentary Marriage for the opposing view.

Overall, The Meaning of Marriage is a valuable book that should be devoured and utilized for years to come.

4 stars

THE REASON FOR GOD: Unbelief in an Age of Skepticism – Tim Keller (2008)

Some have compared Tim Keller to C.S. Lewis.  Other believe he is the C.S. Lewis for our generation.  One thing is for certain though – Keller’s book, The Reason for God is a terrific read.  I read Keller’s apologetic treatise when it first hit the shelves in 2008.  The second read was even better!

The title of the book is revealing.  The author aims at the heart at mind of the skeptic.  And he’s good at it.  He has a way of peeling off layer upon layer of unbelief.  His strategy is simple.  First, seven typical arguments are presented which appear to militate against the historic Christian faith:

1. There Can’t Be Just One True Religion

2. How Could a Good God Allow Suffering?

3.Christianity is a Straitjacket

4. The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice

5. How Can a Loving God Send People to Hell?

6. Science Has Disproved Christianity

7. You Can’t Take the Bible Literally

Careful reader immediately notice that Dr. Keller gently unravels each of these arguments.  And this is what makes The Reason for God  such a compelling read.  Honestly, Keller’s arguments against skepticism are quite devastating.  But his approach is gracious and humble.  His knows how to interact with skepticism in a winsome way – without compromise, all the while instructing Christians to do the same.

Part two contains the heart of the book.  The author presents seven reasons for faith:

1. The Clues of God

2. The Knowledge of God

3. The Problem of Sin

4. Religion and the Gospel

5. The (True) Story of the Cross

6. The Reality of the Resurrection

7. The Dance of God

These reasons are soaked in Scripture and come face to face with real life.  Keller argues that there are sufficient reasons for believing Christianity – what he calls “critical rationality.”  Again, he reasons gently.  His arguments are convincing and compelling.  But he refuses to steamroll the unbeliever.

Keller is quick to criticize religion and prop up grace: “Religion operates on the principle ‘I obey – therefore I am accepted by God.’  But the operating principle of the gospel is ‘I am accepted by God through what Christ has done – therefore I obey.”  He continues, “It is only grace that frees us from the slavery of self that lurks even in the middle of morality and religion.  Grace is only a threat to the illusion that we are free, autonomous selves, living life as we choose.”  Herein lies the biggest strength of Keller’s work – the emphasis on grace and the gospel.  While the arguments are most helpful, his emphasis on the saving redemptive work of God in Christ make the book a must read for skeptics and believers alike.

4.5 stars

THE PRODIGAL GOD – Tim Keller (2008)

Sometimes big things do come in small packages.  The Prodigal God: Recovering the Heart of the Christian Faith by Tim Keller is one of those “big things.”

Keller tackles the Parable of the Prodigal Son.  His approach confronts the typical interpretation that fixates on the sin of the younger brother in Christ’s parable – the prodigal son.  Keller does not minimize the sin of the younger brother.  Rather, he emphasizes the heinous nature of his sin and explores the sin of the older brother as well – whose sin that is no less evil than his wayward brother.

The two brothers and their father not only set up the framework for the parable; they provide the basis for Keller’s assertions.  The younger brother is the rebel; the one who sinfully squandered his inheritance.  The older brother despised the act of mercy and grace demonstrated by the father toward the wayward son.  The younger son tries to find happiness and fulfillment through self-discovery.  The older son tries to find happiness through moral conformity.  Keller adds, “The message of Jesus’s parable is that both of these approaches are wrong.”

The remaining sections of the book redefine sin, lostness, and hope – all based on the parable under consideration.  Keller implies that all people gravitate toward one of the two brothers.  He explodes traditional categories and offers fresh encouragement to rebel types and Pharisee types.  At the end of the day, readers are challenged to repent of the sins of self-discovery and/or moral conformity.

The Prodigal God is a reaffirmation of the biblical gospel set forth in categories that are understandable to believers and unbelievers alike.  I plan to utilize this resource as an evangelistic tool.  I also plan to read this little treasure from time to time to remind myself of the gospel realities that emerge in the Parable of the Prodigal Son.

4.5 stars