Let’s take a journey back a few years ago. I was neck-deep in my dissertation data collection, and the only people I interacted with on the reg were soccer moms at my church (who I liked, but had a hard time connecting with) or highly-educated, young, single agnostic/athetists/spiritual-but-not-religious peers at my university.
I still went to church, and I remember for a while every Sunday I would tear up during worship because it felt so amazing to actually be with other believers. But still, there was a large disconnect between my daily academic grind and and my faith, my brains and my heart. The two worlds felt so completely different that it was hard to reconcile “Christian Gallo” with “PhD student Gallo.” I started to wonder if I went to church for the sake of nostalgia, and/or to maintain a connection with my pre-PhD student, super-Crish, conservative, southern culture life. I also had a lot of doubts.
Some were intellectual – neuroscience is very material, in the sense that all the complexity of human thought, emotion, and even spirituality is reduced down to electrical and chemical communication between cells. Did I really believe that a supernatural world existed? It was easy to believe when I was with other Christians, but when I looked at it through the lens of science it seemed pretty ridiculous.
Some were emotional – even though I had planned to get my PhD ever since I was 16 years old, my early 20s were *not* what I had imagined them to be. I think in my heart I actually believed I would take my University by storm and ride the wave of success all the way to the cure for Alzheimer’s disease. I also always envisioned myself as being very suave and sophisticated as I got older (lolz). Needless to say… that is not what happened. I failed.. a lot. Both in research, but also in matters of character. I kind of lost respect for myself, and I was mad that God wasn’t letting me hit scientific home runs and point to the sky in acknowledgement of Him as I accepted all my awards, Tim Tebow style.
Then one summer, the Christian fellowship I was a part of started a book discussion on Tim Keller’s The Reason for God. The book blew me away because it was so clear and straightforward. TK didn’t act like it was evil or preposterous to question Christianity , but he also “pushed back,” so to speak, on some of the common assumptions that non-believers take as “givens.” The Reason for God opened my eyes to the possibility of being a Christian, who – although still needing faith for some particular issues – wasn’t judged for having doubts, and wasn’t asked to forsake their intelligence as a prerequisite for faith.
Then I started reading his other books.. and trust me there are a lot of them. Not all are so “apologetical” as The Reason for God.. nor are his sermons. More than any pastor I have ever read / listened to, Tim Keller shines a huge spotlight on Jesus – pointing out how Jesus is threaded through the entire bible – not just the New Testament. He tackles weird, slightly off-putting Old Testament stories and points out how those stories are purposefully driving us toward an understand of the absolute necessity of Jesus. Adam, Moses, Noah, Jacob, David, Hosea — all of them! They were all used by God, but not enough. Their failures used to frustrate and confuse me, now they encourage me to rejoice that where these biblical figures failed, Jesus succeeded.
He also talks about how Jesus fits into work, marriage, money, sex, rest … every single aspect of life now.
Timmy K doesn’t need a grammy-award winning worship team to whip his congregation into an emotional frenzy before he preaches. He doesn’t need to soften the crowd with his hilarious hijinks. He doesn’t need to put visitors at ease with his trendy ripped up jeans. TK is not particularly attractive or charismatic, and that is why I love him all the more. Because to me it shows that his appeal is not really in him – (he’s like a slightly stuffy Dad)it’s the freedom and joy he points to, in Jesus!
Thank you, Tim! YOU ARE AMAZING I LOVE YOU FOREVER!!!!!!!!!!
— EDITORIAL NOTES —
Tim Keller resources – http://www.timothykeller.com/ , https://gospelinlife.com/