Belief in an Age of Skepticism

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There's something of a spiritual awakening going on in New York City among the most unlikely group of people - Manhattan's cultural elites.

They're responding in a surprising way to the preaching of Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Tim Keller is not a household name in the Evangelical world. He doesn't have a radio or TV ministry and rarely gives interviews.

But what began in 1989 as a handful of believers has grown to 5,000 people gathering each Sunday in places like a college auditorium on Manhattan's upper east side.

The worship service and the surroundings are rather low key.

So is Keller's speaking style.

"The average person, when they think of mega church, thinks of a style, a polish, either a very slick person.an actor or a person who's deliberately in jeans and goatee and little granny glasses who's trying to be hip," Keller said. "And they don't get either of those things with me."

What they do get are biblical insights on things like the suffering of Job.

"God allows Satan to bring just so much suffering into Job's life that it absolutely accomplishes the opposite of what Satan wanted," Keller preached.

"They're getting the solid Gospel message but put in the language of sophisticated Manhattanites who read The New York Times Book Review before they come to church," explained New York City native and author, Eric Metaxas.

Metaxas is one of Keller's long-time friends and is delighted with Keller's new book.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism reflects Keller's ability to address the doubts people have about God.

"Keller claims that people who reject Christianity do so because of seven basic objections, and you don't have to travel far in this city to discover he's right," Metaxas said.

Keller said that's one of the lessons we can learn from the book of Job.

"The Bible is not the record of people following the rules and grabbing the blessing," he said. "The Bible is a record of grace breaking into people's lives, usually in the form of suffering, who otherwise would never have been able to overcome their own corruption and brokenness."

That message rang true for Ellie Ellsworth. She admits she didn't understand Christians or particularly care for them.

"I thought they were not thinking people," she said. "I thought their intellect was dulled."

Ellsworth became successful in New York's entertainment industry, but said there was an emptiness in her life that she tried, in vain, to fill.

"For me, became a sexual appetite that wouldn't really stop and became necessary to have," she said. " to be adored by men as often as possible."

When one of those men invited her to attend a worship service at Redeemer, Ellsworth said she went just to please him.

"There was this man on the stage preaching and I began to hear what he was saying," she said. "I came to understand that what I was fighting and what was bothering me was sin."

Ellsworth said understanding the Gospel changed her life.

"One way to put the Gospel in a nutshell is this: You are more wicked than ever dared believe and yet, you are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than you ever dared hope," Keller said.

Today Ellsworth is an active member of Redeemer, one of many skeptical New Yorkers God has reached through Keller's ministry.

Slowly, Keller is gaining a reputation in New York and across the country.

The White House asked him to speak at the memorial service marking the the fifth anniversary of 9/11.

He loves the city and its culture and his goal is to add hundreds of churches to the nearly 20 that Redeemer has already planted there.

"My idea is that in every single neighborhood you've got churches that are not simply evangelizing tribally, not caring about the city and only trying to build up their own numbers," Keller said. "Churches that are calling people to conversion and seeking the welfare of the city in every single neighborhood.That's going to change the city, in a good way."

*Original broadcast February 21, 2008.

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