Tim Keller Stepping Down as Redeemer Senior Pastor

Big shoes to fill

I was surprised to hear this, as I thought Keller was younger.  He is an able apologist for the Gospel in a city where there are few solid churches that do so.  I particularly enjoyed his back and forth with Nicholas Kristoff of the NYT from a few weeks back, and gave that article to someone who is seeking a church (I haven't been able to give her the gospel yet).  

Four months doesn't seem like a very long time, but if he's staying on to help with the leadership and seminary, then I guess he doesn't need to give a year's notice or whatever.  I will pray that the next pastor at RPC will be solid and faithful to the Gospel.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Prayer

The new Pastor will need a lot of prayer - particularly because Keller is staying there. I haven't read anything by Keller, but have seen a few interviews he's done. I plan on reading something from him one day.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Although his books can be

Although his books can be helpful, I don't think Keller is as good an "apologist for the gospel" as many believe. He is a theistic evolutionist who denies the historical, literal reading of Genesis 1 & 2. That's not much of an "apologist" to me.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Keller's 6 part series on Creation & Science

I'm talking about Salvation

Although his books can be helpful, I don't think Keller is as good an "apologist for the gospel" as many believe. He is a theistic evolutionist who denies the historical, literal reading of Genesis 1 & 2. 

Yeah, his embrace of theistic evolution is a massive problem, but when I referenced the gospel above, I was referring to sola fide.  I'm a literal six day / 24 hour YE creationist, so I know Keller and I completely disagree there.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

The Reason for God

I heard Carson call this book "the best apologetic since Lewis' Mere Christianity." That's a big compliment. I wonder if it's really true. Haven't read it yet.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Recker's Series

For those who wish to revisit the issue, Pastor Matt Recker did a series on Keller's view of creation a while back. You can find it in this list.

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Jay wrote:

Jay wrote:

Although his books can be helpful, I don't think Keller is as good an "apologist for the gospel" as many believe. He is a theistic evolutionist who denies the historical, literal reading of Genesis 1 & 2. 

Yeah, his embrace of theistic evolution is a massive problem, but when I referenced the gospel above, I was referring to sola fide.  I'm a literal six day / 24 hour YE creationist, so I know Keller and I completely disagree there.

According to NeoCalvinist.com, Keller is not that stellar in his defense of the gospel.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Challies' review of The Prodigal God:

 

EXCERPT: "After the publication of The Reason for God, Newsweek hailed Tim Keller as “a C.S. Lewis for the twenty-first century.” That is a lofty comparison and one I’m sure must make Keller quite uncomfortable. Yet at some level the comparisons are becoming undeniable. Keller’s ability to communicate to believers and unbelievers alike and to do so on an intellectual level clearly parallels that of Lewis. Where Keller’s first book offered an explanation as to why we should believe in God, his second, The Prodigal God, focuses on Jesus’ best-known parable (and arguably the best-known and most-loved story of all-time) to challenge both believers and skeptics."

http://www.challies.com/book-reviews/book-review-the-prodigal-god-by-tim-keller‌ 

Redeemer and the Gospel

I had a feeling that this would turn into a discussion about whether or not Keller was "good on the gospel", and if not, where he goes wrong.  So let me invite you to read what is written on their website:

In particular, the gospel is the message that we are saved from our sins by sheer, free grace through faith in the finished work of Christ, not through our efforts and works. Redeemer believes that this gospel message of hope for the world and grace for the sinner is not merely a body of truth, but the very power of God which grows, changes, and shapes everything with which it has contact—hearts and identities,  relationships, practices in every area of public and private life, and whole societies. So the gospel is “central,” first, because it is not merely one department of belief, but it is a power that affects every area of life when its implications are felt and thought out. But secondly, the gospel is “central” because it is neither legalism on the one hand nor relativism on the other.

Listen to a sermon about Redeemer’s core value, Gospel:

Who is this Jesus?
Lord of the Wine
Born of the Gospel

2. CHANGED LIVES

It is common to think the gospel is a message mainly to be shared with non-believers to bring them salvation, after which they grow through following Biblical principles. But at Redeemer we believe the gospel is a message for believers also—that believing, understanding, rejoicing in and practicing the gospel more deeply is the main way believers overcome flaws and problems and grow into Christ-likeness. Our sinful behavior is rooted in idols of the heart—alternative ‘salvations’—and deeper knowledge of and experience of God’s grace in Christ can change them. We know that long-term life change also requires formative practices of individual and communal prayer, instruction, and worship (see Gospel Community), but without a gospel-changed and changing heart, church practices will produce nominal believers. The gospel changes us from the inside out, freeing us from both self-righteousness and self-condemnation, enabling us to welcome people we excluded, including those who don’t share our beliefs. Bringing the gospel to bear on life is therefore the essence of what we do in preaching, pastoral care, counseling, and education. The gospel can change anyone at all, and we take special delight in testimonies of its powerful work. 

Listen to a sermon about Redeemer’s core value, Changed Lives:

Changed Lives
Inside-Out Living
How to Change

I've read "The Prodigal God" by Keller, which was excellent and very similar to MacArthur's book on the same parable (it's the parable of the Prodigal Son).  I picked up a copy of Keller's book "Counterfeit Gods" a couple of days ago, which is also excellent so far. If someone is worried that Keller doesn't know what the gospel is, then they need to listen to Keller himself or research it. 

There's also this section, which is covered on that same website:

7. OUTWARD FACE

Redeemer has always been especially concerned to welcome the secular, non-believing Manhattanite. Most churches have an ethos within that is confusing or offensive to everyone but evangelicals. Redeemer has always sought to be a place where doubters felt their questions were noticed and taken seriously. This is one of the reasons why we have always avoided typical Christian piety-jargon that makes outsiders immediately feel unnecessarily alien. Sermons should be preached, and public events (even most small groups) conducted as if non-Christians were present, over-hearing what we are saying. We must constantly keep in mind what is like to not believe. If we maintain such an environment, then evangelism shall happen the right way—not so much through programs but organically through the witness of Redeemer believers. It is crucial that a large percentage of Christians come into Redeemer and think, “I wish my non-Christian friend could hear this.” While Redeemer will always grow by attracting already-Christians in, that is not our intended way to grow, and a strong outward face will guarantee that newly arrived Christians are mobilized to reach out to the city.

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Way to dodge the question

None of the quoted statements deal with the points raised in the article I linked. Nor did you say anything yourself that dealt with the criticisms raised. Simply saying, "I've read the book, it's good." doesn't solve anything.

I found it interesting that the criticism came from a new Calvinist site. 

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Churchy Language

Jay:

I appreciate this excerpt you posted from Redeemer's website:

Redeemer has always sought to be a place where doubters felt their questions were noticed and taken seriously. This is one of the reasons why we have always avoided typical Christian piety-jargon that makes outsiders immediately feel unnecessarily alien. Sermons should be preached, and public events (even most small groups) conducted as if non-Christians were present, over-hearing what we are saying. We must constantly keep in mind what is like to not believe. If we maintain such an environment, then evangelism shall happen the right way—not so much through programs but organically through the witness of Redeemer believers

What a good reminder. Be aware of churchy language, and alter it appropriately. Will an unbeliever understand what you're saying? No? Then, maybe you can explain it differently, more simply, more plainly? We don't want to be people who always use insider language. This doesn't mean we drop theological terms (e.g justification, redemption, adoption, etc.). But, it does mean we should strive to be clear (e.g. don't say, "ask Jesus into your heart").

Thanks, Jay.  

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Regarding Keller's Reason for God

TylerR wrote:

I heard Carson call this book "the best apologetic since Lewis' Mere Christianity." That's a big compliment. I wonder if it's really true. Haven't read it yet.

Keller’s Reason for God is fascinating due to its eclectic style of apologetics, some of which is clearly evidentialist and some which comes across as presuppositional. In his section on "Reasons for Faith," he presents several clues that point to God’s existence. The first amounts to the cosmological argument (something, most likely God, had to initiate the big bang) and the second is similar to the teleological argument (the universe is designed just perfectly for mankind and the improbability of that happening by chance means that God most likely designed the universe). Both of these follow a more traditional theistic proof methodology that is typical evidentialist. Other clues, though, have a transcendental ring to them. Regarding the regularity of nature, he explains how Hume and Russell both show there is no rational explanation for it given bare naturalism, but how it fits in perfectly with the Christian worldview. He then explains the failure of naturalism to account for the existence of beauty, love, and our longing for God.

Keller is at his best in answering typical objections to Christianity. He challenges the unbeliever to scrutinize the validity of his doubts to the same degree he scrutinizes the Bible. When this is done it is often the case that the objection, when analyzed, actually ends up contradicting and invalidating itself (e.g., if religious belief is only culturally and historically conditioned, then so is your anti-religious belief and how can we trust any position?). His answers, for the most part, are really good, especially on the exclusivity of the gospel, the reality of hell, failures of believers, suffering, and the problem of evil. It is good to have sound answers for these hard questions and Keller is very helpful here.

At times he uses a pretty broad definition of “Christian” that includes orthodox, protestant, and Catholic faiths (see his sections on Injustice and his Intermission). I felt that his approach in these sections was rather weak, as it lent undue legitimacy to these other faiths.

And, of course, he essentially takes a hybrid theistic evolutionary approach in dealing with the controversy over science and the Bible.

All in all, it is certainly a valuable apologetic resource, but I don’t know that I would say it’s the best.

Don wrote:

Don Johnson wrote:

I found it interesting that the criticism came from a new Calvinist site. 

 

You make it sound as if the site is favorable to and promotes "new Calvinism," however such is defined. 

In reality, the site is clearly entirely devoted to denouncing said "new Calvinism." 

AndyE

Thanks!

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

on Keller

He gets a fair amount of flack from the Bayly Brothers (www.baylyblog.com) on his views of sexuality, womens' roles in the church, and the like.  So he's clearly not quite in "my" camp, but I'm going to stop short of saying he's completely weak on the Gospel.  

Now for a compliment; he's handing off the reins before he's completely lost his touch, which gives a younger man (or men) a chance to learn the ropes and continue the ministry.  And so I wish Keller, and the men who will come after him, all the best. 

Larry Nelson wrote:

Larry Nelson wrote:

 

Don Johnson wrote:

 

I found it interesting that the criticism came from a new Calvinist site. 

 

 

 

You make it sound as if the site is favorable to and promotes "new Calvinism," however such is defined. 

In reality, the site is clearly entirely devoted to denouncing said "new Calvinism." 

Fair enough, I stand corrected on that point.

Maranatha!
Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

Tyler

Sounds like Tim Keller is staying at the church in retirement!

Mark

I know! The new guy will need LOTS of prayer. I pity the man, whoever he is . . .

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Way off topic

....but while I find no reason to say Tyler is wrong, it strikes me as horrific that a church (universally speaking) where leaders are told to (2. Timothy 2:2) teach others who will be able to teach others....would not be able, so to speak, to have Paul and Timothy worship at the same church.    I would posit that some of the reasons would be:

  • Old pastor views himself as CEO and not as shepherd
  • Old pastor has never taken making disciples seriously to begin with--why start now?
  • Old pastor never considered sharing the pulpit while getting paid--it'll be hard to start now.
  • Old Pastor is unregenerate (Jack Hyles, Tyler's predecessor)
  • Old pastor has too extensive a list of doctrinal and stylistic essentials to cooperate.
  • Old pastor will be seen as "the" pastor even in retirement.

It's worth noting that the United Methodist Church requires retiring pastors to go to a different church than the one they served, presumably for similar reasons.  But it's still pretty sad that a church that is mostly apostate would be in many regards indistinguishable from the ones we inhabit.

Models

Bert:

It's entirely possible the "old Pastor should leave, lest disaster strike" phenomena is more common among single-elder churches. A congregation which already has dual elders, where both the people and the Pastors are used to the elders sharing responsibilities, doesn't have this problem as often. I wouldn't know, because I've never been in a church which uses that model.   

So, it is entirely possible everything will go well. But, it is also possible it may not. Who knows?

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Thanks Don for the article

Thanks Don for the article and website dealing with Tim Keller.  The articles are helpful to me.  It is clear that the website is not for new-Calvinism; however, I did not detect an anti-Calvinist sentiment at all in the comments.  The authors appear to me to be Calvinistic, but not new-Calvinists, similar to a Peter Masters.

Pastor Mike Harding

Laughing at myself

....I just realized that my comment from 4:40 pm today could be interpreted as saying that Jack Hyles was Tyler's predecessor.  Just to be clear, I am not suggesting Tyler is Jack Schaap commenting from prison, but rather that both Hyles and the man who preceded Tyler at his pastorate in Divernon may have been unregenerate.

Laugh at me for this one.  I am.  Sorry 'bout that, Tyler. 

Perhaps Keller will need to

Perhaps Keller will need to stay close to the church he pastored since the next generation of leaders in that church will most likely take his inconsistencies between the gospel and his views on Genesis much farther than he intended, something many Christian ministries eventually see. It will only take 1 or 2 generations for the denial of Genesis to lead to denials of other doctrines. You won't see it right away, but it will happen, especially under the pressures of an aggressive anti-Christian culture.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

WallyMorris wrote:

WallyMorris wrote:

Perhaps Keller will need to stay close to the church he pastored since the next generation of leaders in that church will most likely take his inconsistencies between the gospel and his views on Genesis much farther than he intended, something many Christian ministries eventually see. It will only take 1 or 2 generations for the denial of Genesis to lead to denials of other doctrines. You won't see it right away, but it will happen, especially under the pressures of an aggressive anti-Christian culture.

Ah...the slippery slope fallacy in action....

Unfortunately, not a fallacy.

Unfortunately, not a fallacy. I've seen it play out many times in individuals, churches, and other ministries. Broader Evangelicalism richly illustrates this problem, such as with inerrancy - Look where Fuller Seminary is today. As I said, you won't see it right away, but it will happen.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

WallyMorris wrote:

WallyMorris wrote:

Unfortunately, not a fallacy. I've seen it play out many times in individuals, churches, and other ministries. Broader Evangelicalism richly illustrates this problem, such as with inerrancy - Look where Fuller Seminary is today. As I said, you won't see it right away, but it will happen.

So you went from the slippery slope fallacy to the anecdotal fallacy.  I could give you just as many experiences where the predicted slippery slope among certain evangelical churches and groups didn't happen.    And while it is true that over time, Fuller Seminary lost its high view of scripture, all you have to do is point to the conservative takeover of the SBC to counter that there are examples where the predicted slippery slope didn't take place.  Sometimes the slippery slope happens and sometimes it doesn't.  Church History is much more uneven and complicated than to assume slippery slopes are an automatic event.    

The SBC is the only major

The SBC is the only major denomination to reverse its theological slide - the exception which proves the rule. Additionally, as I grew up in the SBC and have many relatives in the SBC, the conservative hold on the SBC is not at all assured. An individual or ministry cannot give up major Biblical teaching such as Genesis 1 & 2 without major consequences eventually. The theological tension cannot last.

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Slippery slope fallacy or verity

There is, as Joel notes, a slippery slope fallacy--the assumption that unrelated actions will flow from the same start--and at the same time there is a slippery slope verity (truth), where other consequences are the logical conclusion of a starting point.  With regards to Keller, which is the case will depend on what Keller's starting point is.  If Keller holds to the first fundamental, albeit slightly differently than I, then there is no necessary slippery slope whereby we would assume other consequences.  If, on the other hand, Keller's weakness on Biblical sexuality and creation indeed reflects a weakness in Sola Scriptura and the first fundamental, we would then assume that there will be other consequences.

A broader view of this would indicate that there are churches which start from a position we consider flawed--say the Lutherans or Anglicans--and we find that for four centuries, their theology was largely unchanged.  To this day, the LCMS and other conservative synods hold pretty much to the theology of Luther and Melanchthon.  It was only when some Lutherans and Anglicans started to adopt liberal form criticism--to walk away from Sola Scriptura--that the theology changed markedly.  

So on the whole, until we know for sure that Keller is walking away from Sola Scriptura, we ought to hold back on assuming a slippery slope, even if we have (as Joel notes) anecdotes where others clearly walked away from Sola Scriptura.

(nice to have someone else doing the logic police function, BTW)

Someone can profess to hold

Someone can profess to hold to the principle of Sola Scriptura yet in their exegesis hold beliefs that damage the principle. I submit that theistic evolution, progressive creation, and similar views actually ruin Sola Scriptura because, in practice, those who hold those views give more weight to current scientific theory than to the Bible, even while they say they are trying to honor both. I stick to my main point: Someone cannot give up a literal, historical understanding of Genesis 1 & 2 without eventually sliding into other theological error. The error may come from the person himself, or the error may come from those influenced by that person, who are simply taking that person's beliefs to the next logical step.

(Since these recent posts are getting off the main point of the thread, this will be my last post on this topic here. Perhaps another thread would be better.)

Wally Morris

Charity Baptist Church

Huntington, IN

amomentofcharity.blogspot.com

Not to be stupid or simplistic, but...

If Paul can rejoice that people are preaching the gospel in a lame attempt to hurt him (Phil. 1:15-18), why can't we be happy that there is a Presbyterian minister in NYC that is more intentional about outreach to the citizens of New York than most of us and who is presenting the gospel in venues like the NY Times?  I don't know of any SI members that live or work in New York, or who have even been contacted for such an opportunity.  I know I haven't

Did everyone in NYC become a Christian when I wasn't looking or something?  

Are we at the point where we cannot say anything nice about another believer, and we have to mention the areas where Keller gets it wrong if someone dares to mention his name?

Seriously?

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Calling TOvermiller

  Jay wrote:   I don't know of any SI members that live or work in New York

 

You should be aware that Thomas Overmiller is a SI member and pastors Faith Baptist in NYC.

John B. Lee

Appeal of Keller

I adamantly reject Theist evolution!  (see my doctrinal statement in Info about Jim)

Young earth creationism is a huge intellectual hurdle for many (believers too!)

Jay wrote:If Paul can rejoice

Jay wrote:
If Paul can rejoice that people are preaching the gospel in a lame attempt to hurt him (Phil. 1:15-18), why can't we be happy that there is a Presbyterian minister in NYC that is more intentional about outreach to the citizens of New York than most of us and who is presenting the gospel in venues like the NY Times? . . . Are we at the point where we cannot say anything nice about another believer, and we have to mention the areas where Keller gets it wrong if someone dares to mention his name?

Paul rejoiced but he also mentioned places where they got it wrong.  They preached from envy, rivalry, selfish ambition, and not sincerely.  Also, if they had compromised the gospel in some fashion, Paul would not have rejoiced in their preaching at all.  Part of the discussion here is evaluating if perhaps Keller has done that.  I don't see how any of this is contrary to Phil 1:15-18.

Keller and Creation

It really comes down these questions:

  • Has Keller capitulated on creation?
  • If so, how fundamental is this capitulation? Does it amount to a denial of Biblical revelation? Does he have to do obvious harm to God's word to make it fit with his conception of creation?
  • Perform theological triage - how foundational is this capitulation (if, that is, you think it is a capitulation)?
  • If you believe Keller's view on creation is a fundamental betrayal, does his hermeneutic open the doors to other, perhaps even more significant and damaging betrayals in other doctrinal areas?

There is an obvious spectrum in this comment thread, with wide disagreement over these basic questions. One thing we can all likely agree on:

  • Keller has been a faithful minister of the Gospel in a very difficult environment
  • He seeks to continue in a teaching ministry, and we ought to wish him well
  • He is apparently committed to planting churches, not building an empire, and that's good

Of course there are reasons to be disappointed in Keller - big reasons. But, perhaps we can agree he has used his gifts for the Lord well, and he hopefully still has plenty of time left to do more!

TylerR is a former Pastor. He lives with his family in Olympia, WA. He blogs here.

Ah!

You should be aware that Thomas Overmiller is a SI member and pastors Faith Baptist in NYC.

Oh, great!  I did know about Matt Recker - we met for lunch a while ago and should probably do so again sometime soon; I must have left him out of the post when I edited it.  

May the tribe of Christians in NYC increase!

"Our task today is to tell people — who no longer know what sin is...no longer see themselves as sinners, and no longer have room for these categories — that Christ died for sins of which they do not think they’re guilty." - David Wells

Maybe time to be more critical?

....and not just of Tim Keller.  Listening to one of the sermons Jay linked (thanks), it strikes me that while I would agree that one's doctrine of origins will affect one's other doctrines--they're connected in the Scriptures by no less than our Lord--at the same time I found that Keller has the good habit of sticking with his text.  Sad to say, I've heard a lot of fundamental pastors who more or less use the text as a "launching pad" for what they really want to say--and if we do not believe that this affects our adherence to Sola Scriptura, we are quite frankly kidding ourselves.  We can say things that are 100% factually correct and end up doing immeasurable harm if we do not observably proceed from the passage we've selected.


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