Entrepreneur Max Anderson reflects on his New York pastor and friend’s apologetic teaching
Read: The Reason For God
Watch: Tim’s Reason for God talk at Google
One of things I most appreciated about Redeemer was that it wasn’t a “political” church. There wasn’t a presumption that the people in the pews were Republicans, or Democrats for that matter. In fact, there wasn’t even a presumption that the people in attendance were Christian.
There was no in-group language. There was no hint of culture war talk. As a result, Redeemer was the first church I ever attended where I didn’t feel embarrassed to ask my friends to come, even my unbelieving friends.
In 2004, I left McKinsey, got married and began a year-long fellowship with five other young guys to study pastoral ministry with Tim. Three of us were American. Three were from overseas. We were all interested in potentially becoming urban church planters. Tim gave us tons of reading and met with us each week to talk about the vocation of becoming a pastor in an urban context.
I figured it could be a terrific precursor to seminary if I went. If I didn’t, then spending a year studying theology with Tim Keller would still be a great life decision. I was right.
One of the highlights of that year was working with Tim and my friend Jason Harris to create Christianity Uncorked. Jason and I figured that many people might be interested in talking about theology and the big questions of life but wouldn’t darken the door of a church. So we launched a series of evenings in the private rooms of bars around New York City where we’d invite our friends to have a beer, hear a short talk from Tim and enjoy a great evening of conversation.
The topics were things like, “How could a loving, all-powerful God allow suffering?” and “Is there one true religion or are there many paths to God?”. Tim was terrific in that setting because he was both usually the smartest guy in the room and also the humblest listener. He wasn’t just an “answer man”, he was a pastor in a pub. For many people those gatherings were their first introduction to a faith that made sense to them.
A couple years later, Tim published his first book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, which in greater detail addressed many of the topics we talked about on those nights in Christianity Uncorked.
I was at Harvard at the time of Tim’s book tour and was honoured to host him for a talk on campus, where more than 400 students and staff turned up to hear him talk about why you ought to “doubt your doubts” and why faith and reason might go hand-in-hand.
Tim emphasised the centrality of the death and resurrection of Jesus:
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn’t rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.”
A lot of churches think believing the gospel is the ABCs of Christianity, but Tim considered it the A-Z. That’s why he refrained from getting caught up in obscure doctrinal arguments or big cultural / political debates. Those weren’t essential. What was essential was the love of God and the clearest expression of that was Jesus dying and rising from the dead.
Get access to exclusive bonus content & updates: register & sign up to the Premier Unbelievable? newsletter!
For a lot of people, that’s obviously the hardest thing to believe. It’s easy to acknowledge Jesus as a moral teacher, but miracles? Resurrection? That’s too much for a lot of people. But for Tim, that was the lynchpin of everything. He believed that the entirety of scripture, not just the gospels, were ultimately about God’s love for us demonstrated in the life, death and resurrection of the Son of God. And preaching to rooms full of smart and sceptical New Yorkers, he would give the most thoughtful case for why it wasn’t crazy to believe that those events actually occurred in history.
More than “not crazy”, Tim believed that, considering the alternatives, faith in these events is actually the most reasonable conclusion one could make. This video, for a series Tim did called Questioning Christianity, is a terrific one-hour summary of some of those arguments. When you watch it, do you start to doubt your own doubts? The Google talk linked above is another good taste.
Max Anderson is an entrepreneur and author. He is founder of Stagecoach Ventures and author of The Weekend Reader, a deep thinker’s guide to modern culture. He is author of Modern Meditations: Reflections from the Mid-Point of the Second Decade of the Twenty-first Century. Max is founder and CEO of The Lift Seminar - a personal accelerator for entrepreneurs, and a platform for teaching MBAs at the world’s top business schools the secrets of massive personal productivity.