Book Review: Hope in Times of Fear by Timothy Keller

Hope in Times of Fear – Timothy Keller (Viking, 2021)

Timothy Keller’s latest book bears a subtitle suggesting it has a focus on Easter but I found it to be a book about so much more. Or, perhaps more accurately, it is about the very central tenets of the Christian faith which is, after all, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ that we remember at Easter.

Our goal is the future of the resurrection – the creation of a new humanity. And this will come about not with clashing swords but through deeds of sacrificial service, the mark of the upside-down dynamic of cross and resurrection. We secure true freedom and the good of others through the sacrifice of our own freedoms and goods.

Timothy Keller, Hope in Times of Fear

The older I get the more I hesitate to laud any one living Christian thinker or pastor. Each one is human and flawed and to focus too much on the man can end up muddying the message when that person is revealed as less than perfect. If I had to choose the present day Christian writer that I most admire though, I would choose Keller. He wrote this book both in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic (and he lives in New York City so he isn’t distanced from it) and his own personal diagnosis of cancer. Never so clearly in his writing, I think, have his eyes been on eternity. And this is the heart of the book’s focus. The heart of the Easter message, really.

To sacrifice power in love is to exert the power of love to change things. This, then, is the true power of God.

Timothy Keller, Hope in Times of Fear

Keller refers to it as The Great Reversal. It is revealed again and again in the Bible. The way we see God in the Old Testament use flawed and sometimes terrible people. Abraham lied, Jacob stole, Judah committed adultery, David murdered. And then in the New Testament when Jesus comes as a baby born in the lowliest of circumstances. What could be more unexpected?

Keller’s focus here is on hope and what this Great Reversal offers to us as humans and followers of Christ. Why does it matter? What does it mean? Particularly, what does it mean for us living in a world full of fear and sin? For many of us, the past two years have revealed new darkness and struggles. They have shown deep divisions in societies, families, and even (maybe especially) in churches. Keller zeroes in on what the Bible tells us about hope and how we can understand the future. One of Christianity’s most beautiful aspects is that it both celebrates the good in the world while acknowledging its evil and knowing that there is better to come. Christians sometimes talk about the “here but not yet”. This is the space we live in, between the first arrival of Jesus and His second coming. We believe that all things will be made new, restored to the perfect creation that God intends but we know that we are not yet there. This is the Great Reversal that we witness and wait for.

Keller writes to a Christian audience and though I strongly recommend this book, I wouldn’t recommend it as a starting point for someone wanting to learn about the Christian faith. (You might try Keller’s Reason for God)

Every Christian is now a small burning bush, a new creation, being made into Christ’s image, as we behold His glory by faith.

Timothy Keller, Hope in Times of Fear

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Hope in Times of Fear by Timothy Keller”

  1. This sounds great – I’m with you that Keller is probably one of the present day Christian writers I most admire (though I love Jen Wilkin and Mike Reeves too – they’re just a lot less prolific). I went through a phase during the first part of the pandemic where I listened to one of his sermons every day during my one hour permitted daily walk, and they were part of what helped keep me relatively sane. Among other things, I admire the fact that he was talking about topics like racial justice and women in leadership back in the late eighties and early nineties, when such positions would have made him even more of a standout among Christian talking heads than they do now. I was probably already going to pick this up, but now I am even keener!

    1. That sounds like a great way to have spent time during lockdown. I’ve read almost all of Keller’s books but only listened to a handful of his sermons. I always appreciate how measured his responses to things are though and how centred on scripture they are. And, as you say, the fact that he’s been willing to talk about certain topics so consistently.

  2. I’m so glad there are new books coming out that are well-written and help people of faith navigate the world as it is today. You and Lou can fangirl about this book together, too!

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