I had a message to do in the Faith Mission Bookshop in Portadown yesterday and was surprised and delighted to see a copy of Tim Keller’s new book, King’s Cross, on the shelves. Tim Keller hasn’t published a lot of stuff but it seems as though a new deal with a publisher means that we will be seeing more books in the future. I’m sure my local, friendly, Christian bookshop (with great coffe and fabulous scones) will be on the ball to keep us well-supplied with every new publication.
The purpose of this book is simple.
“The whole story 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.”
Keller draws on Mark’s Gospel to take a deep look at the life of Christ. He says that in his ministry he has preached through Mark’s Gospel three times, and a key element of Mark is that the gospel does not read like dry history, but that it is an action-packed account of the life amd ministry of Jesus. Mark’s message is that God in Christ has broken into history and anything can happen now. As a result, we can’t remain neutral; we need to respond actively.
If you want a flavour of the book, you can read the opening chapter here. But if you can’t be bothered pressing the keys to get you there, here’s a couple of key paragraphs to whet your appetite.
If this world was made by a triune God, relationships of love are what life is really all about.
You see, different views of God have different implications. If there’s no God—if we are here by blind chance, strictly as a result of natural selection—then what you and I call love is just a chemical condition of the brain. Evolutionary biologists say there’s nothing in us that isn’t there because it helped our ancestors pass on the genetic code more successfully. If you feel love, it’s only because that combination of chemicals enables you to survive and gets your body parts in the places they need to be in order to pass on the genetic code. That’s all love is—chemistry. On the other hand, if God exists but is unipersonal, there was a time when God was not love. Before God created the world, when there was only one divine person, there was no lover, because love can exist only in a relationship. If a unipersonal God had created the world and its inhabitants, such a God would not in his essence be love. Power and greatness possibly, but not love. But if from all eternity, without end and without beginning, ultimate reality is a community of persons knowing and loving one another, then ultimate reality is about love relationships.
Why would a triune God create a world? If he were a unipersonal God, you might say, “Well, he created the world so he can have beings who give him worshipful love, and that would give him joy.” But the triune God already had that—and he received love within himself in a far purer, more powerful form than we human beings can ever give him. So why would he create us? There’s only one answer. He must have created us not to get joy but to give it. He must have created us to invite us into the dance, to say: If you glorify me, if you center your entire life on me, if you ﬁnd me beautiful for who I am in myself, then you will step into the dance, which is what you are made for. You are made not just to believe in me or to be spiritual in some general way, not just to pray and get a bit of inspiration when things are tough. You are made to center everything in your life on me, to think of everything in terms of your relationship to me. To serve me unconditionally. That’s where you’ll ﬁnd your joy. That’s what the dance is about.
Are you in the dance or do you just believe God is out there somewhere? Are you in the dance or do you just pray to God every so often when you’re in trouble? Are you in the dance or are you looking around for someone to orbit around you? If life is a divine dance, then you need more than anything else to be in it. That’s what you’re built for. You are made to enter into a divine dance with the Trinity.
Having read the first few chapters what stands out for me is the wonderful biblical theology in Keller’s exposition of Mark’s Gospel. I studied at Westminster Seminary in Philadelphia under Ed Clowney, Ray Dillard and Dick Gaffin, and was taught to see Jesus Christ in all the Scriptures. The foundation for many of their insights was in the writings of Geerhardus Vos, the first professor of biblical theology at Princeton Seminary. That distinctive teaching has continued at Westminster through my late friend, Al Groves, and through Vern Poythress, Dan McCartney, Doug Green, Mike Kelly and many others. As a former faculty member at Westminster, Tim reflects that same tradition which brings such meaning and colour to the reading of the Bible. It is so exciting and stimulating to see how this rich vein of biblical study finds such eloquent expression in the contemporary ministry and preaching of Tim Keller.