Nov

14

2012

Tim Keller|10:00 PM CT

The Counterintuitive Calvin

So what did I do last summer vacation? I continued to do something that I started January 1 of this year. Late last fall I came upon a plan for reading through all of John Calvin's Institutes---his four-volume, 1,500-or-so-page systematic exposition of the teachings of the Christian faith---in one year. Calvin and Martin Luther together were the two leading lights of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century. Today, however, Calvin has a dismal reputation as a pinched, narrow-minded, cold, and cerebral dogmatician.



I knew much of this image was caricature, and, while over the years I had read a good deal of the Institutes, I treated the books like an encyclopedia or dictionary that one dipped into to learn about specific topics. I had never read it straight through, consecutively, until this year when I began...

 
 
 
 

Oct

29

2012

Tim Keller|12:01 AM CT

Catechesis Miscellanies

In order to help us get the most value out of New City Catechism, I offer some final introductory thoughts.

First, it is important to understand the purpose of NCC---its goal is to introduce the almost-lost pedagogical method of catechesis to a new generation, and to direct and motivate far more people to study and learn the longer and historic catechisms than are doing so now. There are three features of NCC that we hope will accomplish this. One is its form as a free app. It means that people will be able to study and memorize the catechism within the fabric of their current, overly busy daily lives. It means that pastors and leaders who want to take a group or class or church through it will not need...

 
 
 
 

Oct

17

2012

Tim Keller|12:01 AM CT

Why Write New Catechisms?

In the first article on this subject, we outlined how crucial the practice of catechesis is for the church particularly when surrounded by a culture antagonistic to Christian teaching and truth. But, we may ask, "Why write new catechisms? What's wrong with the older ones?"

After the high tide of the early centuries, the ministry of catechesis diminished until the Reformation, when there was an explosion of catechism writing. T. F. Torrance edited a book that contains only catechisms that were used widely in the Reformed churches of Scotland in the 16th and 17th centuries, and he provides ten. (See The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church, James Clarke, 1959.) A first thought of a reader of this volume may be, "They all agree on basic doctrine---then why so many?" The...

 
 
 
 

Oct

11

2012

Tim Keller|12:01 AM CT

Why Catechesis Now?

The church in Western culture today is experiencing a crisis of holiness. To be holy is to be "set apart," different, living life according to God's Word and story, not according to the stories that the world tells us are the meaning of life. The more the culture around us becomes post- and anti-Christian the more we discover church members in our midst, sitting under sound preaching, yet nonetheless holding half-pagan views of God, truth, and human nature, and in their daily lives using sex, money, and power in very worldly ways. It's hard to deny what J. I. Packer and Gary Parrett write:
Superficial smatterings of truth, blurry notions about God and godliness, and thoughtlessness about the issues of living---careerwise, communitywise, familywise, and churchwise---are all too often the marks of evangelical congregations today (Grounded in the Gospel: Building Believers the Old-Fashioned Way, 16).

...

 
 
 
 

Sep

03

2012

Tim Keller|10:01 PM CT

Changing the City with the Gospel Takes a Movement

When a church or a church network begins to grow rapidly in a city, it is only natural for the people within the ministry to feel that God is making a difference in that place. Often, however, what is really going on is "Christian reconfiguration." When churches grow, they typically do so by drawing believers out of less vital churches. This can be a good thing if the Christians in these growing churches are being better discipled and if their gifts are being effectively deployed. Nevertheless, if this is the key dynamic, then the overall body of Christ in the city is not growing; it is simply reconfiguring. Reaching an entire city, then, takes more than having some effective churches in it, or even having a burst of revival energy and new converts. Changing the city with the gospel takes a movement.
...

 
 
 
 

Aug

27

2012

Tim Keller|10:00 PM CT

The Faith to Doubt Christianity

Believing has both a head and a heart aspect, so while some non-Christians will need more help with one than the other, we can't ignore either one.

So what can we say when we are called upon to present the reasons why we believe?

First, I try to show that it takes faith to doubt Christianity, because any worldview (including secularism or skepticism) is based on assumptions. For example, the person who says, "I can only believe in something if it can be rationally or empirically proven" must realize that this itself is a statement of faith. This "verification principle" cannot actually be proven rationally or empirically, making it an assertion or a claim, not an argument. Furthermore, there are all sorts of things you can't prove rationally or empirically. You can't prove to me that you're not really...

 
 
 
 

Aug

05

2012

Tim Keller|10:00 PM CT

In Defense of Apologetics

Apologetics is an answer to the "why" question after you've already answered the "what" question. The what question, of course, is, "What is the gospel?" But when you call people to believe in the gospel and they ask, "Why should I believe that?"---then you need apologetics.

I've heard plenty of Christians try to answer the why question by going back to the what. "You have to believe because Jesus is the Son of God." But that's answering the why with more what. Increasingly we live in a time when you can't avoid the why question. Just giving the what (for example, a vivid gospel presentation) worked in the days when the cultural institutions created an environment in which Christianity just felt true or at least honorable. But in a post-Christendom society, in the marketplace of ideas, you...

 
 
 
 

Jul

09

2012

Tim Keller|10:00 PM CT

Making Sense of Scripture's 'Inconsistency'

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because "they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey." Most often I hear, "Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts---about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren't you just picking and choosing what you want to believe from the Bible?"

I don't expect everyone to understand that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God's plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological adviser) before leveling the charge...

 
 
 
 

May

04

2012

Tim Keller|10:30 AM CT

An Agenda for Recovering Christianity in America

See part one in this series, Why Is Christianity on Decline in America?

Ross Douthat's Bad Religion attributes Christianity's decline in the United States to:

  1. political polarization that has sucked churches into its vortex;

  2. the sexual revolution that has undermined the plausibility of Christian faith and practice for an entire generation;

  3. globalization that has made the exclusive claims of Christianity seem highly oppressive;

  4. materialism and consumerism that undermines commitment to anything higher than the self; and

  5. alienation of the cultural elites and culture-shaping institutions from Christianity.



What, if anything, can we do about the decline of Christianity? This question has triggered an entire generation of books and blogs. Douthat's book is mainly descriptive and critical. He even admits that the book was "written in a spirit of pessimism." Yet he rightly responds that for any Christian, "pessimism...

 
 
 
 

Apr

09

2012

Tim Keller|11:34 AM CT

Why Is Christianity on the Decline in America?

I had the pleasure of reading the manuscript of Ross Douthat's new book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (The Free Press, 2012), slated to be released on April 17. I am going to honor the publisher's request that I not quote or review the book until it is published because it is still being edited. Nevertheless, I want to interact with Ross's basic ideas because I think they are provocative and because this is essential reading for all Christians seeking to understand Christianity's relationship to culture in the U.S.

Everyone agrees that our culture has become far more secular and hostile to Christian faith over the past two generations, but what are the factors causing that change? Many in the evangelical and Reformed world see the decline starting in the early 20th century when most of the...