Timothy Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, a church he founded 25 years ago. He is also a “New York Times Bestselling Author” (but who isn’t?), with nine books under his belt, including “Walking with God through Pain and Suffering.” (Liam Neeson to play God in the movie?) His latest is “Encounters with Jesus,” whose subtitle promises “Unexpected Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions.”
Keller makes it clear where he’s coming from in the introduction, and consequently just how fruitful his philosophical investigations will be. “I shall accept the authority of all the Bible,” he proclaims. In other words, to get the answers to our existential questions we’ve got to swallow the fairy tale whole, in particular the episodes of Jesus turning water into wine, raising a dead man, and then finally coming back from the dead himself.
“To remain skeptical forever is intellectually and morally self-defeating,” Keller maintains. (But isn’t it the self that Jesus urges us to defeat?) We should turn to Christianity, but “only if it is true, he allows, slyly begging the question. (You should accept Christianity only if it is true, but since it is true you should accept it.)
The first Big Question Jesus can shed light on, Keller says, is: “What is the world for?” And the answer is, apparently: Not much. We should look at it as a kind of waiting-room or antechamber, where we are to try to sit still and be good. And it is our inability, or incapacity, to do this that provides a solution to the next poser (“What is wrong with the world?”)
We are. Sin is. “Evil and death are the result of sin and not of God’s original design,” Keller says. So our answer is, as usual, no answer at all, since it only leads to others, such as: “Where did sin come from?” and, ultimately, “What’s the point?”
Jesus, wisely, steered clear of such conundrums, and seemed to be as puzzled as everyone else by God’s motives. He had nothing to say about such weighty matters as the origin of the universe, and did not speculate as to its purpose. Not only did he not have the answers, but the questions may not have occurred to him.