Monday 6 June 2011

Is it OK to Evaluate Tim Keller's Approach to Scripture?

In the last 3-4 years I have been surprised how many people are influenced by Tim Keller. I say surprised because I had not read much by him and this left me understandably ignorant and a little non-plussed. Having first met the Lord in 1986, I have grown weary of the latest bestsellers, the latest hot names in the Christian world, and the latest methods in 'how can your church be successful?'. It may sound uninteresting but the ancient paths work best because they steadfastly seek to glorify God and do not need to change to pander to the next generations desires.

What has caught my attention though, has been that when I speak to people, especially Christian ministers who hold Tim Keller in high esteem, is that they often rave about Keller's preaching. One man described him to me as being 'outstanding' and probably the best he had ever heard. Recently, I took time to listen to Keller's sermon on the Trinity where he expounds the baptism of Jesus of from Mark's Gospel (1:9-13). The link is:

Was I surprised? Well I would have been had I not read all of his books in the last year. He begins with the Bible passage and then makes quantum leaps to interpret the baptism of Jesus as a 'divine dance' between the three persons of the Trinity. His method of handling the Bible left me quite simply 'scratching my head'. Where does this 'divine dance' suddenly spring from regarding this passage? It could appear as mystifying at best or at worst to be a form of biblical eisegesis (an interpretation, especially of Scripture, that expresses the interpreter's own ideas, bias, or the like, rather than the meaning of the text). In short, the lesson remains. No matter how successful someone is, we must not put them on a pedestal where they are beyond critical evaluation. (We are not talking about having a critical spirit which is always unhelpful.)

The apostolic injunction remains concerning all of us:

But test everything; hold fast what is good (1 Thess. 5:21) Testing everything, includes testing our favourite preachers also, in the light of Scripture!


Jonathan Hunt said...

It is perfectly OK with me! Its the other guys you need to worry about.

Kevin Bidwell said...

Well, I am trying to be as graceful as possible. I am not lashing out. I am not intending to be controversial, provocative, stuck in the mud or difficult. His exegetical approach to Scripture in that sermon would be enough for many ministers to be given the sack. More than that, our concern is for the glory of God and a faithfulness to the inerrant, sufficient canon of Scripture.

Hope that helps,

proskairon said...

We were taught at school never to write the answer until you had done the working out. Understanding the problem and using the right method are all important! I think the rule was made especially for cheats like me, who did't understand maths in the first place and spent our time trying to find someone soft enough to tell us the answer. You are right - he does flexegesis by telling us what a text means in advance and then telling us that that is what it means. You could say that he's setting out his stall but it seem to me a bit 'cart before the horse'.

Kevin Bidwell said...


I think that you should change your blog name to 'elderatthepoolside' :), only kidding. It is a pity that you will miss the ordination at Sheffield but it sounds like things are moving ahead nicely where you are.

Regarding Keller's hermeneutic, yes it is like mercury but once you grasp it, it is like mercury, in that you know how it's propertiesand how it will behave.

I have tried to be as polite as possible because this blog article is getting a record number of hits. I am not a controversialist by nature but I hope that some people will at least rethink their own hermeneutic and I hope for a genuine recovery of confessional presbyterianism.