“The Link” – November 2019: Tim Keller

Dear Brothers and Sisters,

This month’s short biography is on Dr. Tim Keller. In the PCA he is sort of a superstar. Perhaps you’ve read one of his many books, such as The Prodigal God or The Reason for God. I’ve quoted him numerous times in various sermons, and so forth. He is beloved by many. I personally hold him in high regard. Yet, like any person who gets his or her name and work “out there,” he also suffers from the critics. There is plenty on the internet out there, some insightful criticism and some comes across as jealousy, but I’m not going to focus on those things here.

Keller’s brief bio on The Gospel Coalition (thegospelcoalition.org), of which he is the vice-president and co-founder, says this:

Tim Keller (MDiv, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary; DMin, Westminster Theological Seminary) is founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, chairman of Redeemer City to City, and vice president of The Gospel Coalition. He has authored numerous books, including The Reason for God. He and his wife, Kathy, have three children.

This bio is very brief, but a full bio would take up this whole newsletter—there is a more extensive one on Wikipedia about him if you want more details. It should be mentioned, however, that his church plant in Manhattan, Redeemer Presbyterian Church, grew from nothing to a thriving church with a weekly attendance of over 5000 people over his 28 years pastoring there. He’s reached thousands and thousands of people for the Lord, not only through his work at Redeemer, but through his books (which have sold over 2 million copies, some of which have been translated into 25 languages), podcasts, conferences, and YouTube, among other things.

I first heard of Tim Keller when I was working on my MDiv at Covenant. I had never heard of him before (you know Army and all that), but a bunch of my fellow seminarians were really excited when he came to speak at chapel. So, I went and sat in the balcony. The chapel was the most packed I had ever seen it that day, and I enjoyed what he had to say. The notes I took are long lost, but I remember a very logical train of thought clearly communicated that made me think. I heard him another time at a chaplain retreat prior to General Assembly a few years ago with the same observations. Over the years I’ve picked up most of his books, and Sharon gave me his entire sermon collection for my Logos software to use in my research. I’d have to say that, for me, Keller’s strength is his ability to make you see ordinary biblical truths in an extraordinary way towards applying those truths in the contemporary world. He is brilliant with the turn of phrase, or just the right illustration, forcing you to think through to deeper levels and better understanding (which is why some compare him to C.S. Lewis).

You may remember my talking a bit about the idea of the heart being an idol factory, which is straight from Keller (from his book Counterfeit Gods). Another teaching you might remember is on what it means to forgive—for Jesus—and for us. Keller writes,

Forgiveness means bearing the cost instead of making the wrongdoer do it, so you can reach out in love to seek your enemy’s renewal and change. Forgiveness means absorbing the debt of the sin yourself. Everyone who forgives great evil goes through a death into resurrection, and experiences nails, blood, sweat, and tears.

He goes on to say, “Forgiveness is always a form of costly suffering.” There is so much more.[1]

I highly recommend you take the time to read some of his books. There you’ll find a host of teachings and ideas that’ll help you in your understanding of the Scriptures, your faith, and your walk with Christ. If I could only recommend one book of his for you to read, it would be The Reason for God (Belief in an Age of Skepticism). It is an apologetic (a defense of the gospel) that answers tough questions (which are helpful to have handy for your own conversations about the gospel). These questions include: “Why does God allow suffering in the world?” “How could a loving God send people to Hell?” Why isn’t Christianity more inclusive?” “How can one religion be ‘right’ and the others ‘wrong’?” and “Why have so many wars been fought in the name of God?”

Here is a short list of other books of his I recommend, among many: The Prodigal God, Prayer, Counterfeit Gods, Making Sense of God, The Songs of Jesus (A Year of Daily Devotionals in the Psalms), and God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life (A Year of Daily Devotions in the Book of Proverbs). These should get you started.