The Moral Universe of Timothy Keller

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PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
A mixed bag. I don’t like how he places himself above and outside us peasants. (I know Pastor Keller, you are smarter, more sophisticated and more refined....) If these folks want nuance, why are they so quick to box us in?
I don't understand what you are saying here. Yes, I have my theological differences with Keller but I am not sure what the, "(you are smarter, more sophisticated and more refined....)" is about?

I did appreciate the interview. It was a good read and I agreed with a lot of what he responded with.
 

Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
Well, in a world where many big-city people assume that Christians are simplistic and that they walk around naively unaware of more "sophisticated" philosophical ideas, I think it's good to have Christ-believing pastors who make an effort to speak their language and can prove them wrong.

I don't think he intends to speak down to the peasants. I think he's just very conscious of the particular people-group to which he's been called to minister. The article is all about how to speak to investment bankers and such in New York, so it's not surprising to see examples of speech that works with those people, especially when you are reading The Atlantic.
 

kodos

Puritan Board Junior
The fact that he first labored in a rural setting and still appreciates the pastoral work in that ministry (he remembered the Sweet 16 parties and holding dying congregants' hands), shows me that he is not "above" the "peasants", just that the Lord has used him to minister in an environment far different than many of us will minister in.

Yes, I have pretty severe theological differences from him in key areas. But I still appreciate much about the man. The Lord used him as a great influence in my coming into the Reformed faith.
 

Reformed Covenanter

Cancelled Commissioner
When asked where I am in the Keller Wars, my response is as follows: Wounded on both sides.

My opinion of Tim Keller is that he has done a lot of good in bringing the gospel to unbelievers and in helping to lead those within wider evangelicalism to more Reformed views. In circles which were already Reformed to begin with, however, I think that it is only fair to say that he has done a lot of damage. 1 Corinthians 3 helps us to deal with such situations in a manner that avoids "all or nothing" extremism.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Let me explain.

He generalizes. Does he speak to the secular elite on our behalf?
Is he saying I can’t or shouldn’t register GOP? Or Independent and vote conservative? Are confessionalists conservative? I don’t accept any such labels. But am I evoking a stereotype? I never heard him ever mention the word - Constitution. That is pretty convenient. He screams ivory tower. I think celebrity and academic-elite pastors are as much a pitfall as woke and patriot Christianity. What about your average joe Bible believer who doesn’t conveniently fit into any of these categories. Why does Tim Keller need your defending from me more than me needing defending from him? Because he’s a celebrity that believes in academically embraced Theory of Evolution and big government wealth redistribution? Just hypothetical, i think we can all stand for ourselves. I don’t think Keller cares what I think.

I think the art of selling out is becoming an epidemic. As it continues, I’m ok with being a reject.

“the Bible makes it impossible as a Church to hitch your wagon to one political party, especially in these times. “For Christians just to completely hook up with one party or another is really idolatry,” Keller said. “It’s also reducing the Gospel to a political agenda.” (He pointed me to an address by Nathan Hatch, president of Wake Forest University, called “The Political Captivity of the Faithful,” with which he concurs.)

When I pressed the point further, Keller admitted he believes that “most Christians are just nowhere nearly as deeply immersed in the scripture and in theology as they are in their respective social-media bubbles and News Feed bubbles. ....The conservative Christians are much more influenced by Fox News and their particular loops. And they’re [both] living in those things eight to 10 hours a day. They go to church once a week, and they’re just not immersed in the kind of biblical theological study that would nuance that stuff.” Too often, he believes, there’s no relationship between a proper Christian ethic and the way it translates into political and cultural engagement. It’s not the doctrine that’s at fault, Keller would argue; it’s the way people are taught and interpret it. It’s a failure of imagination and hermeneutics.


The way I have put it is that faith is often subordinated to partisan politics and political ideology, with the latter being the prism through which too many Christians interpret the former. Too many Christians are characterized by their tribal commitments, rather than an understanding of justice and human teleology.

On Donald Trump, Keller said that unlike a generation ago, many evangelicals are not looking to put Christians into power in order to turn the culture back to God; now they are looking for a protector, a champion.

“Both those evangelical strategies are wrong,” Keller told me. “Both of them are about power and saying, How are we going to use power to live life the way we want? They’re not enough about service; they’re not enough about serving the common good.

“The proper cultural strategy is faithful presence within,” he added, “not pulling away from the culture, and not trying to take it over. ‘Faithful presence within’ means being faithful; it means we’re not going to assimilate, [but] we’re going to be distinctively Christian. It’s about an attitude of service, uncompromising in our beliefs, but not withdrawing and not trying to dominate.”
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
When asked where I am in the Keller Wars, my response is as follows: Wounded on both sides.

My opinion of Tim Keller is that he has done a lot of good in bringing the gospel to unbelievers and in helping to lead those within wider evangelicalism to more Reformed views. In circles which were already Reformed to begin with, however, I think that it is only fair to say that he has done a lot of damage. 1 Corinthians 3 helps us to deal with such situations in a manner that avoids "all or nothing" extremism.
He speaks as if there are no reformed circles.... We are not even acknowledged. There is only him.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
The fact that he first labored in a rural setting and still appreciates the pastoral work in that ministry (he remembered the Sweet 16 parties and holding dying congregants' hands), shows me that he is not "above" the "peasants", just that the Lord has used him to minister in an environment far different than many of us will minister in.

Yes, I have pretty severe theological differences from him in key areas. But I still appreciate much about the man. The Lord used him as a great influence in my coming into the Reformed faith.
i don’t hear Paul Washer saying the things he says. I don’t see Paul Washer rubbing elbows with those that he does while talking down about regular Christians to establishment reporters. You can keep him. I’m not impressed, sorry. God claimed you, not Tim Keller.
 

PuritanCovenanter

The Joyful Curmudgeon
Staff member
Let me explain.

He generalizes. Does he speak to the secular elite on our behalf?
Is he saying I can’t or shouldn’t register GOP? Or Independent and vote conservative? Are confessionalists conservative? I don’t accept any such labels. But am I evoking a stereotype?
I don't think he is doing that. I do agree with him that Christ can't be put in camps of political oneness. That seems to be what he is getting at. We also can't look for deliverance in the methods they completely employ. I think that is a valid point. I do vote a certain way. I do believe I have a responsibility to do it. But my hope is in God. I think there is a valid point to what he is saying. I also believe we would do better to be active in good works along with our voicing God's commandments concerning morality and salvation. Sometimes we get a little lopsided. We have great doctrine and know the law but forget about the widow and the orphan. James spoke on that topic. Remember?
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
I don't think he is doing that. I do agree with him that Christ can't be put in camps of political oneness. That seems to be what he is getting at. We also can't look for deliverance in the methods they completely employ. I think that is a valid point. I do vote a certain way. I do believe I have a responsibility to do it. But my hope is in God. I think there is a valid point to what he is saying. I also believe we would do better to be active in good works along with our voicing God's commandments concerning morality and salvation. Sometimes we get a little lopsided. We have great doctrine and know the law but forget about the widow and the orphan. James spoke on that topic. Remember?

“Sometimes we get a little lopsided. We have great doctrine and know the law but forget about the widow and the orphan.”
No we don’t. We do do those things. You do those things. It’s just nobody is putting us on a pedestal and we don’t know any secret handshakes to be made acceptable in his circles (maybe that is preferable - too much compromise may come).

We do it in the confines of our communities and local churches.
We don’t make grand political declarations or evoke the federal government to do our bidding. We want the government out of the way. To refrain from the legalization of various forms of evil and perversion.
 
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kodos

Puritan Board Junior
i don’t hear Paul Washer saying the things he says. I don’t see Paul Washer rubbing elbows with those that he does while talking down about regular Christians to establishment reporters. You can keep him. I’m not impressed, sorry. God claimed you, not Tim Keller.

I am still not exactly sure what you are so sore about. Can you give us specifics of how he was talking down about regular Christians? I am not entirely sure what Paul Washer has to do with any of this. The preaching of Washer's that I have observed has been to nominal Christians. His message will sound different than Keller's.

As for God claiming me, all I can say is - "Praise God!" and "Amen!" But He works through means - that is simple Reformed theology.

Keller is speaking as a representative of Christ to a certain sub-culture. He is not going to start citing Matthew Poole, Geneva, the Dutch Reformation, and the Covenanters. Instead, he is focused on an Acts 17 ministry to philosophers. Speaking to and of modern-day Epicureans, Stoics, and the worship of the "UNKNOWN GOD". And so, his ministry has the bent that you observe in this article.

In my estimation, he departs from the Reformed faith in too many ways and has likely had a negative influence on the PCA, but that's a different critique of the man than the one you are offering.
 

ZackF

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
i don’t hear Paul Washer saying the things he says. I don’t see Paul Washer rubbing elbows with those that he does while talking down about regular Christians to establishment reporters. You can keep him. I’m not impressed, sorry. God claimed you, not Tim Keller.

Why did you post the article? Was is merely to express anger and invite others to come along side you?

Rom and Martin have never struck me as cool, sheik or above other Christians. There is some cool I'll admit. :) Rom's Psalms app and Martin's Norseman thing. I hope they are not offended. From what I've seen I find them godly. In the same vein as you, 'mixed bag', they qualified their response. In some respects you 'keep him' as well. That's implied. That response comes across as immature and coming from me that means something.

This isn't just this thread but there seems to be trend the past couple years on the PB for folks to post a link and make a comment which is fine. However, when the ensuing commentary and arguments don't align with the poster's original assessment all kinds of pettiness then clutter up what would otherwise be an extremely helpful thread. It is as if PB members are a proxy for the OP's anger for whatever is wrong in the church and the world. This has nothing to do with 'tone' but original intent of the tread creator.

I will grant Keller sophistication and much depth of knowledge that I don't have. Those are not necessarily negative traits and I say that disagreeing with him on things as well.
 
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Jack K

Puritan Board Doctor
My son is currently attending a Christian college where he went (perhaps naively) expecting to find fellow students who like to delve into the Bible and theology. Instead, he has mostly found "Christian" students who barely know the Bible and can't be bothered with theology, or scoff at it, but are deeply immersed in Fox News. He is quickly becoming disillusioned with American Christians. He asks aloud why somebody, anybody who's faithful to the Scriptures doesn't call them out for this.

Well, Keller calls them out. He does it pretty gently and fairly, too. Yes, we all know there are many American believers who don't deserve to be lumped in with that bunch, but it is a big enough problem that our preachers ought to be addressing it. I for one appreciate that part of what Keller has to say.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Why did you post the article? Was is merely to express anger and invite others to come along side you?

Rom and Martin have never struck me a cool, sheik or above other Christians. There is some cool I'll admit. :) Rom's Psalms app and Martin's Norseman thing. I hope they are not offended. From what I've seen I find them godly. In the same vein as you, 'mixed bag', they qualified their response. In some respects you 'keep him' as well. That's implied. That response comes across as immature and coming from me that means something.

This isn't just this thread but there seems to be trend the past couple years on the PB for folks to post a link and make a comment which is fine. However, when the ensuing commentary and arguments don't align with the poster's original assessment all kinds of pettiness then clutter up what would otherwise be an extremely helpful thread. It is as if PB members are a proxy for the OP's anger for whatever is wrong in the church and the world. This has nothing to do with 'tone' but original intent of the tread creator.

I will grant Keller sophistication and much depth of knowledge that I don't have. Those are not necessarily negative traits and I say that disagreeing with him on things as well.

Yeah, pretty much, lol. But in all seriousness. What even makes Keller Reformed? His global worldview and big gov solutions sounds more neo-social gospel than anything else.
But I shared it, cause what other big name Reformed Christian is being featured in The Atlantic, the New York Times and the like. It’s both news worthy and just a little bit cringe worthy. But he did defend the faith pretty well. He’s walking a fine line for sure.

I’m not mad. I like Dr.Keller. Seems like a nice guy. I would love to see him debate somebody.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
My son is currently attending a Christian college where he went (perhaps naively) expecting to find fellow students who like to delve into the Bible and theology. Instead, he has mostly found "Christian" students who barely know the Bible and can't be bothered with theology, or scoff at it, but are deeply immersed in Fox News. He is quickly becoming disillusioned with American Christians. He asks aloud why somebody, anybody who's faithful to the Scriptures doesn't call them out for this.

Well, Keller calls them out. He does it pretty gently and fairly, too. Yes, we all know there are many American believers who don't deserve to be lumped in with that bunch, but it is a big enough problem that our preachers ought to be addressing it. I for one appreciate that part of what Keller has to say.
It’s cause nobody is challenging propaganda and falsehoods. Somebody said it. If you don’t start speaking truth (in love) and not glossing over inconvenient realities in doctrine and life, Doug Wilson (and Donald Trump for that matter) are going to be heroes just because they are more willing to candidly tell the truth.

If they can’t trust you in practical matters, your pleas in more vital areas are going to fall by the wayside.

People don’t like to be lied to, snowed and manipulated. This includes leaving things unaddressed and unreported. And failing to report various painful realities and inconvenient truths are just going to leave our youth resentful.

The sanctity of marriage is at stake and Keller is featuring men in tights prancing around doing their little ballet thingie. It’s downright creepy and highly disappointing. This is a time when straight clarity is needed above all else. Puritanboard is becoming a place for outrage not because we want that, but because we cant avoid it. In fact, we are joining in, instead of standing against it. But we can’t not acknowledge it. We can do it more respectably and charitably but we can’t continue doing our little conferences and documentaries in a bubble while everything else around us goes to pot.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Maybe things were always this bad. But with social media, we are all under the microscope. The appearance of evil is magnified. And it’s harder to look the other way when something appears very wrong or contradictory but somehow beyond a reasonable degree of scrutiny.

I like to talk things out and make sense of things. I like to debate. I guess this is probably not the right forum for that.

I shouldnt have made the peasants remark. I apologize for that.
 
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JTB.SDG

Puritan Board Junior
Brother, maybe you should read Center Church, on the chapter where he fleshes this out a bit more (and contextualization in general). Like others, I'm not understanding really what your issue is. Keller is simply trying to correct the various false notions Christians tend to have as it relates to the state and culture. I think Keller actually has really insightful and helpful thoughts on this. I also find a lot of people really dislike Keller, who sadly haven't actually interacted in a more in-depth way with his writings.

I would also be careful in what you say, in light of Exodus 22:28. You may have some disagreements about a few things with Keller, but you may want to frame those things in a way that isn't coming off as an attacking rant.
 
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A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
I just would like to see our Reformed leaders and academics get away from nuance, wishy washy and pragmatic thought and sentiments. Was Karl Barth confessional? Or even Reformed? Just cause you wear the label or wave the flag.. I’m not saying Keller is Barth. Maybe drifting a little bit into that territory possibly, but maybe not.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
Brother, maybe you should read Center Church, on the chapter where he fleshes this out a bit more (and contextualization in general). Like others, I'm not understanding really what your issue is. Keller is simply trying to correct the various false notions Christians tend to have as it relates to the state and culture. I think Keller actually has really insightful and helpful thoughts on this. I also find a lot of people really dislike Keller, who sadly haven't actually interacted in a more in-depth way with his writings.

I would also be careful in what you say, in light of Exodus 22:28. You may have some disagreements about a few things with Keller, but you may want to frame those things in a way that isn't coming off as an attacking rant.

Ok, and I will work on that.
 

Bill The Baptist

Puritan Board Graduate
Like a lot of smart people, Keller has correctly identified a major problem within modern evangelical Christianity. Unfortunately, also like a lot of smart people, he offers up a cure that is in many ways just as bad or worse than the disease.
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
I probably already hurt my credibility on this thread. But I wonder if Keller's Reformed confession has taken a back seat. And this seems like a trend all the way back to Princeton. Why would we ever lose vigilance on these matters. That is what I don't understand. Why would Keller correct one side and then go off the deep end on the other? (also, Im not sure "flourishing" is a helpful word to use in a Christian context)

Tim Keller on Homosexuality, Hell, and Human Flourishing
Robert Gagnon, at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, an astute scholar of the question of homosexuality in the NT has written a critique of some 2008 comments by Tim Keller regarding homosexuality. In response, Rachel Miller writes,

For me, while Dr. Keller’s remarks on homosexuality are disappointing, it is his redefinition of sin and hell that I find much more troubling. Dr. Keller states that sin doesn’t send a person to hell, but rather self-righteousness does and that sin is just what is bad for “human flourishing.”

Posted by R. Scott Clark | Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | Categorized Homosexuality | Tagged ethics, hell, homosexuality, tim keller Bookmark the permalink.
 
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Susan777

Puritan Board Sophomore
I probably already hurt my credibility on this thread. But I wonder if Keller's Reformed confession has taken a back seat. And this seems like a trend all the way back to Princeton. Why would we ever lose vigilance on these matters. That is what I don't understand. Why would Keller correct one side and then go off the deep end on the other? (also, Im not sure "flourishing" is a helpful word to use in a Christian context)

Tim Keller on Homosexuality, Hell, and Human Flourishing
Robert Gagnon, at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary, an astute scholar of the question of homosexuality in the NT has written a critique of some 2008 comments by Tim Keller regarding homosexuality. In response, Rachel Miller writes,

For me, while Dr. Keller’s remarks on homosexuality are disappointing, it is his redefinition of sin and hell that I find much more troubling. Dr. Keller states that sin doesn’t send a person to hell, but rather self-righteousness does and that sin is just what is bad for “human flourishing.”

Posted by R. Scott Clark | Wednesday, September 26, 2012 | Categorized Homosexuality | Tagged ethics, hell, homosexuality, tim keller Bookmark the permalink.
I’ve long admired Dr. Gagnon, who has stayed the course amid a sea of unbelief at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. And I’ve long wondered about Rev. Keller’s understanding and approach to Christian sexual ethics. Could it be that he is ministering to a demographic that would resolutely reject any lack of acceptance for the homosexual cause? And how would that rejection shape a pastor’s own perception of these issues?
 

A.Joseph

Puritan Board Senior
I’ve long admired Dr. Gagnon, who has stayed the course amid a sea of unbelief at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary. And I’ve long wondered about Rev. Keller’s understanding and approach to Christian sexual ethics. Could it be that he is ministering to a demographic that would resolutely reject any lack of acceptance for the homosexual cause? And how would that rejection shape a pastor’s own perception of these issues?
And why would he want to do that? Who is influencing who here? Does he have any data or surveys to review the fruit of his labor? What do they believe?
I may have found reformed faith via Mark Driscoll, that doesn’t mean I’m not concerned with where he’s at.

When I hear people say that they don’t agree with Keller theologically that’s a red flag. If you are reformed and he is reformed and you disagree theologically, then I hate to break this to you, maybe one of you is not Reformed. There’s confession and theres theology and in reformed circles they are pretty much one in the same. Instead of defending Keller, we may want to show some actual concern for the man. Has he lost his way?

If his foundation is firm he may want to express himself with clarity. If his responses don’t make The Atlantic, who loses? Who will he influence in that world with a luke warm presentation? When he gets to TULIP they won’t stick around, because we are all dead in the water. We are not sick, our desires are not a little perverted. We are wicked and depraved. We’re worse. We’re dead. There is not a neutral playing field. There’s life and there’s death and it has nothing to do with politics. Hate to break this to you Tim, but nobody flourishes in hell. In fact, there are people who are experiencing hell on this earth and they need to understand that their sin and suffering don’t have to be forever. There is a love that can and has overcome all things. That’s where his focus should be, first and foremost.
 
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Pilgrim

Puritanboard Commissioner
I’ve long admired Dr. Gagnon, who has stayed the course amid a sea of unbelief at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary.

The responses to Dr. Gagnon are a clear signal of where things are heading. A few years ago, he was persona non grata in the PCUSA. Now he seems to be quickly heading toward being persona non grata in the SBC, where his more frank and confrontational style is anathema to the people running things now, many of whom like Keller.

It has to be noted that several Keller disciples have caved on LGBT+++++ issues. I recall one in particular who planted a church in SF (or was it Sacramento?) with PCA money but departed for the RCA a few years later because they wanted to ordain women. A few years after that, they accepted "same-sex marriage," stating that to continue to forbid it wasn't conducive to "human flourishing."
 

Susan777

Puritan Board Sophomore
I recall one in particular who planted a church in SF (or was it Sacramento?) with PCA money but departed for the RCA a few years later because they wanted to ordain women. A few years after that, they accepted "same-sex marriage," stating that to continue to forbid it wasn't conducive to "human flourishing."
Isn’t it interesting how feminism and homosexuality seem to march together through these denominations.......

I think it begins with a gradual move away from the authority and sufficiency ently of Scripture. I’m so grateful for faithful shepherds.
 
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Tom Hart

Puritan Board Senior
If you are reformed and he is reformed and you disagree theologically, then I hate to break this to you, maybe one of you is not Reformed.
Of course, it would depend on the nature of the theological question, but you have a point.
 
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