I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. I enjoy reading a good biography as much as anyone, but was perhaps a bit skeptical about a book that, instead of focusing on an individual’s life and accomplishments, instead describes his spiritual and intellectual formation. Yet what could have been a mite dry was actually very compelling.
Unlike a traditional biography, this book tells Keller’s story from the perspective of his influences, more than his influence. Spend any time around Keller and you’ll learn that he doesn’t enjoy talking about himself. But he does enjoy talking—about what he’s reading, what he’s learning, what he’s seeing.
The story of Tim Keller is the story of his spiritual and intellectual influences—from the woman who taught him how to read the Bible, to the professor who taught him to preach Jesus from every text, to the sociologist who taught him to see beneath society’s surface.
Throughout the book, Hansen shows Keller as a man whose foremost gifting is not as an original thinker but as an analyzer and synthesizer who reads deeply and widely, pulling together insights from a host of others. “Having one hero would be derivative; having one hundred heroes means you’ve drunk deeply by scouring the world for the purest wells. This God-given ability to integrate disparate sources and then share insights with others has been observed by just about anyone who has known Keller, going back to his college days. He’s the guide to the gurus. You get their best conclusions, with Keller’s unique twist.”
And hence the great conclusion at the end of it all is that if you appreciate Tim Keller the best thing you can do is focus less on him and more on the people who taught and influenced him.
Whether you have been influenced by Keller or not, whether you admire him or not, I believe you will enjoy this account of his life framed around his intellectual and spiritual development. Told through the pen of an especially talented a writer, it is a fascinating and compelling narrative. It may just get you thinking about who has formed you and compel you to praise God for the people, the preachers, the books, and the organizations that have made you who you are.