Thursday, May 24, 2012

Tim Keller on Homosexuality

I wanted to say just a couple of things about Tim Keller's answer to the question, "Is homosexuality a sin?" First I want to say that Tim made a couple of excellent points. He said that greed is condemned by Christ far more often than sexual sin and he is right. He is also right that many, many Christians are blind to the fact that we are guilty of this sin without realizing it because of our propensity to compare our greed to others. Keller was right to point out that in some cases, Christians are not the most loving people in the world and we should be. We often shoot our wounded. Rather than come to the aid of a struggling believer, we gossip and slander and pile on. It is indeed very ugly behavior at times in some quarters of professing Christians.

However, I thought that Keller's comparison between a Pharisee and their attitude toward Samaritans was misplaced. The Pharisee had a racist attitude toward the Samaritans. Their attitude had nothing to do with what the Samaritan DID, but with what they WERE without any choice of their own. This was not a fair comparison in my mind.

Keller also seemed to continue to be overly concerned with being too direct. His answer was very soft, shifting the conversation away from the real problem with the homosexual challenge. If there are greedy people in the church who continue to practice greed and who are viable members in the community, why can't a homosexual serve and participate as well? This is the big question that needs to be answered, and it needs to be answered directly.

The questioner comments before his question that he is appalled by the oppression that exists in America against homosexuals. I am not familiar with the book but the first question I have concerns documented facts of such oppression. What does his kind of oppression look like? Some would say not allowing gay marriage is oppressive. Saying that homosexuality is a sin is oppressive. So, what does it look like for someone to oppress a homosexual. We cannot allow that statement to stand without qualification. But Keller disappoints in this matter. He did not bother to ask the interviewer to explain what he means by oppression to verify that we are indeed talking about oppression and not differences of opinion regarding homosexual behavior.

The actual question asked of Keller was "What do so many of the churches have against homosexuals?" First of all, here we go again with this wild-eyed imagination about the church being obsessed with homosexuals. Keller does not challenge the assumption underlying the question. I think he should have. There is no obsession in the church regarding the homosexual movement. The reason we continue to talk about it is because the homosexual movement continues to insist we abandon the gospel and admit them into the community. They fail to realize that only God elects into the Christian community. This should not come as a surprise to us.

My biggest issue with how Keller answers the question is that he seems hesitant to represent Christianity, and prefers to talk about "his" church. What should be discussed is the truth about homosexuality and Keller had a platform from which he could talk about that, and while he got many things right, in my opinion, he disappoints in his statements about homosexuality. His desire NOT to offend is clearly evident and that is disturbing on a number of levels. Keller says the Bible has reservations about homosexuality and that it isn't God's "original" design for human sexuality. So does this mean that it isn't so bad? If I have reservations about something, that is much softer than saying I am diametrically opposed to it. If it wasn't God's original design, does that mean it is his design now? Kinda like divorce, right? God's original design was til death do we part, but since sin entered, divorce is permissible on the grounds of adultery and desertion. At a minimum this introduces unnecessary confusion around the issue at a time when the church desperately needs conviction and clarity.

Keller says the church does single out gay people and does not love them like they love others. I wonder what he means by that. Keller provides no examples. It is regrettable that Keller goes way out on the limb to avoid being direct, as direct as Paul was on the issue. Keller says the reason things are a sin, in essence is because it does not help human flourishing. Greed does not help human flourishing and nor does being gay. Keller could not be more wrong. Sin has nothing to do with human flourishing, and everything to do with rejecting the authority of God to rule over our lives. Sin has to do with autonomy and independence from God. It is the refusal to acknowledge God's right to rule and be worshipped and to acknowledge our dependence on Him in all things. Sin is to reject God in preference for self in the slightest degree.

What is the answer? The answer is for the church not to get bogged down and distracted by categorizing sinners and then coming up with different strategies for how she will love them. It is the gay community that has insisted on being "different" from all others based on their behavior. The church should respond with the gentle but firm refusal to play ball. The church must be concerned with loving and ministering to sinners, giving them the truth as God has given it, in love of course. There should be no regard for offense. We know the world hated Christ and killed Him because it hated Him and His message. We should not be shocked when others hate Christ and His message. The church needs to fasten herself to the cross like never before, and pledge herself to preaching and living and purity of the gospel to a lost and dying world, all of them. For we were once darkened by sin, blind, carried away with our own lusts, and under the wrath of God as well. The gospel is the good news that Christ died for those who did not deserve it. He imparts life to those whom He has called to this marvellous gospel. Christ saves the homosexual the same way He saves the adulterer, liar, and the gossip: through the preaching of the gospel.


  1. Please link to the article of the interview done by Keller you are responding to. I believe I agree with you in your response but I would like to read his comments. Thank you and God's blessings, Matt Ferguson,

  2. Dr. Keller is an ordained minister in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), which claims to be a bible-based denomination within Christianity. Years ago, Dr. Keller sat for an interview with David Eisenbach of Columbia University. Here are some of the points Dr. Tim Keller put forth during this interview:

    1. It is very misleading actually to say, even to say, “Homosexuality is a sin.”
    2. You don’t go to Hell for being a homosexual.
    3. Committing homosexual acts will not get you to go to Hell.
    4. Greed will not send you to hell.

    And then…

    5. Self-righteousness and pride will send you to hell.

    If you don’t believe it, watch the video or read a transcript of the video.

    According to Dr. Keller, the sin of self-righteousness and pride, which is, to use Keller’s own example, thinking God is going to take people to heaven because they’re good, will send people to hell, but the sin of greed, which is lusting after more material possessions or money, and the sin of homosexuality, which is having sexual intercourse with someone of the same gender, will not send people to hell.

    People wonder how Christian denominations slip into error and sin brought about by pressure from the worldly culture around them. This is a very good example of that. Going by the interview with Eisenbach, Dr. Keller appears to disagree with Paul’s statement in First Corinthians 6:9 that neither the greedy nor homosexuals will inherit the Kingdom of God. But I’m sure he would assert that he does agree with Paul in that passage of Scripture. So what was Dr. Keller trying to do in this interview when asked about homosexuality? He was clearly trying to not get booed off-stage. He was trying not to offend the audience. And he was successful in doing this by essentially saying that religious, bible-believing, people who engage in the prideful and self-righteous judgment of others will, based on that action, be sent to hell, but that people who engage in homosexual intercourse will, based on that action, not be sent to hell. Dr. Keller’s clear intent was to pacify a crowd which was unsympathetic to the biblical view of homosexuality. What better way to do that than to hold close the nice homosexual while summarily denouncing the mean religionist.

    Dr. Keller basically held up three forbidden fruits and said that one of them will kill you, but the other two, while they’re not really good for you. won’t kill you. Remember the saying? “You will not surely die.” He was doing his best to say what their itching ears wanted to hear while staying true to the bible, but he failed. Ministers of the gospel need to be bold and hold fast to biblical doctrine. They should denounce all damnable sins for what they are, not just pick out the one particular sin that happens to be repugnant to the unbelievers in your audience at the time, while simultaneously downplaying the sins that they approve of as not such a big deal.

    As for point number one above, Dr. Keller says during the interview that it is misleading to say that homosexuality is a sin. Immediately after he says that, he says “of course homosexuality is a sin…” It is hard to find a more pathetic example of a double-tongued waffling minister talking out of both sides of his mouth and trying to please everyone in the room.

    To my knowledge, Dr. Keller has never been formally called to account by the PCA for the glaring inconsistencies and false assertions he put forth during this interview. I could be wrong, but he has never, to my knowledge, renounced the interview or repented of how he presented things during it. Maybe I’m wrong. If I am, I will remove this post. If someone could let me know, I would appreciate it.


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