"Turn him loose. He's no threat..."

Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from evil. (Matthew 5:37)

For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was proclaimed to you by us... was not yes and no; but in him was yes. (2Corinthians 1:19)

An older pastor I respect is not opposed to women elders and pastors, yet I count him a close friend and listen to him carefully. Trained at Pittsburgh Seminary, he spent most of his life serving calls in the mainline Presbyterian Church (USA). Now though, like many of us, the PC(USA)'s promotion of sodomite pastors has led him to leave the denomination.

A few minutes ago, I received this e-mail from him in response to the video clip of Tim Keller being interviewed by Martin Bashir concerning the exclusivity of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, Heaven, and Hell. He wrote...

* * *

There is a reason that Jesus told us to let our yes be yes. There is a place for explanation and nuances, but it is after you answer the question.

"Do you believe that there is only one God?" 

"Yes."

"Do you believe that there is only one way to get to/be with that God?

"Yes."

Then and only then do you explain why.

Mr. Keller may believe, consciously, that he needs to equivocate first in order to get a hearing. But the fact is that no one will hear anything but the equivocation.

And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God; tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”

Jesus said to him, "If God is faithful and if I fulfill the Scriptures, then it might make sense--we would have to say, wouldn't we, that I am in fact the Christ, the Son of the living God?"

And the high priest said, "Turn him loose. He's no threat."

(TB)

Comments

What I find amazing is that the pagan reporter interviewing him had a better understanding of Scripture than Keller did. The reporter knows what the Bible says, so he was asking a preacher to simply confirm it.

Great post.

Bang. Nail on the head.

Well said. On a similar note, I'd be interested to hear your thoughts on the resignation of Rob "No Hell" Bell. My first thought was, apart from the theological issues at Mars Hill, he's walking away from a ministry that he's built around his person so that no one else can really run it.

Put differently, I'd be very, very nervous if I were a deacon or elder there.....isn't saying good things about his ministry, to put it mildly.

Or, maybe it would be better to ignore "No threat" Bell and comment on the responsibility of the pastor to consider what would happen if he got hit by a bus.....I've seen several churches where a man of great ability builds things around his person instead of Christ (intentionally or inadvertently), and there is Hell to pay when he retires or dies.

Scott,

Bashir professes to be a Christian and attends Redeemer.

Sorry, Paula B. We don't allow links to the site you tried to promote, here. But not to worry: the information you wanted readers to have has already been noted and discussed on Baylyblog.

Cordially,

I really am disheartened every time I run into your blog. The 'if' that you claim is an equivocation is Keller's understanding that we live in a world, especially Manhattan, LA, SF, where to claim an absolute truth closes the ears of most urbanites. This understanding of our contemporary secular culture is as important to conducting ministry in urban settings as it would be to understand Muslim presuppositions, such as the importance of angelic visits, if I were to engage in missionary work in Iran.

The absence of 'absolute truth' is the zeitgeist of metropolitan areas. So, when Keller says "if Jesus is who he says he is. . . " that is his attempt to make less prominent a Christian presupposition in order to allow the hearer to make up his or her own mind on the issue. Another point of fact is that our ability to make up our own mind on the issue of who Christ is and what the Bible says is fundamental to reformed Christian thinking. When the Bible was translated into the vernacular it gave people the ability to learn what God said as opposed to being told by the Church what He said. People were given the opportunity to question and choose what they believed. Whether they are given the faith to believe is a matter best left between God and each individual. Our job is to tell others about Christ.

Why am I disheartened every time your blog pops up on a search? Because you are not engaged in the faith. You are engaged in defending a particular way of communicating doctrine. Doctrine is important - absolutely, but if we don't find a way for people to hear about the gospel so that they can make up their own mind about who Jesus is then the matter of doctrine is moot.

One can only live in a world punctuated by doctrinal arguments if the community shares the basic presupposition of the faith - that Jesus is the son of God, that he died and was resurrected, and that through his death we who believe will find eternal salvation. Within that understanding there is a lot we could argue about such as what it means to say he's the son of God (nicene arguments), did he die or merely ascend (as is taught in the Quran), was he resurrected (docetists)? These are important, important issues to be sure, but Keller is still working in the public sphere on the basics of the faith: "What do you believe about Jesus and what does that mean about your salvation?" "If" you believe, through the gift of the Holy Spirit, you have reason, beyond mere intellect, to enter the doctrinal debates. (Eph 2:8)

Now, all that I have said above is a small part of why I think Keller's work is important. The way in which Keller poses facts as questions is deferential to the hearer and as a result, people listen. My direct criticism of your work is that you are too parochial to be heard by the secular community. Your arguments are provincial. Unengaged with unbelievers, uninterested in moving forward people's faith because we all need a saviour, you take on people and arguments and foment disagreeable attitudes. What good is being right if someone is going to hell? And, you remind me of the persecutors of protestants who claimed apostasy and burned the 'heretics' on the stake. Those heretics are our forefathers of the faith you and I share.

>>> "if Jesus is who he says he is. . . " that is his attempt to make less prominent a Christian presupposition in order to allow the hearer to make up his or her own mind on the issue.

Dear Mrs. Smith,
What you say sounds good, but by this logic all of the prophets in Scripture could have been accused of failing "to allow the hearer to make up his or her own mind on the issue", since they all proclaimed the truth clearly.

But Jesus didn't speak against their delivery, rather He said that they were faithful slaves issuing the proclamation of the King:

"The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding feast for his son. And he sent out his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding feast, and they were unwilling to come. Again he sent out other slaves saying, 'Tell those who have been invited, "Behold, I have prepared my dinner; my oxen and my fattened livestock are all butchered and everything is ready; come to the wedding feast."' But they paid no attention and went their way, one to his own farm, another to his business, and the rest seized his slaves and mistreated them and killed them."
- Matthew 22:2-6 NASB

In any age how could a faithful slave change the delivery of this proclamation to the following, metro zeitgeist or no:

"IF...IF there is a king and if he has prepared his dinner and if his oxen and his fattened livestock are all butchered and everything were ready, then wouldn't it be counterproductive to us to think it out of the question that we should come to a wedding feast?"

We're heralds and ambassadors, and our language is the language of clear proclamation.

Diane,

What opens the ears of urbanites? The Holy Spirit or careful formulations of words to avoid turning them off?

>>The absence of 'absolute truth' is the zeitgeist of metropolitan areas.

Dear Ms. Smith,

Your statement is so obvious one wonders why you made it? There's no absolute truth anywhere, today. New York City is nothing special. The constant claim of people from this or that metro area that they know their audience and, therefore, that their mollycoddling and equivocation is good contextualization of the Gospel is a line only the naive or stupid could buy.

In most regards (and particularly in the matter of trimming the truth of Scripture to scratch our congregations where they itch), pastors today face the same fears and dangers pastors have always faced. For someone in NYC to claim he has to be unfaithful to God's Word and to connive at sin and lies in order to gain a hearing for the Gospel is the oldest trick of our profession.

Concerning conversations with unbelievers and sophisticated pagans, it's exceedingly easy and has been one of my principal delights. Where on earth did you come up with the idea that pagans won't listen to truth tellers and prefer the flattery of cowards? Nothing could be further from the truth!

Have you ever known an unbeliever? Lived with one? Been related to one? Loved one? There's a whole world out here you know.

One final note: I hope I'm not too indelicate in reminding you that it's best for women to leave the public rebuke of a man to other men.

Warmly in Christ,

Diane Smith IS today's evangelical church. Would that I had the power to send her back in time to live in any other era before ours. She would greatly benefit by living among people where truth actually mattered, instead of in a culture where it is suppressed.

>>Would that I had the power to send her back in time to live in any other era before ours. She would greatly benefit by living among people where truth actually mattered, instead of in a culture where it is suppressed.

And she would have covered her head in worship...

Again, did I say you are too parochial? Thank you for making the case in point. Thank you also for taking me, a woman, seriously enough that you responded.

In the postmodern world, which is here so we need to deal with it and not discount its presence and influence on thinking today , language is perceived as a power dynamic. So, if I claim that I hold a particular truth and expect you to believe it I'm imposing my belief on you. I have worked with University students at Cal Berkeley and have been amazed to watch them have trouble even saying, " 'I believe' Christ is the Son of God" let alone simply saying, "Jesus is the son of God." So, while we may want to proclaim the faith in a strong victorious way, my point is that there is no victory if it turns the hearers off. You have to find a way of speaking that allows them to hear you.

Let us revisit Jesus' words. Jesus spoke to the crowd by the lake and told them the parable of the sower. When the farmer threw the seed, the birds ate some seed, some fell on rocky soil where its roots were too shallow to survive, other seed grew among thorns and was choked. But some seed fell on good soil and it grew and was multiplied. To the crowd Jesus said, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." But then, he took his disciples and explained things clearly (Mark 4:3-20). In this instance, Jesus speaks obliquely allowing the Holy Spirit to give the hearer understanding.

All of this is about applying the right language for the audience with whom you are engaged. The readers and writers on this blog and in this area may still embrace a very direct approach when speaking of Jesus. My response is merely a reaction to the 'brothers' because they keep going after Keller as if he is a heretic. He isn't. And there are heretics who are speaking untruth and misleading people such as the PCUSA and the Episcopal church blatant teaching "God is doing a new thing" with regard to homosexuality or popular TV prosperity gospels and, of course, continual discussion about the historicity of Jesus. These are heresies worthy of unmasking. The language of Redeemer is feeding people with the gospel. Let God choose those who would come and hear. Let God choose who in the audience is ready to receive His word.

>>All of this is about applying the right language for the audience with whom you are engaged.

What opens the ears of urbanites? The Holy Spirit or careful formulations of words?

To myself- I meant historical Jesus, not historicity.

>>my point is that there is no victory if it turns the hearers off.

Dear Ms. Smith,

Maybe I should respond to you by saying that everything you're saying is most basic, but I already said that once and it seemed only to make you more firm in repeating yourself. So let me try another tack:

You are turning your hearers off. Did you not notice? Are you tone deaf? Can you not find the right language for the audience with whom you are engaged?

Don't you realize that such language and behavior is no victory?

And why are you using the word 'heretic' to refer to Tim Keller? That's a bit over the top, don't you think?

Ah well, carry on as you must...

Warmly,

Your benighted scribe

You go after Keller as if he is fomenting apostasy which must mean you think he is a heretic. I'm only inferring from your behavior. If he isn't saying things that you believe are contrary to the faith, why are you stirring your readers against him and causing dissension and unrest?

>>as if he is fomenting apostasy

Ms. Smith,
As to whether Keller's practices warrant public rebuke, you seem to switching between arguing that Keller's errors aren't *bad enough* (comment 18) and that his practices are actually *faithful and good* (comments 7 and 14).

If you're arguing the former--surely you're not suggesting that public rebuke is to be reserved for the apostate whom we've given over to Satan, are you? (You cannot reconcile that view with the long record of God mercifully sending prophets publicly rebuking sin in His people precisely because He *hadn't* given up on them.)

If you're arguing the latter--that equivocation is good preaching and that we must disobey God's commands concerning preaching because God's commands are out of date and are not effective in today's postmodern society--all I can say is may God be true and every man a liar, and I hope that you may soon submit your opinions to the Word of God in this.

Praying God's blessings on you and your family,

Actually I think that Ms. Smith must not be arguing the former (that public rebuke is to be reserved for the apostate whom we've given over to Satan), because she has publicly rebuked Tim here with no indication that she's treating him as apostate. (Unless she's accidentally doing something she says you shouldn't do.) My guess is that she's not convinced that there's anything wrong with what Keller is doing, so why is Keller being rebuked for doing right. I wonder if she is willing to learn from the Scriptures?

Add new comment