Daily Keller

~ Wisdom from Tim Keller 365 Days a Year

Daily Keller

Can We Trust the Bible?

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Tim Keller

Objection: The unreliable Bible.
It seems impossible any longer to take the Bible as completely authoritative in the light of modern science, history, and culture. Also we can’t be sure what in the Bible’s accounts of events is legendary and what really happened. Finally, much of the Bible’s social teaching (for example, about women) is socially regressive. So how can we trust it scientifically, historically, and socially?

Response: The gospels’ form precludes their being legends. The Biblical gospels are not legends but historically reliable accounts about Jesus’ life. Why? 1) Their timing is far too early for them to be legends. The gospels were written 30-60 years after Jesus’ death — and Paul’s letters, which support all the accounts, came just 20 years after the events. 2) Their content is far too counter-productive to be legends. The accounts of Jesus crying out that God had abandoned him, or the resurrection where all the witnesses were women — did not help Christianity in the eyes of first century readers. The only historically plausible reason that these incidents are recorded is that they happened. The ‘offensiveness’ of the Bible is culturally relative. Texts you find difficult and offensive are ‘common sense’ to people in other cultures. And many of the things you find offensive because of your beliefs and convictions, many will seem silly to your grandchildren just as many of your grandparents’ beliefs offend you. Therefore, to simply reject any Scripture is to assume your culture (and worse yet, your time in history) is superior to all others. It is narrow-minded in the extreme.

– Tim Keller

All Work is Service

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Tim Keller

Imagine how much time it would take to make a chair by yourself. You would not only have to cut and shape the wood yourself, but you’d also have to make the tools. To make the tools, you’d have to mine the ore to make metal. It would take months, perhaps years, to do all the things necessary to create the chair. When you share in the work of others, however, you can buy a chair with money equivalent to some number of hours’ worth of your time, not months or years of effort. Even if you want to make the chair yourself, you can buy tools made by someone else.

All work, according to God’s design, is service. Through work we enrich one another and become more and more interwoven. When Christians do ‘secular’ work, they function as salt and light in the world (Matt. 5:13–16). Farming and business, childcare and law, medicine and music — all these forms of work cultivate, care for, and sustain the created world that God made and loves. We are all ministers (priests) to the human community on God’s behalf.

Work is taking the raw material of creation and developing it for the sake of others. Musicians take the raw material of sound and bring the meaning of art into our lives. Farmers take the raw material of soil and seed and bring food into our lives. This means we are God’s ministers in our work not only when we are witnessing or talking directly about Jesus, but when we are simply doing our work. A musician is serving God when she makes great music, not solely when she is singing about coming to Jesus.

– Tim Keller

Sabbath Rest

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Tim Keller

In the Bible, Sabbath rest means to cease regularly from and to enjoy the results of your work. It provides balance: ‘Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God’ (Exodus 20:9–10). Although Sabbath rest receives a much smaller amount of time than work, it is a necessary counterbalance so that the rest of your work can be good and beneficial.

God liberated his people when they were slaves in Egypt, and in Deuteronomy 5:12–15, God ties the Sabbath to freedom from slavery. Anyone who overworks is really a slave. Anyone who cannot rest from work is a slave — to a need for success, to a materialistic culture, to exploitative employers, to parental expectations, or to all of the above. These slave masters will abuse you if you are not disciplined in the practice of Sabbath rest. Sabbath is a declaration of freedom.

Thus Sabbath is about more than external rest of the body; it is about inner rest of the soul. We need rest from the anxiety and strain of our overwork, which is really an attempt to justify ourselves—to gain the money or the status or the reputation we think we have to have. Avoiding overwork requires deep rest in Christ’s finished work for your salvation (Hebrews 4:1–10). Only then will you be able to ‘walk away’ regularly from your vocational work and rest.

Sabbath is the key to getting this balance, and Jesus identifies himself as the Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:27– 28) — the Lord of Rest! Jesus urges us, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls’ (Matthew 11:28–29). One of the great blessings of the gospel is that he gives you rest that no one else will.

– Tim Keller

Why Can’t God Just Forgive Us?

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Tim Keller

Objection: The angry God.
Christianity seems to be built around the concept of a condemning, judgmental deity. For example, there’s the cross — the teaching that the murder of one man (Jesus) leads to the forgiveness of others. But why can’t God just forgive us? The God of Christianity seems a left-over from primitive religions where peevish gods demanded blood in order to assuage their wrath.

Response: On the cross God does not demand our blood but offers his own. 1) All forgiveness of any deep wrong and injustice entails suffering on the forgiver’s part. If someone truly wrongs you, because of our deep sense of justice, we can’t just shrug it off. We sense there’s a ‘debt.’ We can then either a) make the perpetrator pay down the debt you feel (as you take it out of his hide in vengeance!) in which case evil spreads into us and hardens us b) or you can forgive — but that is enormously difficult. But that is the only way to stop the evil from hardening us as well. 2) If we can’t forgive without suffering (because of our sense of justice) its not surprising to learn that God couldn’t forgive us without suffering — coming in the person of Christ and dying on the cross.

– Tim Keller

Follow Jesus

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Tim Keller

Are you becoming more gentle? More tolerant? More gracious with people around you? More kind? Follow Jesus. He’ll give you what you need. He’s a wonderful counselor. One guy comes and says, ‘I’m ready to follow you wherever you go.’ Jesus says, ‘Go home and think about it.’ Another guy says, ‘I want to go home and think about it.’ Jesus says, ‘Follow me.’ What? Because he’s the perfect counselor. All other counseling theories look flat next to his, because he never gives you a template. He gives you exactly what you need. Follow him, and he will give you exactly what you need. He will love you singularly. He will love the real you. He will love you into a whole new identity.

– Tim Keller

Meaning, Security, and Worth

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Tim Keller

We need to serve God in order to have purpose. We need to know God in order to have love. We need to be right with God to have self-worth. But sin leads every person to reject God as our only source of meaning, security, and worth. If we reject God our hearts must make idols.

– Tim Keller

The Oppression of Christians

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Tim Keller

Objection: The record of Christians.
Every religion will have its hypocrites of course. But it seems that the most fervent Christians are the most condemning, exclusive, and intolerant. The church has a history of supporting injustices, of destroying culture, of oppression. And there are so many people who are not Christian (or not religious at all) who appear to be much more kind, caring, and indeed moral than so many Christians. If Christianity is the true religion — then why can this be? Why would so much oppression have been carried out over the centuries in the name of Christ and with the support of the church?

Response: The solution to injustices is not less but deeper Christianity. 1) There have been terrible abuses. 2) But in the prophets and the gospels we are given tools for a devastating critique of moralistic religion. Scholars have shown that Marx and Nietzsche’s critique of religion relied on the ideas of the prophets. So despite its abuses, Christianity provides perhaps greater tools than the other religions do for its own critique. 3) When Martin Luther King, Jr. confronted terrible abuses by the white church he did not call them to loosen their Christian commitments. He used the Bible’s provision for church self-critique and called them to truer, firmer, deeper Christianity.

– Tim Keller

Talking About Homosexuality

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Tim Keller

Acknowledge that often when this topic comes up the rhetoric gets heated — and those who represent the Christian position are not always respectful of those who disagree, nor do they have sound reasons for their position. Christians have no more or less of a right to tell other people how to live their lives than anyone else. But we all have ways we think the world should be; and we all have the right to try to contend for these views respectfully. The gospel — that we are saved only by sheer grace — should help Christians to do this without self-righteousness.

Homosexuality is not God’s original design for sexuality — sex is designed for marriage between a man and a woman. But that belief should have no impact on a church’s or a Christian’s desire to love and serve the needs and interests of all their neighbors, including gay people, people of other faiths, and so on.

Note that there is not widespread division over what the Bible says about homosexuality. All three branches of Christianity (Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant) agree — on at least four things: one, that every mention of homosexual practice in the Bible says that it is wrong; two, that it is specifically prohibited in both the Old and New Testaments; three, that it did not just reflect the prejudices of the day — it cut against the views of ancient cultures; and four, that the whole arc of the Bible begins with a heterosexual marriage (Adam and Eve) and ends with the vision of one — the wedding feast in the book of Revelation.

– Tim Keller

Christianity’s Ethical Straitjacket

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Tim Keller

Objection: The Ethical Straitjacket.
In Christianity the Bible and the church dictate everything that a Christian must believe, feel, and do. Christians are not encouraged to make their own moral decisions, or to think out their beliefs or patterns of life for themselves. In a fiercely pluralistic society there are too many options, too many cultures, too many personality differences for this approach. We must be free to choose for ourselves how to live — this is the only truly authentic life. We should only feel guilty if we are no being true to ourselves — to our own chosen beliefs and practices and values and vision for life.

Response: Individual creation of truth removes the right to moral outrage. 1) Aren’t there any people in the world who are doing things you believe are wrong that they should stop doing no matter what they believe inside about right and wrong: Then you do believe that there is some kind of moral obligation that people should abide by and which stands in judgment over their internal choices and convictions. So what is wrong with Christians doing that? 2) No one is really free anyway. We all have to live for something, and whatever our ultimate meaning in life is (whether approval, achievement, a love relationship, our work) it is basically our ‘lord’ and master. Everyone is ultimately in a spiritual straitjacket. Even the most independent people are dependent on their independence and so can’t commit. Christianity gives you a lord and master who forgives and dies for you.

– Tim Keller