Keller in the UK via Darryl Dash

kinnon —  October 1, 2007 — 5 Comments

Darryl spends significant time in Tim Keller’s presentations from the EMA Conference in London in a post called, Tim Keller: What Are the Risks for Evangelicals. There are some very important insights in Darryl’s notes – and they are well worth reading…a number of times. (Certain leaders who’ve named their churches after Paul’s time at the Areopagus, would do well to study Keller more closely.)

There is a whole slew of younger leaders out there. They are watching us. We can’t avoid drawing boundaries. Everyone does it, and if they say you’re not doing it, then you’re drawing a boundary by saying you’re not doing it. But what matters is how we treat the people on the other side of the boundary. You’re going to win the younger leaders if we are the most gracious and the most kind and the least self-righteous in controversy toward people on the other side of the boundary.

Some may say, “They should care about truth and they shouldn’t care about things like that,” but doesn’t Jesus give them a warrant here when he says that we would be known by our love? Isn’t orthopraxy part of orthodoxy? Of course it is!

UPDATE: Ed Brenegar offers his thoughtful response in the comments (which I would tend to agree with) and TSK makes this comment:

Tim Keller talks about the emerging church and their dislike of boundaries and the pendulum swinging from personal piety to corporate responsibility. I also see the same swing, and like Keller, I champion understanding and bridge-building. I think the emerging church should keep a tight hold of our 2000 year church tradition and global christian theology during this shift, and I think the fundamentalists should be open to an understanding of the Scriptures that is more historically located and less individually oriented. Hopefully we will help each other. (emphasis added)

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A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

5 responses to Keller in the UK via Darryl Dash

  1. Thanks for linking to Triple D’s notes on Keller’s presentation. I agree with about 90% of Keller’s presentation. The other 10% fits in the following areas.

    Evangelicalism, while valuing scholarship, functions in much the same way as Fundamentalism does intellectually. It really does not believe in common grace. It believes in a radical separation of a biblical world view from a secular one. It first assumes that we can know this worldview with some comprehensiveness and with comprehension.

    This mindset also intrudes into scholarship leading to one of two choices. Either you become a fundamentalist, or you become a post-evangelical. His statement about inerrancy and Fuller Seminary I found interesting. The issue was an alive one at Gordon-Conwell when I was there in the last 70’s and early 80’s. It was really the issue of whether we force scholarship to fit a prior philosophical assumption, or we let scholarship lead where it will. There were some of us who were uncomfortable with inerrancy as a biblically justifiable position. It was felt that it was forcing Scripture to be accepted on the wrong basis. It meant that the evangelical scholarship machine was to be focused on defending the Scripture’s perfection, rather than applying what it seemed to many of us a more rational position of infallability. The difference? One was about defending a perfect text. The other was about how the Scriputre would not lead us into error in faith and practice. It always seemed to me that inerrancy was more a scientific, Enlightenment category, rather than a biblical one.
    As a result, because the Bible had to be defended, it meant that the posture of the church was defensive. As a result, most schismatics and separatist are conservative. I attribute this to a breakdown of the connection between belief and practice. When the emphasis is on belief over practice, it leads to a dry intellectualism. When practice is separated from belief, then anything becomes acceptable. The challenge is to maintain some balance or tension between them. To do so requires our humility. We neither know enough or live rightly enough to justify any sort of feeling of superiority.
    Thanks for linking to this because it provided me a picture that spans three decades for me.

  2. Ed–My pastoral experience is that lay people can’t understand any difference between infallibility and inerrancy. I’ve never met anyone but a seminary trained person who could make the distinction. Here’s how ordinary people reason: if the Bible isn’t inerrant, there are errors in it. And if there are errors in it, there are some things in the Bible you don’t have to follow or believe. And if there are some things I don’t have to follow or believe, it’s not infallible. I definitely understand that inerrancy can be defended in such a way that concedes too much to Enlightenment rationalism, etc. But if, at the pastoral level, I refuse to use the word ‘inerrant’ when asked, it leads to tremendous confusion, I think.

  3. Tim,
    Thanks for responding. I think many of us who find ourselves on the “other side of the boundary” and want to talk about the scriptures, find ourselves being categorized as non-believers because we don’t use the correct words. We believe Scripture to be the Holy Spirit-inspired Word of God, but struggle with innerrancy. Many brothers and sisters want to “throw us under the bus” for that struggle – or pronounce us outside the fold…or worse.

    This is one of the reasons I appreciate so much your irenic approach to the discussion – and your willingness to have the discussion at all – rather than just categorically telling us that we are wrong and outside the fold.

    I’ll be continuing this discussion this afternoon when I meet for coffee with Darryl Dash and PCA Pastor Dan McD. Two men who are also gracious brothers in the faith.

    Thanks for commenting here, Tim.

  4. Bill- Yes, I know how ministers, seminary students, and Christian leaders use ‘inerrancy’ as a shibboleth. (ie If you can’t pronounce it we’ll beat you up.) But I’d just (irenically, I hope!) repeat myself here–I nonetheless think that out in the real world it is very unhelpful to make a distinction between infallibility and inerrancy. As a pastor I have often been asked by ordinary people if I thought there were errors in the Bible or not. Very seldom are they looking for a fight or for heresy. They want to know if they can trust the whole Bible or if they had to pick and choose what to believe. If you say, “oh, you can trust the whole Bible completely, but I wouldn’t say it is inerrant” it sounds crazy to them. Even if you are more careful–‘the Bible is infallible but I wouldn’t call it inerrant because that imposes an artificial rationalistic standard on the Bible’–it will only confuse people hopelessly. This doesn’t mean I use the word all the time. It is inelegant and abstract. I talk about the full authority, clarity, sufficiency, and inspiration of the whole Bible, etc etc. But if someone asks me if the Bible is inerrant, I unhesitatingly say ‘yes,’ because not only do I believe it, but it is good pastoral practice.

  5. Ed,

    I am not as confident as you are that if we, in your words, ‘let scholarship lead where it will,’ that it will lead to a true approach to scripture.Do we really think that scholarship can be so fair, so contextually neutral, so comprehensively insightful, with no agendas and no undue influences from some part(s) of the culture? That optimistic view of scholarship seems to be quite ‘Enlightenment’ oriented.

    Scholars are, after all, people. We cannot escape our context. We come into our scholarly pursuits with our own values and presuppositions. We don’t come in neutral; we can’t come in neutral. We all are going to have, in your words, a ‘prior philosophical assumption’ even as we enter the task of scholarship.

    So I agree with Tim, not just pastorally but philosophically. The gospels show a Jesus who Himself treated the scriptures as infallible, without error in what they were trying to say.

    The challenge, of course, is getting what they were actually trying to say. I think we need to be confident in the inspiration and authority of the scriptures, but a little more humble about our own abilities to interpret them perfectly. I may be capable of responsible exegesis, but certainly not perfect exegesis.


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