“All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better.”
Tim Keller, founder and former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (RPC) in New York City, passed away on Friday. Keller wrote numerous books over the course of his life covering topics such as apologetics, marriage, preaching, prayer, work, idolatry, justice, forgiveness, and more. He co-founded The Gospel Coalition with Don Carson (who paid tribute to Keller here), and launched a church planting network.
“You don’t fall into love. You commit to it. Love says, ‘I will be there no matter what.’”
Keller wrote about idolatry on his book Counterfeit Gods. He agrees with Calvin that our hearts are idol-making factories that turn anything, especially God’s good gifts, into idols. Keller tweeted, “What is idolatry? It is anything that absorbs your heart an imagination more than God, anything you seek to give you what only God can give.” In his book, these idols could range from sex and money to doctrine and the church. All are good things to a degree and within proper boundaries. When made to be the ultimate good they become idols.
“To say ‘I know God forgives me, but I can’t forgive myself’ means you’ve failed an idol whose approval is more important than God’s.”
Michael Kruger wrote about the first time he heard Keller preach sometime in the ‘90s. One of his points is on how Keller aimed to be persuasive. As Kruger writes, “Persuasion is the lost art in modern preaching… Many proclaim. Many announce. Many tell. Very few try to convince.” Paul tried to convince. In 2 Corinthians 5:11a, Paul wrote, “Since, then, we know what it is to fear the Lord, we try to persuade others.” Why make the effort to persuade and convince? Because Christianity is real. Jesus actually rose from the dead, and following him answers the questions to our deepest longings.
“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said. If he didn’t, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether you like his teaching, but whether he rose from the dead.”
The Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics was formed to help Christians share the truth, goodness, and beauty of the gospel in their lifestyle and evangelism to others. This is meant to provide Christians with answers both to help prevent people from leaving the church as well as keeping them in the church. This is done by showing them how the gospel, above and beyond anything in culture, provides the answer to their greatest need.
Making Sense of God was written primarily to skeptics of Christianity, and in it Keller flips the world’s claims around and shows how they don’t make sense. In Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering, Keller reminds us of what Westley says in the film The Princess Bride, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” The Bible admits to our pain. It gives us no prosperity gospel, health-and-wealth, pie in the sky doctrines. Some have it easier, some just have it rough. We will walk through a furnace, but Jesus will walk with you.
My Two-Cent Story
Keller, after pastoring CRC for about 25 years, published The Reason for God in 2009. This was the first book of Keller’s I read after finding it in a used bookshop in York in 2013 for £3 ($3.50). I devoured the whole thing on the flight back home. Keller easily showed how Christianity is not based on “leaps of faith,” and that at least the same leaps of faith atheists accuse Christians of taking, they take themselves.
After blogging for a while, I have reviewed only a few of Keller’s books: one on suffering, a Proverbs devotional, and the prequel to The Reason for God written to skeptics, Making Sense of God. I have also read his book on preaching, prayer, and marriage and found them very insightful. Keller read widely, and that is reflected in his preaching and in his books. He was clever, winsome, and both easy both to listen to and to read. He could synthesize information easily without it feeling like a burden.
I never knew Keller, having only read a handful of books and hearing the occasional sermon. I did almost meet him (maybe I did meet him?) at a TGC conference in 2017. But from what I’ve heard, he was by no means an egghead, but a genuine guy who loved everyone around him. He was humble, gracious to his critics, and genuinely cared about both the lost and all who were around him.
Amazon Affiliate Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.