Faith in Doubts; 'Reason' Explains Skepticism

Article excerpt

Byline: Shelley Widhalm, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The Rev. Timothy Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, provides a treatise on faith and doubt in his book "The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism," published in February.

In the first half of the book, Mr. Keller analyzes and dismantles doubts proffered about the Christian faith. In the second half, he offers reasoned arguments for faith and uses literature, philosophy and pop culture to explain how believing in a Christian God is a sound and rational practice. He also gives believers tools to defend their faith.

Mr. Keller is ordained by the Presbyterian Church in America. He served as a pastor in Hopewell, Va., from 1975 to 1984.

Question: Why did you want to write this book? What message do you hope to get across?

Answer: I wrote the book because a number of people asked me to write it. It's the kind of thing we preach and teach at Redeemer, and it represents the material that has been presented orally for many years. The main message of the book is you can listen to all the strongest intellectual objections and you can think through them and still come out with a strong, robust faith in classic Christian teaching.

Q: Why has the discourse between believers and nonbelievers become divided?

A: There's a series of reasons people have come to doubt Christianity, and the first half of the book is about that. There are doubts about the Bible. There are doubts arising from the teaching of evolution and Darwinism. There are doubts arising from Christian people having acted in an unjust way. What's going away is a moderate faith ... people believing mildly and not wanting to talk about it

The conflict is getting hotter because both sides - secularism and strong religious beliefs - are getting stronger as the middle ground is collapsing.

Q: Why is there a growing skepticism toward traditional religion?

A: One part of it is the fault of traditional religion, where there's self-righteousness, bigotry, inconsistency and hypocrisy. It's also partly the result of the selfish individualism of Americans. They don't like organized religion. They don't like to be part of communities.

Q: Why is it important for believers to examine their doubts?

A: Believers need to do that for two reasons. If you deny your doubts and if you don't take them seriously, they'll bite you back later on. Doubts can push you into understanding your faith much, much better. Doubts can lead you to think out why you believe what you believe. And you need to question your doubts, so you can help other people with theirs. You need to deal with your doubts not only for your sake but for that of your neighbors and friends.

Q: How should nonbelievers also "look at doubt in a radically new way"?

A: Unbelievers, or people who don't believe, don't see that there is faith in their doubts. They see their doubts as hard-nosed skepticism, but what nonbelievers don't see is that their doubts are filled with faith. …