Keller on Emergent

I have a great deal of respect for Tim Keller. Honestly, of all of the leaders of the Reformed “resurgence,” I like Keller the most. He seems thoughtful, evenhanded, and I know many people who go to his excellent church. I’ve never met him (though I’ve tried), and he used to frequent this blog.

But I have a bone to pick. At John Piper’s conference here in Minneapolis last week, Keller responded to a Justin Taylor question by stating that Emergent is 1) moving away from orthodoxy, and 2) not starting any churches or institutions.

On point one, I’d like to hear how, exactly, I am moving away from orthodoxy. Seriously. This isn’t just a question for Keller, but for all who continue to say this. I can’t speak for anyone else in emergent (or Emergent Village), but I can speak for myself. I continue to look at my theology, and to write about it, and I have not strayed from traditional Christian orthodoxy. (I will delete any comments that condemn me for using contemplative prayer practices — this is not what Keller is referring to. Contemplative prayer has a long and rich history in the church (Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant).) My point is, if you’re going to accuse someone of leaving orthodoxy, you’d better be able to back it up.

On point two, there are lots of folks starting emergent churches, networks, etc. (Just check my in-box.) It’s a lot more amorphous than many networks, and the whole emergent/emerging/missional identifiers are still shaking out, but it cannot be denied that churches are starting, books are being written, events being hosted, and seminaries are approaching many of us with thoughts of partnership. Plus, people are starting local cohorts all over the country.

This may all sound defensive. It’s not meant to be. I am just getting tired of unsubstantiated indictments, especially by someone who doesn’t even have the time to get together with me so that I can answer his questions and respond to his accusations. I expected better of Tim Keller.

  • Anonymous

    Tony,I believe your rhetoric does not match your record. In March 2006 I attended a lecture that you gave to E-Free youth pastors from Iowa and other evangelical pastors in the Des Moines area. You can read a write up on that event here: http://mattproctor.blogspot.com/2006/03/tony.htmlIn this message you attacked several orthodox and especially evangelical doctrines:1. The person of the Holy Spirit2. The inerrancy of Scripture3. The subsitionary atonementOne key difference between you and Keller-types is your view of orthodoxy is generous. But for most evangelicals, they have stood on the 3 doctrines mentioned above and others you have questioned like the nature of truth (as expressed in your book “Postmodern Youth Ministry), hermenutics (which you also questioned a bit in your book and in the lecture), etc.

  • sacred vapor

    In fairness to Tim, he did say that he could be wrong in his assessment several times in his answer.nevertheless, Tim sees the importance of authority structures and institutional models as essential in building communities. This leadership model is very successful in Redeemer ( I know, because I served in that area).This does appear absent in the emerging movement as a whole, so I understand Keller’s concern. What I am referring to is a skepticism of authority structures and structured institutions. I see this frequent in emerging circles — not necessarily from you though.I do disagree with Tim in that Emerging may not be at that point yet. So, in essence, emerging is still emerging. this is still a very new movement.vapor

  • Anonymous

    spelling error, an expression of human fallibility*substitutionary

  • sacred vapor

    Sorry, just to clarify my point to your statement:”2) not starting any churches or institutions.”I think Tim was referring to building communities, not building churches. This seems to entail concrete established institutions, which appears absent from the emerging movement as a whole. Right now that is, but I could be wrong.

  • Josh

    The question posed by Justin Taylor was something like (not a precise quote), “Do you think the emergent conversation has staying power, do you think it will still be a force for evangelicals to reckon with decades from now?” Keller’s comments were in the context of his response to this question. His response was something like (again not a precise quote), “No, for two reasons: (1) Because there is a built-in aversion to institutions and authority structures, which are so necessary if you’re going to build functioning organizations, and (2)Because the emergent conversation is not distinctively evangelical, nor is it explicitly committed to evangelical orthodoxy.” I wish he would have said more, and more forcefully, on this last point. When I listen to the emergent podcast, I get the impression that the people in the conversation have just totally untethered themselves from the authority and sufficiency of Scripture by denying its perspicuity – that its meaning is essentially clear and plain.

  • Adam Omelianchuk

    Tony, I don’t come here with an axe to grind, but I think people in Emergent need to take this seriously. I hope you will receive this as someone who tried a cohort meeting (you were there), read one of McLaren’s books and many of his articles, and someone who closely follows Scot McKnight’s blog. I don’t see myself as classically Reformed and I labor among a church in Uptown designed to reach out to younger singles. First of all, I think many evangelicals, whether they be Reformed Piper followers or Arminian SBCers, see Emergent drifting towards heterodoxy because of what is being published. For example, Spencer Burke’s newest book does not bode well for the idea that recognized leaders of the emerging church (Burke is part of Emergent right?) are holding fast to historic Christianity. The denial of the trinity, incarnation, and the work of the cross make one a heretic if not an apostate. The only “friend of Emergent” I’ve seen call this out is McKnight. Second, Emegent and their friends are not seen as very prophetic. Old and New Testament history constantly sees the people of God being lead astray and being called back to God and his standards. The direction, however, of embracing certain cultural mores (like postmodernism) that repudiate the idea of making a statement of faith and allowing anything in to question the core doctrines of Christianity makes for a recipe that the NT warns against (See Paul’s admonishments in 1st and 2nd Corinthians). Third, it seems as though many important doctrines are up for grabs. Hell, atonement, and human sexuality all seem on trial. Certainly, I think there are many topics that are worthy of conversation. I too feel that penal substitution, while it is integral to the gospel, does not tell the whole story. But the fact that it is pooh-poohed as “cosmic child abuse” smacks of blasphemy. I understand how it can be seen as a hard doctrine, but one who dishes out such a sweeping condemnation of it is just as fundamentalistic as those who hold to it as the exclusion of all other theories. I plea for you to see why many of us in the middle of the Reformed/Emergent divide find this to be frustrating. But there are signs of hope. While I don’t agree with everything, I thin the work done by NT Wright and what’s been coming out of Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia is good.

  • TM

    On point one…at least from my own point of view, I attribute my own leaning back towards orthodoxy to getting connected with Emergent (the writers and the relationships) lest I kept heading over to a postmodern relativism. (Do you get any extra credit from the critique police for testimonies like this?)One point two…I was invited just yesterday to join a group beginning conversations and visioning about the possibility of an Emergent community in our area. (Wow! Its great to think that we’d be doing something first! Although my hunch is that numerous folks are doing the same and have already done the same for years now.

  • andrew jones

    tonywe (DAWN) are working towards a million new church plants in Europe and i am guessing most of these will be emerging churches in some form or another. i will be interested to hear this comment from tim.i am listening to his talk from desiring God conference and enjoying his balanced approach. i feel deeply committed to church planting – and have been planting them for 20 years – and also towards orthodox doctrineand i also feel centrally located inside the global emerging churchyou can imagine my frustration at being pigeonholed like this . .. i will look out for tim’s comment but i have a gut feeling that tim is on our side.

  • Anonymous

    By the way, Tony. I said: ‘if you define evangelical orthodoxy using John Stott’s evangelical essentials, then emergent is moving away from evangelical orthodoxy.’ I don’t think that’s unkind or inaccurate. That’s not the same thing as saying you aren’t orthodox Christians. Tim Keller

  • tony

    Tim, thanks for your helpful comment. That qualifier, indeed, makes all the difference. I grew up in a mainline church, and I’ve never really had much use for the term “evangelical.” I think it’s been both watered down to meaningless by journalists and made contentious by insiders. It’s not one that I use to describe myself, not because I don’t believe we should share the euangelion, but because I think the Americanized term is more problematic than helpful.But I still wonder why one sits on a stage and questions the orthodoxy — evangelical or otherwise — of brothers and sisters in Christ. I don’t see how that’s helpful in advancing the Kingdom. As you know, Tim, I’ve tried several times to communicate with you directly, only to be rebuffed by your assistant. I’d very much like to forge a friendship and be open to correction where needed.Matt, I remember you being a very smart guy. Then you must know that two of the three doctrines you name can in no way be measurements of orthodoxy, historically speaking. Maybe evangelicals can cast one another in or out of bounds based on inerrancy and substitutionary atonement, but neither doctrine is an historical marker of orthodoxy. If you heard me question the personhood of the Holy Spirit, then I misspoke. I have a very high pneumatology — higher, in fact, than most evangelicals I know.I would judge historic orthodoxy on the grounds of these beliefs (to name a few): humanity of Jesus, divinity of Jesus, monotheism, trinitarianism, and inspiration of scripture.Adam, Spencer is in the emerging church, in a broader sense, but he is not in the leadership of Emergent Village. I count him as a friend, but that does not mean that I endorse everything that he says or writes. The same goes for others in emergent. Regarding your other curiosities, I’m on the record on this blog and in other places about my hermeneutic positions.And to those who think that I never respond to my critics, I’m doing my best here! It’s tough to respond to the critique that I’m sliding away from evangelical orthodoxy, when I’ve never claimed that appellation for myself. Orthodox Christianity, as historically conceived? Yes!

  • I Drive a Dodge Stratus…

    Tony,I do not want to be a critic that really is not my goal, but is sounds a bit like you are wanting to have it both ways here.Comments are made addressing where “emergent beliefs” are out of bounds, and then you brush it off by claiming that while spencer is part of the emergent friendship he does not represent all your views. The point being is that you asked for examples of questionable emergent orthodoxy and they were given.As long as Spencer identifies with the emergent conversation I believe the critiques remain valid. I guess it raises a larger question which so many would like to know and Piper put forth at the conference in his session; Just what exactly unites the emeregent friendship? And can one stray to far in their orthodoxy in this conversation? Bottom line are there any boundaries in this conversation?I think reading Bob hyatt’s latest post on Spencer’s book it becomes clear that that he is calling for some boundaries in this conversation and am just curious if you would share that same opinion.

  • Noah Braymen

    Tony…you hold to the inspiration of Scripture in what sense…and to what effects? Thanks!In ChristNoah

  • Anonymous

    Tony,You define “trinitarianism” as an essential component of “Christian orthodoxy,” as well you should. However, I was visiting your church on Sunday, Sept. 24th, just to become more familiar with what emergents had to say, and I was saddened to hear a member of your congregation give a “historical sketch” in which he named the doctrine of the Trinity as hardly more than Constanine’s political power-play. In the least, he severely questioned the Trinity (and the Son’s deity). At most, he outright denied it. Now, whether or not you would have agreed with this statement (or question) or not I don’t know, but it happened as a planned part of the worship service of which you were a part (after which we continued to sing in worship, as if there was still any thing to sing about), so I can only assume it was the kind of thing you want to be said in the church. As I said, this occurance both shocked and grieved me. I truly don’t understand how the service could just go on afterward like it was no big deal. JP

  • tony

    JP,Ben said nothing of the kind. You obviously weren’t listening very well. What he did was provide a historical overview of the Council of Nicaea, and the development of the Nicene Creed. That’s called education.

  • djchuang

    I like Keller too :) It’s been my experience that the staff at Redeemer have been cordial and professional, and it took me months of planning to get an in-person meeting together. With all that is going on, not just in these theological conversations, but in American life in general, it’s quite challenging to coordinate schedules to setup a meeting. And with media attention escalating for Emergent, Redeemer,and other kingdom players, all would have to be selective in stewarding meeting times. So, patience is called for all around. :)

  • Bill Arnold

    Sorry, DJ, but I don’t buy the idea that you can criticize a person or group, but not be able to find the time to meet with them personally.

  • oli

    It seems to me all the past 16 comments form everyone including tony, are all polarized. I have so far not seen any dialouge on this post that is not 1sided. Not just emergent but the whole body of Christ should be a converstation, a place where we dialouge together to come closer to the truth and truth’s about God. While we are attacking and defending this will not be done. This original post was very good but all sixteen responses have been appaling. When did we forget love? When did we forget grace shown towards others in the family of God?

  • Josh

    I think the very meaning of “in the family of God” is at stake in this “conversation”. I’m afraid my emergent friends have their toes pointed away from evangelical (read: biblical) soteriology, bibliology, and Christology.

  • Ben P.

    I too feel like Keller did not make an unsubstantiated claim when he said Emergent is moving away from orthodoxy. In his talk, he said that Emergent’s (which he also called the “post-liberals”) emphasis on the here-and-now kingdom and redemption aspect (at the expense of the grace-personal forgiveness aspect) is in a sense a new kind of social action legalism; we are justified by our participation in social action/transformation. I think Keller and others’ criticism have alot to do with Emergent’s primary emphasis on interpreting the Bible as “bound by a context” (quote from your last entry). While I think most reformed theology takes cultural background and context seriously, it sees it as informing the meaning of the text, not defining it. I think this also comes from an underlying difference in epistemology in answering the question, what “truth” can we find in the Bible?I would love to witness a hearty dialogue between yourself, and others in Emergent and people like Keller (and even folks like Piper and Driscoll too!). I would encourage you to download Keller’s talks from the conference, if you haven’t already.

  • Ben P.

    Tony, Keller expanded his comments about this conversation in response to another blog here: http://www.djchuang.com/2006/10/d1374

  • djchuang

    Bill, I wasn’t trying to sell you anything :) I did share my experience, and I did try to share some fair and reasonable assessment on why a meeting may not have yet happened. I could be wrong, but my (hopeful) understanding is that with this particularly missed oppportunity, it’s not so much a patent refusal to meet, but more of a meeting that hasn’t yet happened.

  • Bill Arnold

    dj,Fair enough. Perhaps he really hasn’t had the time. Or maybe it’s not as much a priority as I might think it is.

  • Chris Enstad

    Tony,In reading this conversation I have two impressions:1. Do not let others define the rules of the engagement. You are being hoisted on a petard created by the leaders of what passes for American Christianity. Part of me wants you to engage it on your terms, another part of me asks, “why bother arguing with these people?” Emergent should keep doing what it’s doing. I don’t think any of the communities that are being planted want to look, sound, or act like Bethlehem Baptist.2. I wish that those of us in the ELCA were free to have these knock-down drag-out fights on orthodoxy and the church. Hamstrung by the power structure, we are left reading what you guys are up to… and agree or disagree, the political correctness police don’t have a seat at this table and it is refreshing.Blessings!

  • Vynette

    Tony,The whole ‘Emergent Movement’ is doomed to become just another footnote in history unless it ignores bleatings about ‘orthodox doctrine’ and focuses on the only doctrine preached by Jesus and the apostles – love of God and love of fellow humans. Not a weak, sentimental love but the meek love which is the sign of a truly great character, the only kind of love whereby it is possible to ‘love your enemies’.The simplicity and purity of this teaching did not prove sufficient to the Graeco-Roman church ‘fathers’ and it still doesn’t prove sufficient today. Eternal life is to be found in spirit, not doctrines. Jesus’ true message, unfettered by doctrines, brings hope and a sense of human dignity to the despised and rejected of the Earth. If Jesus of Nazareth walked the Earth today, would he be identifiable in terms of ‘orthodox’ doctrines or in terms of ‘feeding the hungry’ etc?

  • Chris Enstad

    Vynette, I do not speak for Tony but my perspective on this is that when Tony signed on to be the national whatever for Emergent, he became one who is held to a high standard when it comes to theology. Preachers, teachers, you name it, any who are called to teach the Word have a duty to do so with the utmost care for the souls of those whom they lead or serve. Tony is being called on the carpet by some for leading sheep astray, basically, and they are putting out the warnings to their people to beware. Unfortunately, they seem to assume that Tony has not done his homework, or is in this as some kind of fad thing… neither is true. My own hope for Emergent has always been as more of an outsider (I’m Lutheran and we’ve known alot of the stuff you guys are discovering for a long time, our problem is we don’t know what to DO with our treasure ;) ) I hope you free American Christianity from the shackles of consumerism, individualism, works righteousness, and the idolization of doctrine. Doctrine needs not only to be freed to be questioned, but it also needs to be owned by the next generations of church folks. Emergent has a great chance of discovering new ways of being “church” without necessarily throwing the baby out with the bathwater.IMHO!

  • Josh

    Vynette,Jesus’ message wasn’t merely “love of God and love of fellow humans” was it? He did say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” You can’t separate Jesus’ life and death. The gospel isn’t “Jesus lived a perfect life of love for God and others, and so should you,” it’s “Jesus died for our sins according to the Scriptures, he was buried and rose again on the third day, according to the Scriptures.” The gospel is his sinless life AND sacrificial death for sins, fulfilling the promises of Scripture.

  • Chase

    Tony, I would also love to have clarity on what you mean by “inspiration” of Scripture. Do you mean the “theopneustos” Paul spoke of? I know some argue that he must have been only speaking of the Old Testament, or portions of it, but this may not have been the case. Peter viewed Paul’s writings as Scripture. Are you speaking along these same lines? This would be a wonderful common ground to stand on.

  • Chris

    To speak to a comment towards the end of the discussion: The gospel is not that Jesus lived a sinless life, and then died for our sins and then was raised, although that is a part of the gospel. The gospel seems to be, at least according to Jesus, “The time has come,”…”The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” The good news, as it is shown here is that the awaited kingdom of God has come near in Christ. The kingdom is thus embodied in the life of the God-man, culminating in the death “for us” and resurrection. However, Paul seems to assert that the death “for us” is broader than simply the substationary atonement (although that is the central piece of the manifestation of God’s condescension in favor of beloved-beleaguered humanity). The gospel is cosmic in scope (Eph 1:10) and leads to redemption of all the created order. Once again the gospel is the kingdom of God, as manifest in all Jesus did, effectuated in the death and resurrection of behalf of fallen creation (all of it), as the kingdom moves towards culmination in the eschaton.

  • Chris

    On a second note. Evangelicals (a group which I consider myself part of) are not outside theological misconceptions. In recent works (read past 10 years) there has begun an increased discussion of the eternal subordination of the Son and the Spirit to the Father. This was flatly rejected by the early conciliar tradition. Let us not point out specks when we have logs.

  • Vynette

    Josh,”He did say, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe the gospel.” You can’t separate Jesus’ life and death.”I am not trying to separate Jesus’ life and death. I am merely pointing out that the Kingdom of God on earth will never become a reality through an inward-looking and passive belief in salvation through dead doctrines. The living and active Gospel of Love, however, has a concrete and practical chance of bringing about the physical manifestation of the spiritual Kingdom that has existed since the resurrection.I realise that my words may sound harsh to some and that is unfortunate, but after two millennia, it’s time for some plain speaking about matters of such grave import to all of us.In my opinion, it’s time for a dose of very strong medicine. A new reformation, but this time finally casting out the last vestiges of the pagan gentile theology that many, especially the young, especially in this age of instant information, can rightly recognise as such.

  • Josh

    Chris,I appreciate your help. You are right to emphasize the kingdom and the redemption of all created things in Christ. However, I think I disagree with you when you say, “The gospel is not that Christ lived a perfect life, and then died for our sins and then was raised, although that is a part of the gospel.” We could include more information than this (as you have rightly pointed out), but not less. These are the most basic facts of the gospel. I think the Apostle Paul backs me up here:”Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.”For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures.”(1 Corinthians 15:1-4)My concern with Vynette’s comment is that it seems to exalt the “active obedience” of Christ (his sinless life) and ignore his “passive obedience” (sacrificial death). His sinless life alone is not the gospel. His life and death must be taken together, as in 1 Cor. 15:1-4 above.

  • Chris

    I could be wrong but you make distinction where I make none. The sinlessness etc. are part of the kingdom, part of God come to earth. It is part of the gospel.

  • Josh

    Chris,I think we are agreeing that it all hangs together – the sinless life, death, resurrection. The point I want to make to Vynette is that the sinless life makes no sense and has no redemptive value without the sacrificial death. So the sinless life of love, by itself, saves no one. 1 Cor. 15:1-4 is a good articulation of the simple news a person must recieve to be saved. It’s the gospel distilled to its essence.Vynette,I don’t think you’re being harsh at all. :) Could you explain further what you mean when you say, “Eternal life is to be found in spirit, not doctrines,” and “passive belief in salvation through dead doctrines”? I’m interested in your thoughts.

  • Vynette

    Josh, my thoughts then -Essentially, the ‘good news of the Kingdom’ was: 1) that Jesus was the longed-for messiah; 2) that Jesus had restored our relationship with God to that which existed before the Fall;3) that the Kingdom of God had been established and the way was now open to all mankind; 4) that all could be ‘saved’ and gain citizenship of this Kingdom if they put into practice the same values and principles for which Jesus lived and died.This ‘spiritual’ Kingdom of God has been in existence since the resurrection. However, it is but a figure and shadow of the ‘physical’ Kingdom of God yet to be established on earth.This earthly Kingdom can only be established by individual character in action. The living values that Jesus embodied can be energised and translated into action everywhere, all of the time.By way of contrast, the doctrines built up around the personality of Jesus require only that one have a ‘passive’ belief. They shift the burden of our individual responsibility to work towards the Kingdom onto the ‘shoulders’ of God and Jesus.These doctrines enjoin no action, they impose no responsibility, they distort our understanding of the Kingdom plan.How, for instance, does the passive belief in the ‘divinity’ of Jesus bring about the Kingdom of God on earth? To truly follow in Jesus’ footsteps, we must work, as he did, in obedience to the will of God. The will of God is the establishment of his Kingdom on earth.

  • Chase

    Vynette,Passive belief in Jesus’ divinity will not bring abuot the Kingdom of God on earth anymore than passionate obedience to a Jesus who is not God will.

  • Anonymous

    Tony writes,”At John Piper’s conference here in Minneapolis last week, Keller responded to a Justin Taylor question by stating that Emergent is 1) moving away from orthodoxy, and 2) not starting any churches or institutions.On point one, I’d like to hear how, exactly, I am moving away from orthodoxy. “Did you get that? Tony thinks HE is emergent! The criticism is not with TONY, but with Emergent, but Tony hears it as referring to himself. Which only further proves my theory that Tony is the Pope of emergent.your pal,Norm

  • Chris Enstad

    Dude!Don’t make a campaign out of someone slipping an “i” into a place where a “we” would be better! Sheesh. Christian brothers and sisters are called to put the best construction on what their siblings are up to. For goodness sake, why not read that “I” not as Tony thinking he’s the Pope but, rather, that he is personally invested in this movement? It’s hard NOT to take things personally when one has put their life and their family’s well-being at stake in it. Get some compassion, then criticize out of love. Pharisees abound!

  • Josh

    Vynette,What is your understanding of John 3, where we are told that unless a person is born again he or she cannot see the kingdom of God?

  • Anonymous

    another great emergent blog:http://blogsdosuck.blogspot.com/

  • Vynette

    Josh,Paul explains the ‘born again’ statements of Jesus recorded in John 3. It is from Paul that we obtain the clear-cut directions on how to be ‘born again’ and how to obtain citizenship in the Kingdom of God. To become ‘spiritually re-born’, a person must follow in the footsteps of Jesus, through his crucifixion, death and resurrection, in order to become “children of God, who are born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.” (John 1:12-13)Persons become one with Jesus by putting to death – crucifying – their own Adamic (earthy) natures.The person is then re-born into a new godly life of the spirit- they are ‘resurrected’ and become citizens of the Kingdom alongside Jesus, the ‘first-begotten’ of the dead.In effect, Paul’s message can be reduced to a single simple theme – follow the Old Man (Adam) or the ‘last Adam’ (Jesus). It’s our choice!Cheers

  • Josh

    Vynette,I think you misunderstand regeneration. Consider the following passages:”For we ourselves were once foolish, disobedient, led astray, slaves to various passions and pleasures, passing our days in malice and envy, hated by others and hating one another. But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by his grace we might become heirs according to the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7)”But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:4-9)You see, regeneration is not something we effect of our own wills. These passages teach that we are made alive (regenerated) by the Holy Spirit and as a result respond to the gospel (again, see 1 Cor. 15) in faith and repentance; on the basis of this faith we are declared just by God. Notice that these passages teach us that regeneration is a work of the Spirit which He initiates. We do not initiate regeneration. I do not see biblical regeneration or justification in your statement that, “To become ‘spiritually re-born’, a person must follow in the footsteps of Jesus, through his crucifixion, death and resurrection, in order to become ‘children of God’…” I think you are putting sanctification first and making it the basis for regeneration and justification, but perhaps I misunderstand. It’s good fun having a cordial discussion with you!

  • Chase

    Interesting point Norm. I would say at best he had a slip of the tongue, at worst, your emergent pontiff thoughts might be spot on.

  • Vynette

    Josh, it is encouraging to have a civil discourse here.Let us begin by defining ‘faith’ and ‘works’.In New Testament terms, ‘faith’ in Jesus as the ‘messiah’, means faith in the particular nature of his ‘messiahship’. The particular nature of his ‘messiahship’ is made most explicit in John’s gospel where Jesus and the priests are portrayed as representatives of two opposing sets of values.To have faith in the ‘messiahship’ of Jesus is to be committed to the values and principles of Jesus, not those of the priests.Implicit in the requirement to have faith in these values is the requirement to live by these values. Why do I say this? Because the will of God is the establishment of his Kingdom on earth. There is only one ‘way’ to the establishment of his Kingdom and that is by universal emulation of the values of Jesus.As for ‘works’, when Paul speaks about works, he is mainly referring the the ‘works’ of the Mosaic Law. But even if he were not, his statements about ‘works’ were actually warnings about human tendencies towards self-righteous justification. They were never meant to apply to the good ‘work’ of the Kingdom. How could they when he was engaged in the ‘work’ of the Kingdom himself? If they are so applied, then they stand in direct opposition to the many statements about good works made by Jesus himself – the ‘workers’ for the Kingdom, let your good ‘works’ so shine before men, etcera.The ‘grace’ of God is his acceptance of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus. Now all humanity has been restored to the position it held before the Fall. We too can become sons and daughters of God and be welcomed into his Kingdom. But the ‘way’ to that Kingdom, the ‘truth’ of that Kingdom, and the ‘life’ to be lived in that Kingdom are to be found only by emulation of Jesus.There is an indwelling ‘spirit’ in all those who share the fundamental values of Jesus of Nazareth. The pouring out of the Holy Spirit is a ‘call to arms’, as in Pentecost. Even though it is ‘poured out on all flesh’, only those persons with the shared values of Jesus, such as the apostles at Pentecost, can respond to its call because only they can recognise it, receive it, and be inspired by it.Cheers

  • Chase

    Vynettte,You wrote, “There is an indwelling ‘spirit’ in all those who share the fundamental values of Jesus of Nazareth.” What do you ean by the values of Jesus. Ghandi for insance, shared some of the values of Jesus, but He was not indwelt by the Holy Spirit. Is this what you are talking about, I hope not, this would be a false proposition and an affront to Jesus. Or do you mean, people who value God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit in such a way that their lives are radically transformed in loving obedience to their saviour, King, and God? This would be an accurate understanding. I am wondering where you are in this.

  • Josh

    Vynette,Where do faith and repentance fit in? Or Jesus’ atoning work on the cross? Did Jesus not absorb the Father’s wrath stored up for sinners so that the Father could justly pardon them? It sounds as though you are advocating a kind of works righteousness – the basis of acceptance with God being adherence to a moral code modeled by Jesus. If so this is a grievous error and a departure from the true biblical gospel.

  • Vynette

    Chase and Josh,Since the time of Jesus, the world has been divided into two. The barriers of division have not been religion or race, speech or colour. They are spiritual and invisible. One the one side, there is the New Creation, the New World of Light founded on the teachings of Jesus, where membership is confined to the seekers of truth, those who are obedient to the will of the Creator, and those who do not serve self.On the other side is the Old Creation, the Old World of Darkness inhabited by the selfish, the manipulators, the deceitful, the self-righteous hypocrites, etcetera, etcetera. Jesus said that “many will come from the east and the west, and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven…” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were not ‘Christians’, yet will enter the Kingdom. So also will many others who do not wear the correct name-tag. Perhaps they even wear another name-tag.It is not by the simple adoption of any name that one becomes a Christian, but by the living of a ‘christ-like’ life – and a higher authority will make that judgement call, not us.I have already stated my position on the ‘works’ referred to by Paul, and that mere ‘belief’ in doctrines developed in the spirit of pagan/gentile theology, such as the Trinity and the Miraculous Incarnation, will achieve nothing and save no-one.

  • Chase

    The New World of light is not only founded in the teachings of Jesus. For if He is not God, He is a horrible teacher. It is founded on His teaching and deity. Don’t get me wrong, there is a wide road of people who love His teaching and are kind, but deny His deity, they simply are not living in a new workd of light as they are an affront to His claim of Godness.

  • Vynette

    Chase,Jesus did not claim to be God. Of Jesus the apostles taught:That he was God’s ‘anointed’ who would one day sit on the throne of David and rule over the Kingdom of God on earth.That he was ‘anointed’ with full power and authority to speak and act in the name of the Father and to perform the specific tasks spoken of by Isaiah the prophet (Is.61).That he was the ‘son’ of God by human parentage (John 1:34, 45, 49) though not the son of Joseph as commonly supposed at the time (Matt. 1:25).That he was a ‘god’ in the sense in which he used it himself, that is, a man “unto whom the word of God came.” (John 10:34) On his reasoning, Moses and the prophets were also ‘gods’.That he was the ‘only-begotten’ of God because he was the only-resurrected, not because he was born to a virgin.That his ‘sonship’ of God refers to a purely ‘ethical’ relationship.The doctrines that have been constructed around the personality of Jesus make it appear that it is Jesus’ value in the sight of humanity that is important, whereas his true value is value in the sight of God.

  • Chase

    Vynette, I am grieved to say that is heterodoxy. John 831-59 is but one clear reference to Jesus’ claim to be God. The reason they picked up stones to stone him was becasue He was claiming to be the Iam. The deity of Christ is clearly foundational orthodoxy. His claim of this is latent throughout the Gospels. You cannot have a passionless belief in this and be a Christian, but also, you cannot passionately believe Jesus is something less than God and truly be a Christian. God the Son, came to redeem creation, morespecifically to redeem us from the Father’s wrath against us. This is true whether or not anyone believes it

  • Chase

    Also, Jesus, the Gospels speak, was born of a virgin, not a maiden, see Luke 1:33-35.

  • Chase

    Now I get it Vynette, you’re trying to sell a book. Please come to repentance, or your silver will perish with you.

  • Josh

    Vynette,You said: “Jesus did not claim to be God.”Jesus said:”Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)”Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” (John 17:5)”Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)”Your sins are forgiven.” (Matt. 9:2, Luke 7:48, etc.)John the Apostle said:”In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1)I’m afraid you have been a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If you do not believe Jesus is God, you cannot be a Christian. I pray that you will embrace Jesus for who he really is, for Jesus himself says, “If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be,you will indeed die in your sins.” (John 8:24)

  • Vynette

    That Jerusalem was totally convulsed by the appearance of Jesus is a figment of theological imagination. A man who was considered in his own time as a madman and a blasphemer would not be likely to take an immediate grip on popular imagination. The picture of the pathetically small handful of people lamenting the death of their leader on a Roman stake – the scriptural position – is at odds with the picture existing in current popular imagination.It does not seem to be generally appreciated that Jesus expected a slow, almost imperceptible spread of his teachings, an attitude consistent with the picture of a man whose principles are fixed, whose views are long and whose will is determined.Why am I stating the obvious here? Firstly, I have patience, just as he had. Secondly, as a person who has been branded with every imaginable name, including that of ‘Antichrist, I feel myself to be in the very best company – the company of one who was branded with similar names in his own time.

  • Anonymous

    Criticism coming from our evangelical brothers is a good thing coz it shows that even tho they don’t really understand, still they care and they do love.One problem that evangelicals face tho is that many of the stalwarts of the movement do not toe the official line as to what evangelicals “most essentially must believe” as defined in one of the early comments above.Leaders such as Clark Pinnock, John Stott and C.S. Lewis would be some that have been variously so accused by their own colleagues, but in fact there are many others. Certainly, the diversity of views (on what is essential doctrine) amongst the rank and file of those who consider themselves evangelical is even braoder.On institutionality, imo one of the areas where the authority of scripture has been least applied by evangelicalism is in the compromise of the gospel by wedding it to institutuionalism.But, as we are all followers of Jesus and we all have been given the ministry of reconciliation as our mission, let us begin, do, and end in the love of Jesus that binds us in His Body.

  • RobeFRe

    If Jesus had only lived a perfect life and died we would still be without Hope–it is His resurrection and ascendance into Heaven which gives us Hope. It is the presence of His Holy Spirit that envigours us and guides us and chides us when we fail to do all those good things we think we ought to do in order to be good Christians. As a Christian I have been aware of more sin in my life than before I was a Christian, thak god He is a forgiving God-a God of Second Chances.The thing about the OT Characters is that they, the ones venerated as Fathers and Kings of the faith, do seem to represent the passive act of faith in an all powerful generous God who accomplishes His will whether they (or we) agree with Him or not. Individually, it has worked out better for those (us) who listen hear confess and obey. The only thing I inherited from Adam was death and a gene code.Orthodxy(Greek, Syrian, Celtic, Colptic) seems to rely on an anathematic contention to Tony, the Oral Tradition of the–I am tempted to say preexisting–Church.

  • The Hedonese

    Adam Omelianchuk, thanks fr a very balanced and enlightening comment there :)

  • hdiehl

    Having just sat in a class taught by Dave and Jon Ferguson at Wheaton College, I wonder what reality Keller lives in? I respect Keller, but he seems to be drifting in to some bizarre neo-reformed resurgent fundamentalism.


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