Tim Keller: My Intro and Some Thoughts

Because my church in Newport Beach, St. Andrews Presbyterian, is committed to the growth of the believer’s mind as well as their heart, we have frequently brought in guest speakers over the years to accomplish just that: Spiritual stimulation that involves the whole of the believer.  Yesterday I was honored to introduce Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer New York at the 11:00am service at St. Andrews.  I wanted to share my introduction and make a couple quick comments.

For whatever reason, there are few people I receive more criticism of in my inbox then Tim Keller (within the tiny land of Reformedville, that is).  The criticisms cover things people are upset that he did say, to things people are upset about that he didn’t say.  Any google searches or time spent in the cyber-world would reveal this same leel of often hostile controversy to be there (though I would sooner take on cutting as a habit than spend time in said cyber-world).  I don’t have the time or interest to devote an extended piece to the subject of defending this remarkable teacher, but I thought five very quick points would be helpful.

(1) If enemy #1 on your list is Tim Keller, your priorities are really skewed.  Like, REALLY skewed.

(2) The absolute vast majority of criticism of Tim Keller within Reformedville are not remotely rooted in theology or ideology, but rank, sick, juvenille jealousy.  Some are more self-aware of this than others, but it is the prevalent cause.

(3) “Issues”:

– I have not heard Tim say anything about the role of women in worship that made me uncomfortable.

– He has stood his ground on Biblical marriage.

– He doesn’t seem to me to be offensively wrong on economics, as much as I suspect he simply doesn’t have the full economic worldview picture down the way I wish he would.  I could be wrong about this.  I would spend any amount of money to facilitate a private rendezvous with Father Sirico at Acton and Tim Keller, where I suspect they would find a lot of common ground.

– I haven’t heard Tim express openness to the non-historical Adam but it does appear he is more open on various forms of theistic evolution than his confession may allow.  Not my cup of tea personally but nothing that keeps me up at night.

– His vision for church planting across lines that are not denominational not only doesn’t bother me, it endears me to him more.

(4) The idea that when one discusses someone who is having tremendous Kingdom impact and with whom there is common ground on the vast majority of issues that there needs to be all sorts of qualifiers and “yeah buts” is a reflection of immaturity and frankly a totally bizarre view of human interaction.  I hold no such hope and have no inner need for some “leader” out there who bats a thousand on my ideology test.  Who cares?

(5) If one does not see the net net positive in the life and ministry of Tim Keller, particularly as it pertains to his irrefutable case for Christians reclaiming the cities, they have something wrong in their life spiritually.  Disagreement here and there on certain issues is not a big deal, but Tim and his ministry are doing world-changing things, and I don’t know why anything else matters in the context of what we are saying here.  Issues like the ones in point #3 come up because of people struggling with point #2.  That’s really all I have to say about it.  See below for my introduction, and please pray for Redeemer City to City, as they march on in their efforts to plant churches in the world’s great cities.  Using Acts 8 as a model, there is an effort for organic, integrated, scattering that is going to change the world.  No “yeah buts” about it.

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It is a privilege and honor to be able to introduce this morning’s guest preacher to the St. Andrews community. Pastor Keller and I do not know each other well but I like many have been blessed by his teaching and writing ministry, and much of my business is in a city – the world’s greatest city of Manhattan – that has itself been dramatically impacted by Pastor Keller’s teaching and preaching ministry.

My name is David Bahnsen. My two brothers are named Jonathan and Michael. Pastor Keller’s three sons are named David, Jonathan, and Michael. My father married someone named Cathie; Pastor Keller’s wife’s name is Kathy. My late father was a Christian author, apologist, and pastor in a Reformed Presbyterian church. Pastor Keller is a well known Christian author, apologist, and pastor in a Reformed Presbyterian church. My father did his seminary studies at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia; so did Dr. Keller. But no, Pastor Keller really isn’t my dad. Other than all of our family’s names being the exact same and the actual profession he is in relative to my dad’s and having come from the exact same seminary etc. there really is nothing in common. (ha ha)

In all seriousness, more than the coincidence of overlapping life circumstances and family names and connections and all of that kind of stuff, Pastor Keller and I do share something else in common, and it is frankly something he has blessed me with in ways I am incapable of adequately articulating. And that is a zeal and passion for seeing the gospel transform the culture, in the great cities, but beginning with our own hearts. Pastor Keller is no pietist – his message of a soul-saving gospel is never MERELY internal, but also something that becomes transformative in our families, our jobs, our communities, and the world around us. He also is not doctrinalist – meaning, while sound and orthodox in doctrine and teaching, he holds no such hope that merely get the doctrine right will in and of itself be enough. He is rather, and forgive me for those who haven’t heard this term before, he is a true Kuyerpian in the spirit of the magnificent Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper – a gospel-centric, world-impacting theologian, who knows better than anyone I have read as an adult the gaping holes that exist in our souls until we find Christ, and the gaping holes that exist in our world that only Christ-filled believers can seek to fill.

A self-admitted workaholic like me found his book on a theology of work, Endeavor, to be one of the truly great treatments of the subject of a believer’s relationship to his vocational calling . I also found his devotional work, Counterfeit Gods, to be truly humbling and convicting. Pastor Keller can share with you more about the core that drives his thriving teaching ministry. But what I want to share as someone who has grown up loving apologetics, loving Christian theology, and fervently desiring the application of that theology to the whole of our lives and the world in which we live, is that I, like all of you, have also grown up in a time when the best-“selling” parts of American theology were rapture fever escapism and name-it-and-claim-it prosperity theology. Today, Tim Keller has brought to Manhattan, and through his books and church planting to so many more, a message about a transformative gospel rooted in the person and work of Christ. That message, especially from a man of Dr. Keller’s simply extraordinary skills, is one that we all should be praising God has found the audience it has. And today, we are blessed to be that audience. St.Andrews, please welcome from Redeemer New York, Pastor Tim Keller.

DLB