Mere Christianity by C.S. Lewis is typically regarded as one of the top apologetic/philosophical Christian works of the 20th century. Timothy Keller’s “The Reason for God” is a similar book written to a new generation, a book I very much enjoyed. When our small group was recently choosing our next study to do together, I was happy to find that there was also a video series with an accompanying study guide.
One of the inherent difficulties with apologetics-style books or videos is that the author often has to build arguments against ideas, ideas that may or may not actually be held by people. People that do not disagree in the same way that the author has represented. Often, after being armed to answer these theoretical objections with a 1-2-3 proof that is sure to convince, we find that actual real-life people have more nuanced struggles or disagreements.
The Reason for God video series is helpful here in that the majority of the videos are made up of Mr. Keller’s conversations with a room of six (non-believing) New York professionals, all with their own unique objections and beliefs. And they do most of the talking. Keller is quick and often to treat every comment with respect, even conceding the Christian position as difficult at times. Keller’s model of mutual respect is encouraging, instructive, and refreshing when compared to the “us vs them” mindset that is so prevalent today. He interjects Christian perspectives in between and in response to the others’ comments.
The flip side of this is that using this study purely as a video + study guide process falls a bit short. There simply isn’t enough teaching from Mr. Keller in the video clips. However, when paired with the 6 part sermon series by Keller at his Redeemer Presbyterian church titled “the Trouble with Christianity: Why It’s So Hard to Believe It,” the study becomes much more engaging. I would go so far as to say that the study should not be done without the sermon series also being used.
For a small group leader, it’s an “easy” study to facilitate:
1) It’s a video series, so there isn’t really a need to prepare a lesson.
2) It has a well-written study guide with great questions. Our group had some great discussions.
3) The corresponding sermon series by Keller is just about a perfect match to the video series and study guide.
It’s not surprising from a series titled “the Reason for God” that most of the topics are more philosophical in nature. As our group wrapped up the study, we had a discussion about how a person can talk and study theoretically about God for years without ever making any kind of personal commitment. This study doesn’t push for that personal commitment as much as it helps to set the framework for it, showing that Christianity is reasonable and rational just as much as it is powerful and transformative.