See What Keller Did Now?

Tim Keller has made the history of Presbyterianism obsolete. Look at the way Jake Meador describes the challenges facing young pastors in the PCA:

… young Presbyterian pastors, many of whom are on university campuses with RUF or working in gentrifying urban neighborhoods, face enormous class-based pressure to conform to certain progressive cultural norms. These pressures make themselves felt in a variety of ways.

First, there is a strong and classic American pull toward being dismissive of the past, toward what is established, and to embrace what is new. This temptation exerts an even stronger pull than normal on many young PCA pastors because many younger pastors and RUF guys have strong entrepreneurial tendencies. While this is often a very good thing—indeed, it’s what makes it possible for them to succeed as church planters and RUF pastors—this same trait can make them naturally inclined to be dismissive toward established norms, policies, and beliefs, especially when they are surrounded by other young people with the same entrepreneurial sensibilities. It is probably not a coincidence, in other words, that the most famous “Kellerite” to go progressive is pastoring in San Francisco, the capital of Silicon Valley.

In addition to the disregard for things that are older, established, etc. there is also strong cultural pressure to embrace a kind of bourgeois bohemian lifestyle—buy a cute house in the gentrifying neighborhood, embrace the careerism, food and exercise regimen, lifestyle trends, and broadly progressive ethos of your neighbors. You can even say you’re just being outreach-focused as you do it. While none of these things are bad in isolation, taken together they’re all steps that involve embracing the norms of a younger bobo sub-culture. And if you’re embracing those norms out of a desire to be liked rather than a pure desire to make the Gospel sensible, it will be disastrous.

But, of course, it is all very complicated: Essentially, these are young pastors being handed different cultural scripts and asked to choose which ones to follow. But these clashing scripts cannot be simplistically labeled “good” and “bad” such that we can tell young pastors to follow the “good” script and avoid the “bad.” It is more complicated than that.

This is similar to the point that Ron Belgau made in his response to Rod Dreher earlier this week: It’s not that we have a legacy PCA script that is unambiguously good that we need to cling to. That script has problems—it’s awful on race issues, for starters. So figuring out the cultural scripts question in the PCA is challenging: The young white bobo script you’re pushed toward culturally and according to class is bad, but then you don’t necessarily have a good alternative script, particularly if you’re trying to plant a church or RUF in a more hostile environment. There simply aren’t good evangelical templates for how to do that because we have for the most part been really bad at it.

In such a situation, the draw toward Keller and the ham-handed attempts to mimic him are quite understandable. What other models do these pastors have? Driscollism? Straight-up progressive Episcopalianism?

Certainly, you can argue that there actually are other models out there—Calvin basically turned Geneva into a booming intellectual hub. Someone like Richard Sibbes was a very successful preacher in Cambridge at the university in the 17th century. Richard Baxter could be helpful in that we know more about his routines as a pastor than any other minister of his era. Bucer and his colleagues in Strasbourg did good and faithful work in a major intellectual, cultural, and scholastic hub. But these examples are all either from radically different cultural contexts, much more obscure, or both.

It isn’t unreasonable that these pastors would look to Keller and, being young and failing to understand their context, fail to mimic him well. But that isn’t Keller’s fault and it isn’t entirely the young pastor’s fault either. It’s a predictable outcome given all the factors I have mentioned already.

Whatever happened to vanilla Presbyterianism? A pastor ministers the word, administers the sacraments, catechizes the youth, shepherds the flock, and goes to presbytery. What does all this worry about culture have to do with it? Meador doesn’t think Keller is responsible for leading the PCA down a misguided path of Kellerism. That is mostly true. What happened it seems to meeeeEEEE, is that Keller fulfilled the aspirations of some PCA leaders who wanted to “engage” the culture — marriage is still up for grabs.

What is happening in the PCA is what always happens to denominations that Americanize and try to adapt to the culture. The Presbyterian version of this is not whether to be Baptist or Episcopalian — though why don’t the boho’s seem to notice that Keller’s urban ways draw him to Baptists at TGC and other urban pastors like John Piper and Mark Dever? The Presbyterian version of assimilation is New School and New Life. In the 19th century, those who wanted to Christianize the culture were the New Schoolers (Lyman Beecher and Charles Finney), and their opponents were Old School Presbyterians who tried to maintain creedal theology and presbyterian governance. In the twentieth century (let’s leave aside the modernists for now), the assimilationists were New Lifers (in the OPC mind you) who wanted Orthodox Presbyterians to join with the wider evangelical world and also reach the young people with long hair. In case no one noticed, Tim Keller’s origins are in the New Life wing of the OPC, with Harvie Conn supplying a theology of the city, and Jack Miller providing a relaxed Presbyterianism that could adjust to the culture (Miller’s tastes ran less to ballet and more to Jesus people. Keller went to New Life Glenside while he taught at WTS, if I am not mistaken.) Not to mention that the Reformed Presbyterian Church, Evangelical Synod (which goes back to the Bible Presbyterians) side of the PCA that gave it Covenant College and Covenant Seminary, is not the same slice southern Presbyterianism that produced Reformed Seminary and the original PCA.

In other words, the history is thick behind Keller and simply looking at the PCA from the perspective of Baptists and Episcopalians doesn’t take you very far into the weeds.

Yet, when you apply the categories of Baptist and Episcopalian, you wind up rendering Old School (or vanilla) Presbyterianism as a couple clicks away from strange:

During times when progressivism is ascendant, as it certainly is in our day, there is a natural temptation amongst conservatives to want to double down on their most strident rhetoric, add purity tests to protect their institutions, and to begin attacking people not only for holding wrong ideas, but for holding ideas which they suspect could lead to wrong ideas (even if they won’t inevitably lead to them).

Is this a plea for Erdmanesque tranquility so that the boat won’t rock? Ministry unites, doctrine divides?

Whether Keller is responsible or no, he has not helped to prepare the PCA for the predicament that Meador thinks the denomination faces:

You’re in this weird denomination that aspires to being the church that can reach secular bobo-types in upwardly mobile neighborhoods but that also aspires to be faithful to theological orthodoxy and even to be theologically evangelical, all the way down to not ordaining women. That is an awkward position to be in from the beginning.

If Keller had left the impression that working through presbyterian channels was not weird but normal, and had achieved his fame not as a pastor with one foot in presbyterianism and another in networked Protestantism but as a regular Presbyterian minister, he might have communicated an important lesson to young pastors, namely, that it’s okay to be simply a pastor. But that is not what he did. And his fellow Presbyterian Church in Americans are sorting out what the Age of Keller means.

74 thoughts on “See What Keller Did Now?

  1. Well, as Keller finally copped to, it means owning a strategic piece of mid-town real estate where you imagine you can impart the transformational aspect of what you’ve been preaching that your preaching and theology failed to produce. It works to the degree you ignore the sausage makers(RE developers) who are driving out all the ‘unreached, undesirable, christ actually targeted types’ to make the area palatable for the bobos to inhabit & claim they reclaimed. ‘Gospel culture’ through real estate acquisition. Which at least finally lines up with the origins of church planting and marketing strategies. Never mind seminary, get your real estate license.


  2. Does just being a vanilla presbyterian pastor allow one to communicate the gospel to those who do not live in the subculture that brought in what is now called vanilla presbyterianism? In other words, we are comparing subcultures and some are insisting on reaching those from other subcultures in ways that suggest their subculture is superior.

    BTW, I am looking on the web for TKA so I can post the link here.


  3. Letme, so when with the Merely Orthodox pull out the New Urbanism file from their structural critiques? For that matter, when will they discover the structural inequities of wireless?


  4. Darryl, I don’t know. I do know that I can’t lease to an urban pioneer if my project doesn’t allow him the opportunity to stay with his current provider. IOW, my virtual commitment trumps my ‘heart’ for the city.


  5. Dr. Hart, curious what you make of someone like Clarence Macartney. On some issues, he was quite confessional. On others (think alcohol and morality) he was quite “culturally winsome” like the rest of Evangelical America.

    Wonder if you could also say Macartney is same mold as Keller? Both were big city celebrity preachers, well-versed in building a public image, popular middlebrow writers, and opponents of liberalism. I like Macartney a lot, so I wonder if that’s why I tend to like Keller too.


  6. Sean – ah, ok. Well, in that case let me offer a few corrections to your comment. I’ll go line by line:

    “it means owning a strategic piece of mid-town real estate”
    No, it means owning a piece of Upper East Side real estate, where the church has been renting for 20+ years. If you think Midtown and the Upper East Side are the same thing then you know nothing about New York.

    “where you imagine you can impart the transformational aspect of what you’ve been preaching that your preaching and theology failed to produce”
    Actually, the reason for the push for the UES property is because the UWS building has been very successful on many levels. It has a tremendous outreach to the community, hosts myriad events throughout the week, and has enabled them to serve community beyond worship services on Sunday, which would be the case if they were renting. So the push for new buildings isn’t to cause transformation, it is because of transformation.

    “It works to the degree you ignore the sausage makers(RE developers) who are driving out all the ‘unreached, undesirable, christ actually targeted types’ to make the area palatable for the bobos to inhabit & claim they reclaimed.”
    The Upper East Side is the wealthiest part of New York City, and the Upper West Side isn’t far behind. Ever hear of Millionaire Mile? The Metropolitan Museum of Art? The Guggenheim? That’s the Upper East Side. So they aren’t “driving out” any “undesirable” types at all, and the same is true of the Upper West Side property.

    “‘Gospel culture’ through real estate acquisition. Which at least finally lines up with the origins of church planting and marketing strategies.”
    Since when has real estate acquisition ever been taboo in the church? Hasn’t every congregation throughout church history aspired to own its own building/land? I’ve never heard of this being problematic at all until your comment. What makes more sense, renting at over $1 million annually for use of a facility one day a week and which might not always be available, or paying less in mortgage for an owned building that can be used 24/7/365 forever?

    “Never mind seminary, get your real estate license.”
    Reformed Theological Seminary NYC just held it’s first ever graduation. That’s the seminary that just opened through Redeemer, and where Tim Keller now serves as an instructor through the City to City program. So I think seminary is pretty important to Rev Keller and Redeemer, don’t you?


  7. VV, your apology makes it worse. But let me quote you fm your boy’s campaign

    “One of the best ways we can love and bless our neighbors is by becoming a physical neighbor ourselves. Renting is impermanent and often makes us invisible to those who live nearby. We want to do more than descend into a neighborhood on Sundays to “use” space. We want to be rooted in the fabric of a neighborhood to share space—and be part of advancing the common good for generations to come. We envision an East Side home for our congregation to worship, mark milestones of weddings and funerals, and invite kids of all ages to learn about Jesus. But just as importantly, we envision a place for the city—for serving the poor, for welcoming neighbors into artist events, hosting bar mitzvahs, city council meetings, and more, so as to physically manifest what it looks like to be a “church not for ourselves.”

    “Commit to making a real estate strategy part of Redeemer’s long-term vision to serve neighborhoods and rooted New Yorkers for generations to come.”

    Me: you do realize part of the sell of Redeemer franchises is “don’t spend your time on building campaigns and thinking the building is what is going to make your church “for the city”.

    Me: Get a RE license and private equity partners or just go ahead and see if you can build for a pension fund. Look at all that Event revenue you can sell as investment opportunity.

    Me: RE acquisition is how we manifest our message of transformation.-Renting is inadequate. Not cuz of money but because of ideological constraints. Inadequately Rooted, reflects poorly on our message of transformation and branding as influence peddlers.

    And since you felt free to transition to my other assumed point, Redeemer franchises, you and he need to be ready to defend all the blunders and misspent money and lack of concern and fidelity his proteges exhibit as it regards presbyterianism and theology.


  8. VV, yep. And we never sold it as gospel or pretending to be a move ‘for the city’ or ‘gospel culture’ or the ‘common good’ or a ‘place for the city’ and certainly never positioned it as a ‘tipping point’ to change the culture of the country. Nor did we request funds from other churches or the presbytery or the denomination to make it happen. Never sold it as being influence peddlers or transformation for the city. Your boy is running a con.


  9. I haven’t time to comment much on this post except to say it’s absolutely crackin’. The progressives probably have a quiet contempt for their Presbyterian history and distinctiveness. This is clear because there is increasingly little difference between the Progressives and contemporary evangelicalism, thanks to melting pot power structures like the GC and T4G. Success seems to lie with singing In Christ Alone till your blue in the face and being nice to anyone who is gospel driven.


  10. D.G.,
    See I understand you. When those working for social justice criticize large groups you belong to, which would include the state and society, that is wrong. But it is ok for vanilla Presbyterianism, which is a smaller group of yours, to criticize fellow Christians who are only somewhat different. Of course, when you refer to the Scriptures, which is what you only sometimes use as a basis, to criticize others, that is ok. But when I use standards set by the OT prophets to criticize society and the state, that is wrong. Did I sum up your position accurately enough?

    Though they are not identical, working for social justice and being tribal are not necessarily mutually exclusive. Their intersection starts with believing that one’s group is superior to others.


  11. Sean – “Your boy is running a con.”
    This is malicious slander, plain and simple, unless you have some definitive proof to support this assertion. Otherwise, I would strongly advise you to consider your own heart in this matter.

    As for the rest of your comment, I don’t see anything wrong or inappropriate in serving neighbors through the use of a church building. Can you find anything contrary to that in Scripture? Is that not a good testimony to non-believing neighbors and wise stewardship? As for raising funds, I have no idea where you live, but my guess is you have far more Reformed churches per capita than New York does, so what’s wrong with appealing to support from outside the city? Paul did that constantly – he was always toting money from one city to another across the Mediterranean world. Again, where’s the principle from Scripture against this practice? I truly do not understand the vitriol.


  12. VV, the incredulity is at the claims attached to his barking for funds. ‘Tipping points’, transform the culture of NY and the nation, insulting the poor slobs in non-NY city and ‘kountry’ parishes(not as meaningful as the work we’re doing in the big city) but still working them for funds. Lack of accountability to the WCF for the pastors and churches he’s planting(non presbyterian churches both in polity and theology). He’s a hawker of high brow religious wares in the sky. You’re awfully gullible for an street wise New Yorker or maybe you’re not.


  13. Sean – when did Keller or Redeemer ever insult anyone outside NYC? Quote? Link? And they are pretty clear about the practice of assisting non-Reformed churches. So if people don’t want to assist that effort, they don’t have to give. And if they are selling a bill of goods, what’s the ultimate purpose? What’s the real motivation if they are as insincere as you seem to think?


  14. VV, the information has been provided before including talks. In fact, the refrain has been so consistent & integral that he has titled his ministry, Redeemer City to City. You just can’t make this stuff up.

    Yes, I understand he likes to play both sides(some might say all sides of a multi((more than bi)) directional) church fence. Thus, a large part of the complaint.

    Like all humans, I assume his ultimate motivations are all over the board varying from sinful to sinful with varying levels of awareness. Thus, the import of ecclesiastical structures to which objective vows are made and accountability is required. He’s also a public figure pulling money for public engagements and treatises(books) offering both diagnosis and holding himself out as a practitioner administering a remedy for what ails. As such he makes himself available(whether he likes it or agrees with it or not) to public criticism. I’m here to stand in the gap and man a post in that ‘dialogue’.


  15. Sean – the use of cities to spread the Gospel is a wise strategy. I don’t really know how you can object, considering that is the exact strategy used by the NT church. And there was no ecclesiastical structure to their missions, unless you believe Peter was the pope. So what’s the problem here? A church in the world’s most important city is setting up a strategic network of churches in major cities throughout the world for the preaching of the Gospel and the enhancement of the Kingdom. Why aren’t you thankful for God’s grace and mercy in seeing His Church grow and become stronger throughout the world?


  16. Curt, so why do you, a socialist fundamentalist (small group) criticize a vanilla Presbyterian (small group)? Why not do what socialists generally do? Take on big things. Think Keller.


  17. VV,
    Why is New York “the most important city in the world”? And what difference, if this is true, does this make to the world? How would folks here in the town’s and villages of England fit into this grand City to City church planting scheme? I see Tim’s philosophy of such ministry has landed in the UK, working with a dizzying number of set ups like the nutty New Frontiers. Perhaps I am too conscious and thankful for my Northern working class roots (Am I inverted snob?), but this church planting scheme has little scope outside of what Let me…. and others allude to which is the City to City scheme has little traction outside the environs of well educated people of refined taste and somewhat upper class.
    To folks in Hull, Skelmersdale, down town Glasgow, Moss Side, Dewsbury and any number of UK places the Redeemer model may well look like a carefully constructed model designed by and most likely for the well educated I’ve described. It is not a strategic model for the world.
    Going back to the post, why indeed are confessions and creeds largely absent from Keller’s output and church planting model? Like here in the UK where barmpots like the dominant socialists (May, Blair, and Corbyn for example) despise and ignore true decent historical institutions, the church in the USA is likewise dazzled and enthralled by modish ideas of little grounding. Any thoughts on that, Curt?


  18. DGH – that’s probably true. Churches – including big churches – are a dime a dozen. But a conservative Reformed church in Manhattan? That’s a horse of a different color.

    Paul – because by targeting cities the entire country is more efficiently reached. The majority of people in the world live in cities, and that trend is growing. Cities are cultural, educational, artistic, and political hubs, so people from rural areas gravitate to the cities, and take what they have learned back with them. For example, people in Skelmersdale might go to London for their education, or to further their career in arts, or to get involved in politics. If they hear and embrace the Gospel in London, they can take it back with them to Skelmersdale and evangelize there. Or an Ethiopian diplomat may be reached by a local evangelist while he is sitting in his car studying the Bible. He gets baptized and returns to Ethiopia where he can evangelize the local Ethiopians. This is far more efficient than sending out 50 missionaries to 50 villages in Ethiopia – 50 Ethiopians will gravitate to places like London and New York and take the Gospel back with them. Again, this is the exact NT model, and is certainly the most efficient way to reach the greatest number of people.


  19. VV, outside of the PCA bigs riding Keller’s coattails, here’s how Keller comes across, and remember, the comedy works because it’s more true than not. He didn’t invent any of this, he just repackaged it as a post-modern hermeneutic and sold it under his brand. And understand the ‘tells’ play both ways. If I walk into a presbytery debating and voting on racial reconciliation, for example, I can look at the dress and comportment of people there and tell you how this vote is going to go without a single lick of exegesis being brought to bear. Keller by conflating the secular and sacred, particularly as regards institutions, hasn’t brought us any more than an aping of the culture not an insightful application of scripture or NT exemplar.

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  20. Sean – when has Keller or Redeemer ever advocated living in a (metaphorical) bubble? When have they ever championed anything like the silliness in that video? When has Redeemer ever advocated anything like a liberal agenda, political or theological? I’d be willing to be bet a lot of money (since I love Vegas and all) that you are from Appalachia, the Carolinas, the rural South, or Texas. The “tells” do indeed go both ways. Have you ever stopped to consider that maybe you live in a bubble of your own?


  21. VV, I have many alters. But you missed the critical analysis, though I wrote it out for you, he conflates the kingdoms and confuses the markers of success and progress in one for the markers of success and progress in the other. An expected outcome when you blur the lines. The natural eclipses the supernatural. It’s just how we are as creatures(natural man). He’s not alone in this error just more well known.


  22. D.G.,
    I don’t criticize vanilla presbyterianism per se, I struggle with those who, regardless of whether they are vanilla presbyterians or not, who so easily look down on and make a sport of criticizing other if they have not even a speck in their own eye.


  23. vv, the point isn’t whether Redeemer actively encourages living in a bubble. The point is whether they actively worry about it. They don’t. Keller doesn’t mention the problems that come with urban life, success, art, etc.


  24. VV, yes. Multiple examples have been given. But just at 30k ft, you have the idea of culture transformation, so, the spiritualizing(making sacred) common grace activity(secular). This is his big pitch for NY: ‘I’m at the epicenter of cultural(Common grace) institutions and in a position to influence them and/or the people in them in a redemptive/spritualized manner(making the secular sacred or sacramentalizing the common/non redemptive-trying to take the good and make it holy).” This is the conflation of the sacred and secular. He then doubles down on those explicit and implicit appeals by arguing, philosophically, for city ministry utilizing the metrics of influence and success that the world(natural and good but not holy) utilizes: density of population, access to and influence with people with money and position in the cultural institutions that ‘shape’ the direction of the country. Again, understandable and predictable from a man-centered, natural angle but at conflict with the supernatural and the idea of a pilgrim church(NT motif) and a marginalized people as the world gauges success. What happens in this dilemma, is that for all your good intentions and efforts and self-conscious attempts, the immediacy of the world’s metrics and expectations eclipses the very specific otherworldlyness(supernatural) measures by which God has chosen to build his church and determine it’s membership. God isn’t redeeming the culture(institutions and products produced-arts, vocations, statecraft) those things are good and necessary but not the object of God’s redemptive program and, in fact, we’re told to expect conflict and persecution and marginalization in that regard(pilgrim church, anticipating a better city-the new Jerusalem at Christ’s return). His attempt at a third way seeks to bridge the dichotomy that God Himself has created. Lots more can be said, but that’s the big picture.


  25. Sean – I basically agree with your assessment of Redeemer’s approach, but disagree that they confuse/conflate the results of the two kingdoms, and disagree that their approach is problematic. In fact, it is entirely Scriptural: Paul went to the Areopagus and addressed the Greek philosophers, which was THE center of learning and thinking in the Mediterranean world at the time. He desired to go to Rome, which was the most important city in the world at the time; God led him to be imprisoned so that he could minister to “Caesar’s household.” He gave his testimony in front of King Herod and the Roman proconsuls. Philip miraculously witnessed to the Ethiopian eunuch. In short, God used people of influence in the early church to spread and strengthen His Kingdom. And ultimately He used Constantine (whatever you think of him, and I strongly doubt his faith) to make the Christianity legal and enabled the development of the Nicene Creed, which was crucial to defining the orthodox view of the Trinity.

    So what’s your problem with Redeemer using those in cultural influence to enhance the Kingdom? Sure, the Gospel is spread by the work of the Holy Spirit, but He uses ordinary means to do so, including individuals and institutions of influence in society. There will certainly be push back and marginalization from the world, but the Spirit can overcome the world through His Church. The difference is that you view culture as inherently bad, whereas Redeemer (based on a Kuyperian Neo-Calvinist ethos) does not. Rather, Redeemer views culture as good but corrupt because of the Fall, and therefore it is an object of redemption. This thinking does not obliterate the dichotomy between the two kingdoms, but seeks to transform the kingdom of the world to be like the Kingdom of God (“making all things new”).

    I understand if you disagree with Kuyper and Neo-Calvinism, but I don’t understand the vitriol towards Tim Keller and Redeemer. They are seeking to expand the Kingdom and using the NT model to do it. That’s the real picture, and I’m not sure why you disdain it rather than actively support it.


  26. VV, just to make it simple, you don’t have the NT model correct and because that is so, I oppose it . I am specifically anti-constantinian and oppose the agenda/interpretation of the neo-calvinists and postmillenialists. Culture as institution and product outside of the family and progeny, are NOT the object of God’s redemptive love in Christ. This is the dichotomy between sacred and secular, good but not holy.


  27. Based on the book of Acts and early post-NT Christian history, it seems the Apostles planted churches both in major cities and in rural areas…


  28. In fact, as you look at the book of Acts, there doesn’t appear to be much of a strategy of targeting cultural influencers. They preached to whoever was available to listen. Sometimes it was influential people. Sometimes it wasn’t. The possible exception is Paul’s desire to preach the gospel in Rome, but was that to influence the culture or merely to declare Christ’s lordship to the emperor.


  29. The expectation that we seem to see in Paul, in fact, is that the Apostles did not expect many of the cultural influencers to believe. 1 Corinthians 1 comes to mind. Are we expecting too much by putting our eggs in “reach the cultural influencers” basket? Those people need to hear the gospel as well, of course, but maybe we’re expecting too much if a lot of influencers will believe and then will in turn change the culture. I’m not sure the Apostles expected that.

    And I say this as one with some Kuyperian leanings.


  30. VV,
    I give you top marks for reasonably explaining for me the Redeemer concept of the importance of cities in church planting. I genuinely appreciate the time and thought you put into your reply.
    Sometimes I think some folks need to pull back and not be so serious and somewhat combative. The video clip here kind of reminds me of some folks at OL – see Harry Enfield – The Scousers at:


  31. Robert, there’s so many problems with the cultural influencers model it’s hard to know where to stop. Let’s just go with this one, for now, the idea that conversion does not put an end to sin. So, as long as sinners sin, even converted ones, and people get it wrong(come up with bad ideas and implement them. Come up with good ideas and implement them poorly) culture transformation is little more than a pep rally slogan. It’s building castles in the air. This isn’t even touching on the idea of promoting an unbiblical concept, God redeeming cultural products that aren’t imago dei.


  32. VV: Not a vitriolic comment here, but consider 1 Cor 1.18 – 3.23. In light of God’s extended warning here against placing faith in worldly wisdom, does it make sense to adopt an evangelization strategy of targeting those who are influential by the standards of the world? I’m speaking in reference to your comment alone, not in reference to TK, about whom I am mostly ignorant.


  33. vv, you seem to know Paul’s itinerary, but not much about what he wrote:

    26 Brothers and sisters, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28 God chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things—and the things that are not—to nullify the things that are, 29 so that no one may boast before him. 30 It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption. 31 Therefore, as it is written: “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.” (1 Cor 1)

    Humiliate down.


  34. D.G.
    I try not to. But I find your question distracts from the problem. For the point of your question seems to be that if I look down on those who look down, then the people I look down on have no need to change. But your question doesn’t erase the problem that there are those in vanilla presbyterianism who look down on others as being inferior Christians because of their differences. And we have to ask in the light of when Paul talked about divisions as he wrote to the Corinthians whether such looking down on others is Biblical. Now you can focus on whether I look down on people or you can focus on what the Scriptures say.


  35. Jeff and DGH – your critique would be valid if Redeemer preached something other than “Jesus Christ and Him crucified.” (1 Cor 2:2). But the goal is to preach the Gospel, and cities are a strategic way to do that as I outlined above. The goal isn’t to draw people to Christ through worldly wisdom, but through the Gospel.

    Sean – God will redeem of all creation (Romans 8:19-22), which includes culture. Revelation 21 makes this clear as well. Addressing your comment to Robert, sinful Christians are part of the church as well as culture, right? Is sanctification a “castle in the air” too?


  36. VV, Romans 8:19-22 has regards to the bodily resurrection of the saints and the relieving of the creation from being their graveyard. So, that doesn’t help your case. Rev. 21 is the second advent. Again, doesn’t help your case. But both prove the point of a pilgrim church not finding it’s hope and victory here but waiting on a better city, their resurrection from the dead and the return of Jesus.

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  37. D.G.,
    The trick with analogies is to make sure what you are comparing is comparable. So in this case, are those vanilla presbyterians who so easily look down on all others more comparable to the Corinthians who bragged about belonging to this person or that person or are they more like Paul? And are those being looked down on by some vanilla presbyterians really comparable to the Judaizers? After all, it would be convenient for some if they were so that some wouldn’t have to listen to anyone but themselves. My guess is that comparing any group to the Judaizers of Paul’s day should never be done lightly. Thus, it seems that you have some work to do in showing that comparison. You can start with showing how Tim Keller is comparable to the Judaizers who merited Paul’s anathema pronouncement.


  38. Curt, the point was that Paul sometimes said divisions were bad, sometimes good. You made a blanket statement about divisions that did not include Judaizers.

    Speaking of Corinthians who bragged about belonging to a person, have you been reading Vae Victis blind loyalty to Keller? Anything come to mind?


  39. Sean – Romans 8 absolutely makes my case. Creation was cursed as part of the Fall (Gen 3:17), and Romans 8 says explicitly that it will be redeemed. Rev 21 says there will be a new heaven and a new earth, which means a redemption of creation, and later says the kings of the earth will bring their glory into the new city. What is this but a full-fledged redemption of culture and nature? All of creation was good, all of creation was cursed, and all of creation will be redeemed.

    I think you missed the point about sanctification. You said to Robert “there’s so many problems with the cultural influencers model it’s hard to know where to stop. Let’s just go with this one, for now, the idea that conversion does not put an end to sin. So, as long as sinners sin, even converted ones, and people get it wrong.” I agree. But those same people are in the church – or the “sacred” in your parlance. So what’s really the difference then between imperfect believers in a “sacred” context and imperfect believers in a “secular” context? They do both imperfectly and sinfully. So how is the church holy and culture unholy if both are made up of the same imperfect Christians?


  40. VV, Rom 8 says it will be redeemed from the imago dei corruption(functioning as a graveyard and yielding thistle and thorn rather than it’s pre-fall intention as an aid.) See V.23 as to the solution to the subjection of the creation to the fall, it’s the bodily resurrection of the saints. As regards Rev. 21 it’s a NEW heavens and NEW earth and timing is key, this is the return of Christ. So, that leaves us in this present age, waiting in hope. A pilgirm, exiled church awaiting the second advent. Maybe the culmination of our hope, in this age, from the Nicene Creed will help:

    “and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.”

    “and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

    VV, to answer your second question, it’s a simple matter of making distinction. The church, the elect, are the object of God’s redemptive love. If you want to talk about it in terms of covenant, all creation are under the Noahic covenant but only some Imago Dei creation are made part of God’s redemptive covenant in Christ. 1 cor 5 is a helpful place to go to see Paul engaging these distinctions in Jesus’ rule over Imago Dei creation and then over His church particularly. Paul says, what have I to do with judging those outside the church? God will judge those outside. So, Paul’s authority as regards the keys to the kingdom and the administration of the NC ends at the boundaries of the visible church. God certainly continues to rule but He rules each ‘sphere’ distinctly. It’s a common error to conflate churchly/cultic norms, shunning of a brother in this case, with common culture norms-your unbelieving neighbor who is sexually immoral and a swindler and greedy and idolatrous retains your company. So, the brother gets shunned and the neighbor guilty of the same but unbelieving continues to enjoy your friendship and association. Why the difference? Because God’s redemptive intention for the church is distinct from His intention for the common culture, including institutions, in this pilgrim age. There is a theocracy and a new heavens and new jerusalem coming but it’s ‘not yet’ and Jesus will bring it with Him when He comes.

    Liked by 1 person

  41. D.G.,
    According to Paul, and John for that matter, divisions were only good for distinguishing between true believers and false believers. And that what you used in your comparison when referring to the Judaizers.

    That we have divisions because of denominational beliefs is one thing. But when we have the attitude that we have everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them, those divisions become carnal and divisive. Those divisions are based on being puffed up, rather than having been built up.

    I have my criticisms of Keller too, though I have more criticisms of his followers who follow because they are passive authoritarians. But Keller has made contributions to the furthering of the Gospel. His model of thought, expressed in his book Center Church, though not without error, expresses the direction we should go in. That direction is that even while having criticisms, we recognize that our perspective is deficient in ways in which other perspectives are strong.

    And no, I haven’t been read Vae Victus. I have been noticing among some of the Christians I know personally who wait to see what Keller has to say about a topic before forming their own opinions .


  42. Sean – no question that the resurrection of the saints is the key factor in the redemption of all creation, just as human sin was the cause of corruption of creation in the first place. The new heavens and new earth refer to a perfected or “reformed” creation. Our glorified bodies are continuations of our mortal bodies, so it stands to reason that the glorified heavens and earth will be a continuation of fallen creation. Paul makes this point in Colossians 1:20 as well: “and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.” Note that He is reconciling *all things,* and to emphasize the point Paul adds in heaven and earth. In other words, all of creation will be reconciled (or reformed or redeemed).

    While certainly there are rules and “regulations” that must be adhered to in the church as befitting a body of believers, the church itself is no more sacred than society at large – there are sinful believers in both. Christ claims all of creation for Himself – culture, nature, etc. Of course there is an “already-not yet” aspect to the Kingdom, but that Kingdom doesn’t stop at the body of believers – it is ALL of His creation. We as Christians are His emissaries or ground troops or “foothold” in creation until He definitively takes it all for Himself when He returns. We are not simply a boundary marker. The more believers influence society through the Gospel, the more we reclaim what is rightfully His. Christ never draws a boundary line between what is His and what is not His.


  43. D.G.,
    In Center Church, he definitely acknowledges that we all can learn from 2kers and some of his critics are 2kers. Therefore, the conclusion is obvious and trivial.

    So what beneficial lessons do you have to learn from Keller?


  44. Curt, if you thought being moderate and centrist were beneficial, I could learn from Keller. But surely, you, a radical, don’t think moderation or centrism are beneficial.

    Find your inner socialist.


  45. VV, maybe you just haven’t read it, yet, but here’s how that reconciliation is going to go down. Notice the waiting/pilgrim status of the church. He’s got a whole new bag. This is the hope confessed in the Nicene creed

    2 Peter 3:10
    10 But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, and then the heavens will pass away with a roar, and the heavenly bodies[b] will be burned up and dissolved, and the earth and the works that are done on it will be exposed.[c]

    11 Since all these things are thus to be dissolved, what sort of people ought you to be in lives of holiness and godliness, 12 waiting for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be set on fire and dissolved, and the heavenly bodies will melt as they burn! 13 But according to his promise we are waiting for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells.


  46. Sean – right, in context Peter is teaching the urgent need for repentance. The key verse is 3:10, where he says “the works that are done on it will be exposed.” In other words, there will be no protection, no hiding, no obscuring – all of one’s thoughts and actions will be clearly shown. There’s no question that creation will be transformed (or reformed) from it’s present state that is distorted and corrupted by sin. Is your contention that God is going to create a new earth ex nihilo?


  47. VV, when you burn it up and melt it away, and promise a new heavens and new earth, that’s what I’m anticipating. It might be more helpful to talk about it in terms of cultural products. Which cultural products do you anticipate surviving? Art, judicial system, military, representative gov., authoritarian gov. institutions, money, the fed, the stock market, mining, refining, value added services, what? There will be no more marriage, and no more having of children-the preeminent cultural product. Which, btw, is what would have happened before the fall as well. Eden was intended as a temporal, probationary existence. The promise of entering into God’s rest( enthronement) has always been the goal, pre and post lapsarian. The categories of sacred and secular really help here. Good-secular(temporal life and cultural products) but not holy-sacred(the church). Imago dei creation is the only creation crowned with the sabbath promise. God’s election in Christ limited his redemptive plan and subsequent redemptive gifts, justification, sanctification, glorification only on a portion of that imago dei creation(the church). That group anticipates the bodily resurrection from the dead and the return of Christ and a new heavens and new earth(no more sin, suffering, death, loss, pain or sorrow). I don’t have a promise I’ll see my dead dog or my child’s artwork from first grade.


  48. D.G.,
    Whether moderation can help someone is situational. It doesn’t help someone who is moderate, but it can help those who are extreme on either side depending on the issue. In addition, since extremism is a relative measurement, sometimes extremism can be correct.

    So name the issues in which you want me to find my inner socialist and I will consider your request.


  49. Sean – several points. First, when you melt or burn something the matter isn’t destroyed – it simply changes form. Fire is a reaction of pure oxygen with whatever chemicals are in the substance being burned produces carbon dioxide and a variety of other by products. If I melt an ice cube it is still H2O, but changes to liquid form (water). In other words, burning and melting imply a changing of form, not a complete destruction.

    Second, even if you don’t accept a scientific explanation, I think the idea is that the fire destroys the impure and refines what is present to its perfect state. Paul alludes to this in 1 Cor 3:12-13: “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw – each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.”

    Third, the OT makes numerous allusions to a future perfect creation in continuity with this one. One example is Isaiah 11 (“the wolf shall dwell with the lamb”).


  50. It’s impossible to determine an exact list, but at a basic level we can speculate some form of work (farmers, clothing manufacturers, basic goods providers, mechanics, etc), arts (music, architects), administrators, etc. The basic elements of culture will be present in some form.


  51. VV, so you’ll have product created in this age that will make the transition into the new heavens and new earth? For example, an artist who confesses soli deo gloria, his art will be transitioned into glory? Well, the most elemental unit of current culture is marriage and progeny and we’re told those will be no longer, so, I’m not sure where the speculative confidence comes that other lesser culture defining products and vocations make the transition. Speculative seems terribly appropriate, which means it has no scriptural and thus no conscience binding/affirming authority. I get the rhetorical appeal but it has no objective grounding.


  52. VV, as regards 1Cor 3, the context is those who labor in the gospel and the object being tested is the integrity of a message proclaiming the Christ that Paul preached. It’s a testing fidelity to the historic gospel and propagating a church consistent with this apostolic(Paul) exemplar. Your Is. text is a metaphorical representation of the termination of the order of this life(temporal), in this case, predation, giving way to a new earth and heaven, dissimilar to this one. It’s not a point of continuity but discontinuity.


  53. Sean – there is objective grounding, but you asked me a speculative question. The objective foundation is Revelation 21:24: “By it’s light [New Jerusalem] will the nations walk, and the kings of earth will bring their glory into it, and its gates will never be shut by day – and there will be no night there.” So there will be societal structure and the “glory” of the kings is likely their culture in some way. The process of organization and administration will very likely continue, and many forms of work will almost certainly continue.

    Returning to speculation, do I believe individual pieces of art will pass on in their current form to the new heavens/earth? I doubt it, but the process of creating art will continue to exist. The institution of marriage will not exist in heaven, but that does not mean relationships will not exist in heaven. So while many particulars of this life will not exist, the broad structures will.


  54. VV, I asked you a question in keeping with your alleged scriptural rhetorical appeal to a redeemed creation beyond Imago dei creation(human beings), that will be redeemed. I’m asking for biblical warrant to exhort believers(bind consciences) to this task of redeeming the culture/institutions in the name of Christ. I would argue your appeal/exhortation is part of the ‘work’ that will be burned up in Paul’s 1 Cor 3 testing.

    Liked by 1 person

  55. D.G.,
    If being radical is always taking an all-or-nothing approach, then you are talking to the wrong person. I can tell you who you can talk to. You can talk to those who are vanilla presbyterians who also so easily look down on and judge fellow Christians for being different.


  56. Sean – briefly, the biblical warrant is that God claims all creation for Himself, in dominion, power, authority, and sovereignty. As Christians we belong to Christ and carry out His will (Romans 6) for ALL of life (1 Corinthians 10:31, Colossians 3:17). I’m a firm believer that Paul literally means *all things* in both passages – as in all of life – unless you can demonstrate otherwise. So in work we are his instruments (Romans 6) to accomplish His will according to His law, making our jobs and professions more in conformity with His will. Same principle applies to art or recreation. Those in administration or government office are to govern in a way consistent with Christian standards for the “good” of society (Romans 13) and to ensure justice and equity. As His ambassadors and spiritual soldiers we are to engage life in a way to reclaim all of creation for Christ away from the worldly/Satanic regime.

    As for 1 Corinthians 3, the point is that Paul is not claiming that all of life and all creation will be destroyed and then recreated, as you seem to suggest. He is clearly illustrating a process of refinement and purification.


  57. VV, I wasn’t ready for such an obvious, fundy, culture warring response. Soft theonomy indeed. Briefly, Rom 6 pins your hope in the resurrection while elucidating the paradigm of sanctification that culminates in eternal life. There’s nothing as regards redeeming the creation or transforming the culture. 1 Cor 10:31, again, no promise of redeeming creation, but, instead, a disposition of consecration unto God by one’s self. Col. 3:17, once more, a declaration of the disposition of consecration of self. Nowhere is there a promise of redeeming the culture or transforming institutions. But, to my point, the rhetorical pop is inspiring while amounting to just so many air castles. You mistakenly apply the gifts of redemption(justification, sanctification, glorification) to non elect, common culture. It is revealing, however, the continuum with fundamentalism. It’s merely a difference of high brow vs low brow cultural products. You and the evangelical trumpeteers aren’t as far apart as you imagine. Hope for the country yet.


  58. Sean – I’m not advocating for “culture wars.” The fundamentalist concept of culture wars is simply changing external behavior and government policy rather than proclaiming the truth of the Gospel. I’m not arguing for anything like that.

    Living out the Gospel in all aspects of life is fitting for someone who is “in Christ” rather than “of the world.” I can either live according to God’s law or according to the world – living for God naturally pushes back against the world. Sure, the 1 Corinthians and Colossians verses refer to personal consecration, but it is a consecration that involves all of life. If I conduct myself ethically at work, obey all the laws and regulations of my profession, and try to make my profession and office more just, I am clearly fulfilling the ethical principles and laws of the Bible. In terms of finances, if I spend money on myself first – and spend it frivolously at that – I am following a worldly standard as opposed to the biblical ideals of generosity and sacrificial giving.

    Going back to politics, where it seems your major hang-up is, I’m not saying all Christians should agree on the exact laws that should be enacted. Rather, a Christian mayor should strive for service, justice, seeking the good of his city, etc. rather than taking a Machiavellian approach to maintaining power for himself. The goal for Christians should to glorify God in all of life, which entails applying biblical principles to all of our attitudes, words and actions. That’s Paul’s basic point.


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