The net of interwoveness...

(Tim, w/thanks to Jake) Last week, a young man training for pastoral ministry passed on a link to this article from USA Today. And next to the link, he wrote: "quoted: pope benedict, mohler, keller, driscoll, osteen, etc."

Not to destroy "peace the world," or to "tear... the net of [PCA] interwovenness, the fabric of humanity," but really, men. Can anyone fail to see the stark contrast presented in the final paragraphs of this article between Pastors Keller and Driscoll? Sin is man-centered with Pastor Keller, but very God-centered with Pastor Driscoll.

Note the article's author says, "Driscoll is sharply clear."



I have many misgivings about Driscoll and his approach to ministry, but you certainly can't fault him for his definition of sin, unlike Keller. I can't tell you how many years I read the Bible looking for answers for me before I finally realized that it's not about me at all, but about God. It seems like even the PCA is not immune from man-centered theology.

I looked through the USA Today article and the way they quoted Keller, and on my reading of it he seemed to be quoting the typical New Yorker's definition of sin.

Knowing the problems of being quoted "accurately but not completely" can someone provide other references as to what he(Keller) is saying to his trooops?

I will not be so diplomatic here. When a national leader in the church is asked such a basic "milk" question to the nature of sin, and he comes back with some sort of garbled, mamba jahambo, it should not be lightly glossed over. Pick any number of children in our Sunday School classes and surely they could some closer to the biblical definition of sin than Keller did here?

It would be nice to see some recognition of the fact that a USA Today article talked about the reality of sin, and that Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, and Michael Horton (!) were favorably quoted as confirming different aspects of the reality of sin, while Joel Osteen was implicitly critized for thinking that sin doesn't need to be discussed today. Dunno who Cathy Lynn Grossman is, but I hope she continues writing!

As for Keller's description of sin as self-centeredness, everything he said was true. Before you complain that Keller didn't mention God's holiness or wrath toward sin, be sure that's not a function of the editing job. A rush to judgment does not serve truth or love.

If Keller had mentioned "any transgression of God's law," or holiness, wrath, rebellion etc and the paper did not put it in, then I would certainly offer a mea cupla. However, I would still have issues with his statement that "was" printed.

Here is what we had when asked about sin:

"I use it with lots and lots of explanation, because the word is essentially obsolete." (???)

"They do get the idea of branding, of taking a word or term and filling it with your own content, so I have to rebrand the word 'sin,' " Keller says.

"Around here (??? )it means self-centeredness, the acorn from which it all grows. Individually, that means 'I live for myself, for my own glory and happiness, and I'll work for your happiness if it helps me.' Communally, self-centeredness is destroying peace and justice in the world, tearing the net of interwovenness, the fabric of humanity."

I am not sure how I could not stand by my statement?

BTW- the word Sin is not "obsolete." It is the word of God.

So we just "rebrand" it? On what basis do we determine the biblical word "sin" is obsolete? On what authority? What does "around here it means x" supposed to mean? So in New York sin, or whatever rebranded name is used for sin this year, differs from those in Lincoln, Nebraska?

I believe the thrust of the post was correct. Keller's explanation was totally man-centered whereas in sin, the primary offense is against God. It is God we are saved from when we are brought to faith, believe and repent.

When leaders of the church are given "milk" questions in a national article, it is an great opportunity to be crystal clear in proclaiming and primarily pointing toward Christ. I do not believe that was done with what was written by Mr. Keller.

Is it not true that more often then not, when you want to find someone for failing one typically misconstrues that person’s meaning? If you want to find Tim Keller as woefully inadequate you can easily find him as such.

“I use it with lots and lots of explanation, because the word is essentially obsolete.” Now don’t take this phrase out of context. Tim Keller is obviously not saying the word SIN is obsolete, but the word SIN is obsolete to a secular people in New York City. That’s a big difference. Tim Keller is probably saying that people have no concept of sin in New York City and therefore it is obsolete to them.

As such, Keller is saying that people “brand” words or apply their own meaning to them- quite common in a post-modern society. He has to therefore, “rebrand” the word in a way that they can understand it. Self-centeredness is a fine way to call the essence of sin.

Whereas you are busy berating Keller for not mentioning “any transgression of God God’s law or holiness,” you fail to see that he does so implicitly. If you use these words with New Yorkers (ie God’s law, holiness, wrath, etc) more often then not their eyes will just glaze over. But if you call the essence of sin self-centeredness then you actually get to the fact that as you sin you are NOT doing God’s law- by definition. Now Keller does not explicitly state that, but it is implicitly implied that if you are being self-centered in sin they you are not centered on God’s holiness, his excellencies, and his mercies.

So please, give the man a bone here because he clearly is not saying the word is obsolete objectively, but to New Yorkers and so he has to put the gospel in terms they would understand. The minute anyone opens their mouth they are putting the gospel in words that only some people can understand (ie English, high-class, or low-class etc.) and Keller is doing it for New Yorkers. So unless you feel you know the pulse of New York and how people talk and think, lets let the man do his job- spreading the gospel.

Agreed. In an English context, CS Lewis pointed out over sixty years ago that a lot of our religious language was not understood by the people we were trying to communicate to, and that, "every ordinand should be given the job of translating at least one piece of theological prose into the vernacular".

I come from a baptistic background where the phrase "born-again Christian" ended up being so done to death that I don't use it any more as a way of describing either the sort of Christian I am, or indeed what is involved in coming to Christ. That is NOT to deny the importance of regeneration or the new birth, only that one (initially) has to choose different terms to convey its meaning accurately. Tim Keller seems to have the same problem.


I understand where Keller is and what he meant. Suffice it to say, I would have rather seen Keller's answer be more like Driscoll's initially and then if he wanted to expand to sins' manifestations from man's relationship to man, terrific. Again, if he did this, and the author chose to only print this section of his answer, then that would be a shame indeed.

I just believe caution is needed in this idea of rebranding scriptural words. It is one thing to talk of updating "religious language," much of which is likely the 'lingo' the believers used to one another, some of which are gleaned from, but are not the words in scripture, and quite another to take rather clear, foundational, biblical words and "rebranding" them. Where and how would that road end? Perhaps New Yorkers, as listeners in Athens did, have 'their eyes glaze over' and then sneer at discussion of the resurrection? Perhaps they would even call Pastor Keller a babbler? Would we then "rebrand" the word resurrection?

Finally, I would just point to the author of the articles' own words. There was a reason the writer of the article stated Driscoll's definition was "sharply clear."

This is a statement of contrast. Contrast to what?

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