As skepticism toward Christianity grows and more people identify themselves as having "no religious preference," a Manhattan pastor and now author says robust, orthodox beliefs in the traditional faiths is growing as well.
"The world is polarizing over religion. It is getting both more religious and less religious at the same time," writes Tim Keller in the newly released The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism.
The book, released last month, currently holds the No. 11 spot on the New York Times Bestseller List. It was written not only for Christians who already believe, but primarily for those harboring doubts about Christianity.
"I've talked to literally thousands of people in New York City over the years. I've found that as I talk to people, so many of the doubts are passionate, they're well thought out and they deserve respect. Therefore, I wrote this book to respectfully engage those doubts," said Keller, founding pastor of the 5,000-member Redeemer Presbyterian Church.
In fact, Keller embraces doubt as a means of arriving at faith and further challenges Christians to come to an understanding of their belief that is not based solely on blind faith.
"I think there's doubts that you always have, that you ought to be more forthright and address them," he said, according to First Things' journal. By addressing them, you can be a better apologist, he added.
"Because people are coming shootin' stuff at you in a way they wouldn't when I was growing up."
In the book, Keller dismantles what he lists as the seven biggest objections and doubts about Christianity. One of the biggest problems people have with Christianity is exclusivity, the author says. Many people have argued that "there can't just be one true religion."
"You must recognize that this statement is itself an act of faith," he writes. "No one can prove it empirically, and it is not a universal truth that everyone accepts."
"Every doubt, therefore, is based on a leap of faith," he argues.
The other six objections about Christianity are:
• A kind God could not allow suffering
• Christianity is a straightjacket
• The Church is responsible for so much injustice
• A loving God would not send people to hell
• Science has disproved Christianity
• You can't take the Bible literally
In the second half of the book, he lays out "sufficient reasons" for believing Christianity, countering outspoken atheists such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris who insist that sufficient reasons do not exist for the existence of God.
Keller moved to Manhattan nearly 30 years ago to set up a church within a largely non-churchgoing population – a move that many called foolish.
There, he found older white people were quite secular and younger professionals and working-class immigrants held strong religious beliefs.
"I think these younger Christians are the vanguard of some major new religious, social, and political arrangements that could make the older form of culture wars obsolete," Keller writes in his book. "After they wrestle with doubts and objections to Christianity many come out on the other side with an orthodox faith that doesn't fit the current categories of liberal Democrat or conservative Republican."
It's this young crowd that he has largely drawn to Redeemer.
Although he hasn't put himself out there as a kind of megachurch pastor who is deliberately in jeans or who's "hip," he says, his challenging sermons and orthodox Christianity has reached thousands of young professionals.
There are no video screens or a rock band, and the Redeemer congregation sings hymns to wind instruments and an organ. But the congregation is largely young, single and diverse and has grown to five services at three different locations on Sunday.
His way of putting the Gospel in a nutshell: "You are more wicked than you ever dared believe, and yet you are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than you ever dared hope."
Considered "a pioneer of the new urban Christians," as dubbed by Christianity Today magazine, Keller has also helped plant 60 churches in the city.
And now out with his first-ever published book, Keller hopes to provide an intelligent platform on which Christians can stand their ground in an age of skepticism.