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  • >> SON: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for coming out to Authors at Google. My name is

  • Eugene Son. And before we begin, I’d like to extend a special thank you to everyone

  • who made this possible. A lot of work goes into setting this up so I really appreciate

  • that. It is my pleasure to bring to Google Dr. Tim Keller. For those of you who don’t

  • know his background, he was raised in Lehigh Valley, Pennsylvania; educated at Bucknell

  • University, attended Gordon-Conwell and Westminster Theological Seminary. In 1989, Dr. Keller

  • founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church located in Manhattan. Today, he’s got a congregation

  • of over 5,000 people. He has also helped start over a hundred other churches worldwide. Last

  • night, Dr. Keller was at UC Berkeley promoting his new book, The Reason for God: Belief in

  • an Age of Skepticism. And he addresses a wide audience whether they’d be agnostics, atheists,

  • believers in mind, and he tackles some really difficult issues such as: Why is there suffering

  • in this world? How can a loving god send people to hell? How can there be one right religion

  • while all the others are wrong?” So with that being said, I think were going to

  • have a great conversation. Were going to be having a Q and A session afterwards. Please

  • use the mike to my left and well be taking questions from there. And without further

  • ado, I’d like to introduce Dr. Tim Keller. >> KELLER: Thank you. I’m going to stay

  • here. Thank you. Though I have not--thank you, Eugene. I don’t have any idea why any

  • of you would know anything about my background. Eugene said, if--for those of you who don’t

  • know my background, I think that had to be all of you. I mean, why would anybody know

  • it? Even my children don’t really know it. So I want to talk to you about the reason--the

  • reasoning behind belief in God, or the reasoning the leads to belief in God. I am not--I can’t

  • possibly cover it in say 25, 30 minutes. My conscience is clear because there is the book.

  • In other words, what I say to you here is going to be sketchy. If anything I say really

  • engages you, I won’t be--I won’t feel guilty because I can always say, read the

  • rest of it in the book. I certainly can’t really give good answers to this question

  • in a talk, but I think I--I think I addressed it a lot better in the book were I had a little

  • bit more time. But the question is: What is the reasoning that leads to belief in God?

  • And I'd like to deal with that in the three headings: Why the reasons for God are important,

  • how the reasons for God work, and what the reasons for God are. Okay? First, why the

  • reasons for God are important; why should you even be here? In fact I don’t know why

  • youre here, but I’ll tell you why you ought to be here, okay? If you have a kind

  • of sound, firm skepticism, and you really don’t believe in God, you really need to

  • know this, what I’m about to tell you, and here’s the reason why: When I was your age--I’m

  • looking out there--when I was your age, which is a long time ago, everybody knew that the

  • more technologically advanced the society got, the less religious they'd get. That’s

  • what everybody thought they knew. And the more economically developed, the more educated

  • people got, the more religion was going to sort of thin out and the idea of a god and

  • truth and miracles was going to sort of die out. Not--hardly anybody believes that anymore

  • because, really, that’s not what's happening. Instead, robust, orthodox faith in God has

  • gotten stronger in the world. It has gotten stronger in America. Secular thought has also

  • increased, so we have a more polarized society now. But, you know, last week, the Pew Foundation

  • took out, sent out its latest survey of the religious life of people in America and now

  • evangelical Pentecostals is largest single category, bigger than mainline Protestants,

  • bigger than Catholics. That would never--I can’t imagine that 30 years ago. Meanwhile,

  • in the rest of the world, to keep some things in mind, Africa had gone from 9% to 55% Christian

  • in the last hundred years. Korea went from about 1% to 40% Christian in the hundred years

  • while Korea was getting more technologically advanced. The same thing has basically happened

  • for China. There are more Christians in China now than there are on America, and this has

  • been happening even as science has advanced. So the old idea that somehow orthodox religion

  • is sort of going to go away, no. It isn’t. It’s going to be here, which means the only

  • way were going to get along is we got to be able to get sympathetically into one other's

  • shoes. So if you don’t believe in God, you need to--you need to try to understand why

  • anybody does or we're not going to be able to work in a pluralistic society. You know,

  • the new atheist books, Mr. Dawkins, Mr. Hitchens and company, when they say religion is bad

  • in those books, that’s not a new thesis. A lot of people have been saying that for

  • a long time. What is kind of new about the books is they don’t just say religion is

  • bad, they say respect for religion is bad. And if you counsel one section of your population

  • to belittle and disdain and do nothing, you know, shows no respect for the beliefs of

  • this group of people, beliefs that give them great joy and meaning in life. If you counsel

  • one group of people to despise and do nothing to try to understand this group of people,

  • that is a recipe for social disaster if anybody actually takes the advice. Now, if you are

  • a believer in God, you need to know the reasons for God, and here’s the reasons why. Doubt.

  • Youve got doubts. Don’t tell me you don’t. I know you may come from a church that says,

  • oh, no, doubt, we don't doubt, we believe. Well, if you don’t deal with your own doubts

  • and say, okay, in light of this doubt, why do I believe? You know, why do I believe Christianity?

  • Why do I believe in God, or whatever? If you don’t let your doubts drive you to ask those

  • questions, your faith will never get strong. Doubts, dealing with doubts honestly is the

  • best possible way to develop a faith that can last in the face of anything. So you need

  • to look at the reasoning for God if youre a believer in God. You need to look at the

  • reasoning for God if youre not a believer in God. And, actually, if you--but most of

  • the people that I know in this country, at least, really are kind of ambivalent. They--your

  • relationship with belief in God is a really weird one. Sometimes, you do; sometimes, you

  • don’t. Sometimes, you do more; sometimes, you do less. And you particularly need to

  • hear this. Second point, how do the reasons for God work? Important. There are three basic

  • kinds of reasons that all people who believe believe and for which all people who disbelieve

  • disbelieve. If you disbelieve in God or you believe in God, it’s because of all three

  • of these kinds of reasons. The first kind are intellectual reasons. In other words,

  • you read the arguments for the existence of God or you read the objections to God or Christianity,

  • we'll say--and I’m speaking as a Christian. That’s why whenever I go into a particular

  • religion, I'm always going to think of Christianity here. And if you think the arguments are compelling,

  • you believe. If you think the arguments don’t--aren’t compelling, you don’t believe. So there’s

  • the intellectual; you might call reasoning proper. Secondly, though, you have personal

  • reasons. Nobody believes in God or disbelieves strictly for intellectual rational reasons.

  • There’s always personal reasons. And here’s what’s interesting. Some people have horrible

  • bad experiences, tragedies and difficulties, and disappointments. And some people interpret

  • that as meaning I really need God in my life, I need something to help me get through this.

  • And other people have the very same experiences and they interpret this meaning, I don’t

  • need a god who lets stuff like this happen. Other people get very successful. For example,

  • they come to work for Google and theyre happy, and, like, the toilet seats are heated.

  • How would I know that? And--somebody told me; I didn’t believe them. So youre happy;

  • things are doing well in life. So some people interpret success in life this way: They say,

  • this means I don’t really need God. And other people interpret success in life as

  • saying, you know, I’m happy--I’m successful and I’m still empty. So there’s always

  • interpreted experience, interpreted personal experiences, a set of reasons why some people

  • believe in God or not, intellectual reasons why some people believe in God or not; and,

  • lastly, there’s social reasons. Now, there’s a whole field of--the whole discipline called

  • the sociology of knowledge. And the sociology of knowledge says that basically you tend

  • to find plausible, most plausible, the beliefs of people that you want to be--you want them

  • to like you, or the people that you need and people that you're dependent on, people who

  • are in the community youre in or want to be part of--their beliefs tend to be more

  • plausible than the beliefs of people who are in communities you don’t like or aren’t

  • interested in and don’t want to be part of. So, to a great degree, you believe what

  • you believe because of the social support, and I think most of us have to be honest about

  • this. If you once believed in God and kind of lost your belief, to some degree, that

  • happened because a lot of the people that you wanted to like you were also being skeptical

  • and sophisticated and making jokes about it. Or if you move from belief, or pardon me,

  • non-belief to robust belief in God, very often, it’s because youve found a circle of

  • people that you really like and admire and you can identify with and you’d like to

  • be liked, and they believed. But what you can’t do is reduce belief or non-belief

  • to just one of those three, and people always do it. It’s always all three. I'm going

  • to show you what I mean. Very often, secular, non-believing people, non-believing in god,

  • will say to me, "Yet, Christian minister, you think you got the truth, you think Christianity

  • is the truth. If you were born in Madagascar, you wouldn’t even be a Christian." Okay.

  • So I sat down and I said, "What is this? What is the point of this?" And here’s what he’s

  • saying: He’s saying, "My understanding of God is based on rationality. I’ve thought

  • it out. But your belief is socially and culturally constructed, totally. Youre only a Christian

  • because you were raised here, okay, not Madagascar." But, see, what’s the comeback? The comeback

  • is--here’s a person that says, "I’m a secular person who believes that religion

  • is, you know, all religions are relative, and youre this Christian. If you were born

  • in Madagascar, you wouldn’t be a Christian." And the comeback is, yet, if you were born

  • in Madagascar, you wouldn’t be a secular relativist. Does that mean that your position

  • is all socially constructed? "Oh, no, no." Yes and no. To some degree, the reason he

  • doesn’t believe is because his belief was somewhat, somehow socially supported but it’s

  • not totally. It’s also reason. It’s all three. It’s absolutely wrong. It’s disdainful.

  • It’s almost exploitative to say, "My position is based only on reasoning and your position

  • is based on, you know, cultural and personal issues." That’s not true. And by the way,

  • if youre a Christian, you must never think that it’s all a matter of reason. If youre

  • a Christian, you believe that the human being, we as human beings are made in the image of

  • God, all of us, not just our reason, our emotion, you know, our social aspect, our emotional

  • aspect, our intellectual aspect. Were all in the image of God, and all those things

  • have to play a role on belief. Now, lastly, but this, you know, the main event. What are

  • the reasons for God? And I would say that there’s a lot of ways of stacking this,

  • but I would like to suggest to you that, by and large, reasoning ends with belief in God,

  • moves up a ladder, and I’m going to suggest three rungs. Now, I’m not saying that everybody

  • actually who comes to believe in God moves along the ladder in exactly these ways. But

  • I would say there’s a lot of ways of stacking all of the things that happen. Here’s how

  • I’m going to do it. I think, at least, it's a way of making sense of it. The first rung

  • of the ladder is you come to see that disbelief in God takes as much faith as belief in God.

  • That’s the first rung. It takes as much faith to disbelieve in God as to believe.

  • That’s the first rung. The second rung is it takes more of a leap of faith, when you

  • come to see, it takes more of a leap of faith in the dark to disbelieve in God than to believe

  • in God. And the third rung of the ladder is you come to realize that whereas you can reason

  • to a point of probability, it takes personal commitment to get to certainty. And if you

  • move up those three rungs, you believe in God. Let me show how that works. The first

  • rung--and, by the way, there’s a lot in here so that’s why I feel like if anything

  • I’m saying intrigues you at all, I suggest get the book. And I’m really saying that

  • not as an author who's trying to sell books but as a minister who’s trying to get a

  • message across. You can believe that or not. You can be cynical or not. And I hope I mean

  • right. I mean, I hope that’s really what I--I hope that’s my motive. I think it is.

  • So if you can possibly get the book because I have a feeling what I’m going to say in

  • the next 15 minutes is too short. Do so. Now, the first rung is this: It takes more--it

  • takes as much faith, excuse me, to believe, to disbelieve in God as to believe. How do

  • I back that up? Well, here’s how: All of the arguments that purport to prove there

  • is no god fall flat. See, all the arguments that youve ever heard that say, "There

  • can’t be a god or even Christianity can’t be true," if any of those stood up, they need

  • to be say, "Christianity can’t be true. God can’t be real." But if none of them

  • stand up, if there’s no way to prove there is no God, and therefore, there is a god,

  • then to believe that there’s no God is an act of faith. Are you following me? Let me

  • show you some of the arguments. Here are the arguments that are usually brought up. They

  • say, "This is why there really couldn’t be a god." The first one, the main one, is

  • the argument from evil and suffering. And that argument goes like this: Look at all

  • the senseless, pointless evil in the world. Okay? See it? Now, given that senseless, pointless

  • evil, there may be a god who’s good but not powerful enough to stop it, or there may

  • be a god who is all powerful enough but not good enough to want to stop it. But given

  • evil and suffering in the world, all that pointless, senseless evil and suffering, there

  • can’t be an all-good and all-powerful god or he would stop it; and, therefore, the all-good,

  • all-powerful traditional god in the Bible can’t exist. David Hume, Discourses on Natural

  • Religion, 18th century. It doesn’t work. There’s a guy named William Osteen who is

  • one of the leading philosophers today from Syracuse University who recently wrote: The

  • effort to demonstrate that evil disproves God is now acknowledge on almost all sides

  • in philosophy as completely bankrupt. Now, here’s what he means by this. And I shudder

  • to say this to you because if any of you actually are going through some real suffering, it’s

  • not a philosophical issue for you; it’s a personal issue. But I would just hope that

  • you don’t see this as cold comfort. For many people, it’s philosophical; and people

  • say, "How could you believe in a god with all these senseless, pointless evil?" Here’s

  • what the philosophers have been saying for the last 20 years. This is the reason why

  • there hasn’t been a major philosophical work trying to disprove the existence of God

  • on the basis of evil and suffering since 1982. Because as William Osteen says, in the philosophical

  • world, it’s just not washing, and here’s why: When you say there can’t be a god because

  • of all the senseless, pointless evil out there, here’s the question: How do you know it’s

  • senseless? How do you know there’s no good reason for it? The only answer is, "Well,

  • I can’t think of any good reason." Oh, okay. So here’s your premise. Because I can’t

  • think of any good reason why God would allow evil and suffering to continue, therefore,

  • there can’t be any. No, why would that be? And that’s the reason why if youve got

  • a god big and powerful enough to be mad at for evil and suffering, and at the very same

  • moment, youve got a god big and powerful enough to have reasons for allowing it to

  • continue that you can’t think of. You can’t have it both ways. And that’s the reason

  • why in the philosophical circles, the argument that says, "We can disprove God with evil

  • and suffering has fallen flat." And, by the way, if there’s anybody saying, "It’s

  • not a philosophical thing for me; it’s a personal thing--I have this horrible stuff

  • in my life and that’s the reason why I can’t believe in God"; but I told you a minute ago,

  • there are plenty of people who had everything and had every bit as much suffering as you,

  • and theyve let that turn them toward God. So personal suffering, experiences of suffering,

  • the philosophical question of suffering doesn’t disprove the existence of God. It doesn’t

  • work. Okay. Well, what about this? This is what I would call the Hitchensargument

  • against the reality of God. I know he was here at one point, right? And this argument

  • goes like this: If there really was a god, how could his believers have done so much

  • evil in the history of the world? If there really is a god, why is it that so much of

  • the violence and oppression and injustice in history, why is it have been perpetrated

  • by the people who believe in God, in the name of God? See, that’s the argument. But here’s

  • the problem with that argument. It’s a pretty big one. There must be something in the human

  • heart that is so prone to violence and oppression that it can actually twist any world view,

  • any philosophy, any state of belief which regard to God into violence. So, for example,

  • Buddhism and Shinto, out of that soil grew the Japanese militarism of the World War II,

  • out of Christian soil grows everything from the Crusades in the 11th and 12th century

  • down to today, people shooting abortion doctors. Out of Islam comes global terrorism. But out

  • of atheism--is that the third time I've done that or the second time? It’s going to be

  • on the Internet.

  • Look at atheism, look at Stalin, look at Cambodia, look at the Khmer Rouge. There’s a guy named

  • Milosz, who’s the Polish--famous Polish poet, and he has a fascinating little essay

  • called, “The Discreet Charms of Nihilism.” Now, there’s a title for you, The Discreet

  • Charms of Nihilism. And, in it, he pointed something out. He says, “If you believe

  • there’s a god, it’s fairly easy to twist that belief into violence because you can

  • say, 'I have the truth, you don’t. I’m a better person, you are an inferior kind

  • of person.' But,