This is a book about theological nuance. For some that might be immediately off putting; others may think that the authors have wasted their time in pursuit of an overly rigorous theological standard; some will no doubt cast doubt on the authors' intentions implying that Keller haters are going to hate and yet a few others will be greatly vexed that Mr Keller is the subject of such, any, debate. Me, I really enjoyed it! And I hope to demonstrate why if you fall into any of the above categories this book is still well worth a read.
Engaging with Keller: Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical is written by half a dozen British Presbyterian ministers criticising Mr Keller's expression of his views on sin, Hell, the Trinity, social justice, hermeneutic, creation and Presbyterianism. As the authors are careful to point out they are not doubting Mr Keller's intentions or his profession to hold to reformed orthodoxy. As they consistently maintain: Mr Keller is a godly man seeking the glory of Christ. What they are calling into question is whether Mr Keller achieves his goal of teaching orthodox truth to post modern society without compromising on the message.
As should be fairly clear, the authors disagree with Mr Keller on the issues mentioned. Yet what is good about the book is that they do not allow their disagreement to become personal. They confine themselves to discussing the theological problems rather than straying into any form of personal attack. It is a mature, sensible, adult conversation they are having - would all such discussion be conducted so! Engaging with Keller typifies the irenic spirit so easily lost in theological debate and a graciousness that befits godly men. I found it a needed challenge to my own writing style to match the authors' graciousness.
Over the past year I've said a fair bit about the Church of Scotland, most of it critical, (check out here and here) and I'm afraid that trend is only going to continue. It's not that I have a grudge against them or anything, in fact, I was converted under the preaching of a Church of Scotland minister and there are many faithful godly men working away in the national church. But their faithfulness, especially in this matter, is inconsistent.
For those of you who don't know the Church of Scotland is meeting tomorrow (May 18th) in order to vote on whether or not practising homosexual ministers should be allowed. The debate is split between conservative evangelicals who argue that the Bible says homosexuality is a sin and the church should not give way to the cultural trend. And on the other side are the liberals who argue we should ignore the Bible, or rather, 'interpret the Bible in a modern framework'. As you can guess from my sarcasm I'm siding with the biblical view, we have no other authority, society can say what it likes, we must stand on the Word of God or we will fall.
Yet with all the discussion happening two things have vexed me. The first is that there seems to be no recognition that the Church of Scotland has brought this on their own heads. As the Bible says: "Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows." (Galatians 6v7). In this case, the evangelical members of the CoS are reaping the fruits of allowing liberalism within the church to grow. The Bible has a clear command on the issue of necessary separation:
This idea runs contrary to modern culture; if you watch any romantic film, listen to most popular music or read any teenage fiction then you’ll find yourself submerged in happily ever afters, ‘love conquers everything’, when you meet ‘the One’ everything will be fixed mentality. It all stems from a single lie fed to us in so much of the media we consume: you were made to be in a relationship. If you’re not happy then you will be if you find ‘true’ love, if you have problems in your life they will be solved by a relationship, if you are not in a relationship you are somehow lacking in some way or other.
In one sense it is an easy mistake to make, we were created to be in a relationship with God, our chief end in life is to be in that relationship with him. And so we warp it and confuse it and think that our chief end is to be in a human relationship. We think that sinner plus sinner might actually equal happiness, that one flawed person plus another flawed person will somehow create something perfect.
It would all be laughably deluded if it weren’t for the fact that it is so tragic and easy to fall for. I don’t write as one unaffected by this message but as one who swallowed it and then found to my surprise that it was ultimately just like any other idol: worthless.
The extent to which you are affected by this lie is measured by your reaction to the following statement: there is no marriage in heaven.
I know, it’s pathetic isn’t it? Now, before you think otherwise I didn’t have an actual shrine to video games, I didn’t literally bow down to them, I didn’t make sacrificial burnt offerings to them and expect them to save me from my sins…
Except, in a way, I kind of did.
There’s no easy, non-embarrassing, non cringe worthy way of putting this so here goes: