A tsunami of precious equivocation...

It is the final sign of imbecility in a people that it calls cats dogs and describes the sun as the moon—and is very particular about the preciseness of these pseudonyms. To be wrong, and to be carefully wrong, that is the definition of decadence. - G. K. Chesterton

A number of people have forwarded this clip in the past two weeks and it's been hard to know what to do with it. Keller's interview is about as bad as it could be. When the interview hit cyberspace, Keller issued an apology for one or two things he said. But his unfaithfulness to Jesus Christ and the Word of God was no momentary oversight or accident. It was a tsunami of careful, precise, well-placed equivocation, so the apology only made things worse.

For years, now, the Redeemer pastor has demonstrated a heavily nuanced and timid support for orthodox Christian doctrine...

While claiming to hold to Biblical sexuality, he admits his church doesn't identify as pro-life and that he doesn't preach against sodomy. He has women leading everything but the pulpit Lord's Day morning and formal disciplinary matters in the elders meetings. He has women teaching men and leading men in small groups; he has women elected and installed as officers of the church; women directing the diaconate; and in everything else, women exercising over men the authority that is contrary to the Order of Creation and direct command of Scripture.

While claiming to hold to the orthodox Christian doctrine of Scripture, in front of an auditorium of unbelievers Keller speaks of himself as a minister with "a scripture." One of my close friends is a Manhattan attorney who recently left Redeemer after attending it for over a decade. Several times through the years he's said to me, "Tim carefully chooses every word; nothing is unintentional. He's a master of rhetoric."

True. Words and their careful use are Keller's gift. He is "able to teach." Thus that indefinite article paired with the Word of God Written didn't just pop out of his mouth.

It was intentional and said everything he needed it to say. He would never refer to the Bible as "a scripture" in front of his fellow PCA teaching elders or his (and our) seminary theology professor, the late Roger Nicole. But it was useful for voicing a one-among-many holy books approach to a world and city that hates exclusivism and damns those who confess  the truth rather than a truth.

While claiming to hold to an orthodox Christian doctrine of salvation, there in front of an auditorium of unbelievers Keller is asked the question, "Do you believe that there is only one God, and that there is only one way to approach that God?" Keller responds:

"If....yes, if.....okay, yes, if....I'm speaking as a Christian here.....if Jesus Christ is who he says he is, if he is the Son of God from heaven, if he is, uh, if he really was bodily raised from the dead, and if he was our original Creator, I mean if all that's true, that's what he says, then of course there'd have to be just one way to God, because our souls would need him, or they would shrivel eternally, just like your body needs food or it would shrivel.

I mean, the fact is my body here needs food or it would shrivel. That's not narrow-minded to say. That's just the way it is. If Jesus is who he said he is, then our souls would have to get him in order to be eternally full and thrive.

And if we don't get him, then we would eternally shrivel.

So to say...it seems so narrow....to claim that there's only one way to God, to say that actually precludes the possibility that Jesus is who he says he is. I mean, if he is who he says he is, then that's what we're st.... (sic); that's what we have to say.

Note at 1:27 how Keller catches himself saying "that's what we're stuck with," so he backs up and changes it to "that's what we have to say." More nuanced but same difference. 

Tim Keller is reformish Evangelicals' current rock star and they won't easily give up their idol. But dear ones, be warned: looking up to Tim Keller and taking him as your model for ministry will harm you and the sheep God has placed you over. Keller is like Rob Bell and his fellow Gospel Coalitioner Scotty Smith. He bears no resemblance at all to Martyn Lloyd-Jones or J. Gresham Machen.

We live in an evil day, so there's no reason to declare a moratorium on our Lord's warning against men who everyone speaks well of. Better to find heroes by burrowing into the past. Read Iain Murray's biographiesRe-read Baxter's The Reformed Pastor. Memorize Scripture.

The other day I was writing a father who is having difficulty disciplining his first children who are now reaching the teenage years. I told him parents rarely get more faithful in the discipline of their younger children than they were with their eldest. Our older children usually have more careful training than our middle and youngest. This is partly due to the loss of the help our older children provide in the discipline of their younger brothers and sisters. They leave home and we're caught flat-footed wondering why things have gotten so much harder?

But the other aspect of the decline in faithful childrearing is age. As we get older, we are inclined to laxity and this is true in all ages and all professions--not simply childrearing. Another brother who's also recently left Redeemer wrote that, years back, Tim Keller would never have responded to Bashir's questions as he did in this video clip. Like all of us, Tim is ageing and temptations are calling him to the compromises of the older man.

Rereading The Reformed Pastor the other day, Baxter was pointing out how young pastors are zealous for defending the faith while older pastors are soft for compromise and peace at any price. Like many of us, Tim Keller is showing his age. May God grant him a session and fellow presbyters who will call him to repentance for betraying the Word of God. Pray for Tim. Pray for me.

Comments

Why aren't internal disagreements and discipline addressed within the PCA rather than being aired, for all the world to see, on various blogs?

Dear ICD,
You lament at the sheep being WARNED about unfaithful shepherds, but where are your laments for the SHEEP being led ASTRAY?

Or, again:

>>>Why aren't [various faith-destroying errors] addressed within the PCA rather than being aired, for all the world to see, on various blogs?

Because we who love the sheep must warn them, and to this duty we have been called.

The remedy fits the problem. If someone is trying too much to please two opposing audiences, the remedy is to make him speak in front of both of them at once. If someone is scared of offending X, the remedy is to introduce a countervailing fear of offending Y. In this case, if fear of the world's opinion makes Pastor Keller timid, one can try to make fear of the Church's opinion to balance fear of the world.

It would be especially useful for him to read this blogpost--- and for many others of us to read it--- since it has the good point about aging in parenting, pastoring, and spiritual vigor generally. I know I need to hear that. (I don't want my parenting to end up like Pastor Keller's pastoring!)

They'll just let God's precious little ones die, torn by the wolves, and have no pity? And they'll only raise their voices at the one who raises his voice against the unfaithful teaching and the unfaithful teacher? Because they love God? Because they love peace?

No, because they love slumber.

O church, when will you tear yourself from your wicked slumber?

"Why aren't internal disagreements and discipline addressed within the PCA rather than being aired, for all the world to see, on various blogs?"

First, this isn't merely an internal disagreement. This matter pertains to the entire church. Keller has made himself a very public figure that speaks to a wide range of Christians.

Second, are you so sure this hasn't been addressed in other ways? I know for a fact that their have been attempts to do so at the very least.

Lastly, public figures get publicly disciplined for public sins.

If this on-going heresy was addressed within the PCA (and I presume it was), either Pastor Keller will repent (hope he does) or he'll be excommunicated, right?

Matthew 18 is a straight-forward, private, relatively quick process until the last step, even for pastors.

Any other process brings scandal upon Christ and His Church.

Dear ICD,

I suppose we ought to have a FAQ for this blog. It's been suggested but never implemented. Anyhow, this application of Matthew 18 to public errors of church officers is inappropriate, and this needs to be said again and again. When our Lord was teaching us how to approach those who sin against us, privately, he told us to handle the sin privately.

But when the sin is public and committed by an officer of the church, it must not be handled privately. The correction needs to be as public as the sin. That's why the Apostle Paul confronted and rebuked the Apostle Peter "in the presence of all" (Galatians 2:11 ff.).

Thus John Calvin comments concerning Matthew 18: "But it is asked, ought this rule (of Matthew 18:15-18) to be extended indiscriminately to every kind of offense? For there are very many who do not allow any public censures, till the offender has been privately admonished. But there is an obvious limitation in the words of Christ; for he does not simply, and without exception, order us to advise or reprove privately, and in the absence of witnesses, all who have offended, but bids us attempt this method, when we have been offended in private...

"And certainly it would be absurd that he who has committed a public offense, so that the disgrace of it is generally known, should be admonished by individuals; for if a thousand persons are aware of it, he (would have) to receive a thousand admonitions."

Church officers have a duty to protect the sheep men like Keller are trying to harm. It would have been good to have been present at the interview so we could have stood up and opposed Tim Keller to his face in the presence of all. But now his error is known around the world and so the place he's speaking (on the web) must be the place of correction.

It would be good if his presbytery rebuked him privately, also, but knowing how money and status influence clergy associations, I'm not holding my breath. It's been my experience that Tim's presbytery is blinded by Tim's bling.

But who knows? Maybe this will awaken the sleepers?

Love,

Dr. Keller's PCA Presbytery and the General Assembly (GA) would be willing to let him die in his sins and lead his flock into Christological heresy and ultimate damnation? If his Presbytery is asleep, that's one thing. And a dangerous thing at that.

But would the PCA GA allow his cancer to metastasize throughout every limb in the global church?

What do you see as the offenses to orthodoxy that constitute a betrayal of the Word of God in the quoted passage? Doctrine of hell? Belief in uniqueness of Christ? Other issues? Were there other portions of the interview with other things that appear to you as heterodox? I really want to be sure I do what I can to see this from your perspective. Thanks!

>What do you see as the offenses to orthodoxy that constitute a betrayal of the Word of God in the quoted passage? Doctrine of hell? Belief in uniqueness of Christ? Other issues? Were there other portions of the interview with other things that appear to you as heterodox? I really want to be sure I do what I can to see this from your perspective. Thanks!

I agree. I didn't see the interview though, so I am not taking sides, but from that quote posted above I kind of liked Keller's analogy of Jesus as food, and how we all need that food. It puts the juvenile resentment and rebellion in the question "so why do you say Jesus is the only way to God?" into real perspective. The question might as well be, "so why is the sun the only thing that can make plants grow?"

>What do you see as the offenses to orthodoxy that constitute a betrayal of the Word of God in the quoted passage?

One of the main issues is Keller's incessant equivocal repetition of "If Jesus is who he said he is," "If he really was this that and the other..." This is absolutely not the language of Scripture. Here is the Apostle Peter:

"Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that GOD HAD SWORN TO HIM WITH AN OATH TO SEAT one OF HIS DESCENDANTS ON HIS THRONE, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that HE WAS NEITHER ABANDONED TO HADES, NOR DID His flesh SUFFER DECAY. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear. For it was not David who ascended into heaven, but he himself says:

‘THE LORD SAID TO MY LORD,
“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,
UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET.”’

Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified.”

(Acts 2:29-36)

There is no "if" in Scripture. No apology, no equivocation. Peter could not be more clear here. In fact, he says: "I may confidently say to you..." There is no, "If Jesus rose from the dead, then believe in Him for the cleansing of your sins." Can you even imagine Keller speaking with a hint of the confidence with which Peter does?

Instead, Keller is constantly defending himself against accusations. He is paralyzed by the fear of man. Why else would he say, "It's not narrow-minded to say..." Who cares if it's narrow minded? Peter accused the Jews at Pentecost of murdering Jesus the Christ and then said that He is the only way they can be saved. And how did they respond? "Peter, chill out, stop being so narrow!"? No. They responded in faith and humility: "Brothers, what shall we do?"

Everything Keller says must be hedged with "If he is who he said he is," because Keller simply is unwilling to offend. He will not say, "this Jesus whom YOU crucified." He is mortally afraid of confessing Jesus Christ as "the way, the truth, and the life," through whom no man can come to the father.

And every time he says "If Jesus is who he said he is," he gives every listener/watcher license to say, "well, I don't believe he is who he says he is, so I don't have to worry about shriveling eternally." Peter, on the other hand, leaves no such option, because to Peter, Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension is historical fact ("This Jesus God raised up again"). To Keller, Jesus Christ seems to be nothing more than a supporting character in God's grand scheme of keeping Tim Keller from shriveling.

In regard to the food analogy, it is in fact good, helpful, and even Scriptural. After all, Jesus is the Bread of Life. But Keller's main purpose in using it seems to be the avoidance of any accusations of being narrow-minded.

Well said, Alex. Just one beef:

>>>Peter, on the other hand, leaves no such option, because to Peter, Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension is historical fact

Let us never say "*To Peter* it's historical fact" even when contrasting with someone's error. We should simply say, "Peter, on the other hand, leaves no such option, because Christ's death, resurrection, and ascension is historical fact." Let us not lose any opportunity to declare with boldness: it's TRUE, it's TRUE!

...and pray on my behalf, that utterance may be given to me in the opening of my mouth, to make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains; that in proclaiming it I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak.
- Ephesians 6:19-20 NASB

Whoever speaks, is to do so as one who is speaking the utterances of God...so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- 1 Peter 4:11

>>Let us not lose any opportunity to declare with boldness: it's TRUE, it's TRUE!

This was one of the things that vexed me when reading through Chappel's _Each for the Other_ book as well: so many opportunities to speak of the *goodness* of God's design, how it's *right* and *beautiful* and how God's ways are *life*, but instead a kind of apologizing for the Word of God.

http://todayorthatday.wordpress.com/2010/08/04/book-review-each-for-the-other/#4

Thank you.

I watched the video last night. It was somewhat painful.

I sorta got what Keller was saying but, like others have commented, where was the boldness?! Sounded too much like an equivocating politician as far as I'm concerned.

Perhaps rather than saying it's on a "need to know basis" he should have said the whole discussion was "above my pay grade"!

I am no expert on all things theological, but it does seem as though we should be able to speak to various audiences differently. If I am speaking to someone about the gospel who is new to it's teachings, I would certainly not use the same convicting tone as I would a mature Christian. I am wondering, how much of this was Keller trying to choose his words in such a way that would allow those whom Christ has called to seek Him further and not "offend" them? That being said, of course the gospel is "offensive" to unbelievers, but we don't have to take a tone of damning them to hell to prove ourselves faithful. We should also not compromise truth. I am thinking only a brave man would even attempt such a thing! I have read a couple of books by Keller and watched a video of his, but am not a Keller expert. But, I do know that we should hold him to no higher standard than we should any other fallen man. Surely he should be forgiven for not being perfect and always saying the perfect thing. No?

The point is that a faithful minister declares the way of salvation clearly enough so that people (never having heard the good news before) don't come away thinking he's just sharing his view "as a Christian" but that he has just announced the news he knows.

Obviously Tim Keller is trying to speak appropriately to the listening audience. But the most appropriate tone for a herald of the gospel is a clear note: "God is calling all men everywhere to repentance and to faith in Jesus Christ because there is no other name given by which we must be saved."

It's not the job of a brave man, but of a man full of faith...a faithful man. And as a minister of the gospel, Mr. Keller will be held to a higher standard (as James tells us all teachers will) by the Judge of all the earth. Why not help a brother out by reminding him of such now while he can turn and do better?

>>>so that people (never having heard the good news before) don't come away thinking he's just sharing his view "as a Christian" but that he has just announced the news he knows.

And more than just understanding that he's announced the news he knows, the faithful watchman delivers that news so that the people in the city realize they've been *warned*, that judgment is coming, that they must choose whether to regard or disregard the warning, that their eternal soul is at stake.

So, unless there are additional responses, Keller's offense in the video is his failure to proclaim the truth of the with boldness that honors the New Testament witness in Acts 2, Ephesians 6, and 1 Peter 4. The problem, then, does not appear to be heterodoxy, but rather methodology - whether his particular apologetic method is faithful to analogous opportunities for witness given to the apostles and other New Testament witnesses. Then, the argument goes, a failure of faith with respect to these scriptural opportunities represents a failure to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and indeed to Christ himself.

Fair enough. It seems to me that reasonable people could disagree legitimately on the boldness issue from the quote and video. On the other hand, I can conceive why he starts with the "if" in the quoted passage - the 'if' represents what he wants to fight about if there's going to be a fight. He is seeking agreement on what follows the "then" so he can keep hammering the "if." The post's criticism, however, still reasonably stands.

In addition, I can think of specific examples in my life and witness where I was insufficiently bold when compared to these Scriptural analogies. Many in fact. All the truth is not effective in all situations, and it is a fearful thing to try to select the level of confrontation that will both confront and attract those who may have ears to hear. Every audience probably has believers and non-believers who are variously soft-hearted and hard-hearted. Discerning the level of boldness appropriate to a particular witness task is hard. It seems to me, therefore, a failure in this regard should generate a certain amount of sympathy, even empathy, from those who discern the appropriate level of boldness at the same time they discern another's failure.

Even assuming that the critique is legitimate and that Dr. Keller is held to a higher standard because of his calling and cultural position, it seems to me that the strength of the language of the post's critique (using the same language as my original question) betrays a judgment that would condemn many of us but for the work and grace of Christ. In addition, the strength of critique seems to lack a corresponding empathy for a shared struggle of discernment about the proper level of boldness in the wide range of secular interviews, ministry, teaching, and preaching. Maybe, then, the appropriate level of boldness is an issue that could lead to edifying further discussion?