Monday, October 05, 2009

Tim Keller compromising the Gospel

It seems that Tim Keller, a poster child of the Calvinist Resurgence, has came back from a conference held at Willow Creek, and blogged about how he appreciates "The 'Kingly' Willow Creek Conference". Using John Frame's "tri-perspectivalism", Keller states that Willow Creek has a "kingly" emphasis, Reformed churches have a "prophetic" emphasis, while Emerging churches have a "priestly" emphasis.

In response, Rick Phillips has responded to Keller's post in an irenic tone on the Reformation21 site here. Phillips asked the pertinent question:

Did one of the founders of the Gospel Coalition (of which I, like many of us at Ref 21, am a member) really just suggest that gospel clarity is non-essential to a church? (Bold added)

I would like to offer some additional thoughts on the matter; readers can read Phillips excellent response to Keller at the Reformation21 blog post.

In response to Keller's ecumenical post, the question we should ask ourselves is: What defines a true church? According to the Reformed tradition [It can be shown in Calvin's Institutes also but I do not feel like searching for the reference], a biblical church is defined by three essential marks: The pure preaching of the Word, the proper administration of the sacraments, and the exercise of church discipline. Before being mushy about the greatness of different "churches" and their different emphasis, do these churches first qualify as true churches?

With regards to sound doctrine, let us be as maganimous as possible. I can grant for the sake of argument that pure preaching refers to getting the Gospel correct, and that only. After all, since the whole idea is about being Gospel-centered, shouldn't this be the main emphasis? So how would the churches mentioned grade based merely on this one criteria?

The Emerging churches, and most definitely the Emergent churches will automatically fail the test. There are many examples of Emergents denying the Gospel outright, with the most recent case being that of Rob Bell. Instead of the biblical Gospel which proclaims the wrath of God against sinners, and the necessity of repentance from sin and belief in Jesus Christ as the only way of salvation, the Gospel is painted as social justice and ushering in "a new creation", or whatever liberal nonsense that can be recycled by the latest guru in the Emerging Movement.

Willow Creek church unfortunately fails the grade as well. A Gospel message without the depravity and wickedness of Man, the wrath of God against sinners, the necessity for sinners to repent and turn from their life of sin, the command to be holy as God is holy etc etc is NOT a biblical Gospel. Instead of preaching the biblical Gospel, Willow Creek through their seeker-sensitivity are only interested in reaching "unchurched Harry and Mary" through meeting their felt-needs. If a gospel, it is the "Gospel of Pelagius"; even Rome does not officially sink to that level.

So therefore, based upon the New [Evangelical] Calvinist idea of Gospel-centeredness, the churches mentioned by Keller (besides the Reformed churches), have all failed the test of being a true church. Such being the case, what kind of "kingly" and "priestly" ministry can false churches have?

Dr. Phillips has called Keller to task for implying that Gospel clarity is non-essential to a church. This is in fact the best reading of Keller's endorsement not only of Willow Creek (which is bad enough), but Emerging churches. I will go further to say that Keller's endorsement of such "churches" as being legitimate churches implies that the Gospel itself is non essential to a church. Is this what the "Calvinist Resurgence" is all about; that the Gospel is not essential to a church!?

[HT: BiblicalThought]


Beng said...

Book 4 Chapter 1 Section 9:

Hence the form of the Church appears and stands forth conspicuous to our view. Wherever we see the word of God sincerely preached and heard, wherever we see the sacraments administered according to the institution of Christ, there we cannot have any doubt that the Church of God has some existence, since his promise cannot fail, "Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Mt. 18:20).

PuritanReformed said...


thanks for the reference in Calvin's Institutes.