Renowned author, retired New York Presbyterian Church in America minister and Christian apologist Timothy Keller died on May 19, 2023, three months after his biography written by Collin Hansen was published.
According to Hansen, Keller avoided the limelight. So, Hansen asks, “why write about someone so uninterested in publicity?” Hansen’s answer is foundational to the format and contents of the biography: “Because it’s not really about him. 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.”
Hansen skillfully employs the metaphor of tree rings as he sums up for readers “Keller’s community – in books and in the flesh.” Hansen explains, “We have cut open the tree of his life and ministry to examine the rings.”
While Hansen highlights Keller’s contributions and victories, he also relates his challenges, failures and inadequacies. This is not a biography that idolizes a remarkable Christian leader and author. For example, Hansen writes, “You won’t find leaders close to Keller who idolize him. And that’s not because they think he’s a fake. They know his weaknesses, his penchant to please people and avoid conflict. He’s transparent about his sins. And they know from his teaching that it’s not safe to idolize anyone or anything.” Rather, Hansen highlights the truth that Keller espoused: “Only grace brings spiritual transformation. And apart from the Spirit of God, we’re helpless to effect lasting change in our fallen world.”
Detailed and insightful, Hansen’s narrative focuses on one of God’s servants, but ultimately Hansen puts God in the limelight because of his grace, kindness and strength made evident in Keller’s life. (Zondervan)