Timothy Keller: Reliable? Approved? Can You Actually Trust Him?

 

4 Epic Errors Keller Makes To Reject

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Timothy Keller holds a prominent and influential position in the professing Christian Church today. Millions of people admire him and read his publications. In some of his writings, Tim Keller adopts a subtle acceptance of postmodernism which infiltrates some of his beliefs.

4 Epic Errors Keller Makes You Must Reject

Timothy Keller Error #1: Acceptance Of Postmodernism’s Suspicion Of Truth

One of postmodernism’s pillars, the suspicion of truth, permeates our culture with these fallacies:

  • the death of objective truth;
  • dependence of truth upon the individual, circumstances, and group dynamics; and
  • the relativism of truth.

 “That’s just what you believe” intrudes everyday conversation. What began years ago in higher education now infects everything from public education, politics, even into Christianity. At the risk of over simplification, the suspicion of truth saturates today’s culture.

Postmodernism’s suspicion of truth infiltrates the professing Christian Church, too. Rejection of the authority of the Bible as the objective standard truth, including its inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility, increases among Church leaders which yields theological ambiguity and denial of Biblical doctrine.

Uncertainty of Biblical truth used to come exclusively from those outside of the Church. Now, it occurs from those holding positions of leadership in the Church. Instead of the Church influencing the culture, today’s professing Christian Church conforms to the culture.

One of those leaders who expresses postmodernism’s suspicion of truth, Dr. Timothy Keller, recently wrote an article, which epitomizes this condition.

I first discovered this characteristic of Keller in his article in the Redeemer Report at the web site for the Church he pastors. (1) Later, The Gospel Coalition published it at their web site. (2)

In his article, Timothy Keller urges his readers to pursue Blaise Pascal’s method for presenting the Christian faith. Pascal said,

“Men despise religion. They hate it and are afraid it may be true. The cure for this is first to show that religion is not contrary to reason, but worthy of reverence and respect. Next, make it attractive, make good men wish it were true, and then show that it is.” (3)

Dr. Keller explains how to implement Pascal’s method. However, in advocating Pascal’s method, Keller rejects Biblical authority and spurns the Biblical description of a sinner’s true condition.

Timothy Keller Error #2: The Fallacy of Reason

The Bible identifies a sinner as dead in trespasses and sin, completely lacking all spiritual life, any interest in God, and any ability to change his condition. (4)

As an enemy of God, the sinner cannot, will not submit to God nor please him. (5) Further, the Bible says that no one seeks after God (6).

In fact, those without Christ do not understand Biblical truth and view it as foolishness. (7) As a consequence, the depraved natures of sinners control every aspect of their lives, minds, and wills.

Thus, mankind’s sinful bias prevents any inherent capability to evaluate truthfully any rational argument autonomously, especially Biblical argumentation and truth.

Tim Keller rejects this fundamental Biblical truth about humanity’s nature and falsely presumes that mankind possess the ability to understand Biblical truth by use of reason.

This error forms the foundation of Keller’s proposal, which contradicts the Bible’s declaration of the sinner’s true condition. To build upon the false foundation of a sinner’s autonomous reason foolishly builds upon sand. (8)

Timothy Keller Error #3: The Fallacy of Marketing

Further, Keller proposes that those who present the Christian faith rely upon salesmanship techniques. In his article, he places significant stress upon making Christianity appealing and attractive to non-Christians.

He suggests that one stress the benefits of the Christian faith to show how Christianity fulfills a person’s aspirations. Such methodology, currently popular within the emergent Church and Church growth movements, emphasizes the error of attempting to sell Jesus through marketing by highlighting the benefits of salvation. (9)

Again, Timothy Keller proposes methodology that lacks Biblical authority. He falsely presupposes that one can sell faith in Christ as someone sells a bar of soap.

Timothy Keller Error #4: The Absence of the Holy Spirit

The emphasis of Keller’s article relies upon the abilities of the Christian believer to present the truths of God’s redemption of sinners through faith in Christ.

In addition to reason and marketing, Tim Keller says that the person’s presentation of Christianity must make emotional and cultural sense. He concentrates upon the methodology of the presentation and its humanistic features.

Although God does use human instruments to proclaim the gospel, the instrument does not constitute the essential role in the process. Significantly, Keller fails to address the role of the Holy Spirit in the presentation of the Christian faith.

Nowhere in the article does he mention the function of the Holy Spirit or suggest the need to rely upon the Spirit in the presentation of the gospel.

The message of the gospel meets supernatural resistance from the evil one, who blinds sinners to Biblical truth with supernatural blindness. This spiritual battle demands supernatural victory by the Holy Spirit over satan’s interference.

Any advocate for the gospel needs the authority and ability of the Spirit to present it. In response to prayer, the Holy Spirit brings His presence and power to aid God’s messenger.

In addition, the Holy Spirit alone convicts a sinner of sin and opens blinded eyes to understand Biblical truth and its requirement in a person’s life. The unique ministry of the Holy Spirit gives the new birth to an unbeliever, and enables the sinner to repent of sin and trust upon Christ solely for salvation.

Keller’s oversight, at best, or neglect, at worst, illustrates another example of how he obscures the authority of the Bible.

Solution To Timothy Keller Errors: Biblical Authority

The presentation of Christ and the defense of Christianity demands the unequivocal acceptance of the inspiration, inerrancy, and infallibility of the Bible.

These foundational truths must mold the manner in which we call people to faith in Christ. We must believe its truths, especially the statements of the total depravity of mankind and Christ’s provision for sinners.

These truths shape our understanding of a person’s sinful condition. They also form our understanding of the need for divine intervention in the life of a sinner. No human methodology will suffice.

Ezekiel, an Old Testament prophet, provides a vivid picture of implementing these truths. In Ezekiel 37.1-15, he recorded his vision of the valley of dry bones, more aptly dead bones, which pictured the spiritual condition of Israel.

God instructed him to do a humanly foolish thing: call upon the dead bones to hear the word of the Lord. Then, Ezekiel described the divine intervention that they needed to come to life. Finally, the prophet prayed that God would send that divine intervention to the dead bones so that they might have life.

God heard Ezekiel’s prayer. He sent life to the lifeless, dead bones.

In His ministry, Jesus frequently called the spiritually dead to life. At the start of His ministry, Jesus called to the masses,

“Repent and believe in the gospel.” (10)

In John 3, He told Nicodemous that he needed a new birth from above. Then, Christ explained the need of the work of the Holy Spirit to give him that new life. (11)

In His encounters with sinners, Christ recognized their total depravity and the need of supernatural power in their lives. Throughout His ministry, He told people of their need of new life from God, called regeneration. He called them to repent, to turn from their sinfulness and to believe upon him.

Humanly speaking, none of those whom Christ encountered could take any of the steps that He commanded of them. Yet, God in His sovereign grace by the power of the Holy Spirit intervened in the lives of multitudes and enabled them to repent and believe upon Christ.

Summary

The sinfulness of sinners prevents their response to mere human attempts of reason and marketing of benefits.

Sinners stand separated from God by their sin, spiritually dead, and condemned under God’s judgment, the real reason they need Christ. He alone saves sinners and reconciles them to God by the mysterious work of the Holy Spirit.

Like Ezekiel and Jesus, we, as Christ followers, must identify the true condition of those to whom we present the gospel. In faith and reliance upon the Holy Spirit, we call them to repent from their sin and to trust Christ.

As we do, we pray for God’s divine work in their lives by the Spirit. He alone imparts new life and brings sinners to faith in Christ.

Jesus paid the penalty of the sins of people like them and promises to reconcile to God all who come to him in faith.

Today, God’s true children must rely upon Biblical authority in their presentations of the gospel of Christ. They must reject the popular methodologies recommended by popular leaders like Timothy Keller. The errors that he proposes influence the manner how many, maybe you, even preachers, present the gospel of Jesus Christ.

I call upon you to reject these Timothy Keller errors, which contradict clear Biblical teachings. Trust the Holy Spirit to minister through you as you present the gospel, praying that the Holy Spirit will give eternal life to those to whom you speak.

References

  1. You can read the article by Dr. Keller, “Pascal’s Method For Presenting The Christian Faith,” at this link: http://www.redeemer.com/redeemer-report/article/pascals_method_for_presenting_the_christian_faith (Accessed in Archives on 5/19/16.)
  2. Web site for The Gospel Coalition: https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/pascals-method-for-presenting-the-christian-faith/?comments#comments
  3. As quoted in “Pascal’s Method For Presenting The Christian Faith,” Redeemer Report, January 2014.
  4. Ephesians 2.1-3.
  5. Romans 8.7-8.
  6. Romans 3.9-18.
  7. 1 Corinthians 2.14.
  8. Bahnsen, Greg L., edited by Joel McDurmon. Presuppositional Apologetics. American Vision Press, Powder Springs, GA and Covenant Media Press, Nacogdoches, TX. 2008. p. 268.
  9. Grier, James M. “The Emergent Church: Responding to Postmodernity”. Seminar at Heritage Seminary. 2006.
  10. Mark 1.14.
  11. John 3.3.

© Thomas P. Hill (www.masterministries.org)

Personal Information: Thomas P. Hill, M. A. in Ministry, Luther Rice Seminary; author of 3 books: Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing; Homosexuality, Christians, and the Church; and Keys To A Revolutionary Life ( all available online at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Tom’s web site). To invite Tom to speak at your college, church, or group, contact him by email at hill_tom@att.net. 

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