David Robertson is What’s the Matter with Tim Keller

Amy Mantravadi wanted to know what’s the matter with Tim Keller around the same time that David Robertson decided to make Keller the test for loyalty to gospel ministry. Amy makes careful evaluations (charitable) of Keller. Robertson sneers at anyone who takes issue with Keller.

And that is the problem. Keller is merely one pastor whose foibles would be unknown to any outside his congregation if he had not allowed himself to be a poster-boy for urban, transformationalist, pastor-to-(some of)-the-intelligentsia ministry.

Lots of pastors in the Reformed world do not follow the rules of polity, liturgy, and confessional austerity. They likely face their own sets of critics whether from within the congregation or at presbytery. But these pastors do not pretend to have written the book for successful ministry or allow fans to crow about their success.

Keller, however, has become a brand and pastors like David Robertson have gladly wrapped themselves in it. In fact, when Keller says something that so patently needs qualification, Robertson is there to dare anyone who would question Keller’s devotion, wisdom, and truth.

Keller is too big to fail and defenders like Robertson made him so.

Here is what Keller said about art:

The Church needs artists because without art we cannot reach the world. The simple fact is that the imagination ‘gets you,’ even when your reason is completely against the idea of God. ‘Imagination communicates,’ as Arthur Danto says, ‘indefinable but inescapable truth.’ Those who read a book or listen to music expose themselves to that inescapable truth. There is a sort of schizophrenia that occurs if you are listening to Bach and you hear the glory of God and yet your mind says there is no God and there is no meaning. You are committed to believing nothing means anything and yet the music comes in and takes you over with your imagination. When you listen to great music, you can’t believe life is meaningless. Your heart knows what your mind is denying. We need Christian artists because we are never going to reach the world without great Christian art to go with great Christian talk.

If you are a minister devoted to the sufficiency of Scripture, maybe you qualify this a little? You put yourself in the situation — wouldn’t all that reading of Charles Taylor help you? — of Christ and the apostles and maybe remember that art did not seem to be high on the apostles agenda.

Instead, Robertson doubles down and does for Keller what so many Roman Catholic apologists do for Pope Francis — spin:

Now there is a narrower sense in which art is used – I guess the sense in which it is studied in art colleges. And if Keller was saying without painting we can’t communicate the Gospel then he would deserve the ridicule that comes his way. But do you think Keller is restricting ‘art’ to the narrower sense of painting only (or perhaps ballet?). Can’t you be a little more charitable and assume that a bible believing teacher such as Keller might actually know something about the bible, church history and evangelism? At least enough to prevent him accusing Paul and Jesus of not knowing how to proclaim the Gospel?

The truth is that Keller and the upcoming downgrade in the PCA is not the problem. He is not a heretic and his views on art are not heretical – they are basic Kuyperian Calvinism. No, it is the ugliness of some who profess the Reformed Faith, those macho keypboard warriors who think that putting the adjective effeminate in front of anything is enough to damn it; seeking their own niche and identity by dissing others who are the real heretics. Why? Because although they profess orthodox faith in Christ – it’s not enough. We must reflect the glory and beauty of Christ. To turn beauty into ashes is anti-Christ and the real heresy.

You mean, all that time in the city has not in the least influenced Keller and how he presents? You mean, Robertson has never studied the history of how Presbyterians are like frogs in the kettle and become used to the cultural temperature around them? You mean, that a minister in the Free Church cannot ever fathom how liberal Presbyterianism happens?

That’s a problem.


97 thoughts on “David Robertson is What’s the Matter with Tim Keller

  1. “…There is a sort of schizophrenia that occurs if you are listening to Bach and you hear the glory of God and yet your mind says there is no God and there is no meaning. You are committed to believing nothing means anything and yet the music comes in and takes you over with your imagination…”

    So then, listening to this would illumine your mind better: http://churchjazz.com/about/the-chicago-jazz-mass?
    Never mind that many of the jazz musicians from the foundations of that particular genre through most of the 60’s and 70’s were drug addicts, into countercultural themes, and especially wound up with avant garde and “free jazz” styles that would drive even the demons insane? All-righty, then. But it’s cultural, right?!


  2. The points made by DG and the post by Ami are not about peripheral issues couched in personal hues. Tim Keller has directly or indirectly through his many peers a strong influence in the West; here in the UK the City to City church plant initiative is gaining significant traction and resources with a strong Keller ethos underpinning it. It takes some conviction to question this city church culture, but it is flawed concept. Although backed by formidable intellectuals of impeccable evangelical pedigree, why oh why do these folks make cities and aspects of their supposed power of arts, music, sports and politics so crucial to such church plants? Who, apart from smart and admittedly very nice post grad. professionals who can afford such past times as art, theatre, over hyped soccer etc, gives a monkeys about these? What on earth have they got to do with the gospel? Nowt!

    The disingenuous use of women as deaconesses by Keller but not as ordained needs constantly calling out. I wonder how in simple English the Keller fans back this from Scripture? The UK City to City initiative is blindingly contradictory by claiming to be Reformed and yet has out and out charismatic New Frontiers input. The waters are further muddied by folks like David Robertson who rubbed the noses of the Reformed in his ways by welcoming the New Frontiers worship leader Stuart Townend to his church to lead a concert. David no longer writes at OL, which is sad but perhaps better as he can be sarcastic and quite vitriolic towards those who don’t agree with him.

    There is a personal element for many of us who have made a long journey towards an unambiguous Protestant Reformed and therefore Bible honouring ecclesiology and practice. I and perhaps others who have made this journey don’t want to see this precious arrival compromised, undermined and diluted with contradictions by those who would be more honest if they pursued their gospel passion outside supposedly Reformed denominations and claims like those such as Keller, Robertson and the City to City folks to be Reformed. Finishing on a personal note, I see David Robertson has been ill with gallstones, a painful and nasty disease. If you should read this David, I trust you are making a good recovery either through medical treatment or surgery; all the very best to you bro., and I mean that.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Curt — would that be the KELLER LOVE/HATE COIN? Of course that’s what you mean. But this is not all about Keller, or shouldn’t be. It’s about confessional, well-ordered churches. If that concern is not on your radar you’ll never understand why some people have issues with Keller. Are you not troubled by the sheer amount of money these entrepreneurs are trafficking in? About how much they use Madison Avenue techniques? Your revolutionary cred is suffering, comrade. Get on the side of the little man and the poor church for the poor.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. D.G. Hart says If you are a minister devoted to the sufficiency of Scripture, maybe you qualify this a little?

    Amen. HIS art declares the work of HIS hands


  5. cw – I never said it established an office. The Apostle Paul refers to a servant of the church as a deaconess in Romans 16:1. Are you going to dispute that? I’m not arguing for ordaining deaconesses, just as Calvin and others didn’t ordain their deaconesses.


  6. Again, no mention of commissioned, approved….what?…position of deaconess (female servant) in the NT. Maybe a widow’s list. These are not the deaconesses you are looking for, VV.


  7. @Paul (UK) — Wrt “he can be sarcastic and quite vitriolic towards those who don’t agree with him”. Sounds like he’d fit right in at OL!

    Just disappointing to see that presby polity/ecclesiology is so powerless/inept to correct the sins of the TKNY’s of the presby world.


  8. What about the money? I could plant ten churches(at least) for every downtown redeemer plant. Is this a good use of scarce funds? You need 100 million(minimum) to plant a Manhattan church, because renting does adorn the gospel appropriately. And for what? Ill defined, post modern presbyterianism? Keller can’t even keep the theological plot and he’s the bright one of the group. I’m not impressed enough w/ NE elites to fund a ‘new way’ to keep them engaged. And as we learned from Princeton, Keller can’t appease them enough to win them over.


  9. Sean – Redeemer rents from Hunter College – and has for about 20 years now – at $1.3 million per year. And that’s just for Sunday use. Which makes more sense, $1.3 million per year in rent for 12 hours a week, or $1.1 million per year mortgage for permanent, 24/7/365 use? You do the math. And a single plant in Manhattan can reach many, many, many more people than your 10 in rural…wherever.

    cw – I admit that Redeemer needs to clarify their ordained/non-ordained distinction better than they do when it comes to deacons/deaconesses. They are sloppy in their terminology, and that has led to criticism that they might otherwise avoid. But the practice of have a group of women called deaconesses who serve the church is perfectly in line with Scripture and Reformed tradition.


  10. VV, the 10 for 1 was podunk downtown to your rural flyover. I can fund 50 new denominations off the 100 mil. you want for your precious Manhattan. You guys don’t warrant. Go crowdsource it from the Assemblies of God.


  11. The hubris. We need podunk,wherever-rest of-‘murica to fund our Manhattan RE play where we aptly syncretize the therapeutic w/christianity to fall short of wooing the enlightened in the bubble. “Just give us your money, you wouldn’t understand if we tried to explain it.”


  12. VV, the anger? Please. You’re kidding w/the Kingdom growth cuz Redeemer Manhattan, right? You do understand that because your guy still believes in hell(I think) and bloody propitiation of God you’re never going to get traction in the bubble. The post modern vocabulary of the intelligentsia doesn’t even have the categories for it. He’s had to contextualize the concept of sin just to get a hearing and reinterpret self-denial and death of self as flourishing. I’ve been through the modernization of religion at Vat II, you don’t have what you think you have and you’ll always be late to the culture party. I’m disappointed by the product and am aware that you’ll lose the bulk of the additions. It’s a money pit chasing air castles.


  13. Peter, “Just disappointing to see that presby polity/ecclesiology is so powerless/inept to correct the sins of the TKNY’s”

    Why do you misrepresent your earnestness? Religious affections, man! No room for irony in the white hot piety of Christian hedonism.

    Doesn’t suit you.


  14. VV, you’re right — it would have cost Redeemer only a little inconvenience, would have suffered only a little constriction to avoid 99% of the criticism leveled against them. But they wouldn’t — why not? It smells of hubris and arrogance. And the dance thing — why? They did it and posted it because THEY KNEW THEY COULD GET AWAY WITH IT. Do they believe prancing manboys are necessary to reach their demographic? If the answer is “yes” (which I doubt) they have massive doctrinal problems. If the answer is “no — we don’t have to do this” then they have a huge order problem. It’s a problem of adherence, not of ignorance.


  15. VV, I visited a backwoods baptist church that had as many images and figurines of the second person of the Trinity as any mid-sized cathedral. Their problem was isolation and ignorance. There was no one to tell them this was no bueno, and they’d probably never had a seminary-trained pastor. They have slidden into sensual, unbiblical worship as humans will. Redeemer has no such excuse…except maybe the isolation and no one to tell them it’s no good parts. NYC is as parochial/world-of-its-own as anywhere in the world. And who (that matters by their standards) is going to rebuke or correct the Great Man?


  16. DGH – I have no idea.

    cw – I don’t think it’s hubris as much as it is just not seeing what all the fuss is about. As for the dancing, I agree that it violated the RPW in that specific case. I don’t think ALL dancing violates the RPW, but this did because it was performance and did not accompany corporate singing. As for the over-the-top reaction to what was perceived as gay or effeminate, it mostly came from older guys who don’t have much exposure to dance and ballet. What they perceived as effeminate is simply standard ballet movement. If I’m not mistaken one of the company dancers for the New York City Ballet – probably the best company in the world – is a Christian and choreographed that routine. For what it’s worth, Briarwood Presbyterian – the flagship PCA church – also has dancing in their services from time to time, and even had a shirtless (!!!) male dancer perform at an evening service once. Don’t remember much of an uproar over that. I guess because it was in Alabama they got a pass.

    Sean – the numbers speak for themselves: a 5-fold increase in the number of Christians in Manhattan over 20 years is far more than “gaining traction.” As for the “intelligentsia” somehow not embracing the Gospel – would you have supported Paul planting churches in places like Athens or Rome, or other missionaries working in places like Alexandria? Or would it have been better to focus all the resources of the early church in the deserts of Arabia? Cities are vital for expansion of the Kingdom, as they always have been and always will be. And if you doubt the reality of the Gospel in New York, you should visit the three Redeemer churches – you can probably attend all 3 locations in one Sunday. When you see the thousands of actual, living people who have embraced the Gospel, you might be less prone to think of the spread of the Kingdom through Redeemer as “air castles.”


  17. vv, you gotta verify that claim about Christians in New York. Could it have more to do with 9/11 than with TKNY? Barna wonders (so should you if not for your pastor crush):

    Looking at some of Barna Group’s proprietary faith measurements, the percentage of New York’s media market residents who qualify as born again Christians surged from 20% in the late 1990s to 32% today. This measure has been steadily increasing since 2001-2002. These are individuals who said they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in the life and who believe they will go to Heaven because they have accepted Christ and been forgiven of their sins. The surveys do not ask people if they call themselves “born again.” Currently, 40% of adults nationwide can be classified as born again.

    Surprisingly, the growth in the born again population has not translated into an increased evangelical audience, at least in the way that Barna Group typically measures this population. The percentage of evangelical Christians in the New York metro area actually declined over the last 14 years, from 4% in the late Nineties to just 1% of the market in the most recent polling. This compares to 7% of the adult public who qualifies as an evangelical. In Barna Group studies, the evangelical segment is a subset of the born again population. In Barna studies, evangelicals meet the born again criteria and also embrace other aspects of evangelical teaching, such as the necessity of sharing one’s faith with others, rejecting works-based salvation, and accepting the accuracy of Scripture principles.

    Kinnaman put the larger findings in context by pointing out that “the research suggests that faith and religion took on new urgency for many New Yorkers after 9-11, but the impact was neither immediate nor long-lived. While people’s born again commitment and religion’s importance did grow in the years after 9-11, church attendance and active faith measures did not really start increasing until after 2004.


  18. DGH – first of all, I posted two links two different sets of data that undeniably back up my assertion on numbers here: https://oldlife.org/2017/04/20/public-intellectuals-public-protestants/#comments

    Second, you completely omitted – again – the part of the article that plainly contradicts your thesis. There’s no point in analyzing this – it clearly speaks for itself (emphasis mine):

    “Residents of the New York City media market are MORE SPIRITUALLY ACTIVE TODAY than they were in the late 1990s – and more so than they were in 2001. Reported weekly church attendance, for instance, was lowest in 1999 and 2000 (31%), but has since GROWN to represent 46% of the market’s residents. (Note: Although the vast majority of church attendance stems from Protestant churches and Catholic parishes, Barna Group’s religious attendance measure does not exclude those of other faith groups who participate in other weekly religious events.)

    In addition to worship attendance, several other MEASURES OF FAITH ALSO SHOWED INCREASES IN THE NEW YORK MARKET, including Bible reading (growing from 29% to 35%) and those who qualify as having an active faith. Active-faith adults, a multiple-activity indicator that represents those who pray, read the Bible and attend church in a typical week, HAS INCREASED FROM 17% TO 24%.

    Also reflecting the OVERALL RISE IN SPIRITUAL PARTICIPATION, the percentage of residents of the New York area who are UNCHURCHED – defined as those who have not attended a worship service in the last six months – DECLINED FROM 42% TO 34%.

    For context, during the same period of time in the nation’s population, church attendance has declined and there has been a corresponding increase in the percentage of unchurched adults. Bible reading has been essentially flat nationally over the last decade.

    David Kinnaman, the Barna Group president, directed the research study and pointed out that the most significant spiritual change in the New York market, the increase in church attendance, DOES NOT APPEAR CORRELATED TO THE 9-11 ATTACKS. “Most of the change in spiritual behavior seems to have happened since the middle of the last decade. Church participation in the New York market especially has SHIFTED MOST SINCE 2004.””


  19. VV, I come out of the RC and read market rent surveys for a living. Your Barna numbers on spirituality, unchurched and bible reading not only don’t mean anything, other than possibly angst, but they fail to make the distinctions necessary to be of any help in deciding to finance your particular project. Your first point of demarcation might be your evangelical % but you’re project is on the wrong side of those stats, anyway. No soup for you.


  20. Curt, is the press obsessed with Trump or climate change? When Keller is sucking all the oxygen in the Presbyterian room, you call worrying about breathing obsessive?

    You’ve been invaded by the body snatchers.


  21. DGH – partly because the hard numbers support it, and partly because it would be a huge coincidence otherwise. There was virtually no church planting in Manhattan, then Tim Keller plants Redeemer, which rapidly expands and aggressively plants many new churches, all of which coincides chronologically with a massive increase in church attendance in the NYC area, Manhattan in particular. Are you really going to try to claim one had nothing to do with the other? I also noticed your shift in argument from “there really was no spiritual growth” to “the spiritual growth cannot be attributed to Redeemer.” Which is it?

    Sean – the hard numbers speak for themselves. You can “finance” the ministry in NYC or not, but it’s just silly and ignorant to pretend the facts don’t exist. And why would you want them NOT to exist – shouldn’t you be thrilled that God’s Kingdom has grown in and beyond the world’s greatest city?


  22. VV, I’m immune to building prospectus’. The project doesn’t pencil. Still, it’s noteworthy that Redeemer largely relies on metrics reserved for RE development(church growth strategy) to argue for the expansion of the Kingdom of God. It’s not an unexpected reveal.


  23. D. G. Hart says: vv, saw all this. So the question is why you attribute this to Keller?

    Thanks for reason to be reminded of some bible verses 😊

    1 Cor 3:7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.
    Eph 4:16bthe proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

    1 Thess 1:2 We give thanks to God always for all of you, making mention of you in our prayers; 3 constantly bearing in mind your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ in the presence of our God and Father,
    4 knowing, brethren beloved by God, His choice of you; 5a for our gospel did not come to you in word only, but also in power and in the Holy Spirit and with full conviction

    1 Cor 2 4 my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
    1 Tim 1:12bHe considered me faithful, putting me into service

    Matt 25:21His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.’
    Eph 2: (His work alone) 7 so that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.



  24. VV, this doesn’t need to contentious. If Redeemer is an anchor for the KOG in Manhattan, I’m sure they can secure the needed abatements from city council and Manhattanites should be falling over themselves to store up their treasure in heaven to fund the KOG in their own town. The sell is about being for New York(Keller’s pitch). So, you guys should be all about doing it your way. If you’re really struggling with that sell in NY maybe you don’t have what you think you have, but even then there is buckets of Chinese investment looking for a place to land.

    Liked by 1 person

  25. TKNY speaks in parables. Jesus did that, expressly to conceal truths from some as was his prerogative. Paul always explained when talking to the church. In a day of Trinity issues and errors, why doesn’t Tim?


  26. At least weekly he seems to drop these Zenmaster, arcane, almost gnostic statements that can be construed in any number of ways…and he just leaves them there. Sincere people say “WHUUUUUT?” — no response.


  27. You two are funny. Your ‘outrage’ about others (sin?) -not too credible – given indifference to you own 😊 (not that we don’t all fit that category to some degree}

    For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you. 😊

    There is no fear of God before their eyes.


  28. cw – that’s not a parable – unless you are talking about something else. And anyway, it is basically a re-statement of 2 Corinthians 5:21, John 3:16, Romans 5:8, and others. Not that hard to understand.


  29. Basic Xian doctrine is either important or it is not. And, congrats — O reader of hearts — you have unlocked HOLY JUKE LEVEL INFINITY. Your subjective take on others does not trump the need for clarity about objective Xian truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  30. Suffering the wrath of God the Father for the sin of the world does not equal” losing the infinite love of the Father”. That’s dangerous Trinitarian ground. Not that hard to understand.


  31. Reformed theologian Mark Jones (with whom many of us have had disputes and who has written a highly-regarded book on Christology) said this:

    “This is borderline heretical. Please stop this. I can’t think of a single orthodox theologian affirming this, Pastor Keller. Sincerely, a fellow PCA minister, Mark Jones.”


  32. To. much. to. process. Twitter isn’t a medium of precision. Branded teacher of religious profundity fails to be precise on Twitter. Another branded teacher of religion, who was critical of those demanding precision of doctors, is critical of a professional co-belligerent for their lack of precision. He has a point. The room is spinning from all the humanity.


  33. “By dying on a cross, Jesus fell under the curse of God. Can we conceive of a greater humiliation than one whereby God cursed his own beloved Son? It should humble us to think that, for a time, God showed more love to us than he did to his own Son, who became a curse for us.” from “Knowing Christ” by Mark Jones


  34. My armchair theologian wife said it best: “Sounds like he is looking into what is not given to us to know. The word “forsaken” and its implications within the trinity are beyond us.” And it was on Facebook, so 140 characters was not a limiting factor. I reserve the right to be troubled by this. Good day.


  35. cw l’unificateur says: My armchair theologian wife

    Gotta go, but glad you have an armchair theologian in the family cw.
    “To put it pictorially, souls are small in the modern Western world, and we have less of an appetite for this kind of nourishment that our spiritual health actually requires” from foreword by J.I Packer, Knowing Christ by Mark Jones


  36. a trinity debate in the comment sections of OL. fat chance.

    unrelated, from robertson’s infant dedication post (see cw above), they also have the economy class option:

    “Infant blessing – for non-Christians who come and want their child ‘to be done’. They have a superstitious view of baptism but also a genuine desire to seek God;s blessing on their child. If they wish so I just ask them to come up, pray for their child and seek to introduce them to Christ. There are no vows to be taken.”

    Liked by 1 person

  37. cw – it’s a paradox. He continued loving the Son, but simultaneously hated Him on the cross because he regarded Him as sin. I’ll grant there’s a degree of mystery there, but on a certain level the Son had to lose the love of the Father in order to fully atone for our sins.


  38. cw, how do you know Beffany isn’t tweeting out for TKNY? It’s hard to believe he’s there with his android, tweeting his profoundest.

    Then again, there’s Trump. NYC water?


  39. Jeff,

    Does this help?

    Q. 46. What was the estate of Christ’s humiliation?
    A. The estate of Christ’s humiliation was that low condition, wherein he for our sakes, emptying himself of his glory, took upon him the form of a servant, in his conception and birth, life, death, and after his death, until his resurrection.

    Q. 47. How did Christ humble himself in his conception and birth?
    A. Christ humbled himself in his conception and birth, in that, being from all eternity the Son of God, in the bosom of the Father, he was pleased in the fullness of time to become the son of man, made of a woman of low estate, and to be born of her; with divers circumstances of more than ordinary abasement.

    Q. 48. How did Christ humble himself in his life?
    A. Christ humbled himself in his life, by subjecting himself to the law, which he perfectly fulfilled; and by conflicting with the indignities of the world, temptations of Satan, and infirmities in his flesh, whether common to the nature of man, or particularly accompanying that his low condition.

    Q. 49. How did Christ humble himself in his death?
    A. Christ humbled himself in his death, in that having been betrayed by Judas, forsaken by his disciples, scorned and rejected by the world, condemned by Pilate, and tormented by his persecutors; having also conflicted with the terrors of death, and the powers of darkness, felt and borne the weight of God’s wrath, he laid down his life an offering for sin, enduring the painful, shameful, and cursed death of the cross.

    Q. 50. Wherein consisted Christ’s humiliation after his death?
    A. Christ’s humiliation after his death consisted in his being buried, and continuing in the state of the dead, and under the power of death till the third day; which hath been otherwise expressed in these words, He descended into hell.


  40. I like Roberston’s majestic book. Very Good! and Keller’s on suffering is also quite good. Otherwise, who cares? Keller is a celebrated nobody. Like T.D. Jakes. Who under 40 even remembers much less reads Edith Schaeffer? Who will every read Kathy? And who under 50 even knows Francis Schaeffer wrote bestselling books? Evangelicals need celebrities like Catholics need their hardly-quoteworthy popes. Those of use who have lived a few years grow weary of the whole spectacle. The gospel is not hip, ‘relevant,’ or glossy even if how we keep republishing it like it is … it’s just true. And comes in the trappings of smelly, fashionable Hebrew martyrs, not Starbucks-drinking hipsters. All the faces eager for their book covers and youtube moments are just humans like us, driven as much by ego as by compassion. They don’t merit too much attention. Martin Lloyd-Jones at least had a story and an over-the-top passion. These new players have…. I dunno, skinny jeans? I wish half of em would go away.


  41. D.G.,
    Keller is sucking all of the oxygen out of the room? At least you recognize the kind of coin you are a part of.

    And if the latest headlines are any indication, the press is more concerned with Trump’s antics than they are with climate change.


  42. Jeff – it was both in the person of Christ. He didn’t somehow “lose” either His divine or human nature on the cross, which is why He is the perfect Mediator.

    DGH – coincidence that they voted for both de Blasio and Hillary? Not at all: both are Democrats in a heavily Democratic city. And you’re right about Ali – he was en fuego yesterday!


  43. Vae victis (@masonmandy) says: en fuego

    that’s why we come to OL , right?
    fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you 😊.


  44. VV,

    So what do we make of Anselm

    Anselm What do you find inconsistent with reason, in our confessing that God desired those things which make up our belief with regard to his incarnation?

    Boso This in brief: that the Most High should stoop to things so lowly, that the Almighty should do a thing with such toil.

    Anselm They who speak thus do not understand our belief. For we affirm that the Divine nature is beyond doubt impassible, and that God cannot at all be brought down from his exaltation, nor toil in anything which he wishes to effect. But we say that the Lord Jesus Christ is very God and very man, one person in two natures, and two natures in one person. When, therefore, we speak of God as enduring any humiliation or infirmity, we do not refer to the majesty of that nature, which cannot suffer; but to the feebleness of the human constitution which he assumed. And so there remains no ground of objection against our faith. For in this way we intend no debasement of the Divine nature, but we teach that one person is both Divine and human. In the incarnation of God there is no lowering of the Deity; but the nature of man we believe to be exalted.

    — Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, 1.8

    Anselm seems to argue that God the Son cannot suffer. This would seem to be consistent with the Gospel, in which Jesus cries out and gives up His spirit. One would presume that at this moment as well during the three days of His entombment, the human nature and divine are separated, since God the Son does not die!

    So I would consider it to be orthodox that Jesus, two natures in one person, suffers the wrath of God in His humanity as sin offering, with the divine nature sustaining Him in that office. Thus it is in His humanity that Jesus suffers while on earth (Mark 9.12), learns obedience (Heb 5.8ff), is humiliated to the point of death on the cross (Phil 2), and indeed is exalted as the Son of God in power (Rom 1.4) — for God the Son was already so exalted.

    That is, at no point does God the Father regard God the Son as guilty of sin, for then God the Son the impassible must suffer His wrath. Rather, Jesus acts as sacrifice with regard to His human nature, and His divine nature sustains Him in that office.



  45. Jeff – Thomas Aquinas and Calvin would seem to disagree with Anselm.

    Aquinas: “…the union of the human nature with the Divine was effected in the Person, in the hypostasis, in the suppositum, yet observing the distinction of natures; so that it is the same Person and hypostasis of the Divine and human natures, while each nature retains that which is proper to it. And therefore, as stated above (3:16:4), the Passion is to be attributed to the suppositum of the Divine Nature, not because of the Divine Nature, which is impassible, but by reason of the human nature. Hence, in a Synodal Epistle of Cyril we read: “If any man does not confess that the Word of God suffered in the flesh and was crucified in the flesh, let him be anathema.” Therefore Christ’s Passion belongs to the “suppositum” of the Divine Nature by reason of the passible nature assumed, but not on account of the impassible Divine Nature.” Summa Theologiae 3.46.12

    Calvin: “There is a communication of ‘idiomata,’ or properties, when Paul says, that God purchased the church ‘with his own blood,’ (Acts 20:28), and that the Jews crucified the Lord of glory (1 Co 2:8). In like manner, John says, that the Word of God was ‘handled.’ God certainly has no blood, suffers not, cannot be touched with hands; but since that Christ, who was true God and true man, shed his blood on the cross for us, the acts which were performed in his human nature are transferred improperly, but not ceaselessly, to his divinity.” Institutes 2.12.14.

    Calvin’s treatment of this is much longer, but I tried to quote the main section of relevance here. It seems both believe – and I agree – that God did suffer in the person of Christ because what He suffered in His humanity was transferred to His divinity by virtue of the hypostatic union of His natures. So it is basically Nestorian (according to Aquinas) to say that Christ only suffered in His humanity. Thus when Christ endured the wrath of God on the cross because He was regarded as sin, both of His natures incurred that wrath.


  46. Suffering in either nature does not equal “losing the infinite love of the Father” — can we just agree on that? It’s OK to say that Keller shanked one, no? In these days of unstable trinitarian doctrine Keller’s pithy nugget is just not helpful.


  47. @ Vae Vic,

    Thanks. Interestingly, I read both Aquinas and Calvin as being in agreement with me, the key words being “by reason on the passible nature assumed” and “improperly”, respectively.

    In other words, it would seem that language such as “God sent His Son to die for us” is not to be understood properly, that the Son literally dies (Calvin), or that the divine nature suffers (Aquinas), but in that the one person Jesus suffers and dies — yet properly speaking, in His humanity; and only with regard to “assumption” in His divinity.


  48. cw – I’ll grant he “shanked” one on the dancing. I disagree about the first though – I still maintain Christ had to experience a loss of love in order to make full atonement and reconcile us to the full love of God.


  49. ‘Cause if someone walked up to me in the hall at church two weeks ago and asked: “Did Jesus at any point lose the infinite love of the Father?” I’m pretty sure I would have said “no”.


  50. Jeff – we agree in our reading of Calvin and Aquinas, but not the implications. Christ’s human nature suffered and bled and experienced the agony of God’s wrath, but it is incorrect to say that ONLY His human nature incurred the wrath of God, because His incarnate being consisted entirely of both. In the Person of Christ the divine attributes (e.g. complete righteousness) were transferred to His humanity, just as the human attributes (e.g. pain and suffering) were transferred to His divinity.


  51. @ Vae,

    Thanks. You seem to be saying that because Jesus was one person (agreed), then each of His actions necessarily entailed the involvement of each nature.

    I would suggest that (mystery that it is), Jesus the person was capable of acting out of His human or divine natures distinctly.

    Aside from the passion, we see this at work in Jesus’ ignorance of the day or hour of His return, in that ignorance is impossible for the divine nature.

    Conversely, we see the divine nature acting in seeing Nathanael under the fig.

    Are you familiar with monothelitism?


  52. Jeff – of course I reject monothelitism. I’m not saying that there is no difference in His divine and human attributes, as you point out in your post, and of course other examples include the virgin birth, the fact that He “increased in wisdom and stature,” etc. Yet at the same time, the wrath of God was poured out on the Person of Jesus, and that Person consists of divine and human natures. I agree that His divine nature did not die the way His physical nature did, but He was “forsaken” before He died. Likewise, His human nature experienced the physical pain and not the divine, but since that was an aspect of God’s wrath, it’s proper to say that His divine nature also experienced wrath because of their union in Christ.


  53. VV,

    By nature the divine nature cannot experience change. So you can’t say that the divine nature experience wrath because that would introduce change into deity.

    If the Son loses the love of the Father, you have a disruption of the Trinity. You can say something like the Son of God, as a man, suffered the absence of God’s pleasure or something like that. But you can’t say that the Father stopped loving the Son unless you want to rewrite Trinitarian doctrine.

    Admittedly there is mystery here, but there are some things that we cannot say, and classic Protestantism, along with both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholics recognize this.

    Liked by 1 person

  54. You can’t set the persons at odds with one another, once you do by saying that the Father stopped loving the Son, or something like that, there is no reason why you can’t then set them at odds in other ways and give us a Christ who had to twist the Father’s arm in order to get Him to love us.


  55. And also remember that the sin Christ bore was not properly His own. So there needs to be qualification when we say God poured out on wrath in Christ. God’s anger wasn’t directed at Christ qua Christ but at sinners in Christ. God wasn’t actually mad at His own Son. That is nonsensical.


  56. cw l’unificateur says: It’s OK to say that Keller shanked one, no?

    seriously? or better, honestly? It is unlikely that there can be found from you one comment of support for him, only many, many discrediting ones. You must know the Lord isn’t right there with you in only regular dissing of one of His beloved sons? It seems surprising no one has counseled you about that, because that seems a kind thing to do.


  57. VV: I think the question between us is how to understand “communication of properties.” You would have the properties of human and divine natures transferred to one another in actuality, whereas I would hold that the transference is a figure of speech, not to be taken literally. We hold the person to be one and the natures two, and we understand actions taken in the human nature to be attributed to the person, but not to both natures thereby. So we may say that the Son of God died for us, but not that the divine nature of the Son died.

    Thus Calvin in the prologue to your citation:

    If, in human affairs, any thing analogous to this great mystery can be found, the most apposite similitude seems to be that of man, who obviously consists of two substances, neither of which however is so intermingled with the other as that both do not retain their own properties. For neither is soul body, nor is body soul. Wherefore that is said separately of the soul which cannot in any way apply to the body; and that, on the other hand, of the body which is altogether inapplicable to the soul; and that, again, of the whole man, which cannot be affirmed without absurdity either of the body or of the soul separately. Lastly, the properties of the soul are transferred to the body, and the properties of the body to the soul, and yet these form only one man, not more than one. Such modes of expression intimate both that there is in man one person formed of two compounds, and that these two different natures constitute one person. Thus the Scriptures speak of Christ. They sometimes attribute to him qualities which should be referred specially to his humanity and sometimes qualities applicable peculiarly to his divinity, and sometimes qualities which embrace both natures, and do not apply specially to either. This combination of a twofold nature in Christ they express so carefully, that they sometimes communicate them with each other, a figure of speech which the ancients termed ijdiwmavtwn koinoniva (a communication of properties).

    — Calv Inst 2.14.1

    And Cyril, correcting the error of Nestorius, says

    So then he who had an existence before all ages and was born of the Father, is said to have been born according to the flesh of a woman, not as though his divine nature received its beginning of existence in the holy Virgin, for it needed not any second generation after that of the Father (for it would be absurd and foolish to say that he who existed before all ages, coeternal with the Father, needed any second beginning of existence), but since, for us and for our salvation, he personally united to himself an human body, and came forth of a woman, he is in this way said to be born after the flesh; for he was not first born a common man of the holy Virgin, and then the Word came down and entered into him, but the union being made in the womb itself, he is said to endure a birth after the flesh, ascribing to himself the birth of his own flesh. On this account we say that he suffered and rose again; not as if God the Word suffered in his own nature stripes, or the piercing of the nails, or any other wounds, for the Divine nature is incapable of suffering, inasmuch as it is incorporeal, but since that which had become his own body suffered in this way, he is also said to suffer for us; for he who is in himself incapable of suffering was in a suffering body. In the same manner also we conceive respecting his dying; for the Word of God is by nature immortal and incorruptible, and life and life-giving; since, however, his own body did, as Paul says, by the grace of God taste death for every man, he himself is said to have suffered death for us, not as if he had any experience of death in his own nature (for it would be madness to say or think this), but because, as I have just said, his flesh tasted death. In like manner his flesh being raised again, it is spoken of as his resurrection, not as if he had fallen into corruption (God forbid), but because his own body was raised again. We, therefore, confess one Christ and Lord, not as worshipping a man with the Word (lest this expression “with the Word” should suggest to the mind the idea of division), but worshipping him as one and the same, forasmuch as the body of the Word, with which he sits with the Father, is not separated from the Word himself, not as if two sons were sitting with him, but one by the union with the flesh.

    — Cyril, 2nd Letter to Nestorius

    I’m content to leave the matter here. Thanks for the interaction.


  58. So when the WCF tells us that God is unchangeable in his holiness, is it excepting the instant of the Son becoming sin? I always understood that to be the Son’s divine nature was unchangeable in his holiness, but his human nature was able to become sin – the reason for the necessity of the dual nature of the Son. Am I mistaken? How do you understand the application of the WCF’s definition of God if I am.


  59. though, cw, I guess I should say, you bringing this up must reflect your deep desire to deeply consider and meditate on the unfathomable sacrifice of Jesus as fully God and fully man, for forgiveness of our sins and for the redemption of our souls, and so that is encouraging.


  60. Jeff – thanks for the give and take. I think we are pretty close, and I agree that His divine nature did not die, as your quote from Cyril indicates. At the same time, saying that the transference of divine and human qualities is a “figure of speech” is a step too far for me.

    Robert – I agree with most of what you say. The Father cannot stop loving the Son, never considered the Son as guilty of sin, and of course He regarded Christ as sin on our behalf, not because Christ was Himself sinful. At the same time, Christ’s unique role as Mediator is such that He experienced things in the Person of Christ that He did not experience in His pre-incarnate glory with the Father and Holy Spirit. Just look at DGH’s post above from the WLC – the Son of God BECAME a son of man. What makes Him the perfect Mediator is that He had both natures, and humbled Himself by setting aside His glory in living the life of a human. Thus while the pre-incarnate Son of God could not and did not experience the wrath of the Father, He did in the Person of Christ. I don’t see how you can parse His two natures in terms of the atonement without undoing His unique work as Mediator. It seems to be a step too close to Nestorianism for my liking.

    sdb – take a look at WCF 8. I believe it makes my point, though I suspect Jeff and Robert believe it makes theirs as well.


  61. VV,
    WCF 8.7: Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.

    What is the experience of wrath—certainly it includes physical pain. It also includes a loss of God’s favor. We could go on. You have to parse things according to the natures, otherwise you end up setting the persons against each other or attributing to a nature something that cannot be attributed to a nature but only to a person.

    But properly speaking, God’s wrath was not directed against the Son, but against us and our sin. Christ only represented us. God’s wrath was directed at our sin in the person of the Son, not at the person of the Son. It’s a semantic distinction, but it’s an important one. Otherwise you have the Father literally mad at the Son Himself, which is impossible if the persons of the Trinity cannot be separated.

    This isn’t Nestorian. Essentially, persons do things and natures are things. So who died? Jesus the Son of God died. But how did He die? Only according to His humanity, as Cyril says. Who bore the wrath of God? Jesus the Son of God bore the wrath of God. How did He bear it? Only according to His humanity.

    We make these distinctions all the time. Jesus didn’t know his return date according to his humanity, not according to his omniscient deity, for example. The Son of God, according to his human body felt pain. The Son of God according to His human mind and spirit lost the sense of God’s presence, favor, etc. Even so, God the Father still loved God the Son, and He loved the Son both in His deity and in His humanity.


  62. SDB,

    “Became sin” is imputational language. Just as we are not changed ontologically when Christ’s righteousness is imputed to us, neither was Christ changed ontologically when sin was imputed to Him.


  63. cw l’unificateur says: Did you have this conviction (“Christ had to experience a loss of love…”) before you read Keller’s Facebook post?
    cw l’unificateur says: ‘Cause if someone walked up to me in the hall at church two weeks ago and asked: “Did Jesus at any point lose the infinite love of the Father?” I’m pretty sure I would have said “no”.

    D. G. Hart says: Ali, “You must know the Lord isn’t right there with you in only regular dissing of one of His beloved sons”
    So why do you diss cw?

    oh dgh.
    Did people have the conviction that Tim Keller was a completely unfaithful erring servant of the Lord worthy of ridicule before reading cw’s many posts? If some walked up to me at church weeks ago and asked “ Is Keller a completely unfaithful, erring servant of the Lord worthy of ridicule? I’m pretty sure I would have said “no”

    …Saul still breathing murder against the disciples of the Lord… “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting ME?” …I am Jesus whom you are persecuting,”


  64. Ali, get help.

    No one is saying Keller is “completely unfaithful.”

    You shouldn’t equate cw with Saul, or TKNY with the Lord.

    (you really go to a church where people read Oldlife comments? You really need help.)


  65. Robert – we’re close. I would be ok if you said “the Person of Christ experienced the wrath of God for our imputed sins according to His human nature.” But I wouldn’t say ONLY His human nature experienced the wrath of God. That’s what Calvin and Aquinas and the WCF are getting at based on the NT references to the Word/Son experiencing wrath. His human nature may have been the conduit, if you will, for experiencing wrath, but that still means Christ in His Person experienced wrath that transfers to both of His natures. The exact mechanism for that is in the realm of mystery and hidden truth.


  66. Most of us church people are good people, and we deserve way better than we get from the secular media. Sure, we are still sinners, but we do not sin as way of life because if we did sin as a pattern of life, that pattern would show that sin still reign over us, whatever we say about hoping in that act of righteousness done by that man in Romans 5.

    Tim Keller—“To grow in grace comes not simply from believing more in our justification. … When we are beholding God’s glory, this experience reorders the loves of our hearts, so we earnestly delight in him supremely, and the other things that have ruled our lives lose their enslaving powers over us.. This is not merely telling yourself that you are accepted and forgiven,

    Gaffin–”The gospel is to the purpose of removing an absolute law-gospel antithesis in the life of the believer…”


    David Robertson—The Texas Church Massacre has apparently caused even further justification for their anger against the God they don’t believe in. I have already seen several comments which mocked Christians who have prayed for the situation. “They were in church. They had the prayers shot right out of them. Maybe try something else.”
    Even the BBC news report on it this evening signed off with a snide gibe that Americans seem to think the answer is in guns and God.

    David Robertson–As Christians we believe we are to do unto others as we would want them to do to us. Therefore we must resist the temptation to respond in kind, rush into judgement, proclaim this as an atheist hate crime against Christians, tar all atheists with the same brush and suggest that atheism inevitably leads to such persecution of Christians. Irrational atheists like Richard Dawkins like to cite Westboro Baptist as the example of where Christianity leads. They think that their hatred of Christianity is justified by the examples they post of the tiny percentage of the world’s three billion Christians who do extreme and wicked things.


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