Pastor 2K to Tim Keller’s Rescue

The watchdogs of Redeemer Church in NYC have noted Tim Keller’s response to questions in a public forum about homosexuality and gay marriage. The exchange came at the end of the interview and according to the Bayly’s transcribing powers went like this:

Lauren Green (interviewer): As a church, how should we as Christians and how should the church view gay rights and gay marriage?

Tim Keller: The Minister of the Word: Ha! I would definitely say this is time to come to a conclusion! (Laughter).

I would definitely say… a thoughtful Christian Biblical response doesn’t fit into any of the existing categories out there. It’s not a simple matter of saying there should be no moral differentiation between any kind of sexual activity. Christians can’t go there–they can’t say, “no it doesn’t matter.”

It’s also true however, that this is a country where we’re supposed to love our neighbor. This is a country where a Christian is supposed to care about a just society for ALL our neighbors whether they believe like we do or not. And that’s gotta mean our gay neighbor.

And I would say people in the more conservative movement don’t really want to talk too much about that because they’re very upset because they feel like the gay agenda is too anti-Christian and too anti-religious.

So I would say–the reason it’s good to end on this question is–it’s not something, the way forward, I don’t see spelled out anywhere in public. I don’t see anybody in public taking all the Biblical concerns about justice and mercy in that area and speaking about them. But I’m certainly not going to get started.

Just to let you know I don’t really think the current options out there–about what we should do–are really the best ones from a Christian standpoint.

The Baylys have tagged this post as “two kingdom, spirituality of the church,” which is interesting because if Keller were truly a two-kingdom fellow he would not have has a hard a time answering this question as this interview suggests. What follows, then, are a few pointers to both the Baylys and to Keller on how a 2k pastor – in New York City, no less — might answer questions about the Ten Commandments:

Reporter: What does your church think about the first commandment?

Pastor 2k: We do not tolerate the worship of Allah in our church, but in a free society many members of our church would support religious liberty for peoples of all faiths and as a session we do not believe that his conflicts with their profession of faith.

Reporter: What does your church teach about the second commandment?

Pastor 2k: Well, we forbid images of God – including Jesus – at our church, but many in our congregation are supporters of the Metropolitan Museum of Art which has many depictions of Jesus and the Holy Spirit and again our session does not believe it is a sin to go to museums and see such art.

Reporter: What is your church’s policy on the third commandment?

Pastor 2k: We exhort our members not to use God’s name flippantly, or as an expletive, but many of our members go to movies where Christ’s name is taken in vain and no one on the session is forcing them to repent. Some of them also listen to Rush Limbaugh whom I gather sometimes uses the words “damn” and “hell.” While we wish Mr. Limbaugh would not use such words, our session does not forbid members from listening to conservative talk radio.

Reporter: How does your church implement the fourth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We teach that all our members should avoid all forms of work on Sundays, unless they are in vocations such as the law enforcement, medicine, or public utilities. But we are not looking for the implementation of Blue Laws, again owing to the diversity of faiths and peoples who populate the United States and New York City.

Reporter: What does your church consider to be the obligations of the fifth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We do teach our members to submit to Mayor Bloomberg even if they prefer Rudy Guliani’s administration, but we are not about to endorse any party or set of candidates for the government of New York City.

Reporter: What does your church think about the sixth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We teach that murder is a sin, and that even hate is a violation of the sixth commandment – a spiritual hate crime if you will – but we are not about to go out to Citibank Stadium and tell the Mets fans to give a brotherly kiss to the Phillies fans who come up to see their team play. Please get real.

Reporter: What does your church teach about the seventh commandment?

Pastor 2k: We believe that homosexuality is a sin – as is pornography, adultery, and any form of sexual activity outside marriage. But again we recognize that the state cannot legislate Christian morality, even if some of our members are very concerned about the public policy implications of our currently licentious society. We try to make sure that our own members are living lives that conform to the teachings of Scripture. How the rest of Americans live their lives is not our church’s responsibility even though we proclaim all of God’s word weekly and publicly and call upon all New Yorkers to repent and believe.

Reporter: What is your church’s practice on the eighth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We believe that stealing is wrong but we are not convinced as a session that high tax rates are a form of robbery.

Reporter: How does your church handle the ninth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We do require our members to defend the honor of fellow members and their neighbors. But we also believe that if we name sins, address all people as sinners, and call them to repentance, we are not dishonoring their good names or reputations.

Reporter: What does your church do with the tenth commandment?

Pastor 2k: We teach our members and visitors to be content with their station in life and not envy the prosperity of others. This did not lead us to warn our members away from watching the royal wedding.

2k is complicated, but it doesn’t tie its pastors in knots.

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91 Comments

  1. Posted May 11, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Joseph, do states really sin? Are states made in the imago Dei? Can states become members of the church and compelled to repent upon pain of discipline? If not, how can anyone say it actually sins?

  2. "Michael Mann"
    Posted May 11, 2011 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, review the premise. Joseph’s premise, as I understood it, was the State doing a wrong and an individual intentionally promoting it. It’s a God’s-eye view, as it were, for purposes of the conversation.

    My Bible has nations and kings being rebuked and being the subjects of judgment so yes, a magistrate can sin, and God may visit the magistrate’s jurisdiction with judgment. And, unless you buy into the “Nazi excuse,” an individual may sin by engaging in the sin of a state.

    Do you deny any of this?

  3. "Michael Mann"
    Posted May 11, 2011 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, I know the discussion you are itching to have on this one and I largely agree with you but maybe on an different basis. Your basis, if I may go by your comments here, is that the State can’t sin. My basis is liberty of conscience, i.e., it is rare that political activities can be definitively established as sin so we may not speak for God in declaring such to be sin. You seem to want bright lines and absolutes in this area.

  4. Posted May 11, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

    MM, my Bible has that as well. But my hermeneutic is personal, not geo-political, so while I understand God judging individuals I don’t see how God judges states. And what I’m driving at is that to suggest someone is sinful is a serious charge. Maybe a higher bar is called for, one that doesn’t include geo-political viewpoints but personal behavior. Or, speaking of bright lines and absolutes, do you think it’s categorically impossible to work in certain regimes? What would you say to an Iraqi Christian who suggests that to work for the Shock and Awe Administration is to be personally culpable for murder, the same way being a Hitler Youth is culpable? But aren’t there more questions that need to be asked of individuals beyond what regime or policy do you promote, like what did you do with your hands?

  5. Posted May 11, 2011 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, kings can sin.

  6. Posted May 11, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Joseph, I know, that’s the point of a personal hermeneutic, but so do vagabonds. Am I sinning when I give one a few bucks and end up promoting his drunkeness? Maybe you choose prudence over generosity, but I’d be careful not to call your choice sinful.

  7. "Michael Mann"
    Posted May 11, 2011 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, I don’t see how God judges states *or* individuals but, you know, the Bible tells me so.

    Under the WCF synods and councils may petition the magistrate in “cases extraordinary.” That’s kind of messy, right? Which cases are extraordinary? Mayn’t the church overuse this clause and meddle where it should not? It’s not a bright line but it’s the right line. I can live with “seldom but possibly.” Back to the topic at hand, I think a person could be held accountable for promoting a sinful action of a magistrate in an extraordinary situation. Such should be extraordinary because state actions usually have a number of possible motivations and effects, the first of which we cannot see and second of which we may not be able to predict.

    So maybe 99.9 % of the time such actions cannot be authoritatively declared to be sin. But if I’m in the President’s cabinet, convince him that everyone of Mideastern descent in the United States should be put in death camps and then come to elder Zrim (I think you’re a deacon but stay with me) to confess that as a sin, would you tell me I didn’t sin?

  8. Posted May 11, 2011 at 4:10 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, no, you would not necessarily be sinning in that case.

  9. Posted May 11, 2011 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

    Or suppose church member Joe is the swing vote on the Supreme Court deciding whether to overturn Roe v. Wade? Certainly that’s an extremely unusual fact patter, but would elder Zrim advise that a decision either way would be equally acceptable?

  10. Posted May 11, 2011 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    MM, I agree that the exception clause is dicey. I do think the onus lies on those who think they have an extraordinary ground and show how it isn’t merely what lots of people really, really, really don’t like. For my part, I think it best to keep it to when the state is compelling the church to compromise herself in some way. Otherwise, oppose or affirm politically.

    But I’m not much for fantastic hypotheticals (Paul, is that you?). I’ll maintain that there is a category for bad judgment and one for sin, a category for political opposition and one for spiritual discipline. How that gets played out in application may not be easy, but harder for me is to level spiritual judgment on those I politically oppose (or affirm). I mean, do unto others, right? As much as I might abhor and oppose my congregant’s politics, I couldn’t bring myself to wield the table until he sinned personally. But like my wife says, I’m such a stickler.

  11. Posted May 11, 2011 at 4:51 pm | Permalink

    Joeseph, why would I be advising politically? But if church member Jane wants to know what to do with that unwanted lump of hers the answer is clear (see it through on pain of discipline, for those not clear).

  12. Posted May 12, 2011 at 4:38 am | Permalink

    For what it’s worth, I’ve been out and about and away from my computer. Underlying poser- Paul often stated that I imagined motives rather than answering statements, a typical logicians way of thinking, so, underlying poser was as cryptic a motive I could come up with. An underlying poser is one who wants to be seen for some reason and cloaks it in an admirable way- how’s that?

    A Lutheran vrs. Calvinist response- If Paul was a Lutheran he would not have listed each of the commandments and then thought of something as an objection to Darryl’s brief synopis of the commandments. I think this has to do with how Lutherans understand the 3rd use of the Law and how Calvinists understand it. Lutherans just seem to be convinced that they don’t come close to doing the Law like they are supposed to so why try to convince yourself that you are. And why nitpic about it?

  13. Posted May 12, 2011 at 6:57 am | Permalink

    John, or at least, why nit pick publicly? That’s why God gave us prayer closets.

  14. Posted May 12, 2011 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Darryl, as I read about at Gene Veith’s web site, which I am not sure is true or not, is that Lutheran’s believe that the image of God that was partially lost to us at the Fall is restored to us by faith alone and not by conforming to the Law of God through our progressive sanctification. I am not sure how this person came up with that belief but that does seem plausible.

    And, I am not sure what “That’s why God gave us prayer closets” means. I am guessing something like don’t try to flaunt or convince others of you’re moral righteousness or something like that.

  15. Posted May 12, 2011 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    Underlying poser- I was just thowing that out there, kind of like the emphasis fallacy.

  16. Posted May 12, 2011 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, would you think Judge Joe was looking for juridical advice if he asked your eldership for its understanding of the authority of the state to protect such acts?

  17. Posted May 12, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

    Joseph, hypotheticals are hard enough without adding the complexity of discerning motivations of the made up characters to boot. But your original question seemed to suggest the possibility of a spiritual judgment of a political view; and isn’t spiritual guidance implied in “asking one’s eldership”? But if it is juridical advice then why seek a spiritual counselor? How about a jurist? But I’m also not a jurist, so my question is why are you asking me anything about this? But if you want my mere non-binding opinion, I’d be glad to share it.

  18. Posted May 12, 2011 at 8:40 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, sorry, I could have been clearer (long week!), but haven’t you already given your non-binding opinion?

  19. Posted May 12, 2011 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, yes, I think spiritual advice is implied in asking one’s elders. So, if I understand you correctly, political activities have no substantial spiritual aspect that would warrant seeking wisdom from a professional churchman. Indeed, to seek such would be inappropriate.

  20. Posted May 13, 2011 at 7:05 am | Permalink

    Joseph, try a thought experiment: I’m currently trying to sell my home and buy another. Do I go to my elder to ask for economic guidance on which to buy and which to sell? Or do I go to my realtor? I say realtor (if it helps, he’s Dutch Reformed).

    Your line of questioning involves a set of politics that many have successfully persuaded is also spiritual, and by entension that any involved with it are not only acting politically but also spiritually. I disagree. So if someone wants spiritual advice on a political view my response would be to correct that wrong presupposiition (and perhaps suggest he seek someone actually fit for that sort of advice), which is actually spiritual guidance after all, just a different variety.

  21. Posted May 13, 2011 at 4:38 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, okay. Interesting.

    So, Judge Joe was nominated to be a ruling elder, the same month that he wrote the majority opinion guaranteeing the abortion right. He’s otherwise qualified for the office. In your view should his legal opinion impair his fitness for office? It was, after all, strictly speaking merely a legal opinion. Am I understanding you right?

  22. Posted May 13, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

    Just MHO: His office as magistrate disqualifies him from being an officer of the church, or vice-versa.

    But I’m quirky like that.

  23. Bob
    Posted May 13, 2011 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    Joseph,

    The operative legal questions in reversing Roe are: (1) do statutes criminalizing abortion run afoul of substantive due process; and (2) given that the Court has already twice answered the former question in the affirmative, do the circumstances satisfy the Court’s stringent test for reversing its prior rulings?

    I frankly don’t see how a presbyter–at least if he lacks some measure of legal training–has anything to contribute to answering those questions.

    You seem to be suggesting that a jurist should ignore legal precedent (and, presumably, his or her oath of office), and rule from the bench based on the opinions of church sessions. After all, few, if any, legal disputes are completely devoid of some moral element. If a jurist needs to consult a session on reversing Roe, then there’s just as much reason for that jurist to consult a session on whether a civil plaintiff is equitably estopped from recovering damages on a claim of contract breach.

    By your reasoning, we become a theocracy, where sectarian church leaders become the de facto civil magistrate.

  24. Posted May 13, 2011 at 8:14 pm | Permalink

    Joseph, it seems like what I have said thus far would be enough to answer. But like Jeff suggests, I am inclined to think that there is a conflict of interest in your scenario. To my mind, what keeps Joe from ecclesiastical office is his political obligations, not his legislative views or actions.

  25. Posted May 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Jeff,

    Are federal and state employees equally bared from serving in church office? Military personnel? Postmen? How about attorneys? Attorneys, after all, are as a matter of law “officers of the court.”

  26. Posted May 13, 2011 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

    Zrim, thanks for having humored me thus far.

  27. Posted May 14, 2011 at 5:08 am | Permalink

    Joseph, my term “disqualified” was probably too strong. I was trying to express a matter of *wisdom* (don’t serve two masters) rather than a matter of absolute rule.

    And the general principle would be, if you have substantial authority in the civil realm, then you ought not wield substantial authority in the church and vice-versa.

    Postmen do not wield substantial authority, nor ensigns. But generals and judges do. Attorneys should be disqualified for other reasons. *rimshot*

  28. Bob
    Posted May 14, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    Jeff,

    What “other reasons” would serve as a basis for a per se ban on attorneys serving as presbyters? Or if you are merely offering a cheap shot against all members of a profession, then I’d suggest that your statement reveals character issues that ought to disqualify you to serve as a presbyter.

  29. "Michael Mann"
    Posted May 14, 2011 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Hey Bob, lighten up a little.

    Q: How many attorneys does it take to roof a house?
    A: It depends on how thinly you slice them.

  30. Posted May 14, 2011 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Bob, I’m sorry to have offended you. Michael caught it — it was a nod to the “lawyer joke” trope.

  31. Posted May 18, 2011 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

    Dear Pastor 2K,

    When all the blue laws are gone and Sunday ceases to be the day of rest in our society, and many if not most of your members are expected to be at work selling goods and services, when will your church gather to worship Pastor 2K? Even J. Gresham Machen defended the utility of blue laws and experience has amply shown that Dabney was right when he said “where there is no Sabbath there is no Christianity”

    But I’m also confused as to the application of the moral law above. You seem to be saying “there is no ‘usus politicus’ of the moral law.” You teach regarding the seventh commandment, “we recognize that the state cannot legislate Christian morality.” But what, if not morals, are our laws to be based on? And surely a consistent application would say that not only is it impossible to make adultery illegal if “we cannot legislate Christian morality” but it is also impossible to make perjury, murder, theft, and public indecency illegal as well, as these are expressions of Christian morality. As Hodge said, “That which is right under any relation is intrinsically obligatory upon the moral agent standing in that relation. If it be moral, it is obligatory.” It is not just the Christian, but also the homosexual who is bound by the obligations of the moral law, and we do neither him nor anyone else any favors when we remove the common grace constraints placed on our sinful desires by righteous civil laws.

  32. Eliza
    Posted May 18, 2011 at 6:24 pm | Permalink

    Pastor Webb–Generally I agree with your position, although I would categorize dgh’s position as R2K. There are plenty of 2K folk who would disagree with his positions. But why fuss about labels.

    The R2K position is that only natural law can be the basis for laws in the “common realm”. So that doesn’t include commandments 1-4.The other 6 are considered reflected in natural law, and thus appropriate for this kingdom. R2K agrees that all are bound by God’s moral law, but that they are not bound by them civilly, just religiously, and that on the Day of Judgment, they will be held responsible for not keeping them unless covered by Christ’s righteousness.

    You say, “we do neither him nor anyone else any favors when we remove the common grace constraints placed on our sinful desires by righteous civil laws.” Depends what you mean by that. The law really does not touch our desires anyway; I may desire to shoplift something, but unless I do, no law would touch me. So I assume you mean “our sinful actions.”

    Everyone used to say, “You can’t legislate morality” by which I suppose they meant, you can’t make people righteous by civil law. True enough. Wasn’t it Rushdoony (or maybe Bahnsen) who wrote “By What Standard?”. If we do not use a Christian standard, then I suppose we are left with “natural law” which is problematic because we don’t all see “natural law” the same way. Should birth control meds and devices be legal? What about those who do not see homosexual behavior as “unnatural”? Should Friday or Saturday or Sunday or no day be special and holy? What is the place of toleration of false religions? Should we allow Mormon temples and Muslim mosques to be built if we operate under the rubric of natural law?

    I think Machen would be surprised to the lengths, and may I say distortions, which his followers have taken his general libertarian positions.

  33. Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:21 am | Permalink

    So Andy, (and we’ve been through this before at Old Life), are you in favor of the state punishing blasphemy and idolatry? After all, if the law is based on morality (which is not necessarily the same as Christian morality — that is, law forged in the context of the covenant of grace), surely you can’t have morality without theology. Which means that the state has to enforce laws governing the worship of God.

  34. Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:37 am | Permalink

    Eliza, and don’t you think the apostle Paul would be surprised by the specificity of Christian norms that American believers have for their rulers?

    BTW, there is no 2k textbook on THE basis for civil laws. General revelation and the light of nature are murky when it comes to many aspects of civil polity. I’m really not going to go to the mat on whether to drive on the right or left side of the road, and I’m hardly going to say that it must be based in morality.

  35. Eliza
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 4:32 am | Permalink

    DGH: Yes, I think the apostle Paul would be surprised by the silly things professing Christians say to one another, like, “You don’t like Bush? Are you a Democrat?” Or “Sarah Palin’s a Christian. Vote for her.”

    There’s just a lot of ridiculous thinking, or better, nonthinking, among Christians. However, having “blue laws” is not among those ridiculous thoughts.

  36. Posted May 19, 2011 at 6:56 am | Permalink

    Eliza, so you think Paul favored laws banning everyone from working on Sundays? What possible evidence would you have for this?

  37. Eliza
    Posted May 19, 2011 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Paul didn’t live in a democracy.

  38. Posted May 20, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

    Eliza, so the demands for Sunday laws shifts according to the political order in place? Why would a democracy require a holy Lord’s Day more than Nero’s Rome? Your answer suggests that God’s law is not binding at all times and places.

  39. Eliza
    Posted May 20, 2011 at 4:01 am | Permalink

    Weren’t the Westminster Divines stupid; and even the American revisers.
    What were they thinking?

  40. Posted May 20, 2011 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Eliza, you can try but it won’t work blaming the divines or American Presbyterians for the hole in your logic.

  41. Posted January 21, 2013 at 12:00 pm | Permalink

    Funny. When I woke up this morning I was thinking to myself, “I wish Hart would write more articles concerning movies in theaters now in Lima, Ohio…”

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