The late Timothy Keller was a masterful preacher and an inspiration to Western Christians who desire to winsomely share their faith in an increasingly sceptical and sometimes hostile culture.

But rather than focus on Dr Keller’s life story, The Gospel Coalition editor Collin Hansen has written a ‘spiritual biography’ that is limited to documenting Keller’s intellectual influences. It’s a new genre – and although Hansen broadly succeeds in his aims, one wonders how useful it really is.

The book details the theologians, church leaders and thinkers, both past and present, who have influenced Keller. But only the most theologically educated of readers will care.

Topics that have a broader appeal – the ups and downs of the Keller’s marriage, how they parented or balanced commitments to work, church and family – have been neglected. Neither are we given any details of his prayer life. The lack of serious exploration of Keller’s weaknesses also risks furthering the problem of celebrity culture in the Church.

Keller himself was highly emotionally intelligent, but the lack of detail provided about this pastor’s actual life means the book lacks heart.

The writing is pacey and the author does well to draw together some of the key ideas that Keller promoted. While there is some merit in understanding who shaped Keller’s theology and thinking, your reading time is probably better spent revisiting the many books Keller wrote himself. After all, if you’re that interested in where Keller got his ideas from, just read his own footnotes!