Keller and Schemlzer are both pastors of new-ish city churches [New York and Boston]. I’ve been to both and although they are reaching a similar young urban professional crowd, they are very different in style and theological practice. Very different. For instance, these guys differ on details like the role of the Holy Spirit and the role of women in the church. And at one church, there are violins to accompany the hymns, while the other has bass guitars and drums for the praise songs. For those who pay attention to labels one church is reformed [Presbyterian Church in America] the other is charismatic [Vineyard] . [An aside: I love the aquarium-like diversity of people who follow Jesus and I’m fortunate to attend a church where people come from the entire theological ocean.]
Keller and Schmelzer each wrote their book as a response to the rash of recent anti-God anti-faith books and they want to explain to skeptics and atheists what it means to believe in God. But of course their approaches to the topic are as different as their worship styles. Here are their first post-introduction paragraphs–I’ll let you guess which one is by the guy who is writing with his normal nickname, Dave, and which one is written by the man who is using his formal first name Timothy:
“I’m in the middle of the novel How to be Good, by Nick Hornby, and I can’t say I’m enjoying it as much as I’d hope to. It’s about a demoralized London doctor and her angry husband, who undergoes a strange conversion and becomes utterly good–selfless, concerned about the wider world, sacrificial. But rather than being comic, as Hornby customarily–and brilliantly–is, he strikes me here as grim. The world he paints offers two choices for our lives: guilt-ridden, culturally savvy liberalism or humorless, scarcity-obsessed goodness. It’s as if we can a] write for the New Yorker or b] lead the Bolshevik Revolution.”
“During my nearly two decades in New York City, I’ve had numerous opportunities to ask people, “What is your biggest problem with Christianity? What troubles you the most about its beliefs or how it is practiced?” one of the most frequent answers I have heard over the years can be summed up in one word: exclusivity.”
I’ve enjoyed reading these books and I’d recommend them both. They are each very readable, digestible, full of thought-provoking insights [and both dedicated to their wives]. And though they come from different places, they both start and end at the same core of what it means to be a Christian: it’s all about grace not self-righteousness, Jesus not religion. Two books with the same refreshing air. Snack away.