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January 03, 2012

The Meaning of MarriageIt must be intimidating to write a book on marriage. Store shelves are groaning under the weight of titles that claim to have the key to a happy marriage, or a biblical marriage or a gospel-centered marriage. To rise above such a crowded field a book needs to offer something different, something unique, something that distinguishes it from the pack. Tim and Kathy Keller have jumped into the fray with their new book The Meaning of Marriage and the distinguishing feature of their book is a deep gospel-centeredness. This leads the Kellers to invite the reader deep into the gospel of Jesus Christ and also compels them to show how the gospel extends to every part of marriage.

Though The Meaning of Marriage is written primarily by Tim Keller, his wife Kathy contributes in several ways, and most notably by contributing one of the chapters and by being the wife to whom Tim has been married for almost four decades. Tim explains that the book has three deep roots. The first of these is his marriage to Kathy, the second is his long pastoral ministry, particularly in New York City in a church dominated by singles, and the third and most foundational is the biblical teaching on marriage as found in both the Old and New Testaments. “Nearly four decades ago, as theological students, Kathy and I studied the Biblical teachings on sex, gender, and marriage. Over the next fifteen years, we worked them out in our own marriage. Then, over the last twenty-two years, we have used what we learned from both Scripture and experience to guide, encourage, counsel, and instruct young urban adults with regard to sex and marriage.” They speak from the powerful combination of Scriptural grounding and real-world experience.

The book is comprised of eight chapters that flow logically from the biblical basis for marriage all the way to the sexual relationship within marriage. In chapter 1 they offer the very basic biblical teachings on marriage, showing how marriage is God’s idea and that it is meant to reflect the saving love of God for us in Jesus Christ. In chapter 2 they show how the work of the Holy Spirit is fundamental to battling the main enemy of marriage: sinful self-centeredness. Chapter 3 is about love, looking at how the feeling of love relates (or doesn’t relate) to actions of love. Chapter 4, “The Mission of Marriage,” turns to the purpose of marriage and offers a long discussion of spiritual friendship while chapter 5, “Loving the Stranger,” teaches three skills that every husband and wife ought to pursue.

Chapter 6, written by Kathy, celebrates the differences between the sexes, looking to the tricky subject of gender roles and complementarity. Singleness and wise thinking about pursuing marriage are the subjects of chapter 7 and the final chapter looks to the sexual relationship, showing why the Bible roots sex in marriage and how this relationship can best be celebrated within marriage.

March 08, 2011

Tim Keller Kings CrossTim Keller’s career as an author has been rather unusual. Ministries of Mercy, his first book, was published in 1997. It was 11 years before he wrote his second book, The Reason for God, a title that rocketed right onto the New York Times list of bestsellers. Since then he has averaged more than a book a year and each of those titles has garnered a lot of acclaim; within just a few years Keller has established himself as one of the most significant Christian authors. New for 2011 is Redeemer, a publishing imprint with Dutton (which in turn is an imprint of Penguin Publishing) and the first book published under that banner: King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus.

This is a book about Jesus—Jesus as he is portrayed in the Gospel of Mark. Keller says, “It is an extended meditation on the historical Christian premise that Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection form the central event of cosmic and human history as well as the central organizing principle of the world—and how we fit into it—is most clearly understood through a careful, direct look at the story of Jesus. My purpose here is to try to show, through his words and actions, how beautifully his life makes sense of ours.” Understand Jesus and you will understand the world: that is the central premise of the book.

King’s Cross is based upon a series Keller preached on Mark and the expository tone and structure remains. And yet somehow reading this book does not feel like reading sermons—it feels like meditation upon a text. Its style is pure Keller, probably closest to The Prodigal God, though certainly there are similarities with his other titles as well. This is not an exposition of the entire text of Mark, but rather an exposition of some of the more significant moments. And in that way it reads like a biography of Jesus, an account of his life, his death, his meaning, his purpose. While Keller inevitably turns to the parallel accounts of Jesus in the other gospel, his central focus remains Mark.

November 03, 2010

Tim Keller is releasing books at a steady clip these days. 2008 saw the release of The Reason for God and The Prodigal God while Counterfeit Gods was released in 2009 and Generous Justice just days ago. Early next year we’ll see King’s Cross.

While the books have been published by Dutton, several of them have been followed by DVDs produced by Zondervan. The DVDs are geared toward group study and are comprised of six or eight sessions led by Keller and followed by discussion facilitated by a discussion guide.

The DVDs are widely available but as far as I can see, your cheapest option is Westminster Books. However, if you buy direct from Zondervan you do have the option of buying just one session if there is something there of particular interest or if you want to try a single session before buying the whole set.

Here are the three DVDs currently available:

The Reason for God

The Reason for GodCaptured live and unscripted, pastor and author Timothy Keller meets with a group of people over six sessions to address their doubts and objections to Christianity. Using literature, philosophy, real-life experiences, and the Bible, Keller and the group explore the truth of Christianity. This DVD will help you think about and engage others in dialogue on six common objections to Christianity.

Here are the contents of the 6 discussions:

  1. Isn’t the Bible a Myth? Hasn’t Science Disproved Christianity?
  2. How Can You Say There Is Only One Way to God? What About Other Religions?
  3. What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live My Life? Why Are There So Many Rules?
  4. Why Does God Allow Suffering? Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?
  5. Why Is the Church Responsible for So Much Injustice? Why Are Christians Such Hypocrites?
  6. How Can God Be Full of Love and Wrath at the Same Time? How Can God Send Good People to Hell?

[Amazon | Westminster Books]

October 20, 2009

Counterfeit Gods by Tim KellerTim Keller knows how to tell a Bible story. Like The Prodigal God before it, his latest book, Counterfeit Gods is built around them. And every time I read one of those stories, I feel like I am hearing it for the first time. I find myself lost in the story, anticipating how it could, how it might, end. In the back of my mind I know exactly how it will turn out, but somehow Keller takes me along for a ride as he tells these stories in such a fresh way. In Counterfeit Gods he tells of Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Esau, Jonah and Zacchaeus. Each one of these characters and the stories of their lives are used to teach the reader about the prevalence of idolatry in the Bible and in the human heart.