Misrepresented by Leading Pastor

Tim Keller is pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, New York. He attended Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, PA.

He is known as a good Bible teacher and has a heart for evangelizing New York City. Redeemer Presbyterian’s Hope for New York outreach program seeks to satisfy the spiritual and material needs of those in the community. Hope for New York does sets a high standard for Christian participation in the larger community. But …

In a new article posted this past week, he has grossly misrepresented what I believe and teach. But first of all, let me give you some background:

Pastor Keller is quoted as saying that he takes Genesis 2 literally but not Genesis 1. In a teaching session on Genesis 1 and 2, Keller claims that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict one another and says that Christians can do either of the following: they can believe that Genesis 1 and 2 contradict each other and an “idiotic editor” put them together in the Bible, or Christians can adopt his perspective that Genesis 1 is a poem, while Genesis 2 is historical.

I have written about Tim Keller previously. For instance, I quoted him stating, “Belief in evolution can be compatible with a belief in a historical fall and a literal Adam and Eve.” You can read my post about this subject on my Facebook page at this link.

I also wrote the following in another post:

Tim Keller is an example of a very evangelistic teacher of the Word, who we would applaud for his teaching on the centrality of Christ and his fervor to reach people with the gospel. And certainly, there are many who are responding to his teaching—for which we praise the Lord. At the same time we need to step back and recognize that we are losing this culture, and the church in America is moving in the direction of the church in England where church attendance is way down and the culture as a whole has become extremely secular.

We have said many times over the past years that the attack on the Word of God in this era of history has been an attack on Genesis 1-11 in particular. So many in the church have adopted evolution/millions of years into the Genesis account, reinterpreting it in various ways. This has led to an undermining of the authority of the Word of God and contributing to the loss of the coming generations from the church. It only takes one generation to lose a culture.

It is so sad to see a great Bible teacher like Tim Keller promote belief in evolution to the church. In 2009, he co-sponsored a conference with the Biologos Foundation (a Foundation that I consider to be extremely liberal in many ways) in New York. Tim Keller presented a paper at that conference which I will link to below. I encourage you to read his paper in its entirety, as you will then have no doubt where he stands in regard to Genesis 1. Basically he does not believe Genesis 1 is literal history. Interesting to me that he brings up some of the same old issues we have answered many times over on the AiG website.

You can read the rest of the post at this link.

And yet another post (published on my blog) I wrote about Tim Keller can be found at this link.

The Misrepresentation

I give you all the above as the background to the first of a new series of articles by Pastor Keller that has just been posted on the pro-evolution BioLogos website. In this article, Keller states the following:

Many secular and many evangelical voices agree on one ‘truism’—that if you are an orthodox Christian with a high view of the authority of the Bible, you cannot believe in evolution in any form at all. New Atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and creationist writers such as Ken Ham seem to have arrived at consensus on this, and so more and more in the general population are treating it as given. If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God.

It’s sad that he would place arch-evolutionist Richard Dawkins and me in the same sentence. I’m assuming he considers both of us to be extremes. Since Richard Dawkins as a radical atheist is one extreme, then am I as a six-day, young-earth creationist the other extreme?

It is true that I believe people who reinterpret God’s clear words in Genesis to accommodate evolution or millions of years do not have the high view of Scripture they should have. However, as I have noted many times, there seems to be almost a type of Schizophrenia with a number of theologically conservative Christian leaders. They have such a high view of Scripture from Genesis 12 through the end of Revelation (as I would say Tim Keller does), but then they apply a totally different hermeneutic to Genesis 1–11—a hermeneutic they would refuse to apply to the rest of Scripture! For Genesis 1–11, they allow man’s fallible beliefs about evolution or millions of years to override the clear words in Scripture so man’s ideas can be accommodated into Scripture.

Also, I have stated many times that there are many men and women of God who believe in evolution or millions of years. But I am also quick to say that salvation is conditioned upon faith in Christ—Christ alone! Believing in evolution or millions of years is not necessarily a salvation issue per se, but it definitely is an authority issue—a battle over the authority of the Word of God. So to make the statement Tim Keller has declared about me—that,“If you believe in God, you can’t believe in evolution. If you believe in evolution, you can’t believe in God”—is a gross misrepresentation.

Sadly, I would say that one can be a Christian leader, preach the gospel, and see people saved for eternity and yet still be contributing to undermining the authority of the Word of God by accommodating man’s ideas of evolution or millions of years into Genesis. I believe there are many Christian leaders and academics today who may have a successful ministry in many ways (in a church, Bible college or seminary classroom, and so on), but stand back when it comes to Genesis. As a result, we are losing the culture—America will become like Europe and the UK if it continues in the direction it is going regarding biblical authority. And why? I believe there has been an increasing generational loss of Biblical authority because so many in the church have opened the door to compromise beginning in Genesis.

I don’t necessarily believe that people like Tim Keller have deliberately misrepresented me and others like me who take the stand we do on Genesis. I think they haven’t really understood what we are saying in relation to the loss of biblical authority. And I personally believe one of the reasons they don’t understand is because they really don’t know what the word “science” is and how it is used! They do need to understand the difference between operational (observational) science (that we all basically agree on) and historical science (beliefs about the past that can’t be tested empirically). And for whatever reason, these conservative scholars like Tim Keller seem to be blind to the fact they have two different approaches to hermeneutics—one approach for Genesis 1–11 and one for the rest of Scripture.

On the BioLogos website, we read the following concerning the new series by Tim Keller:

The six-part series that begins today is taken from a paper Dr. Keller presented at the first BioLogos Theology of Celebration Workshop in October of 2009. It considers three main clusters of questions lay people raise with their pastors when introduced to the teaching that biological evolution and biblical orthodoxy can be compatible. As a pastor and evangelist himself, Keller takes these concerns seriously and offers suggestions for addressing them without requiring believers adopt a particular view or accept a definitive answer. In this first installment, Keller gives an overview of the tension between biblical and scientific accounts on origins, before addressing the specific issues and responses in subsequent posts.

At the end of the article by Tim Keller, he states the following:

In short, if I as a pastor want to help both believers and inquirers to relate science and faith coherently, I must read the works of scientists, exegetes, philosophers, and theologians and then interpret them for my people. Someone might counter that this is too great a burden to put on pastors, that instead they should simply refer their laypeople to the works of scholars. But if pastors are not ‘up to the job’ of distilling and understanding the writings of scholars in various disciplines, how will our laypeople do it? This is one of the things that parishioners want from their pastors. We are to be a bridge between the world of scholarship and the world of the street and the pew. I’m aware of what a burden this is. I don’t know that there has ever been a culture in which the job of the pastor has been more challenging. Nevertheless, I believe this is our calling.

Then BioLogos states, “Next week, Keller begins to unpack the individual questions, beginning with how we can understand evolution in relation to a literal reading of the Bible.”

By the way, the six-part series by Keller is taken from a paper he presented at the first BioLogos Theology of Celebration Workshop in October of 2009. Based on a check of the internet and Facebook, Pastor Keller took this shot at me a couple of years before I even mentioned him on my Facebook and blogs.

You can read the entire article by Tim Keller on the BioLogos website.

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

Ken