Tim Keller proposes a Third Way gospel. And he thinks our era, because it is largely unchurched and Christianity is not our culture, needs a focus on gospel renewal or revival. Revival is needed not just because of our time but also because it focuses on the heart, that is, on personal response to God in Christ. Keller’s chp in Center Church on the work of gospel renewal (chp 6), has a good sketch of the elements of a Welsh revival small group meeting, and they are elements that personalize the gospel intensely.
Question: Do you find most people to be “irreligious” or part of Keller’s view of “religion”? Do you think the widespread cultural teaching of unconditional love — by parents, by pastors, etc — leads less to religion and more to irreligion? How does the gospel of acceptance by Keller distinguish itself from others who propose a gospel that God loves us? Do the gospel sermons in Acts work the gospel through the theme of performance vs. acceptance on the basis of God’s work for us?
So what is this Third Way gospel? The first way is the way of irreligion, a theme Keller does not focus on so much. Irreligion is ignoring God, and it is widespread in our culture — in fact, all over the globe. Keller’s pet emphasis in all his gospel preaching and in all the books of his I have read is religion. Before I get to his widely-accepted definition (I’ve seen it in Greg Boyd, among emergents, in Billy Graham, etc), I have to say that the term doesn’t work for me because I see Christianity as one of the world’s great religions. I grew up being told that we didn’t have a religion — like the Catholics and Methodists — we believed. However this term found its footings, it has, and for now “religion” often means man-centered or man-created religious beliefs and practices.
So three ways to approach God:
1. Irreligion: ignore God.
2. Religion: perform before God.
3. Gospel/grace: acceptance on the basis of what God has done for us.
For Keller religion is about performance. An exceptionally lucid exposition of Keller’s peformance=religion approach can be found in J.D. Greear’s Gospel book, a book about which we blogged some time back. Anyway, Keller contrasts religion with gospel, which here means “grace” and “love” and “acceptance in Christ alone,” and so I want now to sketch Keller’s approach, and first is Religion and after the “vs.” the Gospel.
Religion: I obey, therefore I’m accepted. vs. Gospel: I’m accepted [by God]; therefore I obey.
Motivation is fear and insecurity vs. grateful joy.
I obey to get things from God vs. I obey to get God — to delight in God.
When circumstances go wrong, anger vs. struggle but knowing God is in control.
When criticized, furious or devastated vs. struggle but know my identity is in God.
Prayer life petition vs. presence with God.
Self view swings from confidence to lacking confidence vs. lost but accepted in Christ. Humility based confidence.
Identity and self worth are achievement based vs. Christ, who he is and what he has done.
I produce idols to sustain my hope and confidence vs. not needing idols since Christ is all.