"One thing Christians need to know about Tim’s teachings is that they are really anything but what we have come to know as 'Evangelical' Christianity."

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Jim's picture
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"One thing Christians need to know about Tim’s teachings is that they are really anything but what we have come to know as 'Evangelical' Christianity."

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Joel Shaffer's picture
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Ouch! That's quite a harsh

Ouch! That's quite a harsh statement. I don't even know where to begin. First, why is Jonathon Cousar's view on this matter even being brought to the forefront at SI? Is it because he is a former member of Redeemer's church? With the many, many overstatements and stereotype arguments that Cousar uses against Keller, this reminds me of the blogging "journalism" that I've read from tabloid bloggers such as Ken Silva and Lighthouse trails. Unfortunately, Silva and Lighthouse trail have a "Maslow hammer" (when all you have is a hammer in your tool box, then every problem becomes a nail) which is Contemplative Spirituality being the main thing wrong with everything in evangelicalism and Christianity, while Cousar's hammer seems to be political socialism. This is not surprising since he is a sell-professed conservative political junkie. By the way, I happen to be quite conservative in my politics as I have seen first hand great society programs do much more harm than good in my 'hood where I minister. But to infer that Keller is a Theological liberal and that Tim's teaching is "anything but what we have come to know as evangelical Christianity" is just plain dishonest and wrong. Despite my disagreements with his view of Baptism, his old earth creation view, and his eschatology (which does inform his view of justice), he is clearly within the bounds of conservative evangelical Christianity.

I have mentioned just a few disagreements with this article on another post, which is only a sample of what I believe is wrong in this article.

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Let me give you an illustration. Towards the end of article, Cousar talks of Christian Community Development pioneer John Perkins who talks about redistribution. Of course when most people think of redistribution, they think of communism and socialism. (By the way, John Perkins was conservative enough to serve on a hunger task force in the 1980's for Ronald Reagan) To Perkins, redistribution mean redistributing skills to help others. Our ministry is doing this. For instance, UTM is starting to connect Christian entrepreneurs to teach former drug-dealers that have come to faith in Christ and are currently being discipled in our ministry to also start their own businesses, to create a business plan, and etc...By the way, these former drug-dealers also are evangelists in our ministry, sharing the gospel whenever they can. But it is taking people from the outside coming along side our students because our students don't have the normal social capital that a typical middle-class person has and sharing their skills with them.

Also, Cousar assumes that the free market economy (which I strongly believe in) and all the social structures in America that have been created works well for everyone. Not true in my neighborhood. For example, my inner-city neighborhood has a high school which is considered a drop-out factory by a study from John Hopkins university. The school's standards are so low that they refuse to fail anybody unless the students drop out of the school and approximately 46% do. That makes it much, much more difficult for some of our students that come from single parent families and do not have someone advocating for them. And what if liberal social policies have created some of these problems (such as automatically passing students regardless of their actual grades in order to not hurt their "self-esteem") and these liberals who are in charge will never change them? (The city of Grand Rapids liberal in its politics but the surrounding suburbs are quite conservative). And what are the options? Charter schools often skim from the top from inner-city taking students that will score well in state requirement testing or at times will take students for a month and then drop them after the state money comes in for that child. Of course, Christian schools are too expensive. My point in all of this is that not everything is fair, so justice for the poor, the widow, and the fatherless is Biblically legitimate. (Proverbs 29:7) Enough of my rambling.

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Keller's a Closet Commie

I agree with Joel. Why in the world is this even on SI? It seems that all you need to do is post a blog that is outrageously (fill in the blank).

So this guy's been at Keller's church for 20 years and left last year because of his "growing concern that the church and Tim were far more liberal, theologically and ideologically than I had ever imagined." Has Keller changed that much in 20 years or did Cousar suddenly get a dose of discernment? He left the church and now he's exposing Keller for the liberal he really is? Give me a break!

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The article doesn't

The article doesn't substantiate the crazy quote that Keller's not even evangelical. I think the author of the article equates conservative politics with conservative evangelicalism. He's got an axe to grind or something.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Go to the sources

Keller has enough in print and audio that anyone can quite easily find out what he believes. I don't think anyone communicates the heart of evangelical Christianity as clearly and persuasively as Keller. Read Prodigal God and form a judgment from that. If you're concerned about his political/economic views, read Generous Justice.

By the way, it wouldn't hurt to remember that liberalism is a theology of reduction, and "social justice" is what's left of Christianity once the transcendent has been ensconced in the immanent. So, a form of social justice was evangelical long before it was liberal. I think Keller does a good job bringing that out.

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Being incredulous that SI

Being incredulous that SI would link this to me seems like posturing. The fact is Keller is a controversial figure for many. One need not agree with it but its posting is worthwhile, if not for anything but those that disagree to rebut and enlighten those whom they believe might otherwise be influenced.

Keller is Presbyterian (PCA) by ordination and training and within the PCA his theology is permissible. I don't agree with his social justice interpretations and believe that if fails much of what we would call traditional Conservative Evangelicalism. However, today there is a greater willingness within CE to accept teachers with whom CE's once would have acknowledged as brothers in the faith but falling outside of too many doctrinal expressions to be given the kind of reception he has today with many CE's.

As to Ken Silva and anyone else noting possible issues with Keller's teaching, it does nothing but do exactly what is being complained about regarding Keller to call speak of Silva and others derogatorily simply to minimize our hearing them and their findings. There are some implications of Keller's teachings that are quite concerning. But as I have observed, along with several other prominent Teachers who have demonstrated seriously missteps, Keller is a sacred cow for many and any those who have made up their minds that no one will be able to find anything that is a show stopper simply cannot and will not endure hearing or considering otherwise.

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I have not read any of

I have not read any of Keller's books. Just not in my field of vision. He evidently has built a large ministry to urbanites. This article does appear to have a good in context quote from Keller and appears to be based on Keller's own statements over time. Therefore we should probably make sure for ourselves.

I do know that the call to social justice and ministry is loudest in Evangelical colleges and Seminaries that have abandoned the inerrancy of scripture and diminished the vision of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Seattle Pacific University, Azusa Pacific University, Westmont College, and Fuller Seminary are some on the West coast that come to mind.

We should check out the messengers message and facts before criticizing him.

By the way, the great social ministry that comes out of the Rescue missions and like ministries are greater than anything talked about by modern intellectuals and ministry theorists in books. They stand on the old fashioned Gospel and the saving of souls. The consequence is often social transformation.

I think such an article is appropriate here on SI. Informative. Will make me look at Keller and others of his followers with caution.

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The Hypocrisy Is Amazing

The real issue is false doctrines and teachings. That is the real issue.

But instead of focusing on the real issue on both sides, so many choose to be partial.

Conservative evangelicals and fundamentalists are far more concerned about heresy and false doctrines and strange associations that occur on the LIBERAL side of the aisle than they are on the CONSERVATIVE side.

Therefore, Tim Keller's even using the term "social justice" makes him a possible heretic. Never mind the detailed instructions that God gave to Old Testament Israel that were specifically designed to take care of the poor, and to keep the gap between the rich and the poor from growing too wide, and that Israel's failure to implement and keep those instructions were one of the main issues that MOST of the prophets told Israel that they were facing God's judgment for. So what does things given to Old Testament Israel have to do with us? Well, gee, Keller is PRESBYTERIAN. COVENANT THEOLOGY. Conservative covenant theologians LOVE to apply the MORAL and RELIGIOUS commandments from the Sinai covenant to modern society to influence issues like supporting capital punishment, but hypocritically TOTALLY IGNORE the economic justice portion of the Sinai covenant! Now I am not a covenant theology guy. But the people who ARE need to see if they are being hypocritical by only supporting the parts of it that they personally like! The liberal covenant theology types are the social gospel/social justice crowd and ignore the moral law. But the conservative covenant theology types who ignore the economic justice issues in the Sinai covenant are just as hypocritical! Sure, they may be doctrinally correct in other areas, things touching the New Testament gospel, but on the Sinai covenant issues, they are just as partial, just as hypocritical, and just as WRONG as are the social gospel crowd! And the person who cannot accept that NEEDS TO ABANDON COVENANT THEOLOGY. The problem is not Tim Keller's attempt to articulate a comprehensive covenant theology. The problem is covenant theologians, whether right or left, omitting the parts that they don't like! The problem IS NOT Keller being some heretic for including the economic justice component of the Sinai covenant and its modern application via covenant theology. Instead, the problem is with guys like Francis Schaeffer and D. James Kennedy for leaving it out! If you are a covenant theology adherent, well the Sinai covenant wasn't just the Ten Commandments. It was the jubilee year and the instructions concerning taking care of the poor. But that is only part of the problem.

The other part is that conservative theologians and pastors, covenant theology or not, exhibit doctrinal errors, heresies and align themselves with apostates (and worse) all the time. Even though this is just as wrong according to the Bible as the social justice crowd, they get a pass because they are conservative. The Manhattan Declaration was really just the tip of the iceberg ... religious right types have been working with Roman Catholics, Jews, Mormons etc. and changing their doctrines and practices to suit them for decades. But because they are social and economic conservatives, no one gets angry, no one says a thing. It is an outrage to hammer Keller on social justice while ignoring the falsehoods taught and the very questionable behavior of so many conservative evangelicals: the aforementioned Kennedy and Schaeffer as well as Falwell, Dobson, Mohler, and a great many more.

The only reason to favor any of those over Keller (at least regarding the social justice issue) is if you favor conservative politics to the Bible. It is the only reason. If anything, Keller's teachings are more Biblical than so many of these guys' hawking books and tapes claiming that freemason George Washington was a Christian, and repeating the utterly false claim that Ronald Reagan was a warrior for the Christian and pro-life cause. So, attempting to present a comprehensive covenant theology (and I repeat, I am not a covenant theology guy!) is liberal heresy, but willfully promoting falsehoods (lies!) is just peachy? Conservative politics supports that, but the Bible doesn't. The Bible contains dozens of commands to advocate and seek justice on behalf of the poor and oppressed, but nowhere does it command us to deceive Christians because it is expedient to right wing politics. It is OK for conservative evangelicals to have financial ties with Sun Myung Moon, but taking what the Old Testament says about the poor seriously makes you a heretic? Again, elevating politics over the Bible, and that is worldliness.

Now I am not going to endorse Keller's teachings. Not being a covenant theology adherent means these issues are not my concern. But those who do adhere to covenant theology DO have to address the issues that Keller is raising lest they be found guilty of being selective with scripture because of their own personal political beliefs; of turning the Bible into a buffet where you can take what you like and reject what you dislike. If you have a problem, it is with covenant theology, and it isn't Keller's fault that most conservative covenant theology teachers have failed to articulate and advocate a balanced, comprehensive version of the system. It also isn't Keller's fault that more people who profess to believe in covenant theology haven't challenged their pastors and theologians with "hey, how come you are omitting key elements of the Sinai covenant, some of the very ones that the prophets spoke of"?

This double standard where conservative error is accepted (or overlooked) but liberal error is denounced has to end, because it is itself error. Either have a consistent Biblical standard or have no standards at all.

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Fair subject for discourse

I think that Keller's views are open to scrutiny and discussion. Why wouldn't they be? He has plenty in print and audio, and not one of his books is above popular level, so anyone who wishes to get straight answers can do so quickly and easily. I strongly encourage people to pick up Prodigal God, since it's easy to read and devotionally rich. It's also very typical of Keller's emphases.

He is controversial, and at least in the PCA, I think the controversy has been mostly good and helpful. For example, he debated Ligon Duncan on the presbytery floor about deaconesses in the last year or two. It's healthy for two respected leaders to model appropriate methods of disagreement.

As for Job's comments, I'm not sure what to make of them, except to say that mainstream covenant theologians, as in those who follow the teaching in WCF 19, don't believe that the Sinaitic covenant is binding on new covenant Christians.

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1. God gave to Adam a law, as a covenant of works, by which he bound him and all his posterity to personal, entire, exact, and perpetual obedience, promised life upon the fulfilling, and threatened death upon the breach of it, and endued him with power and ability to keep it.

2. This law, after his fall, continued to be a perfect rule of righteousness; and, as such, was delivered by God upon Mount Sinai, in ten commandments, and written in two tables: the first four commandments containing our duty towards God; and the other six, our duty to man.

3. Beside this law, commonly called moral, God was pleased to give to the people of Israel, as a church under age, ceremonial laws, containing several typical ordinances, partly of worship, prefiguring Christ, his graces, actions, sufferings, and benefits; and partly, holding forth divers instructions of moral duties. All which ceremonial laws are now abrogated, under the new testament.

4. To them also, as a body politic, he gave sundry judicial laws, which expired together with the State of that people; not obliging any other now, further than the general equity thereof may require.

5. The moral law doth forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it. Neither doth Christ, in the gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

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Joel Shaffer's picture
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Let me make this clear. I

Let me make this clear. I don't have a problem with Keller's view being open to scrutiny or discussion and I don't really care how popular he is. I have problems with overstatements and stereotypes. I have problems with the social gospel label being thrown around loosely against those (Tim Keller) who have orthodox beliefs, such as the inerrancy of scripture, the doctrine of original sin/total depravity, penal substitutionary atonement, the return of Christ/final judgment. It is not an overrealization of the kingdom by itself that leads to doctrinal error. If that were true, we'd be calling out William Carey out as one who held to the social gospel. He was Post-mil which led him to do all sorts of social reform in India such as helping abolish widow burning, abolishing child infanticide, educating girls, getting rid of Usury, and the list goes on and on. He also preached the gospel and translated the scriptures of course.

However, those who have both an overrealization of the kingdom and have compromised or rejected these doctrines of the faith are social gospelers. For instance, both Walter Rauschenbusch and Brian McLaren (yesterdays and todays most prominent proponents of the social gospel) reject original sin, total depravity, penal substitutionary atonement and final judgment (actually Rauschenbusch claimed ignorance about Hell). Or what about Rob Bell? He is very naive about sin, has rejected penal substitutionary atonement and now comes out with an unorthodox view of hell with its many chances to get in after death. They are rejecting orthodox theology alongside of holding to an over-realized kingdom...........When Tim Keller starts rejecting the basic tenants of the faith, then I will get concerned about the social gospel path.

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Henri Nouwen said, "I

Henri Nouwen said, "I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God's house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God."

In his book “What St. Paul Really Said”, N.T. Wright said, “Many Christians, both in the Reformation and in the counter-Reformation traditions, have done themselves and the church a great disservice by treating the doctrine of ‘justification’ as central to their debates, and by **supposing** that it described the system by which people attained salvation.”

He added, “It cannot be right that the very doctrine which declares that all who believe in Jesus belong at the same table should be used as a way of saying that some, who define the doctrine of justification differently, belong at a different table.” (He wasn't referencing Galatians 2 here).

Jan Johnson promotes new age meditation and teaches that we must "experience" God through going into a "cloud of uknowing". This is a teaching that says that in order to really know God the mind has to be shut down (cloud of unknowing) and that God is known (i.e. "experienced") through mysticism.

Tim Keller endorses and promotes all these people and more (you can see it on the Redeemer.com website).

Redeemer for several years held a class in eastern meditation techniques called "Way of the Monk" which taught students to use a "prayer rope" to help them clear their minds of all thoughts (presumably so they could enter something similar to the "cloud of unknowing").

Keller approves of all of these endorsements - even when the people he's endorsing disagree on the most foundational doctrines of our faith. He seems to speak out of both sides of his mouth. Proclaiming orthodox views, then promoting and endorsing those who hold anything but.

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Joel Shaffer wrote: When Tim

Joel Shaffer wrote:
When Tim Keller starts rejecting the basic tenants of the faith, then I will get concerned about the social gospel path.
This is a recipe for your own personal theological and spiritual disaster if it were applied prescriptively with all those calling themselves Teachers. Orthodoxy in belief is one of the most common veneers used to hide deceptive practices. Now, whether Tim Keller is engaging in such is something to debate, I am not speaking to that at this moment but to your formula which you are using for yourself to validate Keller.

But as to Keller I do believe that he and other popular Teachers are given their Orthodox Pass while their practices and engagements are headed in very wrong directions. It is not uncommon to hear CE's and even Fundies take your approach and feel secure because a man utters orthodoxy. And so to Keller's naivety about altered states of consciousness as a legitimate spiritual apparatus I am saddened to see so few alarmed.

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Quote: Keller approves of all

Quote:

Keller approves of all of these endorsements - even when the people he's endorsing disagree on the most foundational doctrines of our faith. He seems to speak out of both sides of his mouth. Proclaiming orthodox views, then promoting and endorsing those who hold anything but.

Brother, you switched topics! If you are in fact the author of this article, you accused Keller of embracing the social gospel. This has nothing to do with the social gospel, but mostly has to do with spiritual contemplative practices.

As for N.T. Wright, One can be vehemently apposed to his view on Justification, but endorse theology that is orthodox (such as his defense of a historical Jesus). Its called discernment. I think we can "eat the chicken, but spit out the bones."

Quote:
This is a recipe for your own personal theological and spiritual disaster if it were applied prescriptively with all those calling themselves Teachers. Orthodoxy in belief is one of the most common veneers used to hide deceptive practices. Now, whether Tim Keller is engaging in such is something to debate, I am not speaking to that at this moment but to your formula which you are using for yourself to validate Keller.

But as to Keller I do believe that he and other popular Teachers are given their Orthodox Pass while their practices and engagements are headed in very wrong directions. It is not uncommon to hear CE's and even Fundies take your approach and feel secure because a man utters orthodoxy. And so to Keller's naivety about altered states of consciousness as a legitimate spiritual apparatus I am saddened to see so few alarmed.

My problem with people speaking against Tim Keller is label "social gospel" being applied to him, not the other accusations. Fundamentalists throw around this term far too loosely as it was in this article. Alex, can you give me examples of those who have slipped into the social gospel that had nothing to do with compromising and/or rejecting the tenants of the faith?

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Wow... Joel - I have to say

Wow... Joel - I have to say you've exposed your hypocrisy and the disingenuousness of your arguments here. It is now quite clear that you are here to ridicule and demean anyone who goes up against the man you have decided to follow and defend.

In your first post here, you said "when all you have is a hammer in your toolbox, then every problem becomes a nail". Then you said, "It appears Cousar's (that's me) hammer is political socialism."

LATER you wrote this: "When Tim Keller starts rejecting the basic tenants of the faith, then I will get concerned about the social gospel path."

So in my response to that I replied not talking about politics or socialism, but about the areas where Keller promotes those who reject the tenets of our faith.

AND WHAT WAS YOUR RESPONSE? Did you say, "oh wow, I didn't know that... thank you for sharing that."

NO! You used my latest reply to demean me again. Now instead of criticizing me for only having a single hammer (i.e. one-topic that I can talk about), when I showed I could talk about more than just politics - you suddenly criticize me for CHANGING THE SUBJECT!

So what is it with you? Am I damned either way? If you were being honest and genuine, it would seem if you were critical of me for only having one tool in my toolbox (politics) you would have then praised me for being able to talk a little bit about theological matters as well. But nope... you used that to bash me over the head as well.

So if I can only talk on one subject you criticized me for that (even though that was a mean and unfair criticism... what made you think I can only discuss one subject?), and then when I showed I actually have one other subject I can discuss - you criticized me saying I changed the subject. (like that's some kind of moral failing)!

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John, If it came across like

John,

If it came across like I was trying to demean you, then I am really sorry. That was not my motive or intention. But here is where I am coming from. Just because a person may have a more liberal political standpoint does not mean that they embrace the social gospel. In fact, many of my evangelical African-American urban ministry colleagues happen to be pro-life democrats that really believe government should take a bigger role in dealing with social economic issues, but in fact are very evangelistic. I happen to disagree with them, but they are not proponents of the social gospel. Also, if one talks about the "restoration of creation," or redeeming culture, this does not mean they are social gospel. Living in Grand Rapids among many Christian Reformed people (which is very close to the PCA), I see many of them quite committed to evangelism but who have adopted this Kuyperian view of culture where they believe that part of their mission is to redeem culture.

Now if you want to see a slide towards the social gospel? Look at Mars Hill Bible in Grand Rapids. You will not only see the over-realized kingdom view along with a dumbing down of doctrine (sin, atonement, hell), but you will also see what mission really means to them. It is not church planting. It does not place evangelism and discipleship as a priority. Rather you will see clean water initiatives, mentoring inner-city kids (although the partner group limits the evangelism component), settling refugees, and micro-finance projects in Africa.

I am glad that you mentioned the spiritual contemplative practices. I guess I could have let you know that. That is something I did not know and causes some level of doubt with his discernment. I would find some of the spiritual practices troubling that you mention, but that does not mean a pastor who allows that to happen in his church is not an evangelical. This happens to be one of the differences between fundamentalists and evangelicals. Regrettably, evangelicals will tolerate things of this nature, whereas fundamentalists do not. But you have made an incredibly forceful claim that the "One thing Christians need to know about Tim’s teachings is that they are really anything but what we have come to know as 'Evangelical' Christianity." I still believe that is an overstatement.

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Wasting Time

Joel:

I've been following this some back and forth. I decided it was a waste of time responding to whoever this guy is who after 20 years in Keller's church suddenly had an epiphany. And where is he now that he has seen the light? Seems he now has you pegged as well.

"Wow... Joel - I have to say you've exposed your hypocrisy and the disingenuousness of your arguments here. It is now quite clear that you are here to ridicule and demean anyone who goes up against the man you have decided to follow and defend."

I read his diatribe against Keller. How easy it is to pull quotes from here and there. Reminds me of something Kostenberger wrote recently. "Increasingly, the mode of research moves from thoughtful, sustained reading to digital scavenger hunts for usable scraps of information." Use the word “reclaimed” and you’re in the company of “Socialists and Progressives pushing for Communist societies.” And when I read about America the greatest beacon of hope to the world and the most just society I get goose bumps but I don’t know what America he is speaking about. Sounds like a political agenda driving this wagon.

I know that SI includes a wide range of material on its listings but usually they lead to something at least remotely credible, helpful, or informative. But hey, Keller’s an easy target.

Steve

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Steve, there is a good

Steve,

there is a good chance that in this engagement, I am wasting my time. However, for the sake of clarification, I felt I should at least respond to his accusations, especially if he thought that I was trying to demean him when all I was trying to do was focus on the theological issue of social gospel, the political issue of socialism, and the overstatement. And I felt if he wanted to know what I thought of the spiritual contemplative issue with Keller, I'd let him know. There are some here on SI that I know I have to over-communicate with and as long as it does not interfere with my work, I'll have the patience to do so....

especially on the social gospel issue because of the fundamentalist misnomer that I often see among those on SI, exemplified in "A Promise Unfulfilled" that a different kingdom view than the traditional/historical dispy view inevitably leads to the social gospel.

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Two questions/thoughts to

Two questions/thoughts to Joel (or Steve):

Is there a chance that, having listened to Keller for twenty years, this guy has some understanding and nuance that others don't have who have not been exposed to as much? It is totally out of the question that his positions/beliefs/ideas may lead to the social gospel?

Are you fairly characterizing "A Promise Unfulfilled" by suggesting that it promoted the view that any other view of the Kingdom leads "inevitably" to the social gospel? I will admit to only reading "Promise Unfulfilled" twice, and only having had Dr. McCune for 7 or 8 classes, but I never picked that up from him. I would imagine the point is rather that other views of the kingdom open the door to the social gospel, but they do not lead inevitably there.

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Problems vs. not evangelical

Larry, I'm for listening to someone with that much first-hand experience, and I wouldn't be surprised to find problems in Keller's church. Some members of the PCA have questioned aspects of the ministry. It is a pretty large leap, though, from having problems to being "anything but" evangelical. Such an accusation indicts not only Keller, but also the elders of his church, who are charged with its peace and purity, and the PCA, which disciplines churches for failing to hold to evangelical distinctives.

Since men who work with Keller quite closely, including those at the Gospel Coalition, those at the seminaries in which he teaches, and those in the NY Metro Presbytery, have never challenged his evangelical credentials, I have to presume that in this regard, the OP is seriously misrepresenting the situation.

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Ungenerous Statements in a discussion on Generous Justice!

How ironic that out of a discussion of Generous Justice, there is a lack of generosity and kindness expressed toward Jonathan Cousar, or "whoever this guy is" in the words of Mr. Davis. He has been mocked as carrying a hammer and being a political junkie by Mr. Shaffer, and the very presence of his article on this web site is not "remotely credible" says Mr. Davis again. All ungenerous statements. Let me say that Jonathan would never have left Redeemer unless there were serious compromises of the Gospel there. I know it because he walked into a church I pastor, and he did not really even want to come or come back once he came! In this world where everyone can find fault with Baptist Fundamentalism, there are actually people like Jonathan who see doctrinal deviancy in neo-evangelical churches that are fawned over by those so disgruntled with those who seek to practice Biblical separation.

At Redeemer, Jonathan saw Bible study leaders who doubted Jesus was the only way of salvation. He saw Mr. Keller associating with and speaking with men like Rick Warren (who for the sake of PEACE aligns himself with Syrian terrorists, homosexuals, and Muslims). He saw lecturerers who taught Adam was a metaphorical hominid. (What kind of Gospel can one embrace if Adam was a hominid?) He saw theistic evolution embraced. He saw comtemplative prayer practices promoted through Way of the Monk or the writings of men like Henri Nouwen. May I add that encouraging meditative practices that arise out of eastern mysticism is not a minor deviation from the Gospel and truth of Scripture! (I recommend you read Faith Undone by Roger Oakland). This path of contemplative prayer is a dangerous path to theological liberalism as practiced by Robert Schuller or the notorious James Pike in San Francisco. And recently Tim Keller said that Jesus was like Mother Theresa (in an interview with Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe)! That one hurts my soul, I confess. All of these things, plus others I am sure I am not mentioning, add credence to the statement that is driving this discussion, "One thing Christians need to know about Tim’s teachings is that they are really anything but what we have come to know as 'Evangelical' Christianity." If one can say that someone who tolerates the above is "evangelical" then that word has been pulverized and utterly dumbed down. Jonathan Cousar does not say that everything Tim teaches is wrong, and that he never gives the Gospel, but what he tolerates is dangerous and that it conflicts with Scripture. Jonathan has listened carefully to Tim Keller through the years and has heard Mr. Keller say that "cultural renewal" is the "primary purpose of salvation." I agree with Jonathan: that is not a conservative Christian belief.

C. Matthew Recker

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MRecker, To imply that I

MRecker,

To imply that I mocked Jonathon is way over the top. His article primarily focused on Keller's social agenda from a more conservative political perspective. To imply that I was mocking using the maslow's hammer illustration comes across as reading into my motives for doing so. You may be right about some of these other issues that Jonathon and you bring up. But I vehemetly disagree with the notion that individual salvation has gotten lost in the process with his emphasis on cultural renewal/restoration of creation.......

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what we have here

Is a classic example of a new evangelical mind vs. a fundamentalist mind.

The new evangelical sees a brother whose aberrations he must tolerate.

The fundamentalist sees a brother who must be kept at a distance.

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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Well said Don! I think you

Well said Don! I think you hit on the crux of all this. And Matthew thank you for mentioning all those other things. Indeed, my article was written from a perspective of intimate knowledge of many other things going on around Redeemer that I didn't touch on there. It would be impossible to touch on everything and keep it to a decent length.

Joel, Maslow's Hammer aside... your last sentence of your last post really is where we disagree most. "Cultural renewal" has totally gotten in the way of individual salvation at Redeemer. Tim Keller speaks with such disdain in the quote I provided near the beginning of my article - of Christians who "suppose" that individual salvation is of much importance. And then he actually mocks what he calls "conservative" Christians (what you might just call Christians) for their desire to "increase their tribe." That's a very condescending and mocking thing to say.

Now he may be like you and say that we shouldn't read into his motives. And in fact elders and other pastors at Redeemer have told me "that's not really what Tim means". And as long as I went on believing that he was actually saying things that he didn't really mean - I continued to be a huge supporter.

But one day (after months of study and consideration) I decided we must take the man at his word. And the minute you do that - you see that what he SAYS is completely different from what many Christians believe he must mean. And this is the best example, the quote I gave on his view of the primary purpose of salvation. You'll note that he did NOT say the primary purpose of salvation... is salvation of the individual. No, he said it is "cultural renewal."

So Joel, for you to say individual salvation hasn't gotten lost in this process - you're actually doing the same thing I did for many years. You're giving him the benefit of the doubt, you're assuming he must mean something other than what he says and you're all around being very kind. And that's admirable.

But I'm speaking from personal first-hand experience about what is happening inside Tim Keller's church. So many people there have so much confusion on the basic doctrines of our faith. So many people confused about sin and their need for a redeemer. So many people believe what we need to do is get out and show the world what good people we are, and then they'll want to hear about Jesus. But the Jesus they'll hear about is the one who will make the culture even better still!

Anyway, I don't fault you for defending him because you do think - as I thought for so many years - that he was on the whole doing good for the body of Christ - that he was calling people to repentance and preaching the true gospel of faith alone in Christ alone.

One thing you might want to take a look at is Redeemer's "Core Values" page. They don't have a traditional "what we believe" page... instead they have "Core Values".

http://www.redeemer.com/about_us/vision_and_values/core_values.html

Just read that a few times. I had to read it a few times to realize it wasn't really saying what I first thought it was. Especially Core Value #1. Read that one, then read the rest... and then read that one again in light of the rest. And see if you come away keenly aware of the importance of sin and repentance and personal redemption, or do you come away thinking "Gee the city is a great place and we must act to make it even better"?

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Quote: Is a classic example

Quote:
Is a classic example of a new evangelical mind vs. a fundamentalist mind.

The new evangelical sees a brother whose aberrations he must tolerate.

The fundamentalist sees a brother who must be kept at a distance.

Don, are you accusing me of this when I just explained a form of this difference here?

Quote:
I am glad that you mentioned the spiritual contemplative practices. I guess I could have let you know that. That is something I did not know and causes some level of doubt with his discernment. I would find some of the spiritual practices troubling that you mention, but that does not mean a pastor who allows that to happen in his church is not an evangelical. This happens to be one of the differences between fundamentalists and evangelicals. Regrettably, evangelicals will tolerate things of this nature, whereas fundamentalists do not.

Sigh.....I guess that is why I have to over explain things. Maybe you were right, Steve.

It is really hard for me to believe the mocking part from Tim Keller. You even thought that Tim Keller was mocking Christians with the quote sign for born again, which could have been interpreted a variety of ways and you thought I was demeaning you and your pastor thought I was mocking you about the Maslow comment which was so far from the truth. If you wrongly interpret these things, why should I believe you about Tim Keller "mocking" those who believe in an individual salvation?

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Poor judgment

Jonathan and Matt, there are two items to consider. First, the identification of Keller's beliefs, and second, the evaluation of those beliefs. Both of these require sound judgment, something that I have not seen from the original article or from your posts on this thread.

Regarding the first item, I find the choice of evidence puzzling, even misleading. What a community group leader or a guest lecturer says is not necessarily what Keller says, and there is a difference between endorsing some things about a person and endorsing them in their entirety. Keller clearly opposes Wright's doctrine of justification, for instance.

You show a willingness to interpret statements in the worst light. Why should a comparison between Jesus and Mother Theresa be proof of unorthodoxy? Can no such comparison be made? Your main statement, that cultural renewal is the "primary purpose" of salvation, is not unorthodox at all. Perhaps the most common description of the Scriptural narrative in evangelical theology is the CFR or CFRC (Creation-Fall-Redemption-Consummation) rubric. It's quite common to connect individual salvation to God's greater purpose, the renewal of creation. I wouldn't use the word "primary," but he is talking about salvation's purpose, not how it occurs (justification by faith alone). In fact, construing the purpose of salvation in terms of service to one's community was pioneered by Luther himself (see The Freedom of a Christian); is he "anything but" evangelical?

What I see hear is someone who disagrees with Keller's ideas about how Christians ought to interact with their communities. That's fine, but it's not even close to putting him outside the evangelical pale. I am not trying to give Keller the benefit of the doubt; I think that his major emphases and the great bulk of his statements are beyond reasonable doubt. For example, what about this from his GC message:

Quote:
Keller explained his preaching as a fourfold trajectory often: 1) What you should do (as evidenced by this OT text); 2) You can’t do this (due to your sinfulness); 3) Christ has done it for you (i.e. the Gospel applied); 4) Until you rest in what He’s done, you can’t do it (living the gospel life).

Also,

Quote:
Keller ended his session by offering a gospel presentation as he indicated that in a crowd of that size, there were probably some who had never trusted in Christ's righteousness. It was quite moving.

Sounds like a "Marxist in drag" who really cares about social welfare, doesn't it?

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Now to Larry's

Now to Larry's questions:

Quote:

Is there a chance that, having listened to Keller for twenty years, this guy has some understanding and nuance that others don't have who have not been exposed to as much? It is totally out of the question that his positions/beliefs/ideas may lead to the social gospel?

Are you fairly characterizing "A Promise Unfulfilled" by suggesting that it promoted the view that any other view of the Kingdom leads "inevitably" to the social gospel? I will admit to only reading "Promise Unfulfilled" twice, and only having had Dr. McCune for 7 or 8 classes, but I never picked that up from him. I would imagine the point is rather that other views of the kingdom open the door to the social gospel, but they do not lead inevitably there.

The way that people who listen to his positions/ideas which might lead to the social gospel depends on a few different factors. First, do they really believe that the poor (and everyone else) have a sin problem that is an offense to a holy God? Those with a weak theology of sin tend to overlook total depravity and original sin among the poor. By the way, some of my evangelical colleagues think I am too judgmental towards the poor. They would rather me focus only on the sins of the rich, but I happen to be an equal opportunity offender. Second, do they really believe that sin's remedy is through the penal-substitutionary atonement work of Christ on the cross? And third, do they really believe that there is a final judgment of heaven and hell? And fourth, do these beliefs translate into them sharing the good news of Jesus Christ? I know hundreds of urban evangelicals leaders who are committed to minister to the poor. Those who really take these doctrines to heart are the ones who are evangelizing and discpling the poor as they help them with their needs. Those who overlook these doctrines inevitably lead to the social gospel. Its been heartbreaking to see, for example, Mars Hill Bible go down that road. I remember when Mars Hill Bible were adopting "unreached people groups" to spread the gospel in Morocco. I remember when Rob Bell preached through the book of Leviticus when he believed in substitutionary atonement. Sigh.........

As for A Promise Unfulfilled, let me give you a quote on page 272. " Arthur Johnston with its near-prescience said Stott's new theology of the church's purpose "has dethroned evangelism as the only historical aim of mission." But blame cannot begin with Stott, however; he did not start the downgrade toward the social gospel among evangelicals. The slide began in the 1940's with Henry's The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism." From page 232 until 272, McCune develops this idea with the historical development of social activism and then he caps it off with this statement.

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Don Johnson wrote: Is a

Don Johnson wrote:
Is a classic example of a new evangelical mind vs. a fundamentalist mind.

The new evangelical sees a brother whose aberrations he must tolerate.

The fundamentalist sees a brother who must be kept at a distance.

Not really, Don. The OP directly questions his salvation. Keller's dubiously evangelical in his view.

Then again, maybe this is the difference. Fundamentalists are quick to judge others as non-evangelical....

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Thanks Joel, It sounds like

Thanks Joel,

It sounds like the answer to the first question is that one's propensity to the social gospel is largely dependent on his theological underpinnings, and I agree. But I think there is, in Keller's writing, some room for those who do not share these theological underpinnings to find some common ground and appropriate Keller's arguments for themselves. I personally find Keller's arguments about social justice and the gospel to be unconvincing, but that's another issue. But those who find them convincing or helpful may not find them tied tightly enough to the gospel itself.

With respect to Dr. McCune, my question was largely about the word "inevitably." Perhaps we have a different view of "inevitable," but I think (I am not sure) that Dr. McCune would say that there are people who differ from his kingdom view who do not have the social gospel view, and therefore it is not inevitable. Perhaps I am wrong ... I certainly think that the kingdom view sows the seeds or provides the soil from which the social gospel arises. I think that section on social activism is one that needs some interaction and consideration, though.

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au contraire

Bob Hayton wrote:
Don Johnson wrote:
Is a classic example of a new evangelical mind vs. a fundamentalist mind.

The new evangelical sees a brother whose aberrations he must tolerate.

The fundamentalist sees a brother who must be kept at a distance.

Not really, Don. The OP directly questions his salvation. Keller's dubiously evangelical in his view.

Then again, maybe this is the difference. Fundamentalists are quick to judge others as non-evangelical....

I think you demonstrate my point once again. Please note: I didn't say "non-evangelical", you did. I didn't say that the man is or is not a brother. I said "sees a brother who must be kept at a distance."

Yet again, your inner new evangelical speaks.

Maranatha! Don Johnson Jer 33.3

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Don, I'm not saying you said

Don,

I'm not saying you said he's not evangelical. The author of the post linked to openly questioned Keller's salvation and claimed his theology was not evangelical. So your statement that fundamentalists see a BROTHER to be kept at distance doesn't apply in this case. Some are questioning that he's even a brother. That's why many here are saying this is not right. Questioning Keller's theology is one thing, questioning his salvation and claim to be evangelical is quite another.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

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Time

Joel Shaffer wrote:
Steve,

there is a good chance that in this engagement, I am wasting my time. However, for the sake of clarification, I felt I should at least respond to his accusations, especially if he thought that I was trying to demean him when all I was trying to do was focus on the theological issue of social gospel, the political issue of socialism, and the overstatement. And I felt if he wanted to know what I thought of the spiritual contemplative issue with Keller, I'd let him know. There are some here on SI that I know I have to over-communicate with and as long as it does not interfere with my work, I'll have the patience to do so....

especially on the social gospel issue because of the fundamentalist misnomer that I often see among those on SI, exemplified in "A Promise Unfulfilled" that a different kingdom view than the traditional/historical dispy view inevitably leads to the social gospel.

Joel:

I should've said "my time." Go to it. I'm glad you have the time and patience for it and in the end it should be profitable. Looks like others are wading in Smile

Steve

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Larry, you are right that

Larry, you are right that one's kingdom view does play a part. I don't necessary think it sows seeds, but one's liberal or compromising theological underpinnings + overrealized kingdom view does equal the social gospel. Like I mentioned earlier about William Carey, he had an overrealized kingdom view that made social reform a priority. However, his orthodox theological underpinnings made sure that evangelism, discipleship, church planting, and Bible translation did not get overshadowed by it.