Timothy Keller, “Encounters with Jesus”

The author, a Presbyterian pastor in Manhattan, is one of the great living Christian apologists and writers; my sense is that if you want to read one book by him, one that is most foundational in its apologetics, it would be The Reason for God.  The book I discuss on this post is very good, too — very straightforward, with lots of wonderful insights.  It’s based on two five-part lectures; thus, it’s ten chapters, one each on a particular Biblical incident involving Jesus.  The balance of this post is about a few general apologetic points that Keller makes in Encounters with Jesus.

Keller (90) calls N.T. Wright’s The Resurrection of the Son of God “the best book written on the resurrection in at least a hundred years (the good news and the bad news is that it’s 890 pages long).  Here’s another endorsement by Keller (209-10 n.5):

Maybe the single best book written to cover these points [i.e., “the belief in Jesus’ divine identity did not develop long after Jesus’ death, but was based on his own teaching and was the rule in the Christian community from the start” (47)] is Richard Bauckham’s Jesus:  A Very Short Introduction (Oxford, 2011).  Bauckham gives a summary of the scholarship backing up each of these facts — that the Gospels are reliable eyewitness accounts, that Jesus understood himself to be divine and claimed to be God, and that the earliest Christian church immediately worshipped him as such.  One is his own Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (Eerdmans, 2006) and another is Paul Barnett, Find the Historical Christ (Eerdmans, 2009).

I also found this point (117) to be significant, and worth copying and quoting here:

…. To begin with, he wants to keep you from believing Jesus is really the Son of God and Savior of the world. Notice carefully what God said from heaven in the baptism. First he says, “This is my Son, whom I love”  a quote from Psalm 2, a song about God’s messianic king who is going to put down all rebellion and evil in the world. But then God says, “with him I am well pleased.” That is a quote from Isaiah 53, where it describes the figure of the Suffering Servant, a mysterious person who Isaiah says will someday suffer and die for the transgressions of the people. This is an important key to understanding the whole Bible. Throughout the Old Testament (as in Psalm 2) we find the promise of a great messianic king who would come and put everything right in the world. Many of the Jews awaited him eagerly. But there was also this suffering figure in the prophecy of Isaiah. The Jews were told that this servant would be rejected, that “by his wounds we (would be) healed” (Isaiah 53:5). And no one, until God blessed Jesus at the baptism, had put those two people together.

God was trying to get us to understand this: Jesus is not just a good man who by word and example tells us how to live. Nor is he merely a heavenly king who came to destroy all evil in one stroke. As we have seen, evil is deep within us. And if he had come to end all evil on the spot, he would have ended us. Instead, he is a king who comes not to a throne but to a cross. He comes to be tempted and tried, to suffer and die. …

Finally, Keller has a wonderful elaboration on C.S. Lewis’s famous “trilemma” argument at pages 46-49 (Keller cites Lewis a lot, by the way), which you can read here:    [link: https://books.google.com/books?id=VlWLDgAAQBAJ&pg=PA46&lpg=PA46&dq=keller+%22encounters+with+jesus%22+%22jesus+then+demands+a+radical+response%22&source=bl&ots=VihSVYlHEb&sig=Et_a7YcsP5FT5QKM-y65LYHKXuc&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwin_KaL1K_YAhUJUd8KHe98BPAQ6AEILTAB#v=onepage&q=keller%20%22encounters%20with%20jesus%22%20%22jesus%20then%20demands%20a%20radical%20response%22&f=false].