|RPM, Volume 12, Number 7, February 14 to February 20 2010|
Interview by Susan Wunderink,
Christianity Today International
Reprinted by Permission of
The Gospel Coalition
Senior Pastor of
Redeemer Presbyterian Church
Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and cofounder of the Gospel Coalition, is behind some of the most ambitious — if not the most radical — efforts to reach urban professionals. Now he's expanding his ministry in book form, with the publication of The Reason for God, which moved its way up to number seven on The New York Times nonfiction bestseller list.
Keller's book tour, hosted by the Veritas Forum, has attracted 6,000 attendees to universities around the country. Many readers are saying that the book provides satisfying answers to the questions that churched and unchurched people commonly raise about Christianity. CT assistant editor Susan Wunderink sat down with Keller as he passed through Chicago.
Christians are living in the same culture that is blasting them with this is what's implausible about Christianity. If they lived in another culture, they'd be blasted with something else. So they probably are dealing with the same things [as non-Christians are] intellectually.
But my guess is the personal issues are different. If they came from a very homogenous, insular Christian community and they go to college and their roommate, who they think is wonderful, is Hindu, and they really feel like all Christians would be better than all Hindus, then they're confused.
I do think a lot of Christians — because they don't understand the grace narrative — get out into the world and find it very tough to navigate. I think it's because they don't understand the gospel, not because they can't answer all the theological questions.
C. S. Lewis says somewhere not to believe in Christianity because it's relevant or exciting or personally satisfying. Believe it because it's true. And if it's true, it eventually will be relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. But there will be many times when it's not relevant, exciting, and personally satisfying. To be a Christian is going to be very, very hard. So unless you come to it simply because it's really the truth, you really won't live the Christian life, and you won't get to the excitement and to the relevance and all that other stuff.
Nobody does that anymore. Nobody says different Christians might come down in different places here and still have a high view of Scripture. Instead, they identify their take as the wise one, and say everyone else is selling out or something. In today's climate, to come down on a theory of creation would be as bad as if I said, "I'm a Democrat" or "I'm a Republican," because then the people of the other party aren't going to listen. They're going to say, "So your gospel isn't for Republicans," or "It's not for Democrats," or "It's not for me, because I believe in evolution."
So I want to be noncommittal. I don't want the people who don't like one creation view to feel like now they can't listen to the rest of the gospel.
Instead, I point out that it's a red herring to go after that before you decide whether Jesus died and rose again. Two people said [last night at a Veritas forum]: "I can't believe in Christianity, because look at the fossils." And I was trying to say, "Because you believe in evolution does this mean that Jesus Christ couldn't be raised from the dead?" One said, "No, that has nothing to do with it." If he was raised from the dead, then you have to take seriously the Scripture and you have to work on all this. If he wasn't raised from the dead, who cares about Genesis 1—11?
One reason for this is because I think there's been a backlash. Evangelicalism has been so identified with conservative Republican values that a lot of people who might be more moderate have decided they are not religious. I've seen that happen in New York. They're moderate or liberal politically, and they feel like orthodox Christianity is so identified with conservative Republican politics that they have actually distanced themselves from the faith.
It's typical of postmodern people to say belief is all cultural, conditioned by your community.
Perhaps there was a day in which Christians thought that you evangelized largely through intellectual argument, but now I hear people saying, "No, it's all personal. If you're going to win people to Christ you just have to be authentic. You have to just reach out to them personally. You can't do the rational." In other words, Christians are saying the rational isn't part of evangelism. The fact is, people are rational. They do have questions. You have to answer those questions. Don't get the impression that I think that the rational aspect takes you all the way there. But there's too much emphasis on just the personal now.
Maybe you know I'm a 57-year-old man. You'd say, "Of course you'd say that." But I'm knee deep in 20-somethings. So it's not like I don't know how people are today.
The question is, How do you make sure that not only the particular theological and ministry DNA of the church is such that other people can get ahold of it? We have not done a particularly good job of that. We like to be organic. We like to say, "Will you come and hang out with us?" But now if somebody in Hong Kong says, "We want to do this. Give us stuff," we don't have an efficient way of getting it to them. I have not done much in the way of writing, which is one of the ways you get DNA out there. We have not done a lot in the way of putting this into forms that people can just pick up and use. In that sense, that's got to change.
And along with it, I just need to do a much better job than I have of leadership development, mentoring, and training. So we've actually started doing that. It's somewhat embryonic, but there's a real passion for it.
|This article is provided as a ministry of Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill). If you have a question about this article, please email our Theological Editor.|
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