even Keller can’t break through
Tim Keller is a masterful preacher and I’m a big fan. Keller is even touted as a modern day Martin Luther and almost a rockstar. Fan clubs are showing up via Facebook Groups like I can’t stop listening to Tim Keller and this one too. Yet he’s evaded the Reformed superstar conference circuit — not a mention in 50+ comments over at Are We Creating a Reformed Celebrity Culture?, but then again, a little surprised to see Keller in the midst of forming the Gospel Coalition.
Keller argued that the ultimate purpose of preaching is to make the truth real, not just clear. “The business of preaching is to make knowledge live.” Most other Reformed pastors seem to speak to the already convinced and/or come across abrasively to those who have differing convictions. Can you name one other Reformed type that comes across to the masses as reasonable, tolerant, and gracious?
But as good a preacher as Keller is, he can’t break through and create life transformation. I know first-hand of avid Keller listeners who don’t seem to have totally changed lives. They listen to Keller probably more than I do, many listen to him live and person week in week out, quote him, promote him, and yet something’s missing. 3 (artificial) categories of people come to mind:
- over-intellectuals — very smart people love to hear very smart people, and spirituality has particular appeal that transcends philosophical and metaphysical realities. Honestly, my head spins after a few minutes of being around over-smart people. So for these elites, no other preacher is good enough for them. I’ll quote someone closer to ground zero of Redeemer: “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… somewhat analogous to the spiritual Mercedes Benz. … the air of spiritual snobbery of many Redeemerites can be at times nauseating.“
- over-theologizers — while Keller delivers Reformed theology most winsomely, arguably the epitome of systematically-developed, logically-tight theology.. yet when people quote Keller’s framing of theological concepts as a billy club to prove you wrong, or put you in your place, something runs amiss for me.
- over-spiritualizers — spiritual people love spiritual-sounding things, but have a little more challenge translating that into everyday mundane real life. So while spiritual amens and agreement can be had, you can’t call such a person to account on why they are not gracious, not generous, or not vulnerable with their weaknesses and blind spots.
Could this be related to what Nietzsche calls the “mere appearance of mere appearance”? Well, I don’t know. I think what I wanted to rant and vent about is that even with the best of preaching, that still doesn’t change lives. Relationships can help change lives, but people in the above categories usually don’t like showing their brokenness or weaknesses, and don’t have relationships close enough to speak into their lives. Ultimately, it’s the Spirit of God that transforms lives.
Oh, by the way, the Redeemer Presbyterian Church website gets a beautiful redesign. I’d imagine it’ll get better integrated with other Redeemer related websites (store, RCPC newsletter) soon. And, I’ll have to go fix all my broken permalinks.