The New Calvinists Part 1

New Calvinism, the Gospel Coalition and Dr Tim Keller

This is the transcript of the first lecture on New Calvinism given at the Summer School of Theology at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, London, on 4 July 2012. The lecture, prepared by Dr ES Williams, was read by Darren Cadapen, a member of Metropolitan Tabernacle.

New Calvinism is a movement that is sweeping across the Church in the USA and moving to the UK, and into other countries around the world. Many Christians may not be familiar with the term, and so my task in two talks, is to explain the phenomenon of New Calvinism, a movement that claims to be behind a resurgence of the reformed teachings of John Calvin, Charles Spurgeon and Jonathan Edwards. Led by some of the biggest names in the evangelical world, New Calvinism gives the appearance of doctrinal soundness. But on closer examination, we see a different picture. We see a movement that is bringing the world into the church—a movement that puts no difference between the holy and the profane. I hope to demonstrate that the problem of New Calvinism lies in both doctrine and conduct.

The apparent success of New Calvinism comes from a number of influential ministries, many with mega-church organisations, whose leaders are willing to work with one another. This unity, based in pragmatism, is rapidly changing the evangelical landscape in the USA and other countries. Such is the influence of this new movement that even Time magazine has noticed its impact on the evangelical world. Yet it is wrong to think of New Calvinism as based on a clear doctrinal stance, for, as we shall see, it is a broad tent, with an assortment of different ideas, teachings, practices and doctrines.

I shall first describe the origin of New Calvinism, and its association with the Gospel Coalition, and then discuss four theologians widely accepted as standing at the centre New Calvinism, namely Dr Tim Keller, Pastor John Piper, Pastor Mark Driscoll and Dr Albert Mohler. While the term New Calvinism is seldom used in the UK, the philosophy of this movement is being eagerly adopted by many churches in this country.

 Time Magazine (2009)

So how significant is New Calvinism? While many people in the UK are unfamiliar with the term, New Calvinism is massively influential and having a major impact on the Christian church. Time magazine, the world’s largest circulation weekly news magazine, in an article in 2009, listed 10 ideas changing the World Right Now and placed New Calvinism third on their list. Ted Olsen, a managing editor at Christianity Today, is quoted: ‘everyone knows where the energy and the passion are in the Evangelical world — with the pioneering new-Calvinist John Piper of Minneapolis, Seattle’s pugnacious Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler, head of the Southern Seminary of the huge Southern Baptist Convention.’

 Young, restless, reformed

The New Calvinist story probably started in 2006, when Collin Hansen, a junior editor of Christianity Today, published an article describing what he believed was a revival of Reformed theology that was taking place among young Christians in the USA. He formed this conclusion after travelling around the USA, visiting leading churches and institutions, and talking with theologians, pastors, and parishioners.

Collin Hansen, author of Young, Restless, Reformed

Hansen’s book, Young, Restless, Reformed, A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists, published in 2008, tells the story of a Calvinistic resurgence among young people in the USA.  Hansen is greatly impressed by the Passion Conference, a large annual event based on contemporary worship, with John Piper the keynote speaker. Twenty thousand college students, who dig modern praise music, are eager to hear Piper’s reformed message. And Piper says that the worship songs that are being written today are about a great God. Quote: ‘They [the songs] have set the stage for the theology; I still don’t understand why many churches don’t follow that with preaching that gets the theology of the songs. But at least for the Passion movement, that music is very God-exalting’. Hansen says that in Piper’s preaching and Passion music, young people are experiencing the nearness of God. ‘This powerful combination at conferences like Passion blows apart stereotypes of Reformed theology as a cold and detached study of God.’

Next Hansen discovers that the Sovereign Grace churches have joined charismatic worship with Calvinist theology. He concludes that ‘the growing network of charismatic Calvinists led by JC Mahaney is one sign of the Reformed resurgence’.  Hansen says that as evangelical Christians graduate from high school and leave the church of their youth, many end up at contemporary worship conferences like Passion or New Attitude, and are transformed by the music, and by the transcendent God they behold through the Reformed theology of John Piper and others.

Hansen’s book pays homage to the celebrities of New Calvinism. He believes that a genuine religious revival is taking place, and makes the following observations: 1) John Piper is the chief spokesman for the resurgence of Calvinism among young people. 2) Pastor Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill Church are evidence of the missional emphasis of the New Calvinism. 3) Al Mohler and Southern Seminary in Louisville, KY, are leading a resurgence of Calvinism in the Southern Baptist Convention. 4) The New Attitude Conference, led by Joshua Harris and featuring Reformed rap and rock music, is reaching young people with New Calvinist teaching. 5) New Calvinism has succeeded in combining traditional doctrine with charismatic teaching and practice of CJ Mahaney and the Sovereign Grace churches. 6) Tim Keller, of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, New York, a leader of the Gospel Coalition, is the leading cultural analyst of the New Calvinist movement.

Hansen’s book was well received by many evangelicals. Pastor Tim Challies comments: ‘Collin Hansen invites us on a voyage of discovery, learning how our restless youth are discovering anew the great doctrines of the Christian faith.’ The editor in chief of Christianity Today, David Neff, is effusive in his praise: ‘Collin Hansen has uncovered a fresh movement of young Christians for whom doctrine – particularly the Calvinist kind – fuels evangelism, kindles passion, and transforms lives. Read it and rejoice.’

In the UK, Hansen’s book was reviewed with enthusiasm in well-known magazines such as Banner of Truth, Evangelical Times, Evangelicals Now and Reformation Today. The Gospel Coalition has appointed Hansen as their editorial director.

 Dr Peter Masters’ review of Young, restless, reformed

Dr Peter Masters, Pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle, however, was very deeply saddened to read Hansen’s book, quote: ‘because it describes a seriously distorted Calvinism falling far, far short of an authentic life of obedience to a sovereign God. If this kind of Calvinism prospers, then genuine biblical piety will be under attack as never before.

Dr Peter Masters, Pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle (Spurgeon’s Church), London

‘The author begins by describing the Passion, conference at Atlanta in 2007, where 21,000 young people revelled in contemporary music, and listened to speakers such as John Piper proclaiming Calvinistic sentiments. And this picture is repeated many times through the book – large conferences being described at which the syncretism of worldly, sensation-stirring, high-decibel, rhythmic music, is mixed with Calvinistic doctrine.

Dr Peter Masters makes the point: ‘You cannot have Puritan soteriology without Puritan sanctification. You should not entice people to Calvinistic (or any) preaching by using worldly bait. We hope that young people in this movement will grasp the implications of the doctrines better than their teachers, and come away from the compromises. But there is a looming disaster in promoting this new form of Calvinism.’

To understand New Calvinism we need to examine the teaching of four of the most influential men in the movement. First, is Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian church in New York, who co-founded the Gospel Coalition with Don Carson. Second, is Pastor John Piper, of Desiring God Ministries, and regarded by many as the chief spokesman for New Calvinism, and third is Pastor Mark Driscoll, of Mars Hill Church is Seattle, who is reputed to be the most downloaded pastor in history. Fourth, is Dr Albert Mohler, President of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. But first, we need to look at The Gospel Coalition, an organisation that is at the forefront of New Calvinism.

 The Gospel Coalition

Don Carson

The Gospel Coalition, established in 2007, is the brainchild of Dr DA Carson, Research Professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, who wrote the confessional statement, and Dr Tim Keller, who produced the theological call to ministry. Pastor Mark Driscoll was involved in the founding of the Coalition.  He was invited to attend a small theological gathering, led by Carson and Keller, which included men from a number of prominent evangelical churches, such as Alistair Begg, Kent Hughes, Philip Ryken, Mark Dever, Ray Ortlund, and Ligon Duncan.

Dr Tim Keller

Also represented were organizations such as The Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood, Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, 9Marks, Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, Sovereign Grace Ministries, along with Acts 29 and The Resurgence.

The vision of the Coalition is to create a movement that by long-term effort could renew and reform evangelical thought and practice, both in the USA and worldwide.  Hansen writes about the first Coalition meeting: ‘As Carson told me today, this group could not have come together five years ago. Make of that what you will, but something’s stirring in the evangelical movement. The Gospel Coalition seeks nothing less than a return to the theological consensus enjoyed in the days of neo-evangelicalism, led by Billy Graham, Carl Henry, Harold John Ockenga, and many others.’

Mark Driscoll at Gospel Coalition Conference Chicago 2011

 The Coalition seeks to motivate pastors and theologians to subscribe to a policy of social activism. The theological vision for ministry urges Christians to become a counterculture for the common good. The ‘doing of justice and mercy’ is an important aspect of the Coalition’s gospel centred ministry. ‘The resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both the spiritual and the material. Therefore God is concerned not only for the salvation of souls but also for the relief of poverty, hunger, and injustice.’ [page 13]. In reality, this is little more than the old social gospel, dressed up in language of New Calvinism.

 Contextualisation

The Coalition is concerned about how the Church relates to culture, which is referred to as the contextualization issue. ‘We believe that every expression of Christianity is necessarily and rightly contextualized, to some degree, to particular human culture… The gospel itself holds the key to appropriate contextualization.’ [page 10]. The Coalition aims to get the right cultural balance in presenting the gospel.

 Truth

The Coalition propagates what it calls ‘a “chastened” correspondence–theory of truth that is less triumphalistic than that of some in the older evangelicalism.’  The correspondence theory of truth is a philosophical construct that argues that “truth” is whatever corresponds to reality. Truth corresponds to the facts. It is a traditional model which goes back to some of the classical Greek philosophers such as Plato and Aristotle. It was also followed by many philosophers in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Coalition has attached the word ‘chastened’ to its theory of truth. The clear inference is that the Church cannot proclaim absolute truth, revealed in Scripture, but only a chastened apologetic version of what may be truth. To declare absolute truth is labelled pejoratively as triumphalistic, something to be avoided at all costs. Rather, Christians are to be humble in their proclamation of the truth for they may be wrong. But this is not biblical understanding of truth. The Coalition appears to be apologising for the absolute truth revealed in God’s Word, of which the Christian church is the custodian.

 Contemporary worship

The Coalition is completely given over to contemporary worship and many Coalition Conferences have included hip-hop concerts. An article by Collin Hansen, entitled ‘The Hip-hop Opportunity’, published on the Coalition website, describes a hip-hop concert held in the Moody Bible Institute: ‘The auditorium pulsated with youthful energy for nearly three hours. A diverse crowd of nearly 2,000 had formed large lines long before the doors opened to general admission seating. During the sold-out concert, they shouted out familiar lines and danced with abandon among friends and new acquaintances who shared common affinity for the music. But the message took priority over the music and even the musicians on this evening. And that’s just the way everyone wanted it… The concert—featuring rappers Lecrae, Trip Lee, Sho Baraka, Tedashi, Pro, and DJ Official—made Jesus Christ the star of the show.’

The one thing that appears to bind New Calvinists together is their devotion to contemporary worship and holy hip-hop.

 Doctrine

New Calvinism is a broad tent that encourages doctrinal freedom, and discourages doctrinal disagreements. Both charismatic practices and some emerging church ideas have found an eager welcome in the New Calvinist tent. Despite lip service to the doctrines of Calvin, few in the New Calvinist movement adhere to the Westminster Confession of Faith, or the 1689 Baptist Confession. We shall see that the doctrines of New Calvinism bear little relationship to the doctrines of grace associated with Calvinism.

 New Evangelicalism

Here we need to understand the relationship between New Evangelicalism and New Calvinism. The ideas of new evangelicalism, which developed in the 1940s and 50s, openly repudiated the beliefs of fundamentalism, and sought for a more liberal, accommodating faith that did not practice separation from unsound doctrine. Leaders of the new evangelicals were Dr Harold Ockenga, who coined the term, and theologian Dr Carl Henry. In 1956, with the urging and support of evangelist Billy Graham, Henry began publication of Christianity Today, which became the voice of the New Evangelicals, and has now become the mouth piece of the New Calvinists.

New evangelicalism is characterized by four distinctives. First, is a low view of Scripture that compromises on biblical inerrancy. New Calvinism, as we shall see, is a careless, and even irreverent, in the use of Scripture. Second, new evangelicalism compromises on the biblical command to separate from false doctrine, and is eager to form spiritual alliances with all who profess to be Christian, whatever their beliefs. Likewise, New Calvinism is profoundly ecumenical. Third, new evangelicalism seeks acceptance by the world and strives for intellectual respectability. New Calvinism is even more openly worldly in its appetites and conduct. Fourth, new evangelicalism adds social activism to the gospel of Truth. Likewise, New Calvinism promotes social activism.

 Worldwide influence

We must appreciate that the influence of New Calvinism is worldwide. Although there is no New Calvinism organisation as such in the UK, the ideas and practices are rapidly gaining ground, as they are imported from the USA. Significantly, three of the most influential New Calvinists, Tim Keller, John Piper and Mark Driscoll, are hugely influential in the UK. Mark Driscoll is so popular that he was invited by a group of evangelical leaders to address the London Men’s Convention in 2011. Tim Keller is popular with the Proclamation Trust in the UK, and has been invited to speak at three conferences of Anglican Evangelical Ministry Assembly, in 2004, 2007 and 2011, when he spoke on how preaching can be both contemporary in its application (that is, contextualisation) and rooted in orthodox Christianity.

 Tim Keller – the intellectual giant of New Calvinism

Tim Keller is a pillar of New Calvinism. As the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, he claims to promote Reformed Christianity. Newsweek has dubbed him ‘The C S Lewis of the 21st Century’. He is regarded by many as a great intellectual, an expert in Christian apologetics and skilled in arguments that demonstrate the truth of Christianity in a postmodern world. In a sermon, Keller helps his listeners to see Jesus Christ as ‘existentially satisfying’ and ‘intellectually credible’.

Tim Keller is a best-selling author and popular conference speaker. He has written a number of books, including The Reason for God (2008), which reached the top 10 on the New York Times list of best-sellers. He is so highly regarded in evangelical circles that he was a keynote speaker at the Third Lausanne Congress on World Evangelisation held in Cape Town in 2010. He gave the eulogy at John Stott’s memorial service in the USA.

Under Keller’s leadership Redeemer Presbyterian Church has prospered and now has approximately 5,000 members. Redeemer City to City is a worldwide church planting movement. The network comprises around 150 congregations, scattered around the USA and in other countries. It collaborates with a growing number of church planters and leaders around the world. Those who join the church planting movement are expected to propagate Keller’s philosophy, books, sermons and articles.  In an article ‘Coming Together on Culture’, Tim Keller says the first thing we need to tell people when they come to church is ‘believe in Jesus’, and the second thing is to ‘do justice’.[1]

Despite Keller’s massive reputation and popularity among evangelical Christians, we need to carefully examine the gospel that he preaches.

 Keller’s theistic evolution

Tim Keller is a firm believer in what he calls ‘progressive evolution’.  In The Reason for God (2008) Keller seeks to help Christians overcome their doubts by persuading them of the ‘truth’ of theistic evolution, a theory that allows Christians to claim that they believe in both creation and evolution.

In Keller’s mind, the science of evolution is beyond question, and so the Bible must be made to conform to the ‘truth’ of science. Keller does this by asserting that the first chapter of Genesis is a poem (p. 93), and therefore cannot be taken literally.  He writes: “I think Genesis 1 has the earmarks of poetry and is therefore a “song” about the wonder and meaning of God’s creation… For the record I think God guided some kind of process of natural selection, and yet I reject the concept of evolution as All-encompassing Theory.”

Asked to clarify the apparent contradictions in his theory of theistic evolution, Keller responds: “How could there have been death before Adam and Eve fell? The answer is, I don’t know. But all I know is, didn’t animals eat bugs? Didn’t bugs eat plants? There must have been death. In other words, when you realize, ‘Oh wait, this is really complicated…’ ”

Keller openly admits that his account of theistic evolution is confused. And because he realises that there are insurmountable difficulties with his theistic evolution theory he says that he prefers what he calls the ‘messy’ approach. And his messy approach is without logic, incoherent and full of contradictions.

 Keller’s view of salvation

In 2006 at an ‘Entrepreneur’s Forum’ sponsored by Redeemer Church, Keller expressed his disenchantment with conservative Christians. Quote:  “Conservative churches say ‘this world is not our home—it’s gonna burn up eventually and what really matters is saving souls… so evangelism and discipleship and saving souls are what is important’.  And we (that is, Redeemer Presbyterian Church) try to say that it’s the other way around almost. That the purpose of salvation is to renew creation. That this world is a good in itself…’[2]

In the Reason for God (2008), Keller elaborates further. Quote: ‘Christianity is not only about getting one’s individual sins forgiven so we can go to heaven. That is an important means of God’s salvation, but not the final end or purpose of it. The purpose of Jesus’ coming is to put the whole world right, to renew and restore the creation, not to escape it. It is not just to bring personal forgiveness and peace, but also justice and shalom to the world… The work of the Spirit of God is not only to save souls but also to care and cultivate the face of the earth, the material world… In short, the Christian life means not only building up the Christian community through encouraging people to faith in Christ, but building up the human community through deeds of justice and service.’ [pages 223-225]

 Born again fanatics

Keller expresses his dislike for what he labels Christian fanatics. He says that the biggest deterrent to Christianity for the average person is the shadow of fanaticism. Quote: ‘Many non-believers have friends or relatives who have become “born again” and seem to have gone off the deep end. They soon begin to express loudly their disapproval of various groups and sectors of our society – especially movies and television, the Democratic Party, homosexuals, evolutionists… When arguing for the truth of their faith they often appear intolerant and self-righteous. This is what many people would call fanaticism.’ [page 56-57]

Keller argues that these born again Christians are ‘overbearing, self-righteous, opinionated, insensitive and harsh’. He appears to be highly irritated by those who have been born again, and who oppose evil and take a stand for righteousness. The very tolerant Keller appears to be intolerant of born again Christians.

 The Veritas Forum

Martin Bashir interviews Tim Keller

In August 2011, he was invited by the Veritas Forum, a gathering of university academics and students in the USA, to deal with issues raised in his book, The Reason for God.  Interviewed by NBC journalist Martin Bashir, Tim Keller presented his intellectual arguments for believing in God. The interview is online, and has been viewed by many thousands of people. Keller is asked whether Jesus Christ is the only way to God. Here is a link to the interview. http://youtu.be/_YkeKhA8BUw

Bashir: I’m talking about the millions of Muslims, Sikhs and Jews who have heard about Jesus. Where does your thesis leave them?

Dr Tim Keller ‘ So if there’s some trapdoor, I haven’t been told about it’

Keller: If Jesus is who he says he is, then, long term, they don’t have God. If on the other hand… all I can always say about this is, God gives me, even as a minister with the Scripture, information on a need-to-know basis… If right now, a person doesn’t have him, he or she needs to get him. If they die, and they don’t have Jesus Christ, I don’t know… I certainly know that God is wiser than me,  more merciful than me, and I do know that, when I finally find out how God is dealing with every individual soul, I won’t have any questions about it. …

Pushed by Bashir on what happens to people of other religions, Keller responds: ‘People in other religions, unless they find Christ, I don’t know any other way; but I also get information on a need-to-know basis, so if there’s some trapdoor, or something like that, I haven’t been told about it.’ End of quote.

Keller says to be a Christian means that your soul has to ‘get Jesus’. And he makes the remarkable statement, before a large audience, that God may have a trap door for unbelievers that he has not told us about. Keller is surmising that God may actually have a secret way to heaven for those who do not repent and place their faith in Christ. But Keller’s ‘trap door’ possibility is unbiblical and deeply heretical, for it implies that Christ died in vain.

And the final shock—Keller says that he does not know what happens to unbelievers who die without Christ. He says: “If they die and they don’t have Jesus Christ, I don’t know” what happens to them. But how can he say he does not know when Scripture is clear? Scripture says: “He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him” (John 3.36). Note that he does not refer to Scripture in attempting to answer Bashir’s questions.

 Keller’s Affinity with Rome

In The Reason for God, Keller seeks support for the dogma of theistic evolution, by looking to the Church of Rome. Quote: ‘For example, the Catholic Church, the largest church in the world, has made official pronouncements supporting evolution as being compatible with Christian belief.’ [page 87]. Note that Keller refers to the Catholic Church as the largest church in the world.

Keller’s definition of Christianity includes all Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christians who affirm the traditional creeds of the Faith, such as the Apostles Creed. He writes: ‘What is Christianity? For our purposes, I’ll define Christianity as the body of believers who assent to these great ecumenical creeds… I am making a case in this book for the truth of Christianity in general – not for one particular strand of it.’ [p116-117].

From the above two statements we see that Keller makes no distinction between the Protestant faith and Roman Catholicism—he claims to defend the whole Church, which includes the Roman Catholic Church, and not just one particular strand.

 Catholic author – Mary Flannery O’Conner

Keller writes that he could show the way of God’s grace ‘in a hundred famous spiritual biographies, such as those of St Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley… But my favourite example of the trauma of grace is the one depicted by Flannery O’Connor in her short story ‘Revelation’.’ [page 237]

Mary Flannery O’Connor, Catholic novelist

Keller spends two pages summarising O’Connor’s short story, before concluding: ‘What a radical idea! The “freaks and lunatics” going to heaven before the morally upright tribe?’ [page 240]. Keller makes three further references to the writings of Mary Flannery O’Connor.

The New World Encylopedia describes O’Connor as a life-long Roman Catholic, whose writing was deeply informed by the sacramental. ‘She wrote ironic, subtly allegorical fiction about deceptively backward Southern characters, usually fundamentalist Protestants, who undergo transformations of character that, in O’Connor’s view, brought them closer to the Catholic mind…’[3]

The fact that Keller chose to use O’Connor’s writing to illustrate the meaning of grace tells us much about his theology. From the vast ocean of Reformed literature that explains salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, Keller chose to use a Catholic novelist, who subtly undermines the Reformed faith through her caricatures of fundamentalist Protestant Christians.

Keller quotes Catholic celebrities Malcom Muggeridge, GK Chesterton and JR Tolkien in support of his theological and philosophical arguments. In his interview with First Things, America’s premier Roman Catholic journal, Keller says: ‘I don’t want to defend just one kind of Christianity. I think I want to defend the Apostles Creed.’ He wants nonbelievers to buy the Apostles’ Creed, and then figure out where they want to go. In this interview Keller is clear that his intention is to defend what he calls the ‘whole Faith’, and that, in his mind, includes defending the Church of Rome. In effect, Keller has publicly repudiated the Reformation.

 Mysticism in Keller’s Church

The fruit of Keller’s embrace of the Church of Rome is the promotion Catholic mystical practices in his Redeemer Church. In 2009 Keller’s Presbyterian Church ran a series of talks to teach the congregation how to practice ‘The Way of the Monk’, a method of prayer and worship that is grounded in Catholic mysticism.

The Redeemer website explains the Catholic meditation technique of Lectio Divina, or Divine Reading. The Redeemer website also provides advice on the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius Loyola, founder of the Jesuits. Quote: ‘Loyola’s methods, recorded in his book Spiritual Exercises, have been used for hundreds of years. He urged people to enter into Scripture with all five senses: sight, hearing, taste, touch, and smell.’[4]

One of the Redeemer flock was so disturbed by what was happening that she wrote: “I had to finally leave Redeemer because I learned they are holding classes on how to pray by way of lectio divinia, contemplative prayer/meditation, and even how to create “your own private monastery” (class was called The Way of the Monk). This most definitely did/does not sit well with me and I wrote a letter to the Pastors and Elders of the church about my concerns a couple of months ago but have not yet received a response.”

 The Gospel and Culture

A theology of liberation by Dominican priest Gustavo Gutierrez

Keller’s book Generous Justice (2010) is a polemic on social activism. To support the assertion that that God is on the side of the poor, Keller quotes Gustavo Gutierrez, a Dominican priest, author of A Theology of Liberation (1971), and regarded as the father of Liberation Theology. Yet Keller does not mention that Gutierrez is a Catholic theologian. Keller defines what he means by justice and equates it with helping the poor. He argues that ‘if it is true that justice and mercy to the poor are the inevitable signs of justifying faith’, then the church has a corporate duty to the poor. [p135]. He concludes: ‘A life poured out in doing justice for the poor is the inevitable sign of any real, true gospel faith’ [p189]

 Contextualising the gospel

Keller stresses the importance of making the gospel culturally sensitive. He asserts that man’s resistance to the Gospel is inherently cultural. Therefore, he says the gospel must ‘be presented in connection with baseline cultural narratives – Jesus must be the answer to the questions the culture is asking. Don’t forget—every gospel presentation presents Jesus as the answer to some set of human-cultural questions… every gospel presentation has to be culturally incarnated, it must assume some over-riding cultural concern… Christianity must be presented as answers to the main questions and aspirations of our culture.’ In presenting the gospel, says Keller, we must answer the question: What puts the world right? We must also explain how we can be part of putting the world right.

Keller’s theology can be summed up in the phrase ‘the primary purpose of salvation is – cultural renewal – to make this world a better place’.  This idea is central to all of Keller’s teachings.

 Conclusion

Dr Tim Keller is a big name in the New Calvinist movement. His teachings are widely propagated through The Gospel Coalition, the Redeemer Network, the Proclamation Trust in the UK, and conferences around the world. While he has a reputation for being a sound Protestant Christian leader, the truth is that he does not abide by the orthodox doctrines of the reformed faith. He uses a pseudo intellectual, philosophical approach to propagate a man made gospel. He is promoting a version of the gospel that is far from biblical truth.

We have seen that while he is deeply ecumenical in approach and sympathetic to the Catholic cause, he is irritated by the fanaticism of those who claim to be born again Christians. Like the New Evangelicals, he has a low view of Scripture that allows him to promote the doctrine of theistic evolution. He seeks to contextualise the gospel to make it culturally acceptable. He seeks to combine evangelism and social activism. He is an archetypical New Calvinist, who in fact, has repudiated the Reformation.

The Apostle Paul warned of the danger of those who promote philosophical ideas in the name of the Christian faith. ‘Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him’ (Colossians 2.8-10). We must not be taken captive by the empty deceit and man made philosophy of New Calvinism that pays only lip service to the doctrines of the Reformation. Rather we proclaim sound biblical doctrine.

 

 


[1] Tim Keller, Coming Together on Culture’, Parter 2: Practical Issues, 10 Feb 2012,

[2] http://freedomtorch.com/blogs/3/2762/tim-keller-and-social-justice

[4] http://www.redeemer.com/connect/prayer/prayer_johnson_article.html