Friday, November 19, 2010

The Reason for God DVD / Study Guide Review

The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and LifeThe Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life is a DVD for small groups hosted by Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. (Tim Keller is also author of the best-selling The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism). The DVD is meant to be used along with the Discussion Guide, which provides an outline and further questions and resources to help facilitate a small group interaction. This review will look at both resources.

The DVD: What's on it?
The Reason for God DVD is a single disc which contains 6 sessions. The sessions run roughly 20 minutes each, and cover what Keller calls some of the tougher issues that make Christianity untenable for many people. Here's what is covered:
  1. Isn't the Bible a Myth? Hasn't Science Disproved Christianity?
  2. How Can You Say There is Only One Way to God? What About Other Religions?
  3. What Gives You the Right to Tell Me How to Live My Life? Why Are There So Many Rules?
  4. Why Does God Allow Suffering? Why Is There So Much Evil in the World?
  5. Why is the Church Responsible for So Much Injustice? Why Are Christians Such Hypocrites?
  6. How Can God Be Full of Love and Wrath at the Same Time? How Can God Send Good People to Hell?
The DVD session format:
The video sessions are simply discussions that Keller has with a group of six non-believing guests. Each guest is from a different walk of life, they all have various religious or non-religious views, and each offers their perspectives when addressing each of the questions. (See a promo video here for a feel of it) At the beginning of each session Keller poses the question/objection and then the group discusses their perspectives on it. Keller offers some responses, but mostly asks further questions and offers suggestions. The sessions, though only 20 minutes or so each, are edited down from 90-minute discussions. Cutaway interview vignettes of each individual are sprinkled in to elaborate on their views. The format is clean and fresh, managing to avoid being "over-hip."

The Study Guide format:
The DVD really is not complete without the study guide (which will be explained more in a moment). It is about 90 pages long and only one is needed to facilitate discussion with this DVD. For each session, the guide offers an opening illustration/thought, provides additional scripture references, points out particular points made by the non-believer, and gives additional content to help guide the discussion toward fuller answers. Discussion questions and recommended resources are also added to each session. All of this content is very well put together, both in quality of content and format/presentation.

The Content of the DVD/Study Guide:
If you only watch the DVD, you will see that more questions are views are raised than are answered. Keller intentionally does not try to answer every question. Instead, he seeks to raise more questions and draw out the views of his conversation partners. Keller's tone is kind, patient, pastoral, and congenial. The tone of the conversations is open and welcoming. There is much to be gained from watching Keller's approach. But the study guide is crucial - this is not a stand-alone resource, and will best serve small groups with serious participants willing to work through and discuss the issues. The study guide is a great tool for this. This is a very thoughtful and 'real' resource; the content is not dumbed down for the masses. So for "best results," the DVD is not really designed to be watched on its own.

Who is this for?
This DVD and study guide are going to be excellent for serious small groups. Apologetics groups are going to love this one. The careful apologist will learn a lot from Keller's approach, as well as from listening to the participants in this project. A purposeful and careful study of the material in a small-group setting will definitely help to equip believers to 1) know the kind of objections people have; 2) learn how to listen and ask questions; and 3) think through the issues carefully. The Reason for God: Conversations on Faith and Life can be highly recommended.


KJ said...

Thanks for the notes on this resource. Would you recommend this study series for a group before or after tackling the Gospel in Life study series also from Redeemer? Some have said that the Gospel in Life would be a great foundation study before tackling Reason for God. Your thoughts would be interesting.

Brian Auten said...


I have not yet had the chance to look at the Gospel in Life series, so I can't really offer a good suggestion there. But it would seem to me that having a good foundation built before exploring this DVD as a group would be best.

Jason Shaw said...

Would you recommend this DVD series for an investigative-type Bible Study group, which includes those outside the faith?

Brian Auten said...


Personally, I probably wouldn't. But I do think that the model and manner in which Keller sets up his group might be a good starting template for an investigative Bible study - but with more Christians involved.

bruceturner said...

Would you follow up the 6 week DVD study with a study of the rest of The Reason for God book? Are there discussion materials for Part 2, the Reason for Faith?

Brian Auten said...


I haven't yet read The Reason for God so I can't comment on that directly, although I have heard very good things about it.

I would point readers to their website for whatever study resources are available. Maybe other readers here would be able to advise...

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