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Scripture and the Church

Tim Keller: Dangerously Influential

Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Dr. Timothy J. Keller is one of today's most influential religious leaders, and one of the most dangerous.

Part one of a series

Dr. Timothy J. Keller is one of today's most influential religious leaders, and one of the most dangerous. At the heart of the danger is his widespread promotion of a false gospel that encapsulates Keller's un-Biblical views of God, His Word, His creation, man, sin, the cross, and the mission of Christ's church.

Who is Tim Keller?

Born in 1950, Timothy J. Keller is Senior Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. After undergraduate studies at Bucknell University, Keller earned a Master of Divinity degree from Gordon-Conwell Seminary in 1975. In 1981 he completed studies for a Doctor of Ministry degree at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Westminster was then, and is now, a hotbed of neo-liberal theology. Its trademarks are the deconstruction of the inspiration of Scripture and the doctrine of justification by faith alone. Keller continues to teach at Westminster as an adjunct professor of practical theology.

In the late 1970s Keller was ordained as a minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA). In 1989, PCA leaders asked Keller to start a congregation in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. Under Keller's leadership, Redeemer Presbyterian Church has since grown to approximately 5,000 members.

Keller is a best-selling author and popular speaker. He has written at least eight books and appeared in several video series, and has contributed to several other books and video productions. His own works include The Reason for God, The Prodigal God, and Generous Justice.

Keller's Associations

Keller's work has spawned the "Redeemer Network" of churches (officially known as Redeemer City to City) promoting Keller's theology and philosophy. According to its website, the Redeemer Network includes over 150 churches. As of this writing (November 2011) there were 56 in metropolitan New York City, 26 in other North American cities, 12 in South America, 52 in Europe, and 10 in Asia. Redeemer Network churches dominate the PCA's Metro New York Presbytery

Keller is a frequent contributor to the website of the BioLogos Foundation, which promotes belief in theistic evolution in churches, in Christian academia, and in the Christian homeschool movement. According to his biography on the BioLogos website, Keller duplicitously "prefers to be 'noncommittal' on the theories of origins in his writing, so as not to alienate those who prefer one view of creation over another."

In 2009, Keller was one of the original signers of the ecumenical Manhattan Declaration, the latest effort to bring nominal Evangelicals and Roman Catholics together in the promotion of a common but undefined "gospel" under the banner of social justice and cultural reclamation. The signers of the Manhattan Declaration seek to have what the Bible tells us are the results of the Gospel, without the Gospel - true moral improvement without the prerequisite of eternal life by the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.

Keller is also a key mover in the Gospel Coalition, an ecumenical organization whose leadership and membership are not even agreed among themselves on the definition of the Gospel. Any church is free to list itself as a coalition member. The Coalition's  directory web page says, "Find a gospel-centered church near you." But the same page includes the disclaimer that "we are not able to fully vet" the churches listed. Even a cursory exploration of the churches listed shows that many of them have no grasp of the one true Gospel. Instead they substitute variations on the "social gospel" that ensnared thousands of churches during the 20th century, and dominates the Purpose-Driven and Emergent Church movements today.

Why Keller is Dangerous

Tim Keller is one of today's most influential religious leaders, and one of the most dangerous. Many who are familiar with Keller's embrace of theistic evolution think this is the extent of the danger. But there is much more about Keller's ministry that should alarm Bible believers. At the heart of Keller's dangerous influence is a false gospel. As we shall see, Keller's hetero-gospel encapsulates his un-Biblical views of God, the authority of His Word, the origin and present state of His creation, the nature of man, the definition of sin, the purpose of the cross-work of Christ, and the mission of His church.

In this, Keller is essentially no different from 20th-century modernists like Harry Emerson Fosdick and Norman Vincent Peale, or present-day postmodernists like Rick Warren and Brian MacLaren. Yet Keller has a wide following, just as these men have had - including many who consider themselves to be conservative Evangelicals. How can that be? The answer is twofold.

Some in Keller's large following simply assume that he is orthodox because he is a leading figure in a purportedly conservative Protestant denomination. When faced with the reality of Keller's true beliefs, many of these people recoil in righteous horror.

On the other hand, I have found that many of Keller's advocates know that his theology is essentially heterodox. They simply choose to place that inconvenient fact on the altar of pragmatism. They claim that the theology of men like Keller is a side issue, and that confronting it would interfere with being "missional". But their view of the church's mission is, like Tim Keller's, un-Biblical: They seek growth - in both numbers and influence - through compromise of the essentials of Biblical Christianity.

Next: Tim Keller's Gutless "Gospel"

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