Tim Keller's transformationalism...

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But I do not allow a woman to teach or exercise authority over a man, but to remain quiet. - 1Timothy 2:12

Imagine a fortress, absolutely impregnable, provisioned for an eternity. There comes a new commandant. He conceives that it might be a good idea to build bridges over the moats—so as to be able to attack the besiegers. Charmant! He transforms the fortress into a countryseat, and naturally the enemy takes it. So it is with Christianity. They changed the method—and naturally the world conquered.

- Soren Kierkegaard, Attack Upon “Christendom, (Princeton University Press, 1944), p. 138.

- In (her book, Jesus, Justice, and Gender Roles), author and co-founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church Kathy Keller ...encourages women to teach and lead in the church in ways that may startle some complementarians. (from Mrs. Keller's ad copy for her book on Amazon)

Upon the release of Tim Keller's "transformationalist" Bible, it's important to scrutinize the fruit of Tim's particular brand of transformationalism as it relates to the Biblical doctrine of sexuality. The past few days, I've been working with a man in the Philly area who is writing a document opposing his Reformed church's recent move toward women elders, and in the process of this work it's become clear that my friend has been led by Tim and Kathy Keller into error. Through the years, Baylyblog has not been appreciated for our work documenting how Tim Keller and his Redeemer Presbyterian Church have rebelled against the Constitution of the Presbyterian Church in America and Scripture in their election and practice of woman officers...

These women officers serve their church as deacons, holding the same office and exercising the same authority as their male deacons. Thus they have coined the gender-neutered term "deeks" for both their male and female deacons, and then have withheld ordination from their male deacons.

Justifying this practice, the Kellers have invented and promote their neologism, "a woman can do anything a non-ordained man can do." Implementing it, Tim Keller withholds ordination of Redeemer's male deacons which, of course, leaves Redeemer's female deacons free to do everything their male deacons do. For the life of me, I can't figure out how this Keller motto ever got traction.

Start with the fact that a woman can't impregnate another woman, but a non-ordained man certainly can. The very existence and popularity of Kathy Keller's statemetn is an indication how far she and her followers have strayed from sex—which is unity between mind, heart, and body. Instead of "sex," Mrs. Keller always speaks of "gender," which is merely a social construct and therefore able to be blown about by every wind of doctrine.

But when we tie the hard feminism of Gordon Fee and Roger Nicole or the soft feminism of Tim and Kathy Keller back to to biology, reality knocks us on the head, bringing God's Creation Order back to us. And thus we see Kathy Keller's statement is crazy, starting with body parts: a woman most certainly cannot do anything a non-ordained man can do.

Nevertheless, Redeemer's feminist practice has been endorsed by Redeemer's own Metro New York Presbytery, as well as Metro Atlanta Presbytery, Philadelphia Presbytery, and San Francisco's Northern California Presbytery. Together, these cities have declared their solidarity in passing an overture endorsing woman officers, and this overture gave rise to charges filed in local church courts, then an appeal against Metro New York Presbytery carried to the top court of the denomination. Citing a technicality, the members of the PCA's highest court threw out the charges, thereby avoiding any ruling on the substance of the case.

Note carefully that the practice of electing officers called "deeks" has long been followed by Tim Keller and his friends across the PCA, and thus it's old news. Which means women officers within the PCA are old news. My own Ohio Valley Presbytery disciplined Indianapolis's Keller franchise, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, Indy, for this practice, but I doubt if there was ever another church in the country bearing the Keller trademark that was dealt with Biblically on the local presbytery level, and told "no."

People in the pews like Tim's books and sermons very much, so mum's the word among pastors who are students of God's Word, know historical theology, and are able to read the times. "Some things are better left unsaid," they think, with the result that the sheep are left defenseless to Redeemer's sexual transformationalism.

I trust we do all recognize that the endorsement of woman officers by the presbyteries of New York, Atlanta, Philly, and San Francisco is no harbinger of Biblical reform concerning human sexuality?

One thing done by Redeemer franchisees to cloud the issue is their claim that John Calvin and B. B. Warfield also endorsed "deeks." But of course, Calvin and Warfield did nothing of the sort. They endorsed deaconesses as an adjunct to the Biblical office of (male) deacons, and the office of deaconess was always subordinate to the male officers of the church with deaconesses never teaching or exercising authority over men.

Keep your eye on the ball, here: the difference between Calvin and Warfield's hypothetical support for woman deaconesses and Tim Keller's practice of "deeks" is day and night. The limited practice and argument for deaconesses the Christian church has seen the past two-thousand years has never varied in calling them "deaconesses" and making two things clear:

  1. that the deaconesses are subordinate to the male officers of the church; and
  2. that whatever work done by the deaconesses will never include their teaching or exercising authority over men.

So the justification of Tim Keller's "deeks" by pointing to church history—and within the Reformed world, Calvin and Warfield—depends upon those listening to the justifications not taking the time to read the primary sources.

After our Ohio Valley Presbytery said "no" to the Redeemer deek practice in our own Redeemer franchise, the pastor and elders kept arguing against the presbytery, saying their own faithfulness to Scripture required women officers. It was very tiring because, originally, they had promised to bring themselves into conformity with presbytery's ruling. (I've since transferred from the presbytery, so I am not aware of whether the church's pastor and elders' protests eventually stopped.)

At one point, wearied by the controversy, I took the initiative to speak with one of the elders of the church, privately, at a presbtyery meeting, proposing this resolution of the matter: I suggested this elder work with his session and pastor to clarify two things, publicly, to their congregation:

  1. that their women officers would be called "deaconesses" and would be subordinate to their male deacons, as well as their elders and pastor; and
  2. that their deaconesses would not teach or exercise any authority over men.

He thought the proposal reasonable and doable, but last I checked it had not happened.

Why not?

Because, although the deek movement violates the PCA's constitution, the Westminster Standards, and Scripture, it does so in a very incremental way. Which is to say it is very carefully wrong.

For years, Redeemer's deeks have all been led by a head deek who is a woman. She is the top authority and leads both their male and female deeks, and this is just the beginning of women teaching and exercising authority over men within Redeemer.

Yet Redeemer claims to hold to Biblical sexuality, keeping only a man in the pulpit and giving the women present in elders meetings voice but no vote.

Redeemer has now become the PCA's master franchise and her doctrine of sexuality has transformed—not New York City, but the Church of the Living God.

Gradually, incrementally, God's Creation Order of monogamy, heterosexuality, and father-rule is being left behind by the People of God in our time.

(Normally, I would spend a half-hour or so adding links to the above text so the reader would be able to easily find sources for what I've written. Instead, please use the search box at the top of the home page, entering specific words like "Keller," "deaconess," "deek," "Warfield," "Ryken," "Schwertley," "Martimort," etc. Then drill down your search results using the excellent Drupal apparatus our men have written into the site. Thank you.)

Tim Bayly

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

Want to get in touch? Send Tim an email!