5 Reasons To Be Cautious with Tim Keller’s Theology
[Here you can find more on Doctrine, and Tim Keller ]
Last night a ‘new calvinist’ young buck let me know in no uncertain terms that my concern for Tim Keller’s theology was ‘silly’. Fair enough. I disagree with that of course. The sounding alarm of error is never silly.
Now, I have received many questions by some who are quite fond of Tim Keller and have been blessed by his preaching and teaching. Great. But there are some things that cannot be ignored when it comes to Tim Keller’s – and others – theology, and here are five of them:
1) Endorsed Eastern Mystic feminist Adele Calhoun’s Spiritual Disciplines Handbook, also endorsed by mystic Ruth Halye Barton. Read more here.
2) Believes true Christianity is attractive to unregenerates and one purpose of the local church is to exist for and welcome unbelievers to worship with believers. Read more here.
3) Recommends Roman Catholic mysticism. Read more here.
4) At Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, teaches contemplative spirituality, eastern mysticism and held classes on The Way of the Monk where students were helped to get in touch with their ‘inner monk’ – another term for the ‘inner self’.
Here’s a promotional quote of the classes:
The Way of the Monk (April 28, May 5 & 12)
Do you long for the great theology in your head to be more real to your heart? Come discover age-old methods of contemplative prayer and worship that can help you encounter Christ in a more intimate, experiential way. In this hands-on workshop, you will experience theancient art of chanting the Psalms (they were meant to be sung!), embark on a practice of authentic Christian meditation, discover how a simple, time-honored tool can help unleash the prayer warrior in you, learn what a typical monastic day is like and how you can make your own, private retreat at a monastery, and much more!
5) Denies the biblical truth of young-earth creation and literal six 24-hour day creation:
“I believe in the historicity of Gen 1-11 and Adam and Eve and I don’t believe in young earth-creation or six 24-hour day creation.”
There are more reasons, but these alone should raise your eyebrows and give pause. It is my hope that those who snap up every book and lecture of Bro. Keller will be made more aware of what’s going on within the camp of ‘new calvinism’. By no means is Tim Keller the only reformergent to endorse and promote these things and people. Yet we cannot condone the admittance of error into the Church. We simply cannot turn a blind eye to corrupt doctrines in the name of unity and peace. Truth in doctrine and it’s application must be paramount.
“Let God be true though every one were a liar…” – Romans 3:4
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- The Two Faces of the Gospel Coalition: Bringing Truth & Error Together (5ptsalt.com)
- 5 Features of New Calvinism (5ptsalt.com)
I agree and also find it somewhat surprising that some people I have a lot of respect for blanketly promote everything this man does. While he may be an ally for the gospel..the fact that he does not believe Gen 1-11 to be 100% historical fact will serve to undermine his whole theology. If we don’t believe the Bible from Gen 1:1 then why believe John 3:16 or Romans 3:5? RC Sproul has not always believed the historical narrative of Gen 1-11, but he does believe that to be true now. And don’t get me started on Monastic mysticism…I mean what more does a person need than the Bible to hear from God? Why are people looking for something else…oh wait, because they don’t believe the whole thing to be true. I think your right to warn of this mans influence.
I like that,’new Calvinist’ young buck-perfect. Heaven help them. Thanks for posting this, amen to the warning. My question is the ally part? Since Keller is leading the Reformed back to Rome, with all of his mysticism, embrace your inner Monk, social justice programs,(and all that they are hooked into) endorsements,and on and on, isn’t he now of ‘another gospel’? Isn’t he speaking of ‘another Jesus’? Please explain what you mean by, ally…for the sake of the gospel? Kind of like that Jimmy Durante song, “Did you have a feeling that you wanted to go. Did you have a feeling that you wanted to stay …Go or Stay, Stay or Go”!! Thanks,Joel. (Folks are in much confusion over this issue..when do we say, ‘Enough’..he went too far. Appreciate your thoughts on this.
Thanks for good, clear information.
This sort of situation creates a dilemma for such as Monergism, Westminster, and other book & AV distributers who do well with Keller’s materials and often quote him. An escalation of this in former days led to the present decline of so-called “Christian” bookstores into cesspools of corrupt and corrupting literature and other resources.
I will quote something true and worth repeating, but find more and more the necessity to qualify the quote with the disclaimer that my quotation does not constitute a wholesale endorsement of its author.
A pity, that. But when we think about it, what man was ever worthy of our unlimited endorsement, save our Lord himself? We dare not put our trust in flesh…
Well, I have issues with anyone calling themselves “New”. Like anything was wrong with Calvinism to begin with. When people stick up for people rather than sound doctrine, one is on the right track in exposing whatever it is being exposed, and the bible is again proven true in myriad ways.
Any of those 5 reasons, among others not mentioned, should be reason enough for a “New” or an “Old” Calvinist Christian period to have pause regarding Keller.
Keller does not promote “eastern mysticism.” The book you refer by to by Calhoun is not promoting “eastern mysticism.” Publishers Weekly says of it: This discussion of spiritual practices that have defined Christians over the centuries certainly lives up to its name. Sixty-two spiritual disciplines or practices are explained, grouped in seven themes, including worship, prayer, sharing life with others, hearing God’s word and listening to God’s voice. Calhoun, a pastor of spiritual formation at Christ Church in Oak Brook, Ill., writes as one who has lovingly studied, appreciated and collected some of the most influential Christian spiritual material over many years. Her language and style are respectful to Christians from many traditions—Orthodox, Catholic, reformed and evangelical.” I am a Calvinist and believe in a 6-day creation, but I see Keller as a brother and an ally in the faith. Try not to use misleading descriptions of what he says! May the Lord bless your work to defend the historic, Christian faith!
In essentials, unity,
in non-essentials, liberty,
in all things, charity.
I attended Rev. Keller’s church. From what I could tell, his “essential” beliefs about God are as orthodox as gold. His teaching was orthodox in every sense of the word. He holds to historical, orthodox, classical Christianity.
In non-essentials like creationism, social justice…(it is possible to believe that the ‘days’ in Genesis were actually long periods of time “with the Lord, a day is like a thousand years,” and still believe in the gospel of Jesus Christ) he may have different views than rigidly conservative Christians, but here, we should should show the freedom that we have in Christ. The areas where he differs from rigid Christians are not central to salvation, therefore are matters which are unnecessary to quibble over, pick apart, or incite argument over.
Finally, our Lord exhorts us IN ALL THINGS, regardless of whether we agree or disagree with someone to “let (your) gentleness be made known to all,” to “speak the truth in love,” and to only let what comes out of our mouths (or computers, in this case) be wholesome and “helpful for building others up, according to their needs that it may benefit those who listen.”
I wish all who see this well and to Dr. Keller, continued grace and strength as he ministers the gospel to a hurting city.
I advised caution. No one asked for a hanging. 🙂
Granted you have stated that TK is an ally and brother for the gospel, but the is not how it comes across, which is what I think Violet is getting at.
You’ve said that you advise caution and that you are not asking for a hanging but that is not the case. Let me try to show you why.
This post presents TK as guilty, by association, and he is hung for this reason. If TK is a teaching and practicing (one assumes from your post) Eastern and RC mysticism then he or you has an issue. Either he is unorthodox in his theology or you have been unfair.
I believe that one’s praxis flows from their theology, and I think that we both know, whether we agree or disagree with his theology, that TK is a very thought through pastor and theologian. His praxis flows from his theology.
If TK is a practicing and teaching eastern and RC mystic, which you have suggested he is (correct me if I’m wrong on this one, please) then his theology would support this. You have not talked about his theology that must undergird this practice, but this is the implication, whether intended or not.
One cannot subscribe to eastern mystical practice without signing up to the rest of the the eastern theological schema, which include not least theosis, and the heavy reliance on apophatic theology. I am less familiar with RC mysticism, but since it stems from Aquinas, who is reliant on Dionysius and Gregory of Nyssa, I assume the same.
You are right to caution people if TK holds to this non-orthodox theology, but then how could he be an ally to the gospel. It would be a generous stretch. This said, however, I am pretty sure that TK does not hold to such unorthodox doctrine.
I think that as people who are brothers and allies for the gospel, we should be a little more sensitive to the implications of slapping names on people, like eastern mystic and RC mystic.
Is this fair?
Point made. I retract having said that TK is ‘an ally in the Gospel’, especially having discovered his teaching on gospel sanctification. I hold TK to be unorthodox.
Thank you for disagreeing with such love and gentleness! I am struggling with legalist Christians and fear that they are destroying the church.
No offense for it seems a majority of people are to day: they think what is important are those truths which they suppose are necessary to “get men saved”, rather than all those truths revealed in Scripture; the quote you give comes from
and is by Rupertus Meldenius (see here, http://www9.georgetown.edu/faculty/jod/augustine/quote.html), a Lutheran Irenic: now remember that, Luther advised the prince against early proponents of “social justice” to slaughter the rioters if they would not cease and become lawful again after an appeal or two. What do you think about that? “Social justice” is not justice, it is a perversion thereof, mixing the things of God with mammon of this world: you have no right to your neighbor’s bread, though he may have a duty to give charitas (love).
Keller is running right against the clear words of the Apostles themselves, e.g. practicing trickery to claim “we don’t argue for women deacons” and then saying “we don’t appoint men deacons, and women can do whatever un-ordained men can do”, http://baylyblog.com/blog/2009/04/woman-deacons-and-pca-reading-tim-keller-between-lines
But we spy that trickery and raise you one apostle,
Which prohibition that very apostle grounds in the account of “creationism” btw. Note how he denies the status of “God’s” to any church which ignores his prohibition regarding women at 1 Corinthian 11:16, “If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.” So you going to argue now about essentials where an apostle clearly confirms something as such to this faith?
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It is clear that Mr. Keller embraces the essence of Christ, and the spirit is honest. It never entered my mind that he would distort the gospel in any way – why would he – what would be the reason? sinister? Caution in looking for bad in the teachings about Christ – the apostle Paul addressed this….. I am glad that the gospel is preached …
I am blessed by Mr. Keller’s wonderful Christ exhalting teachings and preaching.The only one that is perfect is Jesus, and he was nailed on the cross 2000 years ago!
Well, we all strive for perfection after all.
I’ve been a regular attender and volunteer at Keller’s church for over 4 years. I studied theology and philosophy at the PCA college in Georgia. While the PCA fetishizes creationism to the point of making it Christian orthodoxy, and Keller isn’t a creationist, his grasp of the Gospel is more profound and life changing than anything I’ve encountered in any Reformed church. Not only do I praise God for how Keller’s work has changed me. I praise God for how Keller is changing the PCA (and the world). Just so you know I’m not a mindless fan boy, I do think Keller over-uses C.S. Lewis. So there. 🙂
Sam, buddy – if creationism is true, and thereby and necessarily a part of sound doctrine and orthodoxy – how does one “fetishize” it? Seems to me if I saw anything of a “fetish” nature in your post it was bound up (pun intended) in your lavish praise of Keller.
In other words, Tim Keller’s theology is suspect because he is not a fundamentalist. When did young-earth creationism, literal approach to Genesis become the litmus test of true Calvinism?
Why are so many Calvinist turning Roman Catholic??
I am not a Calvinist because a Calvinist has no assurance of salvation. They never know if they have lived good enough to make it until they die. No one can live good enough to inherit salvation. That is why Christ shed His blood.
New Calvinists, such as Keller, are not Calvinists at all.
That was not my question. It was:
Why are so many Calvinist turning Roman Catholic??
I did not ask about Keller.
Real Calvinists are not turning Roman Catholic, only those who hijacked the name. Please see comment policy.
No that would make you an Arminian!
If you guys would like the takes of some pastors inside the PCA working against the deviations and disobediences of Mr. Keller, often non grata and contemptible among those who follow Mr. Keller, here you go:
Just remember to read in order, find the context, and all that jazz before saying too much. More immediately problematic than the creationism bit, I think, is his tireless mincing and ignoring biblical sexuality, though that too can flow out of not caring about the asseveration that God of His own mouth and in six days created the heavens and all the earth, and male and female He created them.
Thankyou Joel. The warnings re not enduring doctrine, being swayed by every wind of doctrine, preaching another Jesus, are completely ignored by those who have jumped on the Emergent Church bandwagon. The blatant swing to Roman Catholicsim is so obvious , it still amazes me that people cant see it. But that is the nature of deception. The voices that adhere to the now unChristian standard of testing all things by the Word of God, are being drowned out by the ” love tolerates all errors” followers. If the world loves us because we so fit their mould, we should be very very concerned.
it seems only natural that many Calvinists will turn to the Roman Catholic church because they like the Calvinist are never sure of their salvation
I’m Calvinist, and I’m certain. And, since you’re posting this comment under the srticle regarding Tim Keller, you should know that Tim Keller, whom you are referring to as ‘a Calvinist’, is not one.
Thank you for the reply.
When a Calvinist is asked if they are one of the elect, they really don’t know and if they live good enough and go to heaven then they will know. Ubtil then they can not be sure.How do you lmpw you are one of the elect?
Doesn’t Keller prfess to be a Calvinist?
Rather than ponder Dr. Keller’s theology, just ask him!
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Why does Keller always speak of Christ “absorbing” sin instead of Christ paying the wages of sin by death?
I had been encouraged to read literature by Tim Keller and listen to his sermons. There are some You Tube videos of Keller’s university Q&A times over the years through the veritas forum. In these videos, Keller faces tough questions from David Eisenbach re: a litany of hot button social issues of our day. It was from viewing some of those videos where I saw Keller soft pedal at times on certain areas of doctrine. It was bold of you to post this article given Keller’s renown. I think it’s wise of you to encourage bible believing Christians to discern Keller’s teaching.
Reblogged this on The Shepherd/Guardian and commented:
Tim Keller’s False Teaching.
Reblogged this on Truth2Freedom's Blog.
Armchair critics and amateur theologians — mind your own Gospel gap. Let see any of you folks try to plant a church in the middle of Manhattan. Please…
Good Point John I. Kim
I see you listed 5 reasons, but you didn’t really explain why those reasons are valid. Would you care to explain just what the issue or danger is with those 5 things?
All I need is some starting capital so that I can write enough ambigously written books that contain little to no evangelical distinctions, that speak derogatorily about born again Christians and those who strive to live holy lives and stroke those who live life without any moral absolutes while promoting Marxist social reform as a co-essential of the Gospel. Then I will be able to sell enough books to build three church “facilities” in other areas of Manhattan to attract the same kind of people he does. Sounds complicated but it’s not. The key is to remember the part about tickling ears.
Have you actually taken the time to read any of his books or listen to any of his sermons to give thoughtful feedback on the exact distinctions you are ranting about? In what way is he stroking those who live life without moral absolutes? You have given me, nor the readers of this blog, any “evidence” to your claim that Keller promotes marxist social reform as a co-essential of the Gospel. Your sweeping generalizations bare no weight nor convince me to stop praying and supporting Dr. Tim Keller.