A (Very) Brief Response to Tim Keller and Nicholas Kristof

obi_wan_kenobiHere we are, on the eve of Christmas 2016.  This holiday season has inarguably been filled with the least hope and the least wonder for me personally that I can ever remember.  No doubt, I am still smarting from a grossly toxic election season and an outcome that is vexing and difficult to fathom, as well as the implications that outcome has had in shattering what remaining illusions I apparently had about the world, and these United States moreover.

This op-ed piece by NY Times Writer Nicholas Kristof didn’t help any.  In it, he asks a series of questions to Rev. Tim Keller, the Obi-Wan Kenobi of US Christian evangelicals, about what really makes a Christian a Christian.

If you haven’t read it, I suggest you skip it, and this response.  If you did or want to, keep going.

Tim Keller’s perspective is replete — and I mean, replete — with theological assumptions, some informed by the fact that he is part of the PCA (Presbyterian Church in America), the largest conservative Reformed Christian church in America, which is also notably literalist and evangelical, not to mention all of the cultural assumptions that go along with being a cisgender heterosexual white male and a United States Citizen.  Only one time in the conversation did he say, “There are many views of this issue, so my thoughts on this cannot be considered the Christian response,” but that is nonetheless true of each statement in which he took a position and of his orientation toward Christianity at-large.

Perhaps most importantly, lots of really learned, devout Christians have a broader and more inclusive picture of humanity then the 2 sentences it took Tim Keller to define who is in and out of Christianity and the few more it took him to send everyone else to hell. If you haven’t ever, you really should read some other perspectives, and at length, even if the end result is that it doesn’t change anything you believe. (Yes, I have some suggestions — anyone on this list.)  At least you can know what some of the other perspectives are, and how, in the end, many of them make a lot of sense and are very plausible.


[button link=”https://www.amazon.com/Christianity-After-Religion-Spiritual-Awakening/dp/0062003747″ type=”big” color=”green”] “A great modern heresy of the Church is the heresy of believing. Christianity was never intended to be a system or structure of belief in the modern sense; it originated as a disposition of the heart. A creed then is not a statement of information about God. Creeds are essentially prayers of devotion that express a community’s experience of encountering God. Indeed, the word, doctrine, fallen on hard times in contemporary culture, actually means a ‘healing teaching,’ from the French word for doctor. The creeds, as doctrinal statements, were intended as healing instruments, life-giving words that would draw God’s people into a deeper engagement with divine things. When creeds become fences to mark the borders of heresy, they lose their spiritual energy. Doctrine is to be the balm of a healing experience of God, not a theological scalpel to wound and exclude people.”–Diana Butler Bass, Christianity After Religion: The End of Church and the Birth of a New Spiritual Awakening[/button]
[button link=”https://www.amazon.com/Yes-Daily-Meditations-Richard-Rohr/dp/1616366443″ type=”big” color=”red”] “To take the scriptures seriously is not to take them literally. Literalism is invariably the lowest and least level of meaning. Most Biblical authors understood this, which is why they felt totally free to take so many obvious liberties with what we would call ‘facts.’ In many ways, we have moved backwards in our ability to read spiritual and transformative texts, especially after the enlightenment of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries when religious people got on the defensive and lost their own unique vantage point. Serious reading of scripture will allow you to find an ever new spiritual meaning for the liberation of history, the liberation of the soul, and the liberation of God in every generation. Then the text is true on many levels, instead of trying to prove it is true on just the one simple, factual level. Sacred texts always maximize your possibilities for life and love, which is why we call them sacred. I am afraid we have for too long used the Bible merely to prove various church positions, which largely narrows their range and depth. Instead of transforming people, the Biblical texts became utilitarian and handy ammunition.” –Fr. Richard Rohr, Yes and…: Daily Meditations[/button]

The Star Of Bethlehem by Edward Burne Jones courtesy of Wikimedia Commons used under Creative Commons License.



Ryan Thomas Neace is a counselor, professor, husband, and daddy. Please contact him for counseling via skype or in-person at ryan@changeincorporated.org.

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