BOOK REVIEW | Timothy Keller

I really enjoyed Collin Hansen’s work about Tim Keller. I read it over the course of a few weeks just a chapter at a time and it was such a joy to learn more about the story of a man that truly loved Jesus because his heart and mind had been so captured by his Savior…even after he investigated every other possibility. As Keller told Redeemer in 1997, the good news of Jesus is the story behind all the other stories. “The gospel story is the story of wonder from which all other fairy tales and stories of wonder take their cues.”           

I highlighted several thoughts while reading and have posted those notes below…

  • “During college the Bible came alive in a way that was hard to describe,” he remembered in his book Jesus the King. “The best way I can put it is that, before the change, I pored over the Bible, questioning and analyzing it. But after the change it was as if the Bible, or maybe Someone through the Bible, began poring over me, questioning and analyzing me.” Location: 397               
  • After all, no one finds the deepest veins of gold at the mouth of the cave. You find the greatest treasures after thorough exploration. Barbara Boyd didn’t just leave the students to explore by themselves though. Janet Essig recalled how she also primed them with a methodology for observation, interpretation, and application: 1. Read through the passage at least twice. In the second reading, slow down and observe what is in the passage. 2. Identify who is involved and what is happening—where and when. How and why might also apply. 3. Note words that are repeated or words of contrast or words of cause and effect. 4. Paraphrase the passage. 5. Note any questions you have about the passage. See if there are answers within the passage. If this involves historical context or the meaning of words, other resources can be used. 6. Determine the overall theme. 7. Outline the passage—showing the movement of ideas and noting connectors or contrasts between sections—looking at words such as and, but, so, therefore, then, and so on. 8. Move to interpretation to see how the mechanics of the passage illuminate what the passage is about. Reword the theme if needed. 9. Finally, in light of all that you have seen in the passage, what does the passage mean? How does it apply to you? What thinking or actions do you need to change? What have you learned about yourself? What have you learned about God? What are the implications of this truth Location: 638         
  • Thanks to fantasy stories, readers can find existential satisfaction before they discover intellectual credibility. They can want something to be true even if they can’t yet bring themselves to believe it’s true. The writer can show the world as it ought to be, as it once was, and how it will be again someday. The writer can usher us into a world even better than what we can now imagine. For Tolkien, as for Keller, that’s the seed of Christian belief.  Location: 1,023   
  • As Keller told Redeemer in 1997, the good news of Jesus is the story behind all the other stories. “The gospel story is the story of wonder from which all other fairy tales and stories of wonder take their cues.”  Location: 1,030         
  • When you know the Story behind the stories, then you see it everywhere, “from the ugly duckling who turns out to be a swan, to Beauty and the Beast, the Beauty who gives up all of her happiness to throw herself in the arms of this Beast and, because of her incredible sacrifice, gets a love and frees this person beyond anything she ever understood.” When you pluck the string of the gospel, it never stops reverberating in your heart. “There really is a Beauty who kisses the beast,” Keller told Redeemer in 1998. “There really is a Hercules who defeats the villain. There really is a hero. There really is Jesus.” Location: 1,045    
  • Kathy Keller recalled a class when “Betty” Elliot walked up and down the aisles, listing her qualifications to be ordained. “I am better versed in Hebrew and Greek than any of you,” she said, “as well as multiple other languages. I have more communication skills than do any of you, male or female. I am comfortable speaking in front of large crowds and skillful in one-to-one conversations. I have a depth of understanding of God born of suffering that few of you will match. My giftedness is far beyond most of you. And yet God has not called me to use those gifts in an ordained capacity. Does that mean they are of less worth? I know that not to be true. Calling is different from giftedness or even desire.” Location: 1,306              
  • “Only if our highest love is God himself can we love and serve all people, families, classes, races; and only God’s saving grace can bring us to the place where we are loving and serving God for himself alone and not for what he can give us,” Keller explained. “Unless we understand the gospel, we are always obeying God for our sake and not for his.”  Location: 1,663             
  • The difference between a lecture and a sermon, Keller explained, is the instinct to see everything pointing to Christ, who produces praise. His lines on Moses explicitly recall Clowney’s Gordon-Conwell talks: Jesus is the true and better Adam who passed the test in the garden, a much tougher garden, and whose obedience is imputed to us. Jesus is the true and better Abel who, though innocently slain, has blood that cries out, not for our condemnation, but for our acquittal. Jesus is the true and better Abraham who answered the call of God to leave all the comfortable and familiar and go into the void, not knowing whither he went. Jesus is the true and better Isaac who was not just offered up by his father on the mount but was truly sacrificed for us all. What God said to Abraham, “Now I know you love me because you did not withhold your son—your only son whom you love—from me,” now we, at the foot of the cross, can say to God, “Now we know that you love me because you did not withhold your Son—your only Son whom you love—from me.” Jesus is the true and better Jacob who wrestled and took the blow of justice we deserve so we, like Jacob, only receive the wounds of grace that wake us up and discipline us. Jesus is the true and better Joseph who sits at the right hand of the King and forgives those who betrayed and sold him and uses his power to save them. Jesus is the true and better Moses who stands in the gap between the people in the Lord and who mediates a new covenant. Jesus is the true and better rock of Moses who, when struck with a rod of God’s justice, now gives us water in the desert. Jesus is the true and better Job who became a truly innocent sufferer and now intercedes for and saves his stupid friends. Jesus is the true and better David whose victory becomes his people’s victory, though they never lifted a stone to accomplish it themselves. Jesus is the true and better Esther who didn’t just risk losing an earthly palace but lost the ultimate heavenly one, who didn’t just risk his life but gave his life, who didn’t just say, “If I perish, I perish,” but also, “When I perish, I’ll perish to save my people.” Jesus is the true and better Jonah who was cast out into the storm so we could be brought in. Jesus is the real Passover lamb. Jesus is the true temple, the true prophet, the true priest, the true king, the true sacrifice, the true lamb, the true light, the true bread.   Location: 2,279            
  • If Christians hope to evangelize their neighbors, they can’t ignore or denounce them. They must show how the gospel changes everything. In Jesus, as Keller wrote in How to Reach the West Again, Christians find:
    • a meaning in life that suffering can’t take away, but can even deepen;
    • a satisfaction that isn’t based on circumstances;
    • a freedom that doesn’t reduce community and relationships to thin transactions;
    • an identity that isn’t fragile or based on our performance or the exclusion of others;
    • a way both to deal with guilt and to forgive others without residual bitterness or shame;
    • a basis for seeking justice that does not turn us into oppressors ourselves;
    • a way to face not only the future, but death itself with poise and peace; and
    • an explanation for the senses of transcendent beauty and love we often experience. Location: 4,071

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