UNEXPECTED ANSWERS TO LIFE’S BIGGEST QUESTIONS
Book Review by David P. Craig
The foundation for this book was laid when Tim Keller was in college. He had recently come into a personal relationship with Christ and learned how to study the Bible guided by a book entitled Conversations with Jesus Christ from the Gospel of John by Marilyn Kunz and Catherine Schell. In close proximity to this study he learned how to read and study the Bible inductively. He attended a conference for Bible study leaders where one of the instructors had each student take 30 minutes to make 30 observations from Mark 1:17, “And Jesus said to them, ‘Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” In the first 10 minutes he thought he wrote down everything he had observed about the surrounding passage from the text. However, the gold was mined in minutes 20-30. It was through the patient and inductive wrestling with the text where the gold was found.
In this book of encounters with Jesus Tim Keller mines spiritual gold.The first five chapters are based on talks given by Keller to students – most of whom were spiritual skeptics – at the Town Hall in Oxford, England in 2012. These first five chapters reveal the foundational teachings of Christianity and the astonishing character of Jesus in particular as he encounters Nathanael, the Samaritan Woman and a Pharisee, Mary and Martha, Guests at a Wedding Party, and Mary Magdalene. In each of these encounters important questions are addressed to and by Jesus and one learns how to read the Scriptures copiously and glean the answers to life’s greatest questions. Questions such as: What is the world for? What’s wrong with the world? Can anything or person make the world right? How can we be part of the solution to making the world right?
Keller’s thesis is that “if you want to be sure that you are developing sound, thoughtful answers to the fundamental questions, you need at the very least to become acquainted with the teachings of Christianity. The best way to do that is to see how Jesus explained himself and his purposes to people he met–and how their lives were changed by his answers to their questions.” Therefore, the first half of this book is devoted to encounters “others” had with Jesus.
The second half of the book is devoted to how we can encounter Jesus today in the 21st century. How can we be changed by Jesus? How can we know Jesus intimately and personally? How can we discover what the people discovered in the biblical encounters with Jesus in my own life? The second half of the book is based on talks that Keller delivered at the Harvard Club of New York City over a period of several years. Keller was addressing business, cultural, and governmental leaders – highly educated individuals who shared their doubts and questions with Keller. Therefore, by highlighting pivotal events’ in Jesus’ life – his temptation with Satan, his sending of the Holy Spirit, his road to the cross, his ascension, and his incarnation – we learn of the significance of the Person and work of Jesus Christ in the Gospel.
I think this book is an especially good book to give to spiritual skeptics. With the holidays coming upon us it would make a great gift for friends, people you work with, and loved ones whom you desire to know Jesus personally and intimately. Keller writes cogently, concisely, and compellingly. He wisely interprets and applies each encounter with Jesus and highlights why we all need Jesus in our lives. For each human being there is no greater encounter that we can have than with the person and work of Jesus in and on our behalf. I highly recommend this book to quench your thirst for the only One who can satisfy our thirst – the Lord Jesus Christ.