Three questions for evangelicals in a changing world.
I really appreciated this thoughtful response. I think Wood is, to be perfectly frank, quite wrong on some important things. But I also found him to be far more charitable and, yes, winsome in his judgment than many I (regrettably) saw on social media leaping to retweet and trumpet the piece. I also think that David French was right on a number of points, but miscast the Wood piece and the thrust of its motivations, as you helpfully highlighted. I fear French just provided further confirmation for the growing anti-Tim-Keller-and-all-he-represents crowd.
I really cannot believe that I keep occasionally (and, again, regrettably) logging onto Twitter and see more debates about whether Tim Keller is a sign of all that's wrong. Frankly, if Tim Keller is the disease, I don't want any part of the cure. I would be overjoyed if, facing my own death, I had become a fraction of the pastor and thinker and, apparently, PERSON that Keller has been. I guess I should similarly be written off as part of the problem. So be it. But I find in him a model of continually inviting foreigners in to the strange country that is Christ's kingdom. I want to be that way too.
To me, there are two different dispositions on display. I believe that there is a very strong impetus to fight within whatever evangelicalism is in America. Fight the pagans, fight for our rights, fight for "our culture," whatever that means. And in Tim Keller, I think the commitment is to stand. To stay in the public square, stay in the cities or in our rural communities, stay in our public places, and to stand. Yes, I do think that means that things are crumbling and very well may crumble around us as we stand. But all the warfare imagery I read in the New Testament does not seem to match the fighting that the Fight Crowd seems to want to do. I am instead drawn to the commands to continue to stand, to stay faithful, to do the quiet work of the Gospel in the context of a culture where the believer faces impossible odds and has no social power. In that context... stand. To me, that is where we are, and Keller and those like him point a better way forward for us.
The only way that I will believe that Tim Keller is a heretic is if I spend a couple of thousand years in Heaven looking for him without success.
There's a reason churches from other countries (most notably south africa) are sending their missionaries to the US now.
Thanks, this is a great unpacking of the article.
I haven’t seen it mentioned, but Keller actually released a book and podcast series last year called “How to Reach the West Again”. I thought it was great, but then, I’m a fanboy.
Thank you, Samuel, both for the content and the disposition of this article. Having read Woods' article, I resonated with his sentiment though I didn't necessarily agree with his logic. I'm not a Keller expert, but I have noticed how malleable Keller can be when addressing different audiences. When giving a TGC workshop, he can be staunch in his theology; yet when discussing his theology in the Veritas forum, he seems to soft-pedal or even deflect. Obviously, different audiences require different levels of nuance - TGC would clearly be more suited for robust doctrine. But my concern is that Keller's skill for nuance - or perhaps a "third way" - dulls the necessary offense that implications of the Gospel can (and must) bring.
John 17 is what it is: Christians shouldn't be surprised that the world they live in will often hate them for their Christianity - its doctrine, but also its implications. Even Paul made some enemies on Mars Hill: deemphasizing the resurrection could have given him a greater hearing, but you can't avoid proclaiming it when preaching the Gospel.
It takes real courage to eviscerate someone's life's work when the object of the gutting is on his death bed. Onward, Christian soldiers! Remember, as with all things eternal, poor taste is timeless.
"How does the absolute certainty of resurrection and the life of the world to come make us different kind of culture warriors?" - I think this is spot on: what is required is *imagination*. We need to imagine the new world and then present that creatively. Politics has largely taken up peoples’ imagination, and what a narrow imagination politics provides!
I restacked this and so forgive me if this appears twice in the comments section (I don't know if restacking only goes on Notes or also appears elsewhere - learning the new system).
"Whatever you want to say about Keller’s political theology, there’s no genuine evidence that it has created an evangelical culture that’s unwilling to say hard things."
His side in his own PCA denomination refused to stop Revoice. "Good morning, what are your preferred pronouns?" His fellow cultural appeasers in the denomination argued with those saying hard things, using political machinery like the National Partnership. Look at where it led for four years, until it was so horrible that they couldn't look away.
We are given relief from our sin by crying in repentance at the foot of the Cross, by being thoroughly forgiven, cleansed, justified, and at last sanctified. These men would deny children the right to put their burdens down. They would keep the burdens on their backs for their lifetimes. This is terrible stuff.
Thankfully there are people asking hard questions about Tim Keller and his legacy.
Watch Keller's Google talks, and ask "what distinguishes Christian faith and hope from its competitors?" Does Keller offer you an answer? In what sense?
The right thing to do is re-establish blasphemy laws, excommunicate heretics, and fight. It is not time to be intellectual anymore. This is the type of writing that is obsolete and will mean nothing, convincing no one of anything except a small choir you're preaching to who will still have to choose one of two sides very soon.
PS: totally loved your riposte to First Things!
WOW! Wonderful article - warmest thanks! Especially as getting biblical balance is tragically so rare today, so it is always a relief to see it in print. Praying for you!