Saturday, January 19, 2008

An Interview with Tim Keller

Here is a short interview I did with Tim Keller regarding his new book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (releasing soon).

JT: What’s the essence—the thesis—of your book?

TK: That all doubts about Christianity, even the most skeptical ones, are themselves really alternate beliefs. And therefore if you look at the beliefs your doubts are based on, and ask for as much justification for them as what you are demanding of Christians for theirs, you will see your doubts are not all that solid and well founded.

JT: Was your intention to write a sort of Mere Christianity for the 21st century?

TK: I wish I could say I did, but, as a writer, I'm not worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence with C.S. Lewis.

JT: Who is the primary audience for the book? Unbelievers?

TK: It's addressed directly and primarily to people skeptical of Christianity, particularly the kinds of people whom I meet in large urban areas. But I also want to model for believers a way to represent their faith to people they care about.

JT: There are scores of books out there defending Christianity and debunking skepticism. How is yours different?

TK: If you are going to be persuasive to someone, you've got to enter sympathetically into their objection so they say to you, "You articulated my point of view in a more positive and compelling way than I could have myself. Thank you!" If you then show why their problem is nonetheless surmountable, they'll at least listen carefully because they feel understood. I think most of the books you mention are written by authors to bolster the faith of the already convinced, or even their own faith. They don't really "get into the skin" of the typical skeptic very well. Just ask one.

JT: How does being a pastor of a church cause you to write this book differently than if you had been an academician?

TK: I spent five years as a seminary teacher, of course. There are plenty of arguments for Christianity that seem compelling to me, but which I have discovered get almost no traction at all. If I'd stayed in the academy I might have been more prone to use them in the book anyway. That's why I said above so many books defending Christianity seem really to be written by the authors to themselves.

JT: Do you have any more books in the pipeline?

TK: Yes.

JT: Can you tell us about any of them?

TK: I'm turning my "Prodigal Sons" sermon into a short book. There are others I'm thinking about, too.