Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Thoughts on the PCA, Wilson, and Keller

"On the other hand, a denomination that rejects the orthodoxy of Doug Wilson out of hand while embracing Tim Keller unquestioningly is a denomination which has lost sight of what Reformed theology is all about."

Some thought provoking comments from the BaylyBlog. I'm not sure I agree with their comments, but it is still an interesting perspective on the PCA's current state of affairs.

I think there is work already in progress to deal with the Tim Keller situation. One reason for prioritizing the FV as something to be addressed first would seem to be the allegation that the FV is denying justification by faith alone. Whether or not that accusation is true, such a denial would seem to be a more central error than the errors associated with Tim Keller by his detractors.

-TurretinFan

UPDATED to correct Pastor Keller's first name.

11 comments:

Carrie said...

So what exactly is "the Tim Keller situation"?

I only learned about him when we went through his video series (Reason for God) in Sunday school and I was a little disappointed with some of his answers on the topics of homosexuality and hell. Now I have seen some questioning of him on blogs and am feeling my concerns were legit and maybe I need to share these concerns with my Pastor.

Turretinfan said...

I'm not sure what the entire scope of the concerns is. I've heard comments regarding Keller's church having what amount to women deacons and promoting or at least not opposing the promotion of theistic evolution (and the relation - which is unclear to me - of Tim Keller to Biologos).

I'm not sure whether those represent the major concerns, or just some of the concerns that I have seen people express.

If he is soft on homosexuality, that would also be disappointing.

Carrie said...

Okay, I thought you maybe had some inside PCA scoop :)

If he is soft on homosexuality, that would also be disappointing.

From the series I saw, it was difficult to tell whether he was soft on homosexuality or just soft in his approach when speaking to non-believers. His answers were a bit water-downed at times and I became frustrated when I saw others in the class kind of latch on to the softball answers.

There is a fine line between speaking gently and watering things down to make them more palatable. Unfortunately, many people seem to gravitate to the latter.

Thanks!

Coram Deo said...

Carrie / TF,

Some interesting reading and reader comments on this topic can be found here:

Keller in the dock

Ministering in Gotham

In Christ,
CD

Rachel said...

Carrie~ There has been a good deal of discussion over at http://weswhite.net regarding these issues and Keller.

I'd recommend the following threads:
http://www.weswhite.net/2011/05/keller-it-is-very-misleading-to-say-%E2%80%98homosexuality-is-a-sin%E2%80%99/
http://www.weswhite.net/2011/05/choong-keller-enns-the-current-evidence-from-science-indicates-that-the-diversity-of-life-is-best-explained-as-a-result-of-an-evolutionary-process/
http://www.weswhite.net/2011/04/the-biologos-foundation/

As for the issue of deaconesses, in his recent book, Generous Justice, Keller dedicates it to the deacons and deaconesses of Redeemer NY.
http://redeemer.com/about_us/leaders/diaconate.html

ChaferDTS said...

" http://www.weswhite.net/2011/05/choong-keller-enns-the-current-evidence-from-science-indicates-that-the-diversity-of-life-is-best-explained-as-a-result-of-an-evolutionary-process/
http://www.weswhite.net/2011/04/the-biologos-foundation/ "

The content of the material there was very revealing. It came across as attacking the Biblical account of creation when read from the literal grammatical historical method. I viewed their claims as highly speculative in a bad way. It essentially cuts off the foundation of the Christian faith by attacking the existance of Adam and Eve, the account of the flood. That would seem to ignore the important issues like the fall of Adam and the necessity of the death of Jesus for sin and sinners. I dont see how theistic evolutionist can provide any exegetical treatment of Gen 1 to 10 in any reasonable manner. It would literally have to claim that thouh it says this it really does not mean that but is something else. Real science does not go againist what we find in Scripture with regarding the account of our creation. Theistic Evolutionist must in some way have a defective view of the inspiration of Scripture and it's inerrancy. They must resort to attacking the method of interpretation. That is nothing new.

Matthew D. Schultz said...

Carrie,

(I would have issued a response to your comment earlier, but my Internet connection has been down for almost two weeks.)

Keller is a better speaker than writer, so I think it's more charitable to judge his theology based on his sermons, rather than his books. I'm not suggesting you were judging him by his books alone, but this is how I would begin any attempt to evaluate his ministry.

Of course there's overlap between books and sermons, and of course we can hold him accountable for what he writes, since his works are influential in at least some significant manner, but a better assessment of the "situation" can be found listening to his sermons.

To that end, there are a number of free sermons available online. There's a "free sermon resource" (easily found through a Google search) that contains several dozen of his sermons topically organized. There's also a podcast that contains a number of sermons, including one on hell, if his position on that subject still remains a particular concern.

Keller could be better in public on the topic of homosexuality. However, I think, to engage your excellent distinction, the question is not whether he believes it to be sin, for I think it's clear he does, but of whether his presentation is weak. Here I'd agree with his critics inasmuch as it's obvious he could do a better job. However, I do think a gracious, sympathetic critique, which is strangely absent from some Reformed critics, needs to take into account the pressure he is under, both in terms of negative feedback and, related, the propensity to be (often willfully) misunderstood by advocates of homosexuality, in addressing the topic publicly. My perception is that Keller wants to have the opportunity to point people to Christ first before dealing with such contentious, ear-closing issues such as the eternal status of practicing homosexuals. Whatever we are to say about the weaknesses of this approach, all this, of course, is enormously different than saying homosexuality is fine or okay.

I don't have a great deal of concern with his conception of hell. He's certainly not a universalist or annihilationist or some other such doctrinal aberrant; hell is for Keller everlasting torment, a justly administered punishment meted out by a righteous God. He doesn't take the descriptions of hell literally, but only in the sense of literal burning, gnashing, etc. For Keller, these images are representative of realities far worse than those physical torments. I haven't studied the concept of hell in a highly thorough way at seminary yet (I'm currently at Reformed Theological Seminary), so there might be more that could be said. But nothing about his teaching in this area raised red flags.

(Comment 1 of 2)

Matthew said...
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Matthew said...
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Matthew said...

Carrie,

(I would have issued a response to your comment earlier, but my Internet connection has been down for almost two weeks.)

Keller is a better speaker than writer, so I think it's more charitable to judge his theology based on his sermons, rather than his books. I'm not suggesting you were judging him by his books alone, but this is how I would begin any attempt to evaluate his ministry.

Of course there's overlap between books and sermons, and of course we can hold him accountable for what he writes, since his works are influential in at least some significant manner, but a better assessment of the "situation" can be found listening to his sermons.

To that end, there are a number of free sermons available online. There's a "free sermon resource" (easily found through a Google search) that contains several dozen of his sermons topically organized. There's also a podcast that contains a number of sermons, including one on hell, if his position on that subject still remains a particular concern.

Keller could be better in public on the topic of homosexuality. However, I think, to engage your excellent distinction, the question is not whether he believes it to be sin, for I think it's clear he does, but of whether his presentation is weak. Here I'd agree with his critics inasmuch as it's obvious he could do a better job. However, I do think a gracious, sympathetic critique, which is strangely absent from some Reformed critics, needs to take into account the pressure he is under, both in terms of negative feedback and, related, the propensity to be (often willfully) misunderstood by advocates of homosexuality, in addressing the topic publicly. My perception is that Keller wants to have the opportunity to point people to Christ first before dealing with such contentious, ear-closing issues such as the eternal status of practicing homosexuals. Whatever we are to say about the weaknesses of this approach, all this, of course, is enormously different than saying homosexuality is fine or okay.

I don't have a great deal of concern with his conception of hell. He's certainly not a universalist or annihilationist or some other such doctrinal aberrant; hell is for Keller everlasting torment, a justly administered punishment meted out by a righteous God. He doesn't take the descriptions of hell literally, but only in the sense of literal burning, gnashing, etc. For Keller, these images are representative of realities far worse than those physical torments. I haven't studied the concept of hell in a highly thorough way at seminary yet (I'm currently at Reformed Theological Seminary), so there might be more that could be said. But nothing about his teaching in this area raised red flags.

Matthew said...

(Continued from above.)

You mentioned that he gave some softball answers. I think we need to remember that Keller isn't a professional apologist, theologian or scholar. As he is a pastor, I expect him, and every other pastor, to be outclassed by professional scholars in every field. His strength is not in his original work, but as a synthesizer and as someone who relates the answers of better thinkers to the larger public. He certainly does his homework, reading relevant theological, cultural, etc., scholarship, and often enough citing such material in his sermons. So what you might find "softball," and you strike me as someone who doesn't mind picking up a scholarly tome and working your way through it, someone else might find sufficient in that it might even be the very first time he has heard the question under discussion answered in even a decent manner. As long as a pastor is being faithful to his other pastoral responsibilities, and so what he mentions is as good as far as it goes, and is open with and generally recommending of the scholarly sources he uses, that should be sufficient.

Keller's preaching in particular is excellent, and I think his ability to consistently relate Scripture to the ministry of Christ is, perhaps, his greatest strength. I am consistently moved to seeing the beauty of Christ and the meaning of the texts of Scripture through his ministry. Unlike so many preachers today, Keller actually preaches the text of Scripture and applies it to the needs of his congregation.

Indeed, I think many of Keller's critics should at least acknowledge he is an excellent preacher. The approach seems, rather, to be one of ungraciously judging, explicitly or implicitly through omission of his good works, the entirety of his ministry and work by an error here or there, especially since none of his errors are fundamental, with respect to doctrine or in that they pollute the rest of his ministry.

And judging his ministry as a whole is more complex than judging what's said from the pulpit. I attended Redeemer for several years (coming to Christ through the preaching of Keller) and still have some contacts at the church, including a deacon. My perception was (and is) that the ministry does a great deal of excellent work in New York City, serving the poor, homeless, destitute, etc.