Once again, I have to be reminded of truths I’ve forgotten. It is so easy to forget things that should constantly be flowing through your mind. One is the fact that the heart (my heart), as Martin Luther said, is an idol factory. I listened to Tim Keller’s talk on The Gospel Coalition’s website entitled The Gospel and Idolatry and was once again confronted with my idols, that is those things I’m staking my ultimate hope in besides Christ. How quickly we turn from Him to less satisfying, less glorious things and exchange Him for lesser gods that don’t deliver what we most desperately need! “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” – Romans 7:24-25
Tag: tim keller
After reading this article by Keller, and reading more in The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges, I feel like too many times, what I write on here fits the mold of what Keller and Bridges describe, and this is deeply convicting to me. After reading Keller’s article, I feel like for a second I had an outside perspective of the way others may be perceiving how I come across as well as the way I truly am sometimes.
As I posted recently on here, my blog compromises only a small fraction of my life. But regardless, how I come across may be exactly how some people view me all the time: arrogant, frustrated, self-righteous, etc. I don’t feel like this most of the time, but in all honesty before people reading this, I am that sometimes. This is sin and I deeply need the grace and mercy of Christ provided in His cross and resurrection to cleanse me.
After the election, in my own thinking, I have been working through how we as believers are to approach the preaching of the Gospel and politics. Particularly from the Reformed camp, I keep seeing two answers to this (broadly speaking, knowing there are probably more).
One answer is that we can do both Gospel-preaching and be politically active on issues such as abortion or feeding the homeless or whatever your pet issue may be, so long as the political activism does not eclipse the Gospel message. One example of this would be someone like William Wilberforce (mp3 audio biography) who fought to abolish slavery through legislation and eventually won in British Parliament (something I am extremely grateful for).
But the other camp says we should not be politically vocal at all really for the sake of the Gospel, stating that all we need in culture is pure Gospel-preaching and living and the culture will change as the Lord uses that preaching and living as He sees fit to save people and move in the core of their being on these issues. At this point, I’m leaning toward this second response, though I sway back and forth.
During the election, I leaned toward the first answer, that we can do both Gospel preaching and at the same time be publicly involved in the political process on various issues, attempting to convince others, as best we can, of the rightness of it. However, in hind sight, and after having read a blog post by Phil Johnson, as well as this one, I’m second guessing my original stance now. I just have to think to myself, “Did others, especially unbelievers, remember what my political stance was or how great Christ is?” I feel like maybe to my shame it is the former answer.
Now of course, I know that the Gospel should take priority above politics; that is a given. But I’m still navigating through this issue and swaying back and forth on what I should do next time around or even before then. I’ll confess to everyone that sometimes, I got a little bit too excited about the whole thing. I saw through the political nonsense at times, and at other points, I got caught up in the nonsense. At times it distracted me from my pursuit of Christ in prayer, the Word and studying of theology. For this, I was clearly in error.
So how involved should we be in politics as believers, if at all? I pose this question to get ideas from others. I think about Tim Keller (along with Phil Johnson’s comments) and see the amazing fruit of not going after political issues. Through pure Gospel-preaching and living, he has transformed an area of Manhattan that would not otherwise have been possible (i.e., I highly doubt anyone in Manhattan would listen to a rant about abortion, knowing of course at the same time that it is indeed morally wrong, abhorrent and murderous, that regardless, a lot of walls would go up instantly with these hearers).
But then I think about John Piper as one of my heroes of the faith and his vocal stance from the pulpit in clearly proclaiming the evils of abortion. I also think about John the Baptist in telling Herod he was in the wrong and as a result having his head cut off. Standing up for morality can be costly, but the question is, why are you doing it? So I’m really wrestling through this issue at the moment. Any thoughts would be appreciated.
I’ve heard this sermon before, but listened to it again because it’s so excellent. I’ll admit: recently I’ve had a wrong tendency to want to blackball one political group over another. Keller reminded me (because I’m so quick to forget) that even deeper than all of that is an attitude of superiority.
In taking a step back from all of the nonsense going back and forth between camps at this time, I realized (once again, because I need constant reminders) that there are many unbelieving conservatives who are the elder brother in the parable. They influence much of what is heard and thought about in the conservative political sphere. This is also true in the liberal sphere.
As believers in the Gospel, we (I) really need to be careful about how much stock we put into what they tell us. Our priority beyond politics is the kingdom of Christ and His Gospel. How quick my own heart is to forget that … yet one more reason why I need to preach the Gospel to my own heart on a continual basis.
I respect the theologians, writers, and pastors over at www.Reformation21.org. I frequent that site because of the great commitment to uphold the Gospel in all of life, teaching, and preaching, as well as their commitment to Reformed theology. However, I’m going to jump right to the chase on this one: this review is unhelpful. And there is more to come apparently. I believe David Robertson is well-intentioned, but I do not see a whole lot of value to his critiques of the book, other than his few points against modern society. (Can you tell I’m siding with Tim Keller on this one?)
“Firstly I have a problem with the title. I am not sure what it means.”
The Reason for God. It is a defense of God’s existence, His character, His nature, and His actions in the world. Summed up, it is, well, the reason for God. A defense, an apologetic. It is a title that has an allure (at least in my mind) to an unbelieving, doubt-filled, skeptical, postmodern audience. Also, Robertson is not a postmodern so of course he is not going to get the point of the title. It’s not really meant to appeal to him. Postmoderns’ presuppositions consist of doubt, not just questions. They doubt the existence of God, the character of God, His nature, His actions, and His “representatives.” And they especially doubt the God of the Bible. Is that not kind of the point of the book? To engage unbelieving, postmodern, skeptical audiences? And also to give believers some rock-solid arguments to witness with? I believe this is a petty point to critique.
“Maybe it’s my Europeanness but I tend to think that God does not need a reason.”
Yes, He does not need a reason for anything. He is God and answers to no man. I agree. But try using that same language with a rebellious, Gospel-resisting postmodern in witnessing and you will likely get shut down right away. You have fulfilled their presupposition in this case. Anything said after that statement (that “God does not need a reason”) will bounce a lot of times (though of course God can speak through and use anything He well pleases and is constrained by no instrument of man – Jonah?).
“The subtitle ‘Belief in an age of Skepticism’ also causes a question in my mind – is this really an age of scepticism? …
… Speaking of doubts I have a slight question about the use of the term doubt. There is surely a difference between a question and a doubt. If a students says to her teacher ‘I have a question about what you are saying’ this is different from saying ‘I doubt what you are telling me.'”
To the first statement: Yes, this is an age of skepticism. People question everything now in our society, while never arriving at a knowledge of the truth; always searching, but never finding. That’s what is popular now. Most people in our culture, particularly postmoderns, have presuppositions about what they think Christianity says. So as soon as you open your mouth they think they already know what you are going to say. This is why you must start with presuppositional apologetics to knock out those underlying doubts from under their feet, removing blockades so they can hear the message of the Gospel in a way they may not have been able to before. Is that not the point of apologetics, to remove stumbling blocks as much as possible until you finally present them with Christ crucified for sinners? Apologetics for the Gospel?
Anyway, these presuppositions are in the form of doubts, not merely questions, because that is the way people are educated in our society now within the universities. “Doubt, prod, and question everything” is now a received dogma in our society. Regardless, because of these presuppositions, questions inevitably arise when confronted with the old Gospel message, but in the form of cautious, hesitating, skeptical doubt. They will ask a sometimes rhetorical question such as, “How can you believe in the Christian God? He’s so angry and narrow.” What they are really saying a lot of times is, “I highly doubt that type of a God exists on the basis of what I know and feel to be true in my heart.”
“At a time when the default position for the vast majority of people in the West is a form of agnosticism or practical atheism (living as though God did not exist) we need to make sure that we do not deify doubt.”
I agree with his statements concerning agnosticism and practical atheism making their home in people’s minds and souls, but that’s a side point. Deify doubt, though? I hardly think Tim Keller is coming anywhere close to doing that. He is appealing to unbelievers’ presuppositional doubts by answering the most common (doubt-filled) questions people have asked him in his over 20 years of ministry in the thick of one of the most postmodern, urban environments in the world, NYC. He’s not setting doubt itself up as an idol! Silly argument, at least against the book. Now the only people I would tend to say that Robertson’s analysis is true of is the Emergent church (ope sorry, not supposed to label it so as to not put it in a box, how rude of me :]). I do believe they deify doubt and have made it the lens through which they approach the Bible and it is tainting the pure message of the Gospel by saying we can never really arrive at a “knowledge of the holy and sacred” (their own – paraphrased – words).
Regardless, I am convinced Tim Keller engages the doubts honestly, takes them apart lovingly, and then shows the reader that maybe they are not the center of the universe through which all reality (“their reality”) is determined. It seems to me that most of David Robertson’s qualms with the book come from his lack of understanding the American postmodern mindset. I mean Tim Keller has been engaging a postmodern audience a bit longer than he has. By no means am I an expert on American postmodern thought, but the points Robertson chooses to critique, at least to me, show his ignorance of defending the truth and witnessing to postmoderns in particular. I could be wrong though, because I know nothing about the man really as far as his background is concerned.