The Professor’s Disillusionment – Gospel in Life

The Professor’s Disillusionment

Tim Keller |  September 7, 1997

Download Agreement

By downloading this file, I confirm I understand Gospel in Life's Copyright & Permissions policies and agree to only use this file for personal usage and will not upload it to any third-party platforms.


  • Purpose and Calling
Ecclesiastes 2:17-26
RS 83-01


A lot of people say Ecclesiastes is the greatest book of the Bible. But I can almost guarantee none of them felt that way the first time they read it. Because when you first read Ecclesiastes, what you’re struck with is a professor in absolute despair.

Some will think this seems to contradict the rest of the Bible. Others will say, “Who needs this pessimism?” It can be a confusing book because people don’t realize its instructional approach of andragogy, which means adult instruction by goading and asking questions. And it can also be confusing because people don’t notice that the teacher is looking at life in two different ways, and that he keeps going back and forth between them.

Let’s look at both of the ways he looks at life. Let me show you: 1) how he looks, 2) what he sees, and 3) why he sees it.

Ecclesiastes 2:15–26

Ecclesiastes is often said to be the deepest book in the Bible, but at first, it can seem confusing and even a bit dark because it talks a lot about feeling hopeless and lost. The author, who we call the Teacher, guides us in a way that’s like a class discussion, getting us to challenge our own thoughts and views. The Teacher’s different takes on life add more depth to this intriguing, yet enlightening book.

1. How he looks

When the Teacher talks about life “under the sun”, he’s focusing on the here and now, without considering God, forever, or what happens after we die. This way of thinking is like how a lot of people today might believe in God but live as if this life is all there is. Yet, this viewpoint seems pointless because it sees work and the world as ultimately unimportant.

2. What he sees

The Teacher’s journey to find what really matters in life suggests that everything we do has meaning, which goes against the idea of life being pointless. He draws a line between hopeful uncertainty and Christianity, with the latter giving a sense of direction and ethical guidance. He points out that even in our deepest sorrow, God is there, making a case for a greater truth. This emphasizes the need to prioritize a deep, loving relationship with Jesus to find real purpose in life.



The Purpose of Christmas

By Tim Keller

Mission and Meaning

By Tim Keller

Gifts of the Risen Lord (Easter)

By Tim Keller

July Book Offer

Reading Galatians Can Change Your Life!

Galatians is a powerful book that shows how people can think they know the gospel but are actually losing touch with it. In this study of the book of Galatians, Dr. Keller helps you understand how this short book in the New Testament can transform your life.