Tim Keller’s N.Y. Times Interview Reveals American Evangelical’s Problem In A Single Sentence
A recent New York Times article making its way around my social media feeds highlights in a single sentence what is fundamentally deficient in American Evangelicalism. In the article Times writer Nicholas Kristof asks prominent evangelical pastor Tim Keller whether one needs to believe in every Christian tenet in order to be a Christian, particularly the resurrection of Christ as well as his Virgin Birth.
Keller deftly does the difficult job of attempting to navigate 21st century sensibilities while still holding and defending cornerstones of the Christian faith…
…but then he drops one little sentence; one little bit of information that would be easy enough just to zoom past without giving it any thought whatsoever.
But this sentence hit me like a hammer!
I believe this sentence is the root cause of the rumblings being felt right now in American Evangelicalism between the old guard and a younger generation.
This sentence is the crack in the foundation ignored and overlooked for too long.
And what is this sentence?
Kristoff: And the Resurrection? Must it really be taken literally?
Keller: Jesus’ teaching was not the main point of his mission. He came to save people through his death for sin and his resurrection. So his important ethical teaching only makes sense when you don’t separate it from these historic doctrines.
Did you get that? For evangelicals like Keller, Jesus’ teachings are of secondary importance. They are “ethical teachings” to be incorporated after believing a death and resurrection occurred.
But what Keller calls “ethical teachings” Jesus calls The Kingdom of God; and it was the very reason Jesus came, to announce it’s arrival! And it was through these teachings that he taught us how
- the Kingdom of God is established (compassion)
- the Kingdom of God advances (compassion)
- the Kingdom of God is shared (compassion)
Jesus went on to say that we could identify other citizens of this new country not by their theological affirmations and beliefs but simply through the compassion they demonstrated to those around them (John 13:35)
Now I agree with Keller the resurrection of Jesus is important but the resurrection of Christ is the confirmation (and promise) by God of everything Jesus taught and proclaimed. Both at Christ’s baptism as well as the Transfiguration, the Father shows up to affirm his love for his son and that all should listen to him!
What Jesus was teaching was not of secondary importance. It was the MAIN thing! Evangelicalism has been crippled by forgetting to keep the main thing the main thing
Just before Jesus left his disciples he challenged them to make new followers by teaching them everything he had taught them (Matt. 28:19-20)
- When you have an extra coat and see one in need, give them one
- When you do spiritual stuff do it low key and don’t draw attention to yourself
- When you are in leadership, serve those who you lead rather than have them serve you
These are not “ethical teachings”. These are not nice things to try to incorporate once you get the theological furniture in your head “correct”.
No, when you see these things in your midst you will know the Kingdom of God is at hand.
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