Tim Keller's wife, Kathy Keller, critiques Rachel Held Evans: but keep your eye on the ball...

(NOTE FROM TB: When I first published this post, I was remiss in not thanking Kamilla for pointing me to Kathy Keller's piece. Quite a few of our sources come from Kamilla and I am delighted to publicly acknowledge her for her faithful work that's been so helpful to us for years, now. Thank you, Kamilla! Here is some of Kamilla's good work opposing Rachel Held Evan's very public hissy fits, but everything Kamilla writes is worth reading.)

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Mrs. Tim (Kathy) Keller just did a post on the heretic Ms. Rachel Held Evans that her husband's friends put up on their web site. It's never good to provide a wider forum to a heretic, but if someone was going to give Held Evans more media coverage than she's already arranged for herself by her public fainting spells, I suppose Mrs. Keller is as good a person to look to as anyone else. 

And her review is good. Read it. Now that you've read it, though, here are a couple things worth pointing out about Mrs. Keller's own words and arguments.

Mrs. Tim Keller writes:

...recording the relentlessly sinful behavior of his people (in the Old Testament) was God’s way of demonstrating how desperately in need of a savior they really were.

One commenter points out that in this review Mrs. Keller is employing faddish redemptive-historical techniques. So then, look at the above quote and ask yourself where this leaves us with redemptive-historical preaching? If the good things done in Old Testament narratives are not to be taken as lessons of spiritual virtues of men like David when he slays Goliath, what gives us permission to take the bad things done by David when he commits adultery and murders the adulteress's husband as a lesson of moral turpitude?

In other words, moralism is moralism whether pointing to the bad or the good. If the bad is to be read as pointing the reader toward how hopelessly lustful and bloodthirsty David is because of his faithlessness, and how he needs a Savior; why are we not allowed to read the good as pointing the reader toward how wonderfully courageous David is because of His faithfulness, because he has a Savior?

And again, Mrs. Keller writes:

Unlike the sacred texts of other religions, the Bible is not simply a collection of ethical principles by which to live. It is a record of human sin and of God’s intervention in history to save his people.

Yet again, let us hold this up to the scrutiny of the redemptive-historical preaching fad. If the individual sins Scripture records are intended to make points about specific individual's need of Christ, why are individual acts of righteousness Scripture records not to be allowed to make points about specific individual's righteousness as a result of faith in Christ? Why can the historical record of individuals teach us of that man's wickedness but not his righteousness?

Again, Mrs. Keller writes: 

Horrible acts are recorded in my copy of The New York Times every morning, but I don’t commit the hermeneutical error of supposing the editors of the Times are approving or endorsing such behavior.

Unless those "horrible acts" are the relentless hectoring of readers as the Old Gray Lady never stops beating the drum for the death of God and his righteousness. Unless those "horrible acts" are the Old Gray Lady doing this hectoring under the guise of scrupulous editorial objectivity. Unless those "horrible acts" are the Old Gray Lady's promotion of hideous things--the slaughter of unborn babies and sodomitic perversion, for instance.

In other words, the fact is that the editors of the The New York Times never stop approving and endorsing an endless stream of "horrible acts."

But then, that's why I stopped reading The New York Times. The day arrived when I could no longer stand their horrible acts scrupulously recorded in each copy of "the newspaper of record" each morning; nor could I any longer tolerate that spiritual error I had long committed by feeding on sophisticated lies in pursuit of bloodlust and perversion while smugly assuring myself that feeding on such things would not corrupt my mind and heart.

Finally, Mrs. Keller writes:

A much more serious example of ignoring context is found where you write, “We tend to ignore the embarrassing bits [of the Bible], like when Paul tells Titus, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons’” (259).

However, what Titus 1:12 actually says is, “Even one of their own prophets has said‘Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons’” (emphasis mine). Paul is citing what the Cretans say about themselves, quoting Epimenides of Knossos. In context the statement makes sense. (See Gordon Fee’s commentary on this passage.) Taking it out of context, however, makes it look like a racist statement. Why would you do that?

Oh my.

Actually, what the Apostle Paul actually says is not "Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons."

Rather, he says "Even one of their own prophets has said, 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith..." (Titus 1:12,13).

You, Mrs. Keller, are doing precisely what you accuse Ms. Held Evans of doing. You are taking Scripture out of context, making it appear not to say what it most decidedly does say. The Apostle Paul is not simply "citing what the Cretans say about themselves" (and thus we can breath a sigh of relief that the Apostle Paul is not making negative generalizations about a race).

Dear sister, you broke your quotation off right before it's clear the Apostle Paul writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit agrees with this negative generalization about Cretans.

Postmoderns are insecure about any generalizations at all; we are offended by any hint of generalizations about any race; and we are extremely offended by any slightest hint of negative generalizations about any race; thus not one of the 104 (as I write) comments under your review takes issue with your disingenuousness (bordering on deception) with the text of Scripture. Every reader knows this declaration of the Holy Spirit through the Apostle Paul must be gagged, even if its gagging is at the expense of truth.

So you cut off the Apostle Paul mid-statement, assuring Ms. Held Evans that the Apostle Paul wasn't saying this himself. He was only quoting someone else.

Nevermind that his next words are "This testimony is true. For this reason reprove (the Cretans) severely..."

Tim Bayly

Tim serves Clearnote Church, Bloomington, Indiana. He and Mary Lee have five children and fifteen grandchildren.


Wow. I read Keller, liked it, felt guilt about it, went over to Justin Taylor and read the comments and then came here. Two birds with one stone I am familiar with. Three birds with one arrow is quite a feat. Evans is guilty, Keller is guilty. And R2K is, well, neutered. It never crossed my mind to argue that the beef against turning the OT stories into children's Sunday School lessons could be applied against turning OT stories into Lutheran adult Sunday School lessons, but there it is, clear as day. Excellent yet again brother. Thank you

Really enjoyed reading this.  However, I now have a series of questions, and I hope you can point me to a good book/webpage to do more research.

I understand your comment that moralism is moralism.  However, the church where I attend believes in the redemptive-historical technique (and I think that I do as well).  For example, I have been taught that David (when he killed Goliath) was a type of Christ.  David demonstrated that we are like the Israelites - weak and needing a savior.

So what preaching method or technique do you endorse, and where should I go to read more about it?  Thanks in advance.

Are there those in the PCA who have plans for creating a new Church when the PCA completely abandons its confession. I recently moved back from New England where I was in an OPC church for ten years. I had not kept up with the parochial concerns of the PCA. I recently joined a church here in town which I was told was the best PCA church in the city{from my perspective] at least. I believe im reasonable in my expectations, I know that no church or denom. is perfect. But I have been horrified to see some of the things going on in the PCA, of which I think this womens ordination mania is only a symptom. In my own churches bookstore I see Kellers work prominently displayed and at its recent bible conference the speaker, was an individual who, with his church left the PCA to join the EPC. From talking to the ministers and some of the elders I got the impression that they dont support womens ord. but I dont understand how they can give support to those who do. Why did we leave the PCUS if we are going to recapitulate it in the PCA. There are positives in the church and since my options are limited I plan to stay and try to be a positive influence as God gives me grace. But I sure am starting to wish there was a denom. alternative.

>>I hope you can point me to a good book/webpage to do more research.

Dear Michael S.,

Search the web for "redemptive historical preaching" and "critique" or "criticism." Then too, here are a couple links, one and some others from Baylyblog, one from BlogMablog, and one from Sermonaudio. Also this might be worth reading.

But better is to devour the good--namely, sermons from the past by men not corrupted by this fad. Immerse yourself in the good and allow it to calibrate you against the ear-scratching Reformed men of our time. Read the commentaries and sermons of Calvin, especially; but also Jonathan Edwards and Matthew Henry and J. C. Ryle...

But actually, I'd suggest you simply devour Calvin.


I'm afraid I grew up within a neo-evangelical/dispy background and don't understand what is meant by the post either: I also remember the apostle writing that the things written in the OT are recorded for our example, so we don't do as the Israelites who sat down to eat and rose up to play, which from what I can gather sounds like this redemptive-historical approach.
Perhaps is meant errors of reducing preaching?
Just realized you posted a reply to the last guy (first saw this on a little tablet, walked from that to a computer to reply): I may read those links (though shortly I must go instead) but am curious about thought's on the apostle's use of something similar?
...Couldn't resist: I did one quick search (couldn't resist) and found a good post by Bruce Buchanan on the puritanboard that seems very helpful, http://www.puritanboard.com/f23/critique-redemptive-historical-preaching-22589/#post280914

Interesting that the most approving review is to be found on the Huffington Post. Those who hate God think it's great to see Christians join them in blaspheming their very own God. 

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