Do People Still Read Keller?

I am beginning to wonder if Tim Keller’s remarkable run of influence is beginning to expire. The reason for wondering is his recent post — an excerpt from his new book, Center Church — at the co-allies’ blog. Although Keller’s failure to be the Presbyterian minister his credentials say he is aggravate the bejeebers out of me, this time his call for a gospel movement seems tired, bordering on #sotenminutesago. It used to be that a megachurch in New York City receiving favorable press coverage in both religious and secular publications was novel. Now it’s not. Does anyone get excited about Willow Creek anymore? Or does Bill Hybels look in comparison to Rob Bell the way Larry David Lucille Ball does to Lucille Ball Larry David? At a certain point, Keller’s cheerleading for the modern metropolis and Redeemer’s cutting edge ministry sounds stale.

In this case, though, Keller himself sounds fatigued. The reason may be that the only way he can conceive of transforming the city is to concoct a set of hoops and ladders that only the Navy Seals could negotiate. According to Keller, a gospel movement requires three things: a contextual theological vision, church planting and church renewal movements (that’s only one thing even though its a mouthful and a bit redundant — you need a movement to have another movement), and specialized ministries. Here’s where tiredness sets in, at least for readers:

Based in the churches, yet also stimulating and sustaining the churches, this third ring consists of a complex of specialty ministries, institutions, networks, and relationships. There are at least seven types of elements in this third ring.

1. A prayer movement uniting churches across traditions in visionary intercession for the city. The history of revivals shows the vital importance of corporate, prevailing, visionary intercessory prayer for the city and the body of Christ. Praying for your city is a biblical directive (Jer 29:4-7). Coming together in prayer is something a wide variety of believers can do. It doesn’t require a lot of negotiation and theological parsing to pray. Prayer brings people together. And this very activity is catalytic for creating friendships and relationships across denominational and organizational bounderies. Partnerships with Christians who are similar to and yet different from you stimulates growth and innovation.

2. A number of specialized evangelistic ministries, reaching particular groups (business people, mothers, ethnicities, and the like). Of particular importance are effective campus and youth ministries. Many of the city church’s future members and leaders are best found in the city’s colleges and schools. While students who graduate from colleges in university towns must leave the area to get jobs, graduates form urban universities do not. Students won to Christ and given a vision for living in the city can remain in the churches they joined during their school years and become emerging leaders in the urban body of Christ. Winning the youth of a city wins city natives who understand the culture well.

3. An array of justice and mercy ministries, addressing every possible social problem and neighborhood. As the evangelicals provided leadership in the 1830s, we need today an urban “benevolent empire” of Christians banding together in various nonprofits and other voluntary organizations to address the needs of the city. Christians of the city must become renowned for their care for their neighbors, for this is one of the key ways that Jesus will become renowned.

4. Faith and work initiatives and fellowships in which Christians from across the city gather with others in the same profession. Networks of Christians in business, the media, the arts, government, and the academy should come together to help each other work with accountability, excellence, and Christian distinctiveness.

6. Systems for attracting, developing, and training urban church and ministry leaders. The act of training usually entails good theological education, but a dynamic city leadership system will include additional components such as well-developed internship programs and connections to campus ministries.

7. An unusual unity of Christian city leaders. Church and movements leaders, heads of institutions, business leaders, academics, and others must know one another and provide vision and direction for the whole city. They must be more concerned about reaching the whole city and growing the whole body of Christ than about increasing their own tribe and kingdom.

Who can stand in that great day? What congregation of any means is capable of maintaining members who not only have the financial resources to pay for the church staff all of these ministries require? But after these folks have worked hard for their incomes and given to the church, do they have time to volunteer for all the additional work that this movement requires? If I were a church planter (I am sort of but I understand Hillsdale is unimportant in the world of ministering to global cities), I’d close Keller’s book and look for another model.

The funny thing is that the pastoral epistles provide an alternative (not to mention the Protestant Reformation’s success in European cities) and the way to advance the kingdom of grace is not nearly as arduous as what Keller prescribes. Granted, the preaching of the word may not produce a self-sustaining movement that will rock the earth’s biggest cities. But for some reason, Paul did not peg the value of the kingdom of grace according to the gospel’s reception among city dwellers.

91 thoughts on “Do People Still Read Keller?

  1. Amen and well said.

    The thing that bothers me the most about the city-centric Keller and folks like him is that their teachings and actions automatically devalues us hillbilly folk ministering out in the hinterlands. Does the small church in Nowheresville, Mississippi matter to the kingdom as much as the hip, chic church plant in Capital City? According to guys like Keller God is more glorified the more hip and citified one gets.

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  2. Not quoted was the Keller line that followed the seven points: “When all of these ecosystems elements are strong and in place, they stimulate and increase one another and the movement becomes self-sustaining.” This bold statement is based on what — Keller’s little slice of time in NYC? You’d have to be prophet to make a dogmatic statement like this.

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  3. My wife hasn’t seen this post yet. When she does, i’m sure it will evoke a similar response to the one which she had to “Generous Justice”:

    We beggars in the pews are clinging to the bright sufficiency of what Christ has done.  Please don’t over burden us.  His yoke is easy. His burden is light.  Our rested souls seek to serve.  Our thankful hearts have a myriad of ways to do so everyday.  Generous Justice?  For this wayfarer learning to be just generous will do.

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  4. Sean and Brad, but at least a candidate for public office has advisers who might point out how a statement might be received. But apparently at RPCANY and the Gospel Coalition, all Keller’s utterances are golden. So I guess there’s the answer — who still reads Keller.

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  5. D.G. Hart: Do People Still Read Keller?

    RS: There must be people who read him because he keeps churning out book, though people can buy books and not read them. But do people who value a solid stand on Calvinistic theology and morality read Keller? If so, I doubt they read him to learn solid theology and a strong stand on morality. They might read to see how far he has slipped from those things.

    Keller: It doesn’t require a lot of negotiation and theological parsing to pray.

    RS: It might depend on which God or god one is praying to. It might also depend on what one means by prayer.

    Keller: Prayer brings people together.

    RS: Only if one takes the theology and the real God of prayer out first.

    Keller: And this very activity is catalytic for creating friendships and relationships across denominational and organizational bounderies. Partnerships with Christians who are similar to and yet different from you stimulates growth and innovation.

    RS: Innovation has not always been thought of as something good, especially in the area of worship. In fact, innovation in the Bible was called idolatry. I must admit that Keller’s seven points of transforming a city sounds innovative, but it also sounds a lot like Genesis 11. You know, those who tried to build a tower into heaven by organizing all the people to work together. After all, how much theology does it take to build a tower to heaven?

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  6. On point 4: what about Christians in the retail, service, manufacturing, labouring industries? Or are they either needed to serve the businessmen and arts scroungers whilst having their power brunches or just don’t count.

    Who is this guy?! Seriously, who is he?

    I also love his comment that believers from different denominations coming together for prayer is easy. Ha! Yeah, cause it’s only prayer. This guy has no clue.

    But hey, I’m just a parochial Scottish Presbyterian so what do I know?

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  7. Perhaps this point is not central to your criticism of the Keller exemplar, but I found the section on prayer to be curiously soft on theology, while hard on sociology. Ecumenical prayer can be a dangerous thing, especially for the sake of false unity. For me and my house our prayers have generally employed the use of the “whole word of God” (WSC 99), unpopular and simple as it is. Praying that God would build his church the way he instructed his church, that is, through the means of grace, has often been the focus of our prayers (and God’s efforts). Is TK advocating a sort of prayerful compromise for the sake of “innovation”?

    Furthermore, the “this very activity is catalytic” evinvces a very anthropocentric approach to revival causing, which is ironically disagreeable to the way in which TK, the Jonathan Edwardsian that he is, has viewed revival causation. For Kellerites, revivals are spritually caused by a “move” or “stir” of the Spirit (or spirit). Now, he appears to ascribe sociological interactions as the creator of revivalism.

    I appreciate second causes (WCF 5.2) just as much as the next (confessional) guy, but prayer is a matter of relying upon God to do that which is agreeable to his will (WSC 98), not the primary means by which we accomplish our own. In the end, I wish him the best in orchestrating ecumenical, geo-political, urban revivals. But, what do the revivals provide that the means of grace does not? Does Keller want revivals for revival’s sake?

    This is where he is short on theology, though he included the transformational catch-all, Jer 29. Does he have a theology of revival of which I am unaware? The notion of planning revivals seems foreign (and artificial) to me and the authors, who advocate the need for a Third Great Awakening like the First Great Awakening, with whom I so often disagree.

    To be charitable, Keller may be unaware of the affect revivals had on Presbyterian polity and Presbyterian ministers in the eighteenth and nineteenth century (and, arguably, to the present). If he knew some of these things, his credentials would warrant, at least, a re-assessment, I would think.

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  8. I was blown away by Roland Allen’s book on how to do missions. He really does take us right back to the source i.e the N.T. and particularly the Apostle Paul’s methods. What’s so amazing is that he wrote this book in 1927! Truth is timeless – The fact this book was written in 1927 but is applicable to our times is evidence of the Truth it holds. It is not an easy read. It provokes much thought and reflection. An eBook version of “Missionary Methods:Saint Paul’s Or Ours” is available for FREE here: http://www.searchandtrace.net/shop/page/7/

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  9. Compare:

    “An array of justice and mercy ministries, addressing *every* possible social problem and neighborhood. As the evangelicals provided leadership in the 1830s, we need today an urban “benevolent *empire* ”

    with

    “The act of training [ministry leaders] *usually* entails good theological education.”

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  10. I always have a good chuckle when Keller, Driscoll, et. al. talk about “tribes” as though denominational differences where put in place to divide Christians and “increase” the leaders’ tribe/power. In fact, in Presbyterianism, it’s the exact opposite. I find it interesting that Keller, Driscoll, et. al. are so hard on “tribes,” all the while they are building their own empires. But as all good students of history know, one must disrupt and destroy the native’s tribe and local form of government in order to absorb them into the empire. Me thinks if Keller, Driscoll, et. al. had their way, we may soon be living on a OPC reservation.

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  11. DG,

    Not if Keller’s “justice and mercy ministries, addressing every possible social problem” are in full effect. The first things to go are always smoking, drinking, and gambling.

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  12. Don’t underestimate Keller’s power. Tebow to the Jets is step one in the establishment of The Empire. I’m conflicted as to whether Yankee fans will be better or worse after the takeover.

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  13. Have you read Hawking’s book on time yet? Did you buy it? Why would you care, dgh, if we read your books, so long as we buy them? Do you want to “influence the conversation” or something? Finding lots of your books at an used sale means that you probably got rich from people buying them.

    btw, Your “Lost Soul” book was worth the price, if only for that great quotation from the Christian Reformed leader about why they needed to come out of the NAE! Of course, I find lots of other good stuff in that book also. I can see even a postmill non-pietist agreeing with most of the book.

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  14. I can tell you this, when the Keller project runs out of steam it will be the fault of the TR’s on two fronts: One, for being curmudgeonly TR’s and keeping the project from truly taking flight and two, for being insufficiently TR in curbing the incoming tide of liberal protestantism(this is our entire job according to Keller’s ecosystem and paradigm-defend the boundaries) and departures to rome as people realize that rome does social gospel better than liberal protestants and evangelicals combined.

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  15. mcMark, I would care more if you bought my books in such quantities that I could publish whatever I wrote with a trade press. What have you done for me lately?

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  16. The “Country Parson” is about as cool as a Manhattanite’s vichyssoise. Hardly a warm endorsement of small-town work.

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  17. I get the blog posts of a local Baptist minister/church planter. He spoke favorably of Keller’s recent book:

    Pastor Tim Keller has combined his experience with mercy ministries New York, his ability to communicate, and sound biblical teaching to produce an essential guide for churches who are developing their ministry to the poor. Keller opens by stating that, “Mercy to the full range of human needs is such an essential mark of being a Christian that it can be used as a test of true faith.”

    In part one, Principle, Keller lists and refutes the common arguments against developing ministries of mercy. Excuses like not having enough money, or time, or that helping the poor gets in the way of proclaiming the gospel, or that we should only help the deserving poor, etc. are all dismantled one by one through careful scriptural analysis. The Good Samaritan didn’t stop and consider whether the man who fell into the hands of robbers was among the deserving poor or not. He just helped him.

    In part two, Practice, Keller draws from his experience to explain the steps needed for a local church to develop and expand its outreach to the poor and anticipate the problems that will likely appear. Topics like researching your community, identifying priority needs, organizing the church, and managing the ministry are addressed in this section.

    I would recommend this book for any church leader who is developing a ministry of mercy or any believer who has a vision for expanding ministries of mercy in his or her local church.

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  18. I’ve heard the book of Nehemiah used in a similar way. No one should object to the churches vision or programs for renewal, and if you do than you are a naysayer and “in the way of progress”. Meh

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  19. Here’s a novel idea – How about sending a pastor and an elder to a city, have them rent some space, and start having services on Sunday morning and sunday evening. They can preach the Bible and maybe even have Sunday school to teach some confessions, creeds & catechisms. They can knock on some doors and maybe some people will come.

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  20. D.G.: Lewis, does that reservation come with a casino?

    Lewis: Not if Keller’s “justice and mercy ministries, addressing every possible social problem” are in full effect. The first things to go are always smoking, drinking, and gambling.

    Well done, gentlemen!

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  21. I’m getting to the point where I think pretty much any minister you’ve heard of is not worth listening to. The Bible kind of tells us that a popular minister of the gospel is an oxymoron.

    What does that say about the Pope?

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  22. Guys like Keller and Driscoll, they should be more alarming than they are. Because they are definitely the progenitors of a new, trendy social/cultural gospel of relevance where the message of salvation will be swallowed up by the means of transmission.

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  23. Dan, I’ve always discerned a disdain for place in any transformationist model, be it urban or rural. The presumption seems to be that something is fundamentally flawed and needs changing. Is that really any way to speak of anybody’s home?

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  24. DG, if you are claiming that Keller has broken the ninth commandment, please say so clearly without clouded rhetoric.

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  25. Regarding Dan’s link, Keller’s post does list what a fairly good church would look like:

    And in a large church [Young Leaders] aren’t a) bearing the burden of being the main leader, b) leading a board of elders, c) fund-raising and bearing the final responsibility of having enough money to do ministry, d) and doing the gamut of counseling, shepherding, teaching, preaching. In a smaller church as a solo pastor you and only you visit the elderly, do all the weddings and funerals, sit by the bedside of every dying parishioner, do all the marriage counseling, suspend and excommunicate, work with musicians, craft and lead worship, speak at every men’s retreat, women’s retreat, and youth retreat, write all the Bible studies and often Sunday School curriculum, train all the small group leaders, speak at the nursing home, work with your diaconate as they try to help families out of poverty, evangelize and welcome new visitors to the church, train volunteers to do some (but not all) of all of the above tasks, and deal with the once-a-month relational or financial crisis in the church.

    Obviously some of the things listed are disputable in thier necessity, but if one were to find such a church, they would be doing themselves well. It seems that a church’s smallness can be it’s saving grace from becoming burdened with unnecessary

    On the other hand, what’s strange is that nothing of the list that Keller shows of a small church ends up in his “City” church, or a Gospel City Movement. It’s as if putting former members to rest in their graves with services offered to God is insufficient for a “Gospel City Movement”. The normal (ordinary) events of life and church are set aside for more dynamic (extraordinary) “movements”.

    All that aside, Keller’s use of the term “contextual strategic stances” for the theological vision is strange. Christ dying for sinners and rising for their justification, and sinners following Christ with a life of repentance doesn’t seem to “contextually strategic” to me. It’s quite simple actually, and people in Rome, Korea, and Marxist China are all capable of understanding and responding to that “Theological Vision”. That’s where he starts, and that’s where it looks like his boat starts going in a different direction.

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  26. I would settle for RH preaching, catechism classes, baptize, marry and bury. I really don’t want to hear about anything else ’till that happens on a reliable basis. Contextual strategic stances………plz. Like there’s another city in the U.S. that requires or could even facilitate the type of ‘dynamic relationships’ his eco-system requires. How about a solid MDiv program and associate pastorship that turns out a competent pastor. Let’s just live there for the next 30 years. There’s some vision for ya.

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  27. Talk about timely, just picked this up hot off the presses at Mars Hill:

    http://marshill.com/2012/09/05/why-churches-need-to-go-to-the-heart-of-the-city

    And I quote: “Time and time again, we see Christian missionariesavoiding the “suburbs” and country and going to the largest city of the region,planting a church,and then leaving because they knew that once they reached the city, they had reached the society and culture.”

    I guess we dont need church plants in the ‘burbs, small towns, or country. Just a few mega-churches in urban areas. Boy I sure hope they can pipe in Driscoll to my town!

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  28. Hearing more of Tim Keller’s “transformational” visions always simply exhausts this pew sitter! Think I’ll stick with the ordinary means of grace, do the “inconsequential” works the Lord puts before me each day and forget the rest. Sigh!!!

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  29. Dan, before filing charges, I’d simply like to see someone explain how the affirmation of a country parson squares with ALL the other writings about the magical city. If you want to step up, fine.

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  30. Darryl,

    But for some reason, Paul did not peg the value of the kingdom of grace according to the gospel’s reception among city dwellers.

    Neither did Paul peg his gospel to the reception of any man. And whatever the reason, it seems to be lost on more and more. Maybe it’s like Dr. Horton says, we’re wired for law (gospel – yawn) and it just feels so right to make it all about (us) our ideas and our work.

    sigh…

    P.S. check out Horton’s latest WHI message on Understanding Law and Gospel. Good stuff and relevant to this an other threads of late.

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  31. Last night the Democrats are taking God out of the platform, tonight they are giving a standing ovation to a nun. And I thought the Republicans were confused…If you want to go through life as a total idiot get heavily involved in politics.

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  32. Last night the Democrats are taking God out of the platform, tonight they are giving a standing ovation to a nun.

    When I was a kid the Democratic party (state and local) was the party for Catholics, Blacks and Jews while the Republicans were for white Protestants. Demographically that’s becoming true nation wide. 2008 Catholics still broke 53-37 Democratic / Republican. The Republicans are gaining among Catholics they ain’t anywhere close to owning them they way they do evangelicals.

    Far to many people remember anti-Catholic Republicanism. Heck, a lot of Hispanics think a great deal of the current anti-immigrant push is mostly anti-Catholic since Republicans who frequently are opposed to hispanic immigration have no problem with Asian immigration.

    Yesterday they had a conservative Cardinal Dolan give the benediction. This election the Republicans will break 40% IMHO among Catholics, but I suspect that’s the high water mark for a generation or two. Soon the percentage of catholics that are hispanic will grow so high they will overwhelm the working class Irish and Italians who have been shifting towards the Republicans.

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  33. Actually the Democratic Party big tent makes Rome’s big tent look like the carnival in the mall parking lot. If you are good with abortion & gay rights and are enthused about spending other people’s money you are more than welcome to join them. It’s kind of their holy trinity, if you will.

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  34. Give Hispanic immigrants time. Once they go from working at the lawn care service or Mexican restaurant to owning the lawn care service or Mexican restaurant the light bulb will go on for them.

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  35. By the time I got into item number 6 on Pastor Keller’s ‘to do’ list, I already knew I was going to need a seriously new rosary to get me through it all.

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  36. Keller and his manic-depressive ilk are just absolutely exhausting. He needs to watch “Rev” on the BBC.

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  37. DG, I guess my problem with your immaturity is that to misrepresent Keller’s views with argumentative fallacies just so you can bash a popular PCA pastor makes me not believe much of what you right. I’m not against polemics per se, but you seem to operate on a whole different plane. Sorry, but thats my opinion.

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  38. Thank you Dr. Hart. I only recently found you because I’ve been reading and studying Machen. I’m newly reformING(about a year) and recently fled the SBC mainly due to infiltration of Keller’s and other neo-Calvinst ideas. It was so confusing at first because on the one hand I was beginning to embrace the doctrines of grace and see the errors on dispensationalism, but on the other hand..I was completely opposed to charismania and mysticism but it seemed every “Calvinist” I found at first was really a neo-Calvinist. God graciously helped me find some better examples and some old dead guys to help me out. I’ve taken an interest in two kingdom theology and really enjoy your work. I especially appreciate your willingness to point out the problems in Keller (and those of his ilk) teachings. Thank you.

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  39. CD-Host,

    By Cardinal Dolan being a “conservative”, do you mean conservative politically speaking on certain social issues or did you mean a conservative Mormon? I ask because of his prayer at the RNC last week where he gave the following Mormon prayer.

    http://www.catholicadvocate.com/2012/08/cardinal-dolan-closes-rnc-convention-in-prayer/

    I trust this prayer would group him outside of conservative RC if viewed from a theological perspective, right?

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  40. Dan, immaturity? I’m flattered. I haven’t felt so young in years, nay, decades. In case you didn’t notice, I asked a lot of questions and did assert that Keller’s schtick is getting tired. I’m not sure how that’s an argumentative fallacy. I’m not one for logic.

    If you can point to anyone who is questioning Keller at all I’ll be glad to take a back seat. But if the answer is that he needs to answer no questions, then Keller is truly a celebrity. Pastors take questions all the time — that’s why God gave us sessions and presbyteries.

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  41. Dan: DG, I guess my problem with your immaturity is that to misrepresent Keller’s views with argumentative fallacies just so you can bash a popular PCA pastor makes me not believe much of what you right. I’m not against polemics per se, but you seem to operate on a whole different plane. Sorry, but thats my opinion.

    RS: Dan, how did Dr. Hart misrepresent Keller’s views? Where are his argumentative fallacies? While Dr. Hart is wrong on Edwards, I thought he has handled Keller with kid’s gloves. Take Dr. Hart’s basic worldview (though he denies he has one) into consideration and realize that Keller is quite opposite of that. Immaturity? Interesting comment, but immature in what?

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  42. Matt: We need reformation not revival.

    RS: But there is no real reformation without a true revival. Apart from the reviving work of the Spirit, all reformation is only external.

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  43. @B —

    Maybe I’m being dense but I didn’t see anything particularly Mormon about the prayer Dolan offered. Can you point me to what you are finding objectionable? The prayer reads as kinda American but this was a benediction offered by an American at an American political event. As far as the RCC the RCC has twice ruled in an official capacity that Mormon baptisms are invalid, i.e. a Mormon seeking entrance into the RCC needs to be rebaptized and thus Mormons aren’t Christians at all. That’s a fairly strong stance.

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  44. Dan, sometimes we in Christian circles get so used to so many kinds of religious perpspectives that we no longer see how truly odd they are. With talk of a third ring, an empire, and visions, one might wonder if this is Tolkien Theology. I’m guessing that if we showed these seven paragraphs to someone who sits outside of religious circles, his assessment would start with the prefix megalo-.

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  45. CD-Host,

    Dolan’s prayer is not Trinitarian and relegates Jesus to the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, with no separation from these three created men. Similarly, Mormonism and Islam for that matter will do the same thing. Jesus is a mere created prophet and is no higher in state than Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, or Isaiah, Jeremiah, etc… Simply put, in Dolan’s prayer, Jesus is not God.

    Having a chance to “redeem” himself at the end with thanking God for the “great gift”, Dolan keeps this to the United States of America and not Jesus Christ the Eternal Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, the Word made Flesh, the One who thought it not robbery to make Himself equal with God because He was and is God, and the One who died on the cross for all the sins of all the elect, satisfying the divine justice and wrath of God and reconciling the elect to God.

    This prayer would seem to be a liberal RC prayer at best and a Mormon appeasement prayer at worst, no?

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  46. @B —

    I’m going to focus on a few key points:

    relegates Jesus to the lineage of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob,

    So does Luke 3:23–38 and Matthew 1:1–17. Orthodox Christianity has always held that Jesus had a fully human nature; that he is of the same line as Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. The doctrine you seem to be arguing for is dókēsis (docetism) that Jesus’ humanity was illusionary and a projection from his divine nature. Not only does orthodox Christianity reject dókēsis for the incarnation, but they reject it for the risen Christ that’s why for example in Acts you seem him eating baked fish.

    Similarly, Mormonism and Islam for that matter will do the same thing. Jesus is a mere created prophet.

    Mormons also affirm that Jesus was begotten not made. More traditional Mormons hold that to mean that Jesus has 23 of God the father’s chromosomes. For example: “Christ was begotten by an immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.” (Mormon Doctrine, 1966, p. 547).

    Islam denies that Jesus was non-natural in anyway, he is just a human. As an aside Islam specifically condemns the trinity (or at least the Collyridian version of it) as idolatry and blaspheme. The two religions couldn’t be more opposite in their views of God.

    Simply put, in Dolan’s prayer, Jesus is not God.

    Which is not a Mormon idea. Mitt Romney is God in larval form for a Mormon. He and Ann are entering into a system of exaltation which will result ultimately in them being able to give rise to their own spirit children who will then live on a planet whose eternal matter has been organized by Mitt to give rise to traditional matter, where their spirit children will undergo a process starting with the fall of their own Adam….

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  47. Hmm? If it works it’s because the Holy Spirit blessed it, and if it does he didn’t. I suppose if the HS doesn’t approve it we move on to a different model that he hopefully likes better? I never realized building the New Jerusalem was so complicated, unclear, and arbitrary.

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  48. CD-Host,

    And we come back to the fact that Dolans’ was not a Trinitarian prayer and left out any reference to the deity of Christ, failing even to pray in His name. I am not arguing what RCs claim to believe…just what one prominent Catholic (introduced as ‘his eminence’) actually did.

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  49. Can we just all agree to chuck all prayers at political events? Someone is always going to be disappointed or offended. There is a reason the OPC kicked the Boy Scouts out of their churches.

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  50. Erik Charter: Can we just all agree to chuck all prayers at political events? Someone is always going to be disappointed or offended. There is a reason the OPC kicked the Boy Scouts out of their churches.

    RS: I have never heard anyone truly pray at a political event. It is true that someone might have said the word God and asked God to do something for them, but that is not necessarily prayer. Perhaps they could just give up the hypocrisy and pretend prayers. Why did the OPC practice church discipline on all who were boy scouts?

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  51. “At a certain point, Keller’s cheerleading for the modern metropolis and Redeemer’s cutting edge ministry sounds stale…In this case, though, Keller himself sounds fatigued.”

    Despite what you think about the content, your argument is untrue and anachronistic. Though this information is included in Keller’s latest book, it has been something he’s been developing for a long time.These points (and more) are outlined in a talk he gave more than two years ago entitled “Gospel Ecosystems.”

    If you think it’s stale – that’s fine. But it’s certainly not Keller sounding tired. He’s held to the same practical methodology on city-reaching for years.

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  52. And we come back to the fact that Dolans’ was not a Trinitarian prayer

    I don’t see any denial of trinitarian doctrine in Dolan’s prayer. The one area you accused of it, he was taking a position that is part of trinitarian doctrine and denying docetism. Dolan prayer is orthodox trinitarianism.

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  53. Caleb: If you think it’s stale – that’s fine. But it’s certainly not Keller sounding tired. He’s held to the same practical methodology on city-reaching for years.

    RS: Just as a note, perhaps Keller does not sound tired to you. But how do you know that he does not sound tired to others?

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  54. Can we just all agree to chuck all prayers at political events?

    As soon as religion stops being important enough to people to get them to vote for particular political parties 🙂

    Interestingly enough even in Northern Europe with the numbers we were discussing the benedictions still exist and are still a matter of debate. Northern Europeans are happy to argue disagree about what is the appropriate expressions for religions they no longer believe in directed towards a god they don’t think exists. 🙂

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  55. Caleb, holding to something for years is not what big cities like New York do. They are trendy, if not trend driven. And that is the problem of trying to make your city the measure of your ministry. I am fairly astonished that Keller has not seemed to think of this.

    As for gospel ecosystems, have you seen this?

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  56. I read Keller’s list and think: How is any different than what neo-evangelicals have announced for the last 50 years? You replace “city ” with “world” and it could have come from any evangelical celebrity/parachurch.

    Thanks for pointing out this lunacy Dr. Hart. These kinds of visions burn out people like me who sit in the pews and constantly wonder if I do enough for my own church.

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  57. This is such a typical Reformed blog post (and I am Reformed). What is the point of bashing a fellow brother in the ministry who has found success in how he as contextualized ministry and has remained Biblically sound? He is simply offering some practical ways he has found to work. It may or may not work in your context. If it does, praise God. If it doesn’t, move on. Articles like this one are why we have been labeled as arrogant. What objective were you trying to reach in this blog post? I hope I read this post incorrectly, but it seemed to be nothing more than tearing a brother down. Also, I’m sorry but I must have missed the alternative that you were suggesting since Keller’s is “stale.”

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  58. Ashamed: This is such a typical Reformed blog post (and I am Reformed). What is the point of bashing a fellow brother in the ministry who has found success in how he as contextualized ministry and has remained Biblically sound? He is simply offering some practical ways he has found to work. It may or may not work in your context. If it does, praise God. If it doesn’t, move on. Articles like this one are why we have been labeled as arrogant. What objective were you trying to reach in this blog post? I hope I read this post incorrectly, but it seemed to be nothing more than tearing a brother down. Also, I’m sorry but I must have missed the alternative that you were suggesting since Keller’s is “stale.”

    RS: I think that one of the main things at Oldlife is that people should stick with the basics of what God has commanded for worship in the life of the local church and that the Church should focus on the Church rather than try to transform society using methods other than what God has commanded for the local church. In that context, then, Dr. Hart has already offered an alternative many times. His criticism of Keller is simply that he seems to be wavering on the things that he is commanded to believe and do and is turning to other things that the church has not been commanded to do.

    While it may not be apparent to you, several judgements were made regarding Tim Keller in your post. You think that Tim Keller has remained biblically sound. Certainly not all believe that. You appear to have a pragmatic bent in that you say Keller has found ways that work. How are you going to define what works? Is it biblical to practice things not taught in the Bible and think of them as good just if they work? One issue that could be pointed out is that by “doing church” in the way that the Bible prescribes always leads to what works. The Word of God will not return void and so you don’t have to worry about whether it works or not.

    You say that articles like this one is a reason we (assume the Reformed) have been labeled as arrogant. Fine, that is the way you see it. But not all of us think of Tim Keller as being staunch in his Reformed convictions and not all of us think of Tim Keller as having biblical practices. When people like Dr Hart point these things out they are doing the Church a real service. It can be disturbing when one reads of something they like beings treated without the kid gloves on. I know how that feels. I think Dr. Hart should read Jonathan Edwards with an open mind and heart, but he is OPC (Outrageously Pure Church) and has bought into some of the Dutch influence rather than the Puritan writings which are far superior. So he is not perfect but one can still learn from his writings (and occasional rants) at times. Remember, iron sharpens iron.

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  59. RS,

    Well stated my friend, there are plenty of times where we don’t agree, but you have fairly and faithfully represented the comcerns of many Reformed confessionalists in your response to “Ashamed”.

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  60. Ashamed and amazed, the alternative to Keller would be Paul’s letter to Timothy. As a Reformed Christian surely you see the importance of following the Bible as opposed to the doctrines and commandments of men. You also probably know that success is not measured by numbers or sales.

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  61. Tim Keller addressing the politicans after 9/11—- “we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that God doesn’t love us.”

    Keller has signed on to the Westminster Confession which explains in its chapter 3, first paragraph: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, ordain whatever comes to pass.” This is not God “allowing”.

    “Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

    Keller ignored this confession when he told the people of New York City that “we don’t know why.” Paragraph three of the confession chapter 3: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death.”

    For the manifestation of His glory—that is how the Bible itself explains the why. Romans 9:13 declares “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:22 tells the truth: “God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory.”

    The New Testament was written to those who believe the Christian gospel, so when its readers see a “loves us”, they need to ask the question Tonto asked the Lone Ranger “who’s the us?”

    According to the Bible, God does not love all sinners, and that love is never conditioned on the sinner’s response. God has ordained evil things to happen to both the non-elect and the elect, but the promise of Romans 8:28 is that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

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  62. Hi Amanda on September 6:

    If you are starting to get into Machen, you are in the right place, here on DG Hart’s website. I found Machen’s book, ‘what is faith’ for free, online. I can send you the link if you like. Also, Jgreshammachen.blogspot.com. I have other Machen resource ideas. He is wonderful.

    As regards this post, I found Ross Graham’s book on church planting very helpful. Available free on opc.org

    Blessings.

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  63. Dr. Keller is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which claims to be a bible-based denomination within Christianity. Years ago, Dr. Keller sat for an interview with David Eisenbach of Columbia University. Here are some of the points Dr. Tim Keller put forth during this interview:

    1. It is very misleading actually to say, even to say, “Homosexuality is a sin.”
    2. You don’t go to Hell for being a homosexual.
    3. Committing homosexual acts will not get you to go to Hell.
    4. Greed will not send you to hell.

    And then…

    5. Self-righteousness and pride will send you to hell.

    If you don’t believe it, watch the video or read a transcript of the video.

    According to Dr. Keller, the sin of self-righteousness and pride, which is, to use Keller’s own example, thinking God is going to take people to heaven because they’re good, will send people to hell, but the sin of greed, which is lusting after more material possessions or money, and the sin of homosexuality, which is having sexual intercourse with someone of the same gender, will not send people to hell.

    People wonder how Christian denominations slip into error and sin brought about by pressure from the worldly culture around them. This is a very good example of that. Going by the interview with Eisenbach, Dr. Keller appears to disagree with Paul’s statement in First Corinthians 6:9 that neither the greedy nor homosexuals will inherit the Kingdom of God. But I’m sure he would assert that he does agree with Paul in that passage of Scripture. So what was Dr. Keller trying to do in this interview when asked about homosexuality? He was clearly trying to not get booed off-stage. He was trying not to offend the audience. And he was successful in doing this by essentially saying that religious, bible-believing, people who engage in the prideful and self-righteous judgment of others will, based on that action, be sent to hell, but that people who engage in homosexual intercourse will, based on that action, not be sent to hell. Dr. Keller’s clear intent was to pacify a crowd which was unsympathetic to the biblical view of homosexuality. What better way to do that than to hold close the nice homosexual while summarily denouncing the mean religionist.

    Dr. Keller basically held up three forbidden fruits and said that one of them will kill you, but the other two, while they’re not really good for you. won’t kill you. Remember the saying? “You will not surely die.” He was doing his best to say what their itching ears wanted to hear while staying true to the bible, but he failed. Ministers of the gospel need to be bold and hold fast to biblical doctrine. They should denounce all damnable sins for what they are, not just pick out the one particular sin that happens to be repugnant to the unbelievers in your audience at the time, while simultaneously downplaying the sins that they approve of as not such a big deal.

    As for point number one above, Dr. Keller says during the interview that it is misleading to say that homosexuality is a sin. Immediately after he says that, he says “of course homosexuality is a sin…” It is hard to find a more pathetic example of a double-tongued waffling minister talking out of both sides of his mouth and trying to please everyone in the room.

    To my knowledge, Dr. Keller has never been formally called to account by the PCA for the glaring inconsistencies and false assertions he put forth during this interview. I could be wrong, but he has never, to my knowledge, renounced the interview or repented of how he presented things during it. Maybe I’m wrong. If I am, I will remove this post. If someone could let me know, I would appreciate it

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