Tim Keller

The dark side of The Shack

Since it was first published in 2007 the Shack has sold over 20 million copies. This week it was released as a motion picture. This is a book and a film that will book will influence the popular religious imagination.

After discussing it's strengths, Tim Keller shares his concerns.

At the heart of the book is a noble effort—to help modern people understand why God allows suffering, using a narrative form. . . . 

However, sprinkled throughout the book, Young's story undermines a number of traditional Christian doctrines. Many have gotten involved in debates about Young's theological beliefs, and I have my own strong concerns. But here is my main problem with the book. Anyone who is strongly influenced by the imaginative world of The Shack will be totally unprepared for the far more multi-dimensional and complex God that you actually meet when you read the Bible.

In the prophets the reader will find a God who is constantly condemning and vowing judgment on his enemies, while the Persons of the Triune-God of The Shack repeatedly deny that sin is any offense to them. The reader of Psalm 119 is filled with delight at God's statutes, decrees, and laws, yet the God of The Shack insists that he doesn't give us any rules or even have any expectations of human beings. All he wants is relationship. The reader of the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, and Isaiah will learn that the holiness of God makes his immediate presence dangerous or fatal to us.

Someone may counter (as Young seems to do, on p.192) that because of Jesus, God is now only a God of love, making all talk of holiness, wrath, and law obsolete. But when John, one of Jesus' closest friends, long after the crucifixion sees the risen Christ in person on the isle of Patmos, John 'fell at his feet as dead.' (Rev.1:17)

The Shack effectively deconstructs the holiness and transcendence of God. It is simply not there. In its place is unconditional love, period. The God of The Shack has none of the balance and complexity of the Biblical God. Half a God is not God at all.


Tim Keller on the 3 Temptations of Ministry

Tim Keller’s message on the Temptation of Ministry shook me to core. He’s speaking to seminary students destined for pastoral ministry. The message applies just as much to movement pioneers.

Few leaders finish well. Tim Keller explains why, and helps us understand God’s solution.

Tim Keller

Tim Keller

The Bible and Same-sex Relationships: A review article by Tim Keller

Tim Keller

The saddest thing for me as a reader was how, in books on the Bible and sex, Vines and Wilson concentrated almost wholly on the biblical negatives—the prohibitions against homosexual practice—instead of giving sustained attention to the high, (yes) glorious scriptural vision of sexuality. Both authors rightly say that the Bible calls for mutual loving relationships in marriage, but it points to far more than that. 

Tim Keller 

Tim Keller responds with grace and wisdom to two books, one by Matthew Vines and the other by Ken Wilson, that argue that the Bible either allows for or supports same-sex relationships.

Tim Keller on movements


Tim Keller writes on what makes a movement, and how movements can resist becoming institutions.

Defining a movement

A movement is marked by an attractive, clear, unifying vision for the future together with a strong set of values or beliefs. The content of the vision must be compelling and clear so that others can grasp it readily.

By contrast, "institutionalized" organizations are held together by rules, regulations, and procedures, not by a shared vision.

Unpacking the definition

1.The vision leads to sacrificial commitment. Individuals put the vision ahead of their own interests and comfort.

2. The vision leads to generous flexibility. Institutionalized organizations are very turf conscious.

3. The vision leads to innovativeness. Institutions are organized more vertically, where ideas from "below" are unwelcome.

4. A movement is marked by spontaneous generativity. Spontaneous combustion means energy generated from within - a conflagration without the need for external ignition.

How movement institutionalize

Vision becomes strategy, roles become tasks, teams become structure, networks become organizations, recognition becomes compensation.

How movements stay strong

A strong movement occupies the difficult space between being a free-wheeling organism and a disciplined organization. A movement that refuses to take on some organizational characteristics - authority, tradition, unity of belief, and quality control - will fragment and dissipate. A movement that does not also resist the inevitable tendency toward complete institutionalization will lose its vitality and effectiveness as well.

Visit his blog and read the full article.

Hope for the city

Hfny Pancakes I stumbled on Hope for New York recently.

I'm already a big fan of what Tim Keller and the people at Redeemer Presbyterian have been doing to mobilize the whole body of Christ to plant "gospel-centred" churches throughout New York.

Looks like they're also behind this initiative to mobilize people and resources to serve the poor and marginalized.

Their vision is a city in which individuals and communities experience spiritual, personal, social and economic well-being through the demonstration of Christ's love.

You can volunteer to make pancakes, give money, teach English, mentor students, build accommodation. HFNY links people and resources with faith based initiatives to serve the poor.

Why not the same dual strategy in every city, town and region on the planet?

A new kind of gospel?

christianity-today-graphic-tm.jpg Dynamic movements are committed to a cause. But what if you're not sure what that cause is any more?

Tim Keller writes:

A generation ago, it would have been hard to imagine evangelicals unable to agree on what the simple gospel is: 1) God made you and you must have a relationship with him, 2) but your sin separates you from God. 3) Jesus, God's Son took the punishment your sins deserved. 4)If you repent for your sins and trust in his work for your salvation, you will be forgiven, justified and accepted freely by grace, and indwelled with his Spirit until you die and go to heaven.

But many today challenge this way of expressing the gospel.

In A New Kind of Christian Brian McLaren's character Neo says he doesn't "think most Christians have any idea of what the gospel really is." When his interlocutor responds that he thought the gospel was "accepting Christ as your personal savior and justification by faith not works based on the finished work of Christ on the cross" Neo responds, "Yes, that's exactly what most modern Christians would say". reduc[ing] the gospel to modern dimensions, laws, steps, simple diagrams, complete with a sales close." When pressed on what the gospel is, Neo insists that it can't be reduced to a formula, other than the one Jesus used, "The Kingdom of God is at hand." He then quickly adds that we shouldn't use that short-hand either, since "everything is contextual' and the term "kingdom" would be opaque to many people today.

Read Tim Keller's response to this postmodern confusion regarding the gospel.

Reaching the world's great cities

Tim Keller-3

I didn't make the Exponential conference this year. But Dave Ferguson did.

Here's his summary of Redeemer's strategy for international church planting.

1. Target key international cities. Tim Keller believes that the key cities in the world today are New York, London, Hong Kong. However, he said that Hong Kong will soon be replaced in the east by Dubai and Shanghai. (I'm sure Chicago is also in that category, he just assumed I knew that!)

2. Don't send a church planter to those cities, go to those cities to find a church planter. I found this fascinating and counter-intuitive. Most church planting organizations or church planting churches send church planters into new context; but Redeemer's strategy is to send some of their people to these cities who will search for the best church planters in that context already.

3. Provide training and money. Tim said that when they first approach potential church planters in these international settings they don't believe them or think it is some kind of bait and switch. But once trust is earned this is the best way to attract church planters; to improve quality of the church plant and ensure that it still has the proper DNA.

A final comment from Dave:

While Tim Keller and Redeemer are all about reproducing sites (they have 3) and church plants (helped start more than 100) my favorite quote of the night from Keller was this warning about the reproducing church: “cell reproduction without a purpose is called cancer.”