On Might 19, 2023, Timothy Keller handed away following a three-year battle with pancreatic most cancers. Many readers of this website shall be conversant in Keller’s work because the founding pastor of Manhattan’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church and as a well-regarded up to date apologist. He was notably famous for his capacity to combine considerate concepts from philosophy and tradition into his insightful biblical exposition. Right here, a few of Christ and Pop Tradition’s writers current their reflections on how Keller’s life and thought knowledgeable or formed their very own work.
A Man of Grace and Reality
There’s rather a lot I might say about Tim Keller, however I’ll hold it transient. On the finish of his life, his demise is a reminder that even probably the most caring, good, service-oriented, and insightful women and men have an expiration date. How we affect others alongside the journey with our presents, skills, time, vitality, and data is what’s going to matter most once we are gone.
And what mattered most to me about Tim Keller was his constant strategy to humanity with grace and reality. After all, this shall be an overstatement for a lot of of you, however I’ll state it anyway: I want extra Christians have been like Tim Keller. I want I was extra like him as a result of his pursuit and pleasure was to be as loving as Christ was to the world.
“The gospel says you’re concurrently extra sinful and flawed than you ever dared imagine, but extra beloved and accepted than you ever dared hope.” — Timothy Keller
Isn’t This What We Are?
Although I’m a literature professor by commerce and a cultural analyst right here at CaPC, I first realized about Keller by listening to his sermons. Although I’m a layperson, I’m additionally a pastor’s child and an intellectually promiscuous reader, so I’ve had a whole lot of time to ingest biblical scholarship. A very good sermon should be sensible, in fact, however I additionally need it to educate me one thing I didn’t know. (The way in which to my coronary heart is thru my thoughts, as if these have been even two completely different colleges.) This units a bar for preaching that appears virtually unimaginable to fulfill. But, as I quickly realized, that is precisely the usual Timothy Keller stored all through his pastoral ministry: sermons that have been erudite and instructive but in addition deeply sensible too. He preached what stays to at the present time my all-time favorite sermon.
However what I discovered in following his work was that whether or not in his preaching, his talks and interviews, his different writings, and even (as greatest I can inform) in his life, he modeled what I had at all times thought evangelical Christianity could possibly be (certainly, what I, in my little mental nook, had at all times grown up pondering it was). Effectively-read and interdisciplinary, clear however nuanced, truthful however gracious, crusing towards the long run with the wind of custom in his sails, Timothy Keller was merely the fullest embodiment of qualities I used to be used to seeing amongst buddies and colleagues in church buildings and Christian faculties throughout my complete life.
In a latest article, Michael Luo asks whether or not Keller’s work will be capable to proceed. In our fractious and polarized atmosphere, are there different leaders of his caliber doing what he did, balancing ardent religion with charitable argument and sturdy cultural sensibilities in a approach that rejects our at present insufficient Western classes? I don’t know the reply to this on the macro-level. I do know loads of individuals doing it on different tiers, from easy church parishioners and relations to colleagues around the globe and throughout disciplines. Regionally, I consider my acquaintance Leslie Anne Bustard, additionally taken from us by most cancers this 12 months, who, together with her husband Ned helped information Square Halo Books (which has even printed a book about Keller’s work). Can this tribe win the day in our present local weather? I can’t say. However a minimum of now we have had one image of what it might seem like.
He Was Type
In watching the circulation of on-line reactions to Tim Keller’s demise, I couldn’t assist however discover one dominant theme: his kindness. Again and again, individuals recalled cases when Keller reached out, despatched a be aware, arrange a gathering, or simply supplied some encouraging phrases to somebody badly in want of somewhat compassion.
And it wasn’t simply kindness to his friends, both. Repeatedly, individuals have shared recollections of Keller’s kindness to them after they have been in no place to do something for him. To all of the “little individuals,” the bloggers with only a handful of readers, the obscure pastors, the ladies experiencing bruising pile-ons on social media or of their church buildings, he made it a particular level to be sort. And to those that disagreed with him, as nicely. One girl who labored with him, and who’s now pursuing ordination, wrote, “I used to be by no means handled less-than as a result of I had completely different beliefs. My contributions to our work have been at all times acknowledged.” Anybody who’s spent 5 minutes in our present cultural milieu will acknowledge how uncommon and treasured that’s.
The times and weeks to come back will undoubtedly convey many reflections on Keller’s doctrine, worldview, management, and preaching expertise. All of these are unquestionably necessary. However how transferring—and the way biblical—that the very first thing to come back to so many individuals’s minds was merely, “He was sort.” Might his instance encourage us to do likewise.
“And although I’ve the reward of prophecy, and perceive all mysteries and all data, and although I’ve all religion, in order that I might take away mountains, however haven’t love, I’m nothing.” —1 Corinthians 13:2 (NKJV)
As a result of He Was Devoted…
I most likely shouldn’t be writing any type of tribute to Timothy Keller, however right here I’m, doing it anyway. The factor is, I’ve by no means learn something by Keller, and I really feel like that disqualifies me in some way. However I’ve prayed for him ever since I heard of his most cancers prognosis, and after I heard phrase of his demise, it struck me just like the passing of a good friend.
The factor about Tim Keller and me is, his phrases and teachings have been throughout me since about 2016. For these previous years, he was the pastor of my pastors, the caregiver of those that have given care to me. He influenced the thought and non secular formation of those that have influenced mine. I’ve, in methods I’ll most likely uncover for years to come back, realized from Tim Keller’s trustworthy pastoring, and it helped me to carry on to Jesus.
Tim Keller has stood for me as a steward of reality throughout years the place the reality has been obscured alongside tribal and political traces. I got here to comprehend, over the previous couple of years, that I tended to gravitate towards pastors and lecturers and mentors who quoted a whole lot of Tim Keller. I got here to comprehend that for me—with the temptation to despair and deconstruct so close to—Tim Keller’s faithfulness and the faithfulness he impressed in others struggling by the storm like me meant the entire world to me. As a result of he was trustworthy, I feel there are various who didn’t lose hope. I feel I can, ultimately, name him “good friend,” as a result of I feel he’s the type of one who would have been okay with that.
And I feel I ought to most likely, lastly, learn one in all Tim Keller’s books.
The C. S. Lewis of Our Occasions
After I was in school, I served at a small Southern Baptist church within the panhandle of Florida. Within the three years I served at that church, we went by 4 completely different pastors. I used to be solely 18 and newly married after I began, and throughout the course of my time there, I unexpectedly misplaced my mom. This was a tough formative time for me in vocational ministry. After leaving, my spouse and I discovered numerous church buildings to go to and in the end felt misplaced.
I used to be at all times somewhat little bit of a insurgent and commenced spending time with a couple of different college students from my small Bible school at an area cigar and wine bar. We met a navy household there who wished to start out a Bible examine in a context that was completely different from the native church. We began spending time on the weekends at their home, they usually began inviting a few of their buddies. One in every of their buddies shared that they’d been part of a church the place the pastor advisable Tim Keller‘s guide The Motive for God. This was across the time when Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and others had began the “new atheist” motion whereas evangelicalism was identified for its anti-intellectualism. It was additionally at this level that I used to be launched to the work of the C. S. Lewis of our occasions.
Tim Keller was a Presbyterian and I used to be a diehard Baptist, although in truth, I didn’t perceive our doctrinal variations. Over time, he launched me to a brand new approach of understanding the way to talk the gospel. There was no system or beating different individuals with the Bible, and there was in truth nothing aside from grace. Later in my life, I noticed I used to be most likely nearer to being a Presbyterian than being a Baptist, however extra importantly, I noticed that it’s okay to disagree with different individuals about doctrine. Tim Keller taught me that. He taught me that whereas he believed girls couldn’t maintain the workplace of Pastor, it’s necessary to respect anybody and any workplace they’re in. He taught me that whilst you might disagree with somebody about baptism, so long as persons are coming to saving religion in Jesus Christ, it actually doesn’t matter.
One anecdote involves thoughts after I consider Tim Keller: a girl I do know with a PhD, who’s an ordained pastor, shared with delight that she was in a gathering with him. He handled her as an equal, even in an workplace he didn’t imagine she ought to maintain. This doesn’t occur in lots of evangelical areas. Tim taught us a brand new approach ahead and if we wish to proceed to cope with our present tradition’s polarization as Christians, we might do nicely to be taught from his instance.