Rachel and I got a chance to hear Tim Keller speak at MIT a couple of days ago and it was quite invigorating to see a lecture hall packed with skeptics glued to every word a Christian minister had to say. His new book, "The Reason for God" had made it to #11 on the New York Times Bestseller list in only its first week; praise be to God! I've gotten through most of it, and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who has doubts about Christianity.
I just finished listening to a panel discussion that Keller had at Columbia University with two secular religion professors. It is a fascinating and friendly discussion, and you can watch the whole thing here. I was quite pleased and startled to hear Wheaton, my alma mater, spoken of highly by a Columbia professor (in the second quote). Here are some provocative quotes.
"If Christians are serious about conversion, that means getting into a conversation where they’re listening and not just talking. Not just bringing the good news, but open to listening to other kinds of news. Not just there with your little tracts, but actually standing there and listening to what other people have to say.”
-Mark Lilla, Columbia Professor
"I’m completely sure that belligerently secular people who are hostile to religion can be just as intolerant as any religious fanatic can be. And I think in fact in some quarters of American intellectual life that the condescension toward religion and the refusal to take religious people seriously is a very serious problem…I spoke not too long ago at Wheaton College, an evangelical institution, and I found that the openness, the intellectual exchange, the sense of diversity of opinion actually compared rather favorably to what we have here at Columbia.”
-Andrew Delbanco, Columbia Professor
"Though we are infinitely exalted in the image of God and therefore we have rights, but at the same time we are infinitely fallen...and if Christians can get in touch with that, and I do agree that an awful lot of the rhetoric from the Christian Right is not in touch with that at all, we’re still not going to have any moral authority and people don’t have to listen to us because it won’t resonate. As a person who believes in the image of God and that Christianity is true I therefore think there are lots and lots of reasons in peoples’ consciences that a lot of these Christian themes will resonate even if these people don’t adopt Christianity per say. Therefore, we have to find ways as exclusive religionists to move out in society with a servant attitude with humility and serving people and recognizing that only if they recognize by the way we live and our attitude that we really are Christians. The onus is on us Christians to earn back any kind of respect in the public square so people will listen to public proposals that have Christian roots to them. Right now people aren’t listening, because in the last hundred years we haven’t earned their respect and you only get it back not by yelling, but by serving and by putting yourself in other peoples’ shoes."
-Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church