Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Book Notes: King's Cross by Timothy Keller

Tim Keller's latest book "King's Cross" shares many things in common with his previous works, but differs from them significantly too. The continuities lie in the theology, in which Keller's trademark emphasis on human sin being conquered by unquenchable divine grace in Christ, is everywhere. Likewise, Keller's insightful reading of the human condition and contemporary Western culture makes his diagnoses of our sins, fears and foibles as hard-hitting -as his invitation to trust in Jesus Christ to address them is winsome.

The differences between this and previous books are in content and structure. Previously Keller has written on Christian Apologetics, Idolatry, Grace and Rebellion and Justice - and these have read as 'books', in that they develop a clear line of argument, as they address one specific aspect of Christian faith and life. King's Cross on the other hand reads more like a series of meditations (probably edited sermons) on the life, death and resurrection of Christ. In eighteen short chapters Keller teases out the significance for us of a series of key events in Mark's action-packed gospel.

This is good, helpful, straightforward reading which could be of enormous benefit to anyone who has read the gospel accounts of the life of Christ but who seeks further insight into their contemporary relevance or what sort of response they demand from us.

Of all Keller's books though it is probably the one which has had the least immediate impact on me. I suspect that this is for a number of reasons including the fact that it is the one from which I have learnt the least. Reason for God was a hugely educational read, Prodigal God was glorious in its celebration of the grace of God; Counterfeit Gods was explosive in its unmasking of our idolatries in contrast to the worship of God; and Generous Justice was compelling in the case it made for Christians to pursue social justice as a response to the gospel of Christ. King's Cross functions more as a persuasive and eloquent re-expression of core Christian ideas which many of us have known for a long time. Additionally, the elements of 'surprise' were more muted than in my previous encounters with Keller. His particular genius is in the threeway interplay between text-theology-and-contemporary culture; and he is at his most helpful when he brings the fruit of these interactions to bear upon us; in ways which have often startled me with their re-awakening of over-familiar stories. To be sure there is a steady supply of such gems throughout King's Cross, and his handling of stories such as the healing of the hemorrhaging woman, the transfiguration of Jesus, and his arrest are wonderful. Perhaps this book had fewer such moments for me than previous books was because I had read/heard Keller on a number of these themes before.

While this book doesn't mark an important shift in my understanding or emphasis, it is still a really worthwhile read. Ultimately Keller takes the reader's attention to Jesus and rivets it there. His desire is to allow the reader to enter the same journey of discovery that the disciples experience in Mark's gospel. It begins with a sense of intrigue in the person of Jesus Christ, but during the gradual process of the unveiling of Jesus' true identity during his life; that intrigue turns first to trust, then to worship and then to obedience.

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