Billy Graham peppered his sermons with the phrase, “The Bible says.” A direct appeal to the authority of the Christian Scriptures made sense when his listeners came from cultures that respected Christianity. But times are changing. Timothy Keller – pastor of an vibrant church of six thousand in multi-cultural Manhattan, New York – realizes that to reach an urban audience, today’s missionary must first clear away a pile of stumbling blocks. In The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism (Riverhead Books, 2008), Keller addresses seven common doubts about Christian faith, followed by seven “reasons for faith.” At least three topics raised by Keller impact our theology of mission, namely, religious pluralism, hell, and the resurrection.
Many of Timothy Keller’s sophisticated New York City listeners would identify with what Wes Tracy called “the scandal of particularity.” In a world filled with many religions, how could Peter claim boldly concerning Jesus that “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name given under heaven by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12, TNIV)? One student lamented to a panel of Christian, Jewish, and Muslim clerics: “We will never come to know peace on earth if religious leaders keep on making such exclusive claims!” (Reason for God, 4).