Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review of "Galatians For You" by Tim Keller

Galatians For You is part of a new series of commentaries collectively called "God's Word for You," published by The Good Book Company.  This volume is, of course, about St. Paul's Epistle to the Galatians. Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and a widely recognized guru of communicating the gospel to urban post-modern people. In full disclosure, and in compliance with my book review policy, I did received a free copy of the book from the publisher to review. However, my review would be the same if I had paid full price.

The Epistle to the Galatians is (along with Romans) a centerpiece for understanding the Pauline doctrine of justification by faith. Therefore, it is vital for every Christian believer to have a familiarity with its contents and a good understanding of its message, not just to be born again and enter the Christian life, but to live a grace filled spiritual life. The way in is truly the way on. Tim Keller's book will be helpful to that end.

After reading it I see two strengths and one small weakness in this book

Strength: Keller "gets" the message of Galatians. He also "gets" how both religious and non-religious people react to Paul's radical message of salvation by grace alone through Christ alone, with nothing added. Keller's apologetic method focuses on the concept that religion and rebellion, rule keeping and rule breaking, are both simply manifestations of a works righteousness orientation. The only thing radically different from all other forms of religion or spirituality is the gospel of Jesus, where all the initiative is with God, eternal life is free, and we can only respond in gratitude to His actions for us. He explains this well in this book.

Strength: Tim Keller is known for his clear, concise and winsome communication style, polished by many years of listening, preaching and counseling in the sophisticated urban, post-modern environment of New York. He is a widely recognized guru at communicating complex and possibly confrontational biblical truths in a non-threatening way that bypasses the usual defensiveness, without at the same time dulling the sharp edge of truth. This book is a prime example of that skill. (For a complete treatment of that theme see Keller's book The Reason for God)

Weakness: If you are looking for in-depth treatment on exegetical controversies, such as the meaning of Galatians 3:28 within modern egalitarian vs. complementarian arguments about gender roles in family and church leadership, then this is not the book for you. That is outside the scope and focus of this book, although Keller has certainly written about his views on those maters in other places, as has his wife Kathy Keller (see their book The Meaning of Marriage).

Conclusion: In my opinion, Keller has yet to write a book that is not worth owning and reading over and over again. I have been quoting from this one on my blog for the past week, and expect to post more quotes. There are so many powerful sentences in this book that I have made multiple underlinings on almost every page of my copy. I expect to read this book over and over, and it will be a major resource the next time I teach from Galatians. I highly recommend the book.