Is Tim Keller Tweet Confessionally Valid

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Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
This is a recent Tweet by Tim Keller. Is this confessionally valid, per Westminster? Obviously sanctification is imperfect in this life,and obviously our good works are imperfect. But to me, and I'm sorry to sound harsh, but this sounds like so much "maudlin piety". I respect the man, but...

The Christian understanding of sin is different than what most people think. I can't preach a sermon or say a prayer without sinning.
 

Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
(emphases added)

Larger Catechism:
Q. 24. What is sin?
A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, any law of God, given as a rule to the reasonable creature.

1 John 3:4; Gal. 3:10, 12.


Q.
78. Whence ariseth the imperfection of sanctification in believers?
A. The imperfection of sanctification in believers ariseth from the remnants of sin abiding in every part of them, and the perpetual lustings of the flesh against the spirit; whereby they are often foiled with temptations, and fall into many sins, are hindered in all their spiritual services, and their best works are imperfect and defiled in the sight of God.

Rom. 7:18, 23; Mark 14:66-72; Gal. 2:11-12; Heb. 12:1; Isa. 64:6; Ex. 28:38.

WCF 16.4-6

IV. They who in their obedience attain to the greatest height which is possible in this life, are so far from being able to supererogate and to do more than God requires, as that they fall short of much which in duty they are bound to do.[SUP]a[/SUP]

a. Neh 13:22; Job 9:2-3; Luke 17:10; Gal 5:17.

V. We cannot, by our best works, merit pardon of sin, or eternal life at the hand of God, by reason of the great disproportion that is between them and the glory to come, and the infinite distance that is between us and God, whom by them we can neither profit nor satisfy for the debt of our former sins;[SUP]a[/SUP] but when we have done all we can, we have done but our duty, and are unprofitable servants;[SUP]b[/SUP] and because, as they are good, they proceed from his Spirit;[SUP]c[/SUP] and as they are wrought by us, they are defiled and mixed with so much weakness and imperfection that they cannot endure the severity of God’s judgment.[SUP]d[/SUP]

a. Job 22:2-3; 35:7-8; Psa 16:2; Rom 3:20; 4:2, 4, 6; 8:18; Eph 2:8-9; Titus 3:5-7. • b. Luke 17:10. • c. Gal 5:22-23. • d. Psa 130:3; 143:2; Isa 64:6; Rom 7:15, 18; Gal 5:17.

VI. Yet notwithstanding, the persons of believers being accepted through Christ, their good works also are accepted in him,[SUP]a[/SUP] not as though they were in this life wholly unblamable and unreprovable in God’s sight;[SUP]b[/SUP] but that he, looking upon them in his Son, is pleased to accept and reward that which is sincere, although accompanied with many weaknesses and imperfections.[SUP]c[/SUP]

a. Gen 4:4 with Heb 11:4; Exod 28:38; Eph 1:6; 1 Pet 2:5. • b. Job 9:20; Psa 143:2. • c. Mat 25:21, 23; 2 Cor 8:12; Heb 6:10; 13:20-21.


Yes, I contemplated those citations before posting. I think Chapter 16 is woefully neglected. However, taken to it's logical conclusion, then we cannot even confess our sins without sinning; so should we confess that our confession was tainted, and then repeat the process ad infinitum?
 

Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
If, by ad infinitum, you mean spending all our seconds and minutes in perpetual confession, No. Obviously that is impossible since God requires of us many other duties. However, if you mean, day by day, ought we to repent of our half-repentance? Pray for our poor praying? Confess our inadequate confession of sins? Sure. That is by design. The point is that we'll never repent well enough, nor confess our sins as we ought, etc. This drives us to Christ and His righteousness alone, and then from a thankful heart, pleading the Lord's help, endeavor toward new obedience, picking up where we have left off, rising where we have fallen, making progress where we have not yet made progress, etc. It is a life-long cycle of being rid of all vestiges of self-righteousness->Driven to Christ and His Work alone->Forsaking Sin->Endeavoring to New Obedience, etc.

If sin is any want of conformity unto any of God's laws, what commandment has any man (other than God-man) perfectly kept?

WLC

Q. 149. Is any man able perfectly to keep the commandments of God?
A. No man is able, either of himself, or by any grace received in this life, perfectly to keep the commandments of God; but doth daily break them in thought, word, and deed.
Jas. 3:2; John 15:5; Rom. 8:3; Ecc. 7:20; 1 John 1:8, 10; Gal. 5:17; Rom. 7:18-19; Gen. 6:5; Gen. 8:21; Rom. 3:9-19; Jas. 3:2-13.

Do you think LC 149 is referencing every thought, every word, and every deed--or does the term "daily" imply the general tenor of our lives as sinners in need of constant and continual grace.?
 

Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
And I agree that we need to be driven continually to Christ, and continually progressing in our sanctification.
 

Ed Walsh

Puritan Board Senior
so should we confess that our confession was tainted, and then repeat the process ad infinitum?

Yes, something like that. At least that has been true of me. I call it prayer regression. You keep going deeper until you get to some level of reality and honesty before God. And even then it is tainted. At least that is what I think.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
...hence the need for the work of Christ through the Holy Spirit Who perfects our imperfect worship. We are not called to worship with the idea that God accepts our prayers and praises and acts of worship in themselves but, because they are in Christ, we are accepted. I think we need to think of the exchange that occurs between us and Christ as ongoing. Christ is He Who has offered and offers perfect obedience and worship and His becomes ours as we are brought into union with Him by the Spirit. The Spirit, Himself, groans with our spirit to perfect what we cannot accomplish. We don't become Pelagian in worship but are still in recognition of our unworthiness except that Christ ever lives to perfect what we offer.
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
There is sin in our motives when we worship, but we would hope we are not necessarily engaging in "particular sins" when we worship, but even wandering thoughts could be viewed as particular sin.

We ask God to forgive us for sin in engaging in "holy things" and carry out all our worship "for Jesus' sake".
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
This is a recent Tweet by Tim Keller. Is this confessionally valid, per Westminster? Obviously sanctification is imperfect in this life,and obviously our good works are imperfect. But to me, and I'm sorry to sound harsh, but this sounds like so much "maudlin piety". I respect the man, but...

The Christian understanding of sin is different than what most people think. I can't preach a sermon or say a prayer without sinning.

I think Keller is merely emphasizing that, although genuinely saved, we still suffer from total depravity and the sin nature, so that even our best efforts in the best areas are tainted by sin.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
I think Keller is merely emphasizing that, although genuinely saved, we still suffer from total depravity and the sin nature, so that even our best efforts in the best areas are tainted by sin.

"Total depravity," used in that context, is phrasing that sometimes gets folks in trouble, and Keller was smart not to actually put it that way. Though it sounds at first glance like good, Reformed-ish theology, it too easily becomes understood as saying there is nothing at all that is good about a believer's worship of God. But in the newness of life given us by the Spirit, there is good there; we are no longer totally depraved and unable to do good as we once were. "Total depravity" is a phrase that traditionally has been used to describe the state of a person before regeneration, not after. For speaking of indwelling sin after regeneration, the "still tainted by sin" language results in fewer headaches for the speaker.

As for the original question... the tweet is good theology provided "still tainted by sin" is what the writer means, which I trust is the case. I also agree with the tweet that most people don't understand this; they tend to think only of particular, conscious, and visible sins.
 
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Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
I think Keller is merely emphasizing that, although genuinely saved, we still suffer from total depravity and the sin nature, so that even our best efforts in the best areas are tainted by sin.

"Total depravity," used in that context, is phrasing that sometimes gets folks in trouble, and Keller was smart not to actually put it that way. Though it sounds at first glance like good, Reformed-ish theology, it too easily becomes understood as saying there is nothing at all that is good about a believer's worship of God. But in the newness of life given us by the Spirit, there is good there; we are no longer totally depraved and unable to do good as we once were. "Total depravity" is a phrase that traditionally has been used to describe the state of a person before regeneration, not after. For speaking of indwelling sin after regeneration, the "still tainted by sin" language results in fewer headaches for the speaker.

As for the original question... the tweet is good theology provided "still tainted by sin" is what the writer means, which I trust is the case. I also agree with the tweet that most people don't understand this; they tend to think only of particular, conscious, and visible sins.

Agreed on the response to "total depravity"; believers are not totally depraved. See Gal. 5.24--And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.; Col. 3:1-3--If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.; Eph. 2:4-6 4 But God, who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, 5 even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved; ) 6 and hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:
 

Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
For the record, I've no idea how that winking eye emoji got inserted near the end of the Ephesians quote in my previous post. Ugh.
 

Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
Back to my original question. Yes, the Tweet is confessionally valid; I thought as much. Thanks Joshua for confirming my reading of those Westminster Standard texts, and for everyone's input. The Puritanboard is a great blessing in that "iron sharpens iron" category. I'll likely start a new thread in a day or so regarding what I think is an ancillary topic that the Tweet and some responses got my mind rolling upon. :D THAT emoji was intentional.
 

timfost

Puritan Board Senior
The sentiment is also echoed in the Heidelberg:

62. But why cannot our good works be the whole or part of our righteousness before God?

Because the righteousness which can stand before the judgment seat of God must be perfect throughout and entirely conformable to the divine law, but even our best works in this life are all imperfect and defiled with sin.

So we should petition God this way:

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in Your sight, O Lord, my strength and my Redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
From the Directory for Publick Worship:

The congregation being assembled, the minister, after solemn calling on them to the worshipping of the great name of God, is to begin with prayer.

"In all reverence and humility acknowledging the incomprehensible greatness and majesty of the Lord, (in whose presence they do then in a special manner appear,) and their own vileness and unworthiness to approach so near him, with their utter inability of themselves to so great a work; and humbly beseeching him for pardon, assistance, and acceptance, in the whole service then to be performed; and for a blessing on that particular portion of his word then to be read: And all in the name and mediation of the Lord Jesus Christ."


AFTER reading of the word, (and singing of the psalm,) the minister who is to preach, is to endeavour to get his own and his hearers hearts to be rightly affected with their sins, that they, may all mourn in sense thereof before the Lord, and hunger and thirst after the grace of God in Jesus Christ, by proceeding to a more full confession of sin, with shame and holy confusion of face, and to call upon the Lord to this effect:

"To acknowledge our great sinfulness, First, by reason of original sin, which (beside the guilt that makes us liable to everlasting damnation) is the seed of all other sins, hath depraved and poisoned all the faculties and powers of soul and body, doth defile our best actions, and (were it not restrained, or our hearts renewed by grace) would break forth into innumerable transgressions, and greatest rebellions against the Lord that ever were committed by the vilest of the sons of men; and next, by reason of actual sins, our own sins, the sins of magistrates, of ministers, and of the whole nation, unto which we are many ways accessory: which sins of ours receive many fearful aggravations, we having broken all the commandments of the holy, just, and good law of God, doing that which is forbidden, and leaving undone what is enjoined; and that not only out of ignorance and infirmity, but also more pre sumptuously, against the light of our minds, checks of our consciences, and motions of his own Holy Spirit to the contrary, so that we have no cloak for our sins; yea, not only despising the riches of God's goodness, forbearance, and long-suffering, but standing out against many invitations and offers of grace in the gospel; not endeavouring, as we ought, to receive Christ into our hearts by faith, or to walk worthy of him in our lives.

To bewail our blindness of mind, hardness of heart, unbelief, impenitency, security, lukewarmness, barrenness; or not endeavouring after mortification and newness of life, nor after the exercise of godliness in the power thereof; and that the best of us have not so stedfastly walked with God, kept our garments so unspotted, nor been so zealous of his glory, and the good of others, as we ought: and to mourn over such other sins as the congregation is particularly guilty of, notwithstanding the manifold and great mercies of our God, the love of Christ, the light of the gospel, and reformation of religion, our own purposes, promises, vows, solemn covenant, and other special obligations, to the contrary...

...And because we have been unprofitable hearers in times past, and now cannot of ourselves receive, as we should, the deep things of God, the mysteries of Jesus Christ, which require a spiritual discerning; to pray, that the Lord, who teacheth to profit, would graciously please to pour out the Spirit of grace, together with the outward means thereof, causing us to attain such a measure of the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus our Lord, and, in him, of the things which belong to our peace, that we may account all things but as dross in comparison of him; and that we, tasting the first-fruits of the glory that is to be revealed, may long for a more full and perfect communion with him, that where he is, we may be also, and enjoy the fulness of those joys and pleasures which are at his right hand for evermore.

More particularly, that God would in a special manner furnish his servant (now called to dispense the bread of life unto his household) with wisdom, fidelity, zeal, and utterance, that he may divide the word of God aright, to every one his portion, in evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and power; and that the Lord would circumcise the ears and hearts of the hearers, to hear, love, and receive with meekness the ingrafted word, which is able to save their souls; make them as good ground to receive in the good seed of the word, and strengthen them against the temptations of Satan, the cares of the world, the hardness of their own hearts, and whatsoever else may hinder their profitable and saving hearing; that so Christ may be so formed in them, and live in them, that all their thoughts may be brought into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and their hearts established in every good word and work for ever.
 

BGF

Puritan Board Sophomore
It's confessionally valid if, as others pointed out, understood properly. Without the proper frame of reference the tweet is useless as it does not explain anything. How is sin commonly misunderstood? What is the proper way to understand sin? How does his example illustrate this? Unless this is just one part of a series of related tweets, not much is really said here. Such are the limitations of Twitter.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
It's confessionally valid if, as others pointed out, understood properly. Without the proper frame of reference the tweet is useless as it does not explain anything. How is sin commonly misunderstood? What is the proper way to understand sin? How does his example illustrate this? Unless this is just one part of a series of related tweets, not much is really said here. Such are the limitations of Twitter.

If one is looking for ways to be uncharitable and to pick nits then the same can be said of the statement: "Jesus saves"
 

BGF

Puritan Board Sophomore
Rich, I can see how that comes across as uncharitable, and for that I certainly apologize to any offended. My nitpick wasn't with Keller, but with twitter in general. That said, I was probably better off not commenting rather than causing offence. Or perhaps confessing my inability to find twitter edifying.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
...believers are not totally depraved.[/I]

Total depravity means that every part of a person - his thoughts, his speech, and his actions - are tainted by the sin nature. Since Christians still sin with their thoughts, their words, and their actions, how are Christians not totally depraved?
 

Phil D.

Puritan Board Junior
Total depravity means that every part of a person - his thoughts, his speech, and his actions - are tainted by the sin nature. Since Christians still sin with their thoughts, their words, and their actions, how are Christians not totally depraved?

In the context of the Doctrines of Grace this expression especially has to do with the fact that all of the human faculties are depraved to the point that they cannot seek or obtain salvation. But with the gift of regeneration and faith believers are made new creations and given a new nature (though still tainted with sin). That, and they are now truly united to a Perfect Intercessor who stands in their stead.

Here is a link to a recent thread on this topic.
 

Semper Fidelis

2 Timothy 2:24-25
Staff member
Total depravity means that every part of a person - his thoughts, his speech, and his actions - are tainted by the sin nature. Since Christians still sin with their thoughts, their words, and their actions, how are Christians not totally depraved?

In the context of the Doctrines of Grace this expression especially has to do with the fact that all of the human faculties are depraved to the point that they cannot seek or obtain salvation. But with the gift of regeneration and faith believers are made new creations and given a new nature (though still tainted with sin). That, and they are now truly united to a Perfect Intercessor who stands in their stead.

Here is a link to a recent thread on this topic.

Phil is correct. If we are sticking with the notion historically, the heading at Dordt has to do with man's inability in the Fall to seek or obtain salvation in themselves. We are still beset with indwelling sin but those who are in Christ are not "totally depraved". Total depravity and indwelling sin are different categories.
 

Clark-Tillian

Puritan Board Freshman
Total depravity means that every part of a person - his thoughts, his speech, and his actions - are tainted by the sin nature. Since Christians still sin with their thoughts, their words, and their actions, how are Christians not totally depraved?

In the context of the Doctrines of Grace this expression especially has to do with the fact that all of the human faculties are depraved to the point that they cannot seek or obtain salvation. But with the gift of regeneration and faith believers are made new creations and given a new nature (though still tainted with sin). That, and they are now truly united to a Perfect Intercessor who stands in their stead.

Here is a link to a recent thread on this topic.

Phil is correct. If we are sticking with the notion historically, the heading at Dordt has to do with man's inability in the Fall to seek or obtain salvation in themselves. We are still beset with indwelling sin but those who are in Christ are not "totally depraved". Total depravity and indwelling sin are different categories.

Absolutely. This highlights the importance of striving for precision with our words (Matt. 12:36ff). As a pastor, I can tell you there are a great number of Christians in the pews whose souls have been damaged by the misuse of this category; they think they're dogs begging for crumbs rather than the redeemed people of The Holy One (Eph.1-2; 1 Peter 2 et al)

BTW Mr. Zuelch, in saying this I'm not implying that you are guilty of this.
 

bookslover

Puritan Board Doctor
Total depravity means that every part of a person - his thoughts, his speech, and his actions - are tainted by the sin nature. Since Christians still sin with their thoughts, their words, and their actions, how are Christians not totally depraved?

In the context of the Doctrines of Grace this expression especially has to do with the fact that all of the human faculties are depraved to the point that they cannot seek or obtain salvation. But with the gift of regeneration and faith believers are made new creations and given a new nature (though still tainted with sin). That, and they are now truly united to a Perfect Intercessor who stands in their stead.

Here is a link to a recent thread on this topic.

Phil is correct. If we are sticking with the notion historically, the heading at Dordt has to do with man's inability in the Fall to seek or obtain salvation in themselves. We are still beset with indwelling sin but those who are in Christ are not "totally depraved". Total depravity and indwelling sin are different categories.

Absolutely. This highlights the importance of striving for precision with our words (Matt. 12:36ff). As a pastor, I can tell you there are a great number of Christians in the pews whose souls have been damaged by the misuse of this category; they think they're dogs begging for crumbs rather than the redeemed people of The Holy One (Eph.1-2; 1 Peter 2 et al)

BTW Mr. Zuelch, in saying this I'm not implying that you are guilty of this.

Not to worry, Kevin. I didn't take it that way.
 
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