Repost from October, 2006: Tim Keller on Emergent

Tim 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.

  • NateW

    Hey Tony. I too have a lot of respect for Keller, but tend to agree that these statements are less than generous. On Desiring God I listened to a conversation between him and Piper recently that made my skin crawl a bit. The topic was “Could you have been friends with C.S. Lewis?” They both have tremendous respect for Lewis, but neither was sure that they could “be friends” with him because of doctrinal differences, with Keller saying that Lewis himself was very “generous, sometimes TOO generous” towards those he interacted with. Really it seemed to break down for Piper when he read that Lewis had very little regard for the “God of Jonathan Edwards.”

    I just can’t understand this idea of refusing to be “friends” with somebody just because they have doctrinal ideas that you can’t fit within your box of orthodoxy.

    Again though, I do have tremendous respect for Keller (and Piper has played a key role, for his part, in my spiritual development). I don’t agree with either of them 100% but I’d hope that we could be friends anyway.

    Also, it kind of bugs me that he jumps on “emergent” Christians for not “starting churches.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but it was never the extent of the movement to break away and form its own new churches, but to be a new voice arising within and continuing to reform the churches that already are, right?


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