Tim Keller at Google: The Reason for God

This post doesn’t exactly fit in the course of the basic SMUG curriculum, but I hope you’ll bear with me. And at the end I promise to tie it into social media.

Tim Keller is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, a flourishing congregation in the heart of New York City. I’ve heard him speak (not in person, but via mp3) and have appreciated and enjoyed his presentations, and today I heard both that he has written a book called The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, and that he had given a fascinating talk about it at Google’s headquarters, as part of the AtGoogleTalks. Here’s his Google presentation, which I understand had the biggest attendance of any for a visiting author in at least the last couple of years.


If you want a taste of the argument, check out his answer (starting at about the 20:30 mark in the video and going for about 3 minutes) where he counters the conception that like the blind men each touching a different part of the elephant, all religions have a portion of the truth.

I hope that will whet your appetite, and that you’ll check out his whole presentation. Lots of others have found it worthwhile; the crowd at Google was large, and while the video hasn’t achieved Obama Girl viral status, as of this writing it has been viewed more than 48,000 times on YouTube.

Interestingly, Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan has more than 5,000 members, but it hasn’t grown to that point through the marketing methods of many of the megachurches. Keller’s style is low-key and extremely thoughtful. Here’s what the New York Times has to say about him and Redeemer:

Unlike most suburban megachurches, much of Redeemer is remarkably traditional. What is not traditional is Dr. Keller’s skill in speaking the language of his urbane audience….Observing Dr. Keller’s professorial pose on stage, it is easy to understand his appeal.

So what’s the social media tie?

While Keller is using a Gutenberg-era medium to make his argument in full (I’m about 85 pages into it, and it’s quite good), you’re reading about it and watching this through social media tools (YouTube and blogs) that didn’t exist a decade ago.

Back then you wouldn’t have had an opportunity to hear and see his presentation unless he or his church bought airtime on your local TV station. And if you didn’t happen to tune in at that exact time, you’d miss it. You surely couldn’t skip to the 20:30 mark and hear the answer to the blind men and the elephants.

The ability to see and hear interesting talks when it’s convenient for you (and to easily share with your friends) is an amazing benefit of social media.

And instead of raising large amounts of money to buy airtime, the message can be communicated at no charge…which enables messengers to focus on the content instead of amassing the means to distribute it.

That’s a great thing. And I hope you find Keller as thought-provoking as I have.