Why I like Keller more than Piper

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56 Responses

  1. Good post. For me, it’s a tie between K-man and P-man. Both have helped me, in different ways, to better appreciate, understand, and enjoy the gospel. Both show up often on my ipod & on my blog.

  2. Chris says:

    wow dj,great stuff. thanks for taking the time to post it.
    i also agree, i’m not from the reformed faith (i hear people screaming right now) but I always connected with tk.

    of course the downside to all this is dealing with reality, that dude is so freaking smart 🙂

  3. Al Hsu says:

    Have you heard the “John Piper Is Bad” clip? It’s hilarious. Go to:

    http://www.foolishblog.com/2006/09/15/john-piper-is-bad/

  4. Justin says:

    Well-put and researched. Thank you for compiling that.

  5. Sam S says:

    Thanks DJ. I will be one of the at the “sold-out” conference to see the steel cage match between the two (hehe).

    Any way, both have really blessed me. I think JP is much more an exegetical-expository preacher who has a passion for joy and the glory of God and now the Gospel. I think TK is more of a preacher who really has the gift of displaying the power of the Gospel and its effects on the church. He is gifted in a different way than Piper.

  6. While I am a definite “Piper guy” I can understand the fuss you’re making over Tim Keller. Tim is very humble and sincere and I deeply appreciated many of the thoughts he expressed in an interview he did for John’s upcoming conference.

    Brad

  7. djchuang says:

    Thanks for the comments so far, especially the John Piper mashup! 🙂 I do appreciate both, and while I’ve found many preachers who can do the exegetical and expository deal, some better than others, I’ve had more difficulty trying to find those who can unpack the Gospel, even in a Reformed persuasion, and gain a hearing from non-Reformed types and non-Christians alike.

  8. Sam S says:

    I agree to a point, DJ. But as the last CT article just pointed out, JP’s influence over pastors has in effect been at least equivalent to TK’s reach to non-believers and the non-Reformed. But I certainly do not want to get in a comparison debate because in a way, I think we’re talking about apples and oranges, and both are yummy.

    One thing I will say about Piper is the point that I made in my blog article. JP lives out what he preaches. He lives simply. He donates MOST if not ALL of his money from his books to his ministry to the glory of God. He and his wife Noel have adopted an African-American daughter whose mother was high on crack when she delivered (and that’s after having 4 boys, phew!). And his passion for missions has led to people like George Verwer of OM saying that his book, Let the Nations Be Glad, has done more to influence global missions than any other book written.

    Again with Keller and Piper, its apples and oranges. I appreciate them both.

  9. Tim says:

    I agree with you DJ.

    Though I thoroughly enjoy Piper and have been greatly influenced by his books (esp. Seeing and Savoring Christ, When I Don’t Desire God, Don’t Waste Your Life – I definitely prefer his more application oriented books), I prefer Keller.

    They are amazingly similar.
    Piper preaches Christ. He preaches the value of savoring Christ and enjoying Him.
    Keller preaches Christ. But Keller is Piper applied. Piper seems hard to relate to. Good ideas in theory – I want to savor Christ as Piper does. But Keller teaches me how to believe the gospel and apply it to my life.

  10. christina says:

    hey dj! i love both piper and keller. but all of piper’s stuff is online and free. so i just have way more opportunities to learn from him. i wish keller would start posting his stuff too.

  11. Matt says:

    Seeing your reasons for liking Keller, it becomes obvious why you like McLaren so much. Personally I have man-crushes on both Keller and Piper. In an age where the church is lacking good leaders, many of us young guys are being discipled via the internet (articles, podcasting, e-mails, and [gasp] bloggin). This allows us to get the good and bad from the best and worst. For me, the thing I try to keep reminding myself is that each man is attempting to fulfill the call of God on his life. There is a reason John Piper takes sabaticals: to bless the church at large with a neat-nick, down to the letter exhaustive theology for God’s Sovereignty and Glory. This is good, we need this. There is a reason Keller only has one book published and writes mainly articles: to continue to supply the church with simple, yet profound insights into God’s heart for the city (and yes I realize I am being very vauge and one sided in these examples). Me, I probably won’t look like either of these guys. But I think I could take both of them in a cage match (yeah, but Piper’s really scrappy and exhaustive, and Keller probably knows some Dr. Spock neck grab to take me out in a minute). Anyways, thanks for the resources D.J.

  12. daniel li says:

    Great list, DJ and great comment thread that you’ve got going as well. However, there’s one question that always lingers in my head whenever TK or JP are being discussed in such a way. Are TK and JP becoming a idol of sorts for many modern christians (I’m not referring and any of your commenters when I say this and it’s not my intentions to offend)?

    I find that for some folks my age (the mid-20’s), affiliating yourself as a TK fan or a JP fan means labelling yourself as a certain type of christian. I wonder if the admiration for either men of God can distort itself to become idolatry (reminds me of 1 Cor 1:10-12).

    I know that I had to do some soul searching when I was trying to decide if I wanted to settle down at GraceDC. With GDC being affiliated with Redeemer, I wanted to make sure that fact wasn’t influencing my decision.

    For all you folks in ministry, how do you find a balance between “promoting” a respected theologian/pastor without crossing that line into idolatry, both with yourself and with your congregation?

  13. John Lee says:

    Interesting comments, especially from Daniel Li.

    While Li does bring up an interesting issue about the risk of falling into idolatry with respect to T-Kell or J-Pipe, I don’t know how real that risk is in reality. Having been a part of the Redeemer community, I’d like to suggest that the greater danger isn’t so much one of idolatry (clinging onto every word he says, exclusive/rigid obedience to all his sermons) but rather that of elitism. Let me explain.

    There is no doubt that Keller is super-intelligent and that his erudition shines through in a non-condescending and stimulating manner through his preaching and demeanor. He has become the thinking-man’s pastor; the culturally sophisticated/enlightened person’s pastor. To align oneself, therefore, to the spiritual and intellectual brilliance of such a man has now become a Christian status symbol for all Manhattan yuppies. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence, spiritual depth, and cultural saavy will naturally gravitate towards Redeemer, goes the thinking. An unfortunate result of all this is that he has become somewhat analogous to the spiritual Mercedes Benz.

    At the risk of sounding a little harsh and judgmental, the air of spiritual snobbery of many Redeemerites can be at times nauseating. There is a certain sense of superiority over other Christians who may be serving in smaller migrant churches elsewhere in the New York metro area. A sense that, well, if so-and-so was only smarter or more spiritual or had more cultural-depth, (s)he would be at Redeemer, and not at that little hole-in-the-wall of a church in Chinatown.

    I think it’s important to keep in perspective one thing. Tim Keller has been anointed by God to powerfully and deeply reach into a very very very thin sliver of the world demographic. This demographic is smarter, better educated, has more cultural exposure, and more earning power than 99% of America. And in this thin sliver, Tim Keller is used mightily by God; in any other demographic, he might not have anywhere near the success he has now. (Indeed: he had less impact on his former community [in Virginia?]). God has used an intelligent/cultural/professorial man to reach a very specific intelligent/cultural/well-educated community. He is not necessarily more spiritual than the pastor of a small church in Flushing. And nor is his congregation any more spiritual than the group of ragmuffin immigrants who love dim sum and Jesus.

  14. Jerry says:

    I think theres lots to learn from both!

    The videos are very good as well.

  15. Brian Mann says:

    after thinking about this post some, I see a kind of 1 Corinthian schism mentality. I love to hear Piper’s preaching, and though I know little of Keller his cooperation with Piper and other reformed leaders of our day is what makes us focus on not comparing teachers as much as thanking God for his gracious gifts being presented through them. It is more of a complimentary attitude that I see in the New Testament, not one of comparison. To post “I like…better than…” may not be the best way to put it. Rather “Keller and Piper add to the sound teaching of our day in the following unique ways…” may better express your heart in this matter. Just some thoughts.

  16. djchuang says:

    Daniel, idolatry is defined (by the dictionary) as excessive or blind adoration, reverence, devotion, but the Bible defines idolatry more along the lines of anything that takes the place of God. Both can be dangerous, and idolatry is more of a matter of your heart than whether you evaluate a preacher or state preferences. We have to be check ourselves on idolatry, and check our heart (and have people who are close enough to us) to see if there’s something (or someone, in this case) our heart is holding on to more than it’s holding on to God. Another thing I do is to read and listen to a variety of different preachers to learn broadly, and do not rely on one voice or one kind of voice/ theology.

    And, to keep myself from idolizing tendencies (that we all have,) and for the record, I attend Washington International Church, a smaller church of about 100.

    It seems to me that some people have a little difficulty referring to people with my intended jest in part, and/or have genuine to minimize misunderstandings, and Brian Mann rightly suggests a more nuanced explanatory wording, but then I wouldn’t get the clickthrus from the more provocative title as is. 🙂 My explanatory notes are embedded throughout my post and disclaimers too, which does require a carefully studied reading.

    I’m respectful for Piper’s worldwide influence, his clear passion to spread the serious and weighty glory of God above all else, and many other preachers that do similarly through expository preaching and theological teachings. What I may not have made clear, and maybe I can clear it up by saying it differently: I need help finding other preachers who understand both the Bible and today’s culture, and can speak graciously and winsomely about both. To borrow Sam’s analogy, there are so many apples and so few oranges. Can you help me find another orange? Or, how can we grow more oranges? 🙂

  17. Ben says:

    Whoa…seems like you really hit a chord here, DJ. I especially like the nicknames we’ve come up here, like T-Kell and J-Pipe. They are like rap superstars amoung young thinking pastor-types.

    I really admire the Kell-unit because he’s so dang smart and can really communcate the gospel to non-Christians. I also think he could be the first to bridge the gap between conservative Reformed-types and progressive Emergent-types. I loved what he said in his Resurgence talks about bringing together the personal forgiveness aspect of the Gospel with the redeeming-creation kingdom aspect. We need both, not just one or the other!

    I really admire Pipe-diddy because of his combination of sound, exegetical theology with humble, lived-out personal character. The man loves his Bible, and whenever he preaches, I see a vision of the grandeur of God that stirs in me to the depths of my being — I think that’s the “general revelation” speaking in me.

    I think it’d be great if pastors were influenced by Piper’s theology and then learned to apply it and communicate it like Keller.

  18. Ben says:

    Oh, and also I would like to suggest Mark Driscoll as another “orange”. Although I’m pretty sure people who are not Reformed don’t really like him, he is effective at communicating sound doctrine to today’s non-Christian; just look at his rapidly growing church full of thousands of body-pierced, beer-drinking punk-rockers who hold to conservative theological views.

  19. Sam S says:

    I diasgree with you DJ in that I think there are very few apples and oranges. While very few communicate the Gospel as lucidly and incisively as TK, very few communicate the glory of God and the Gospel with the magnificent breadth and combination of heart and mind as Piper.

    I will be excited to hear from both next weekend. I’ll be live-blogging from the conference.

  20. daniel li says:

    I understand your point on the definition of “idolatry”, DJ, both Webster’s and the bible. And while I think John Lee’s subsequent comment on elitism does a better job of explaining in words some of my thoughts on the matter, I’m also using the word idolatry intentionally.

    I think it can be said of those that might fall into the “elitism” camp that the danger of idolatry is not far away either. When we begin to rationalize our beliefs or our actions because TK/JP believe this or they do that, we are replacing the ultimate standard that we measure everything up to.

    You are correct in saying, though, that it is the individual’s responsibility to check his/herself on idolatry and to what we cling to. My fear is that there is a segment of the christian community that doesn’t do it because they don’t realize they’ve created an idol for themselves (whether its TK, JP, or any other pastor/theologian/spiritual figure).

    You’ve certainly opened the box on this topic and it’s been a great read. I really appreciate all the different viewpoints and feedback.

  21. djchuang says:

    There is none like you, Sam. 🙂 No one else can touch the intensity or legacy of what God’s done through a man like John Piper. 🙂 Thanks for your clarification about TK’s and JP’s respective contributions.

    I’m not seeking agreement or disagreement, but simply humbly and contritely asking for your help. I think there are many ‘apples’ like Mahoney, Giglio, Harris, Dever, Mohler, et al, (granted they each have their own callings & contributions, and I like each of them for other reasons) but I’m at a loss to find other ‘oranges’, those who have sound “orthodox” theology and can speak kindly and gently (sorry, Ben, Driscoll doesn’t quite fit kinder and gentler.) So, can you help?

  22. I think the Lord sends different personality types at the same time to show people who reject ALL that they are really rejecting the gospel. Can you think of some?

    Jesus > John the Baptist: one played a flute, they didn’t dance; the other played a dirge and they didn’t mourn. (Mt. 11:17)

    Calvin > Luther: one the careful analytical writer, the other the fiery mover and shaker.

    Edwards > Whifield: one an intellectual giant who preached, the other an oratory giant who thought.

    Anyways — sorry to steal so much space. I’ll write more on my blog later.

  23. Jim says:

    Great discussion. Obviously, both of these guys have had a profound impact on many of us. It has been interesting to see Keller ‘take off’ over the last 4 years or so. I graduated from RTS Orlando in ’02, and when I went, all these PCA guys kept telling me about Keller. I’d never heard of him at all, even though I’d been through the pipeline of the evangelical machine (Wheaton, etc.).

    Keller then came and taught a class at RTS called ‘Preaching the Gospel to Postmoderns’, which was the most important class I’ve ever taken in my life. So many light bulbs went off. Truly life changing. However, Keller was still totally under the radar in some sense. I went to a Redeemer pastors weekened and had a great time, and I was still amazed at that point (’03) how low profile the church was in some ways.

    But now, it seems every time I get online, there are Keller groupies all over the place! (I say that in the best sense of the expression.) It is wild. And a wonderful turn in God’s providence as more and more people wrestle with and ‘get’ the gospel.

    I remember vaguely Keller being somewhat critical of the whole Christian Hedonism idea in class. It was interesting to hear that, b/c you’ve got two brilliant pastors who both owe so much to Edwards and read him in slightly different ways. I’m very pumped to see Keller and Piper together however. It’s sort of like the Dream Team back in ’92: Bird and Magic on the same team! 🙂

    Anyway…I”m not sure why I shared all that…just interesting times…

  24. Shu says:

    I must have to bring my small contribution from North of the border in Toronto. Keller’s theology, methodology, humility, etc has given me MUCH to think about and consider AND practice. I do cling and relate more to Keller than Piper. I think DJ is becoming similar to Keller in terms of his blog commenting 😉 (especially on mine on occasion!) I hope the Desiring God conference will edify the body of Christ and teach us all some more from these giants of teachers…

  25. Ben says:

    I think people are taking you a little too seriously, DJ. I don’t think you have a shrine in your house dedicated to Tim Keller (or do you?). 🙂 I think everyone can have their preferences and admire certain people more than others. It’s a wise caution especially for younger impressionable guys like me to not go overboard with our man-crushes (I know I can do this sometimes) and remember that Jesus is the object of our affection and the author of our faith. But we should all be looking to and learning from wise theologians and practioners.

  26. nhe says:

    As the proud owner of about 150 Keller cassetts, I classify as a “groupie”. I live in Atlanta and go to a large Willowcreek style seeker church that I and my family love very much, but I get my weekly/daily preaching input mainly from Keller – its a style preference thing.

    I’ve only heard Keller once live – about 11 years at a conference in NYC…..he spoke to a small group of us for about 20 minutes, and I knew right then that I had to get a hold of everything this guy has said – no matter the cost.

    It was interesting to read what John Lee wrote here about Redeemer snobbery – that doesn’t seem logically consistent with the preaching I’m hearing on tape…..I’d like to understand better what John means.

    One of the great things about Keller is that he transcends and doesn’t fit the mold of the modern reformed evangelical. I’ve been told by my PCA pastor friends that at PCA General Assemblys, TK sits in the back and is very unassuming – he’s viewed as a radical there – but I think in a good “missional” sense – they don’t know what to with a guy who is air-tight with his theology – but doesn’t see it as “the main thing” – yet blows the rest of them away with his ability to speak to the lost and mobilize a missional congregation.

    I was on staff with Campus Crusade for 12 years and have had the privilege of hearing live some of the greats – Tony Evans, John Hannah, Howard Hendricks, Sproul, Piper, Steve Brown……..Keller is the best, hands down.

  27. Brett says:

    Why do we Americans tend to make everything a contest or competitive? I head someone recently say that in America, no matter what the subject, someone or something is always argued as “first” or “best.” He said American suffer from “firstitis.”

  28. nhe says:

    Brett……I’m not sure that I’m following how that is uniquely American. The Brazilians said Pele was the best – there are examples all over the world.

    I’m also not sure I see a problem with stating that someone or something is the best when we see it – if anything, we’re giving positive credit and saying encouraging words when we do it.

    Godly men like Keller and Piper certainly know that the little old lady that cleans the bathroom stalls at their churches will have a much bigger mansion in heaven than they will……its really just a matter of perspective I think.

  29. Chang says:

    Havent heard much from Keller.. But I’m tempted to now! 😀

    Both men are mightily used of God at such a time as this… may the reformed resurgence in asia bring forth revival and significant change in culture

  30. thatbrian says:

    I

  31. Chris says:

    Firstly I acknowledge my own sinfullness and tendency to degrade and cause disunity in the body of faith for which I must come to my Father in humility to ask for His forgiveness. So by NO MEANS AT ALL do I see myself exempt from this. I am a sinner and if this where my gravest concern I would be amazingly blessed.

    I know I am from Australia but what are you all on.

    Have you ever heard of unity and being uplifting not degrading.

    What a waste of your time and everyone elses all you are doing is tearing down a brother of the faith. Both of them are amazingly gifted by the Holy Spirit to preach and a blog like this brings no Glory to God for you are insulting Him in degrading Piper or Keller.

    Instead of tearing one down encourage one and do not discourage another. Love does not speak a discouraging word. I am sure that Keller himself and Piper would be disappointed to see Christian brothers and sisters degrading another Pastor.

    No good is gained from this how saddening.

    How about we all look at 1 Corinthians 13

    Love is
    – patient
    – kind

    Love does not
    – boast
    – envy
    – rude
    – self-seeking
    – keep records of wrongs

    Where is the kindness? Where is the love?

    What is gained from this.

  32. William Woo says:

    Interesting discussion/post. I guess for me Keller has been like Hemingway. I came across those influenced by Hemingway first, so when I read Hemingway (his later stuff) I wasn’t too impressed…

    Its interesting what Piper said in his introduction of Tim Keller (From the Desiring God Conference on Pomo and the Gospel), that he heard the Gospel when Keller preached legalism to New York libertines who were in no danger of legalism. Much food for thought.

  33. Ryan says:

    Chris, well said brother. Kyle, one used to have to earn an audience to be heard, then the internet came into being and every mouse began to roar like a lion overnight. Remain the mouse till more gospel sun ripens your soul my brother. I pray that God would give you the grace to weep over the words that you’ve written.

  34. Kelly says:

    I attend Redeemer and I love Tim. Redeemer is one of a few churches I have been to where I do not see authoritarinism or church abuse.

  35. Jon Spadino says:

    I actually like Tim Keller a lot more than Piper. Keller speaks to both my heart and my head; whereas Piper speaks to only my head only. I have listened to numerous sermons of Pipers and gave him 250 of 350 pages but he just could not keep my attention. I kept thinking he could say the same exact things he was saying in a better way. I could be attending Pipers Church in town but I dont. Mostly because I really believe Piper leads with a desire to share his theology with others. Keller leads with a desire to share the Gospel and I think thats why I just have some very minor issues with Piper. Other than that I really like the impact he has had with others in the community in the twin cities.

  36. So no doubt you loved his word in NyC two weeks back huh? man I’m lovin having your Dave Gibbons twitter bookmarked! Keep it up. -Big John

  37. eric says:

    I’ve been a jewish Christian most of my life and no longer go to Redemer church at Hunter college because
    1) Pastor Keller is an egostical elitist who rarely responds to Christians because I wrote him several times and never got any common courtesy of reply
    2) Pastor Keller didn’t have the courage to admit he made a historical major mistake in a sermon about how Pontius Pilate got his job, it was thru his friend Sejanus NOT his wife as Keller said then had his asistant e-mail me a thank you.
    No courtesy from him I was right.
    Sincerely
    eric

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  39. wong Fong Yang says:

    I like what you wrote about Tim Keller. I am spending 6 weeks in Redeemer Church Planting Center and I enjoy my time listening and learning from Tim Keller.

    I realised that most preaching are not gospel-centered and Christ-centered. Tim Keller certainly models what gospel and Christ centered preaching is all about. I could see that so many Manhattan secular people who come to Redeemer have been transformed by the gospel not just for justification but also sanctification. His preaching of the gospel certainly changing culture

  40. Heather Wax says:

    I think you could have commented on the things you really appreciate about Keller without setting it up as “how he trumps Piper.” I'm not saying this because I'm some rabid fan of Piper's but just that it doesn't seem like an honoring way to speak of any respected brothers in Christ, to compare them to one another. I do however appreciate how you analyzed the characteristics of Keller's demeanor that are worthy of note and exemplifying, that others can learn from that.

  41. Raymond Lininger says:

    I had a chocolate desert the other day. Not just any ordinary chocolate desert, but the warm moist kind, where the smell reaches your nose before the plate gets to the table. There is a firm outside that takes a bit for your spoon to get through, but closer to the center is more moist and juicy where you discover why it is served with a spoon – to allow one to scoop up the warm chocolatey goodness and feel it throughout one's mouth, then breath in through the nose to maximize the taste/smell pleasure. But anyways, I just gave glory to that chocolate desert because it satisfied me. This is the kind of thing that these two men do for Jesus, because he satisfies them. Perhaps they would disapprove of a conversation that argues which one of them is the most satisfying – since they are not satisfied by themselves or each other, but by Jesus. I love you!!

    Raymond

    p.s. thanks FC for the illustration

  42. Jess says:

    the idea that dj like keller more than piper is forgivable. but to say that the other is better than another is just ridiculous. it’s very dangerous to say something like “why i like piper than keller” and then not explaining the whole thing “why you like keller MORE than piper” is very misleading than edifying, not to mention following a 14-point list, pertaining to keller, that MIGHT suggest that the piper is just the opposite of keller on every point that dj just mentioned. not helpful…

    @Sam S, to say that piper has “a passion for joy and the glory of God and now the Gospel” while keller has a gift “gift of displaying the power of the Gospel and its effects on the church” doesn’t make any sense…. they BOTH do that, in different ways. Try to dig deeper into their works, without bias and see for yourself.

    so what’s really the impulse for me in saying this? I’m saying it’s not helpful to say that the other is better than the other. Who might win or not? There might be some of us, specially me, to think that we are creating for them a war that doesn’t really exist.

    and besides celebrity deathmatch is nonsense. some might really think it’s cool because of cultural influences… But would that be really edifying? what would really be edifying are thoughts to battle the real enemies of our souls, or our faith, not mainly personalities or powers, but the lies that engulfs our whole being, one of which namely, the careless words or deeds that we would soon answer for.

    ——-

    words of rage and of love

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