Why? February 6, 2012

I was distressed over some stuff Macdonald and Driscoll recently said, and many of you wrote and asked what I thought. I did write one post but then, after showing it to a few friends, thought it wasn’t right. Then John Piper used his opening remarks at his Desiring God Conference to make claims about a masculine Christianity, and I was pressed into posting his remarks — which I thought were being widely ignored and not read — but I was quite aware of what kind of response it would draw. It leads me this question and I really would like each of us to ponder our answer carefully:

Why do statements and claims made by John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Albert Mohler set off such a barrage of emotions and visceral responses and bold counter-statements, but when Tim Keller, who basically believes the same things, teaches or writes similar things there is a completely different response?


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  • Paul W

    As something of an interested outsider to Evangelicalism I’ve wondered the same.

    I’ve assumed it has something to do with tone. Piper, Driscoll and Mohler seem a little high strung and come off a bit like . . . well . . (with all due apologies) . . . blowhards. Keller’s tone is always irenic and he really doesn’t push he beliefs/stances which would alienate his audience (e.g., women in ordained leadership roles).

  • Darren

    @Paul W

    I have to agree with you and think there is a lot of truth to “tone” being a factor.

    As the old adage says, “It is not what we say but how we say it.”

  • DB

    I’m not particularly enamored with Tim Keller either but I do acknowledge the difference in response you mention. It is something to do with tone and the way it is constructed. This is just a reminder that it isn’t only what we say, it is very much how it is said that reveals what is in a person’s heart.

  • I have read only a little of Keller but really like his book on marriage. I would agree that his tone is very important. But also he does not seem to approach these issues as settled for all time. When Kathy Keller writes about gender in the book on marriages she makes it very clear (and I think she might be more conservative than he on this issue) that scripture has not defined particular roles for males and females. That those roles are different for each couple and throughout history. But there still needs to be a sense of women submitting to their husbands and husband loving their wives.

    Piper does not seem to get that variability is ok. Driscoll has said that men that stay home with kids should be up for church discipline. Keller said there was a period in their marriage when he did most of the housework and child care because Kathy was working full time supporting the family while he was doing ministry activities.

    So theologically they may be similar. Sociologically they are miles apart.

  • For me it is both tone/posture, as well as the emphasis and centrality he places on certain topics. Perhaps it is simply diplomacy, but it goes a long way.

  • Deets

    I think tone is the issue. But before tone is the attitude. I read Keller and hear a humility, the kind of humility that emphasizes that a husband must love his wife as Christ loves the church. When I hear Driscoll and Mohler speak or read their writings I hear a statement about weak Christians needing to get out of the way so strong men can tell you that women do need to submit to their husbands.

    Attitude matters because it dictates the tone and the receivability of the message.

  • For the most part, I think it is his tone and humility. That same tone and humility seems to come through again and again on a variety of subjects.

  • Susan N.

    I echo DB (#3) — I’m not particularly enamored with Tim Keller or Kathy Keller, either, on the topic of marriage and gender roles. What I will say is that, because I differ with them on this topic, I might still be inclined to listen to them on other topics (i.e., ‘Ministries of Mercy’). John Piper, and especially Mark Driscoll, have lost me altogether in their obnoxious delivery. I’m not sure that I can rightly call myself an evangelical (in the proper, denominational definition of the term) anymore, but I still find great value in Scot McKnight’s books and blog, as well. Though I fear at times what a huge pain in the arse I and my opinions must be to many “regulars” at the JC blog…I do try not to be too obnoxious.

  • RJS


    I think it is more than tone, although tone is part of it.

    Keller appears to listen and respond in a much more genuine fashion. He isn’t standing on a lot of secondary issues as absolutely settled and beyond discussion.

    If he is as set on “secondary” issues as Mohler, Piper, and Driscoll, he appears to be willing to acknowledge that they are secondary and cooperate with people who disagree.

    He does not come across as intent on control in the fashion that Driscoll, Piper, and Mohler are.

    I really liked his book “The Reason for God” – but I’ve been less impressed with some of his other writings, mostly because of the deep “reformed” take on interpretation.

    The people he disciples and sends out are likewise motivated by primary issues, not secondary issues.

    I am uncomfortable with Keller’s view on women in ministry, but when interacting with him – through his writing or the one time I met him I did not/do not feel the disrespect that Mohler, Driscoll, and even Piper exude. And that I say from my perspective as a woman and a scholar/thinker.

  • Dan Masshardt

    Others have made some great comments about tone and humility.

    Also, he is deferential in debate and other sticky subjects, in that he often refers to other thinkers and writers who he believes have solid views. But If you disagree with that other person, you can still like Keller.

    Also, his context is important. New York City and many people not already open to real Christianity there leads to a different approach.

    Being brash would probably be ineffective for him there and his approach carries through.

    If we see someone as humble and we think they’re mistaken, we forgive. If someone is seen as cocky and wrong, we tend to dismiss.

  • Matt

    RJS sums it up very well, I think.

  • Andy W.

    I think a big difference is the lack of “over-the-top” sound bite comments form Keller. He comes across as fair and largely even handed. Piper and Driscoll on the other hand have a long list of “over-the-top” comments. People feel compelled to respond to “over-the-top” comments.

  • Phil N

    I agree with #4. I’ve also heard a marriage seminar podcast from the Keller’s, and for all practical terms they treat each other as equals. The main area of submission from my memory, was relying on the HS leading Tim to plant the church.

    I also agree that its about posture, tone, control and secondary issues.

  • Karl

    I think RJS nailed it in #9. Keller’s humble tone is a big part of it, but not all. The treatment of secondary issues as secondary, an apparent willingness to listen and genuinely engage with people who don’t see things his way, and actually seeming like he respects and cares about other people, puts Keller in a different category for me than a Driscoll or Piper.

    When I disagree with someone on a theological issue, I am usually far more put off if they have an arrogant dogmatic attitude, than I am by the content of their differing theological beliefs.

  • There is a difference between sharing and shouting. Keller seems to “share” his convictions with a sense of carefulness, modesty and on a few occasions has said “this is my interpretation.” I can hang with someone I disagree whose disposition is like that.

    The other fellas “shout” their convictions with a style of exaggerating the other-sides motives, combativeness, and often declaring that their is no room for interpretation because what they preach comes “directly out of God’s mouth.” I’d have a hard time enjoying a cup of coffee with someone that approaches communication like that.

  • Alan K

    Easy. Keller is so much more pastoral than Driscoll, Piper and Mohler.

  • RJS

    Two more things to add to #9.

    I can model my interaction with Keller’s thinking on the way he interacts with others – or at least the way he appears to interact with others. He quotes people like NT Wright quite a bit although I am sure that he disagrees with him in significant areas. He primarily, but not exclusively, highlights agreements and interacts in a positive fashion.

    I don’t think that people mentored by Keller would throw a fit if he invited someone like Rick Warren to speak at an event he sponsored.

    I could be wrong about some of this (this comment and my previous one) because I don’t know Keller and can only really go by public impressions.

    The point that he doesn’t give over-the-top sound-bite ammunition is another important part of the reason he gets such a different reaction.

  • Well, I am enamored with Keller, so much so I lanched a fan page 🙂 Keller is masterful in communicating in a nuanced manner, to a pluralistic society, and knows we all have to get along! The other guys don’t, at least in their rhetorics. And, sadly, there’s a larger audience among evangelicals that’ll buy the ‘masculine’ Christianity.

  • T

    I agree with much of what has been said. In addition I wonder this: Would Keller have actually said what Piper did about “masculine” Christianity? I doubt it. IMO, it just isn’t a bone he felt the need to pick. And that’s not just tone, but substance. To me, even though Keller is a complementarian, I don’t think he looks at the world and sees a great need to identify Christianity as more masculine than feminine and then go on to state the so-called characteristics of masculine Christianity. The whole thing just strikes me as counter to Keller’s MO.

    I think Piper and Driscoll see masculinity differently from Keller, and, further, I think they both see it as under more serious attack. They are thereby more defensive and aggressive in trying to protect it. I could be mistaken, but I think Keller also sees potential for harm in “defending” masculinity in a way that Piper and Driscoll do not. He’s just more judicious in his use of words in general.

  • This is a fascinating question. Since I haven’t read Keller’s book on marriage, my only source for his views on women in ministry is what he posts on The Gospel Coalition website or what other online sources might publicize. While I’m aware that Keller holds the same complementarian views as Piper and Driscoll and has written about marriage on both the TGC website and in his book, I don’t recall him saying anything as radical as “Christianity has a masculine feel” (Piper) or making a specific view of masculinity a primary aspect of his ministry (Driscoll).

    If I’m wrong on this (and I certainly could be), I would be interested in specific examples in which he makes masculinity and femininity essential aspects of the Gospel. If he doesn’t do this the way Piper and Driscoll do, it may be one reason why people (myself included) respond differently to him. If he does, maybe it just all comes down to a difference in style and presentation.

  • Steve Sherwood

    I have always told myself, and often others, that Keller was the Gospel Coalition guy I liked and thought I could sit down with and have a good talk. I recently heard him speak twice at a conference I was attending (not a GC conference). I was struck with how similar to Piper he sounded. He had several points I liked very much, but I was surprised at how similar to the other GC guys he sounded. I’d wondered to myself if the issue was how he writes vs. how he speaks or if I’d just wanted him to be the Gospel Coalition guy who was different.

  • Richard

    Keller might be a complementation but I’d be surprised if he lined up with Driscoll and Piper on this.

    Much the same could be asked of why evangelicals flamed out of control over Bell who’s thinking paralleled much of Keller’s eschatological musings.

  • Joe Canner

    I have not read Keller on marriage and gender issues, but I know that he is fairly open-minded on the issue of origins (allowing for the possibility of theistic evolution). This would put him at odds with (at least) Albert Mohler, and would make me more likely to take him seriously on other issues.

  • Along with all the above I’ll add that living on the rim of the world and hanging with the people I do it tends to be about influence. Around here it’s Driscoll who I hear quoted and referred to most, then Piper, Keller is a distant third voice and MacDonald is hardly a whisper. For me personally it seems like Driscoll and Piper toss out comments like grenades but Keller seems less reactionary and less bombastic. Haven’t met any of them but a good friend went head to head with Driscoll in the U.K. and the story of that experience alone makes me cringe now when anyone I know quotes MD.

  • MatthewS

    from #17, “I can model my interaction with Keller’s thinking on the way he interacts with others…”

    The golden rule: rarer than gold in so much discourse. Nobody is perfect with this but perhaps in general (not always) the more that people perceive someone making a fair attempt at it the more receptive they tend to be to playing along.

  • John W Frye

    Along with Keller’s tone, ability to keep secondary issues secondary, his own comfort as a man who does not have to let others know he’s ‘masculine’ (unlike Piper, Driscoll and Mohler), I would add Keller’s deep heart for those who need Jesus in his city. Keller is a devoted *missional* pastor and the Spirit of Jesus causes Keller to be approachable, warm rather than adversarial, rejecting.

  • Clay Knick

    Keller is irenic, the others are not. And I’ve pretty much put the others (Piper, Driscoll, etc.) on my ignore list. There are only so many people I can read, follow, & show interest in. When there are people like N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, Phil Yancey, and so many others writing, why do I want to spend precious time paying attention to others?

  • Tom Howard

    When you read Roger Olson’s and parse a bit Scot and fairly many of the others, there is a “style” difference….

    Roger Olson recently blogged….”So long as Calvinists keep their Calvinism among themselves, in their confessionally Reformed contexts, I am not going to go on any crusade to argue against it. My crusade against Calvinism (if that’s what it is) is ONLY because Calvinism is being widely promoted in non-Reformed contexts as the one and only truly evangelical theology.”

    I use his quote to illustrate a point and you can replace any issue for the word Calvinism above….you can be declarative and firm about position….but you do not have to be old time car salesman persuasive in the “it is my way or the highway” style…

    so I agree that it is the tone and the perceived integrity in actually wanting to dialogue on a topic or proclaim loudly that your understanding is the only understanding.

  • I think it has as much to do with positioning as it does with tone. Who is the intended audience? Who are the implicit bad guys? Who are the implicit good guys? Piper is almost always speaking to conservative Reformed Christians, and the bad guy is often the conservative non-Reformed Christian. Keller, on the other hand, assumes a liberal urban audience. If Keller has a bad guy, it is usually “us” in general from the perspective of theological anthropology. When he’s critiquing opposing views, it is almost always a non-Christian perspective that is under attack. In contrast, when he is talking about matters that are doctrinally divisive, I see him consistently shifting to a more defensive approach. What I don’t see him do is pick fights with other Christians. In contrast, I feel as though Piper picks a fight with anyone that deviates in the slightest way from his views.

  • Tom Howard

    ah, #26 Irenic..such a nice and civil word….wish I had remembered and used it…

  • In addition to all of the good points made so far, I would add that Keller does not seem to have the fundamentalist, puritanical slant or emphasis in his Reformed theology that the others mentioned do. I believe this contributes to both the content and tone of his teaching enough to say that he is not teaching essentially the same thing as the others.

  • Rick

    I would agree with much of what has already been said here, namely that Keller’s tone and writings tell us much about the man, including his humility and intellect.

    I also wonder if their differing contexts play a role. Keller, Piper, and Driscoll a primarily dealing with different congregational settings, with some different issues and concerns. However, since they all have wider followings, some of those concerns get heard in a variety of communities, across the country and around the world. Keller’s would be the one that would more easily be accepted across the spectrum of communities.

  • At least three reasons…

    Keller holds positions the others don’t: age of the earth, more sanguine on evolutionary processes superintended by God, etc.

    Keller has a much calmer demeanor

    Keller wears turtlenecks

  • Terri

    I have been thinking the same thing all weekend and it seems to me there is some level of split between comps at least on a practical level. I’ve been a student at DTS for (too many) years and have always felt very comfortable there. It is obviously a squarely complementarian institution but I have experienced a high degree of respect and inclusion from professors and students alike. (I could give many examples, but the biggest is my stint as an adjunct in the NT for a year or so and the way I was accepted by both the faculty and my mainly male students.) On the other hand, I have had the opposite experience in other places where the Piper/Grudem type of thought is more prevalent. (Again, details would be tedious, but a general lack of respect for women, and a level of suspicion towards both me and my husband,an exclusion from ministry, etc). So in my experience there seems to be a way to put into practice comp principles that includes a respect for women and an inclusion of them in kingdom work that possibly Keller and others represent. I wish we could see more interaction or response from that “side” of things. I wonder if there are more complementarians that disagree with the notion of a “masculine Christianity” than we might think?

  • David Cooke

    I think it is context as well. Keller is a master of contextualization of the Gospel in his communication. A Midwest and Northwest context are very different. And, Keller just strikes me as a nicer, more gracious person. I appreciate all of them and what they contribute to the conversation.

  • Brandon

    Humility. Perception is king and most people perceive Keller as humble when the others are not.

  • I believe it has to do with the use of particular words, phrases and the tone of the language used. Piper, Driscoll say many things bluntly and sometimes overstate the case, without qualifications (not always but sometimes). Mohler is reacted against merely because of his association with the SBC 🙂 Kidding … I’m not sure on Mohler actually. Regardless, certain words and phrases are inflammatory and set people off, not always intentionally though. Other words and phrases are mild and they tend to tone down the rhetoric and thus the emotive responses. Keller is also much more mild-mannered than the rest and speaks like professorially. I also perceive Keller doesn’t speak to the same issues as much as Piper, Driscoll, Mohler. Keller believes the same things, but it’s not a part of his regular teaching IMHO, though he does speak to them to be sure.

  • Albion

    I’ll be interested to hear how Keller responds to Piper on this issue. I think he’s in a pretty difficult place because, doctrinally, he and the TGC folks are indistinguishable but as others have said, TGC tends to make minors into majors. Keller, I think, resists this.

    There’s a youtube video of Keller, Piper and Carson talking about preaching and Piper is strenuously urging that the doctrine of hell should be a central focus of preaching. My recollection is that Keller nods in agreement without saying much but I don’t think he does anything like Piper in his preaching. I doubt he agrees with Piper on masculine Christianity either but he’s not the kind of guy who will say Piper is wrong. The question is, should he?

  • I think this overwhelming response says something important about how we should relate to one another and something important about John 17 and how people will know us by the love we show to one another.

    Pretty much everyone agrees that Keller believes relatively the same things as Piper and Driscoll, but he relates them differently, holds his own views more humbly (and has a different context so understands contextualization/communication differently).

    As as a crowd that mostly disagrees with those view, almost all of use are very willing to hear him out and give him the benefit of the doubt.

    Something that very few of us here are willing to give Piper or Driscoll.

  • garver

    I’d echo everything said above about humility and ethos. And one can be a (soft) complementarian without embracing a “masculine Christianity”.

    Also, practically speaking, there are women in visible positions of leadership all over Keller’s church, Redeemer NYC. While he may be a complementarian, he is a very generous complementarian who understands and accepts that the NT pushes against overly restricted limits on the ministry of women. And he embraces this in a way that, more often than not, puts him at odds with his wider denominational family in the PCA.

  • I agree it is more than tone.

    Keller has gracious and right focus on unity around the gospel and a subsequent humility on isssues of adiaphora (‘indfference’ not unimportance).

    This gracious unity around the gospel has been what has held evangelicalism together – without it the path leads to endless division and increasing bad feeling. It seems to me that it is the latter path that is being taken and that grieves me. Can you see someone like John Stott fighting over such issues? Keller stands out because he has that sort of wisdom and grace and ‘impulse to unity’.

    Piper and Driscoll and others seem to be deliberately ‘upping the ante’ on gender by including it in the character of a ‘masculine’ God.

    Is this closely linked with attempts to connect the subordination of women to men in the eternal subordination of the Son to the Father – an issue Kevin Giles has tackled and sees parallels to Arianism.

  • James

    Keller comes across as a pastor who wants his listeners to understand the gospel and be transformed. Mohler, as a fellow SBCer I feel at liberty to say this, come across as some sort of “heresy hunter”. Maybe they are jaded from the liberal/conservative fights and the tireless struggle to form a monolithic evangelicalism. His tone is usually negative and nearly derogatory. Whereas Keller presents himself as a pastor not a fighter.

  • andrew

    phenomenal comments. i’m in total agreement.

    i cannot recall a time where i scanned a comment section and saw such overwhelming agreement. i believe it clearly speaks to the integrity (real or perceived) of mr. keller.

    i would love to see wright, mcknight, and keller engage in dialogue on a regular basis.

  • I think it is an issue of grace and emotion. Driscoll presents himself in a way which makes him unassailable and infallible. I could not picture myself sitting down and discussing the issues with him and feeling heard. With Keller I feel that he would approach someone who disagreed with grace. They might disagree but I at least feel, and I could be wrong, that Keller would acknowledge that God-fearing Christians might come down on different sides of the issue. Driscoll however, would say that those who disagree with him are all wrong.

  • Thanks for your post. I happen to respect all three men and their passion for the church and theological perspectives mostly line up with my view of Christ. However, I have been distancing myself from Piper, Driscoll and other neoCalvinist since I read Mere Christianity 3 years ago. This has taken me from a hard right political views and an us against them attitude to finding ways to love and embrace the diversity of the church and consequentially the lost world. I think of the three men mentioned Keller understands that diversity and thrives from a front end loaded compassion. I think we need to look at the face of God in Jesus first as the compassionate suffering savior before we equate the whole counsel of scripture (the law) and apostolic teaching (tradition) and precepts (specific contextual practices). Sadly my brothers Dricoll and Piper seem to start with the written word rather than the living Word. Jesus is a relationship, not a book.

  • Jon G

    Once Keller was asked about his wealth of knowledge. This was his response and I’ve never forgotten it and often try to follow it (try!):

    “If you read one expert, you become a clone. If you read two experts, you become confused. If you read ten experts, you begin to form your own voice. And if you read 300 experts, you become wise and develop your own voice.”

    I have listened to, literally, hundreds of Keller sermons as well as Driscoll. The big differences are the fervor for which each holds to their position (Keller holds it loosely, Driscoll chokes the life out of it) and their ability to thoroughly research a claim before making it (Driscoll comes across as very one-sided whereas Keller studies a number of opposing views before landing on one).

    Here’s Keller on Complementarianism (sorry you have to buy it to hear) and at the 7 1/2-minute mark he says, about this subject…http://sermons.redeemer.com/store/index.cfm?fuseaction=product.display&Product_ID=17835

    “One of the main ways in which the Church is the Church – on of the main ways the Church shows the glory of who Jesus is – is that inside the Church poeple can get along who outside the Church can not.”

    Now, does anybody think that Piper or Driscoll get along with others inside the Church?

    There’s your difference in a nut shell.

  • Richard


    Maybe we’re discussing the wrong question here – what satisfaction will there be in answering ‘why’? Maybe it’d be better for us to wrestle with “What loving actions and words will we respond with” or “Who should be around the table to actually have good, honest conversations about these things” or “What do we do when pastors begin majoring in the minors?”


  • Can I also recommend having a read of the Cape Town Commitment on men and women in partnership – a much needed appeal for unity in the midst of difference – section IIF.3:

    Has another gracious evangelical’s tone throughout the document – Chris Wright.


  • AMB

    Piper and Driscoll can tend to turn people off to the very views they uphold because of the tone and attitude they display. In arguing for their views they seem rather to invalidate them by their posture.

    Tim Keller is someone who demonstrates that his views don’t have to be pompous or bigoted. His tone to me demonstrates that their might be some validity to his perspective.

    This doesn’t mean that nice and humble people are always right. Yet inherent with Christian beliefs is that we would be humble, and humility seems to shine through with Tim.

  • Craig

    Agree with lots of earlier comments – esp Irenic (feel compelled to be more irenic). From what I’ve seen of Keller he seems happier in his own skin and less troubled by whatever ‘demons’ the other guys mentioned seem to be struggling with (and yes I know there’s a lot of comments about ‘shadow self’ flying about out there). As such there is a maturity that lets you disagree with some of his points whilst accepting others and loving the guy. My prayer is as Sojourners blog put it the likes of Keller could be the ‘elephant’ to Driscoll, helping him mature. http://production.sojo.net/blogs/2012/01/27/why-mark-driscoll-needs-elephant#sojo-comments

  • That’s a great question, Scot. It seems to me that to expand on the “tone” theme here, there’s a certain assumption about the wider set of circumstances within which Piper, Driscoll, and Mohler make their comments. Their comments and positions on issues seem to be part of a wider culture war, advancing the neo-fundamentalist cause. So, all positions on gender roles, justification, creation, etc., all are part of this wider cause. They’re all equally make or break issues.

    I think their (mostly younger, male) followers feel the need to agree enthusiastically with them to show their support for the effort, and when others question their statements, they attack ferociously.

    I think that Keller’s posture is somewhat different. He seems to have arrived at these conclusions because he’s convinced they’re right, but doesn’t feel that they have to be held as part of a wider “war effort” to beat back egalitarians/progressives/missional Christians.

    It seems to me that the feeling when Piper, et al, speak, there’s a feeling that there’s a lot at stake–the entire effort is at stake. They’re not throwing something out there to take up and consider. They’re putting stakes in the ground. You’re either with us or against us.

    Further, Piper, Driscoll, Mohler have different communication styles than Keller. They state things strongly and provocatively, which can often be effective. It can also be destructive.

  • Jon G

    I agree with Andrew in #42. Scot, any possibility of starting to discuss these things with Keller? It could prove to be a wonderfully reconciliatory undergoing for the Protestant church…

  • Bradm

    While I agree with the comments about Keller’s tone and his tendency to not push secondary issues, there are theological differences between Keller and the rest. I’ve always found Piper’s presentation of the gospel to be very individualistic and personal-salvation-focused. I’ve found Keller’s to be more holistic and focused on the restoration of all of creation.

  • I am a female. I am half the body of Christ. I am not a “secondary” issue. When you make me one, you lessen my importance to the Kingdom of God and what I can contribute. I lose, the Church loses, and the world loses. It doesn’t matter if you say it nicely or rudely. Same result.

  • Percival

    Having meant Piper and his family, I got the feeling that he is bemused by human behavior. He lives in his books, ideas, and his writings. People, on the other hand, seem to be a disorderly kind of mystery to him. Keller, however, seems to understand people.

    While Piper comes across as heavy-handed, he may actually just be clumsy. He may not be the bully that some here make him out to be. He may just be socially inept and clueless about the social ramifications of his words.

    I’m trying to be somewhat sympathetic because his wife is such a nice lady. You would all like her immensely, I’m sure. I also believe that God is very fond of John P, so we should keep that in mind, too.

  • Scot,
    Thank you for the question.

    Everyone else,
    Thank you for your answers. This is a really fun and spiritually provoking conversation.

  • I used to go to and work at Keller’s church in NYC, so I can honestly say that, although I disagree with him and Kathy on gender issues, I respect the way in which they hold their opinions. Kathy does tend to be less diplomatic than Tim, but I do think they essentially agree on these issues.

    I used Tim Keller as an example of Christian humility last year, and I could do that even though I disagree with him. THAT is why he is tolerated more, at least by me. http://www.lauraziesel.com/2011/05/nyc-humility-and-unity.html I don’t think Piper, Driscoll, or Mohler would have responded to public, aggressive confrontation (described in my blog post) in the same way.

  • I may be wrong, but the original question sounds to me as if it assumes divisions between followers of Christ based primarily on what ‘we’ believe as against what ‘they’ believe. Because Tim Keller is thought to believe roughly the same things as John Piper, say, then people are expected to respond the same way to them both, appears to be the underlying thought.

    Personally, I prefer to see things in terms of whether I can learn from someone. Sometimes, a debate with a person who believes different things to me is much more fruitful than talking to someone whose views are similar to mine.

    But if someone refuses to engage with issues or with different viewpoints, and just shouts their own opinions, then there is no contact and no learning opportunity. Keller says things in a way that allows others to learn from him, I think, whilst Piper just blindly pushes his own views. This difference is expressed, of course, in tone and attitude, as many commenters have said, but I think it goes beyond that.

    The other (more) important difference lies in the pastoral harm that their public statements cause, but that’s a different comment.

  • KEP

    Wow, it is hard to argue with so many consistent comments, about Keller as well as the others. From culture wars, to tone, to dissecting primary and so-called secondary issues … Driscoll and Mohler have certainly distinguished themselves.

    The good Dean Mohler caught our attention again recently. After listening to Norman Geisler, he let go a fellow most NT people highly respect … Mike Licona’s work on resurrection was masterful, and Mohler seemed to miss the point. Mohler is tasked to protect the SBC from drift, but Manu of usnfelt his attention was misplaced … So Brother Al seems to have earned some ire in the larger church … an ire that may within his circles earn him a badge of courage.

    Driscoll has not really caught the attention of scholar/thinkers in the way Keller has; and Piper’s leadership may indeed be due to his ability to make an argument with words that inflame hearts … one way or another. This audience mostly disagrees; but the target audience of Driscoll and Piper views both as heroes.

    In the end, I am hard pressed to suggest mean or unChristlike motives to any of them (even if I would find Mohler hard to work with). But, while I don’t think turtlenecks make the man, many of us would consider letting someone with the heart of Keller pastor us and our families. Clearly Piper and Driscoll are reflecting on the shifting rolls of younger males in our culture, a drift many of us on all side of the gender question are worried about. But their approach leaves much tonbe desired … even by those of us that might wish that *some* males in our churches would step up and be the kind of men that would help grow the church.

    How does Wayne Grudem get such a pass in this discussion?

  • KEP

    Somehow I knew I should have fired up my bluetooth keyboard for my iPad. Fingers on a touch screen can often getting sloppy. . And I *love* my iPad.

  • J.L. Schafer

    Although Piper and Keller might hold similar views on certain theological issues, I think they are quite different in their epistemology. Piper fits the modernist mold: he craves certainty, abhors doubt, pursues objectivity and propositional truth, etc. Keller seems much more comfortable with nuance, uncertainty, subjectivity, and the relational aspects of truth. Keller seems to exemplify Newbigin’s “proper confidence.” On blogs like this one, people seem to talk about theology a lot more than we talk about epistemology. But the latter is just as important, perhaps more so.

  • Jon G

    Laura #55…excellent blog post. I got chills hearing Keller’s response to the questioner in your link. I wish we could all be so humble (starting with ME!) 🙂

  • I’ve got Christian Smith’s book on my mind and I do wonder if part of all of this is due to the “independent” character of “evangelicalism.” We don’t have a teaching magisterium, no one is the Pope, and there’s no creed that necessarily governs “us.”

    Because of that strong independent impulse (which is a mixed bag, admittedly), when certain figures speak in a totalizing and final way, it feels like they’re trying to grab turf that doesn’t belong to them. It feels like they’re trying to assume a role that no one should have. Our response is, “back off!”

    And because evangelicalism has developed a serious “celebrity” culture, “fans” of those figures pile on and reinforce through tough rhetoric that figure’s right to speak authoritatively. This usually is framed in terms of “biblical authority” and the “clear teaching of Scripture.”

    The preferred, and more effective, posture is deference, offering counsel or teaching that churches, pastors, individual Christians can take up and consider. They may not agree, but the dynamics of provocation aren’t there.

    Like I said, this has good and bad implications and dynamics, but there is a range of dynamics associated with this scenario up and running.

  • OK, well, most of the above comments reflect a “live and let live” mentality. Again, most would gladly affirm the Ref/Luth statement by two pastors in the period shortly after the Reformation began, “In essentials, unity; non-essentials, liberty; all things, charity.” Our culture is not readily receptive to the directness of Piper. But before we gain up on him and collectively point to his ‘tone & attitude’ as sub-Christian, I find it helpful to give those whom we differ – space, and have us reflect on ‘our’ possible weaknesses before we point the finger at others. When Alan Bloom wrote ‘Closing of the American Mind’ he hit a nerve in which tolerance & niceness had so permeated the spirit of the young that they were no longer able to affirm truth. Now I’m not saying Piper is right in spirit or in truth, but I think we should examine our continued movement toward tolerance – both personally and collectively. There is time and place for prophetic challenge, e.g., Jeremiah. If we fail to acknowledge this, we demonstrate that we have drunk the spirit of our age. To be sure, we are instructed to get alone with all in peace (Ro 12:18), but we are also instructed, by was of example, to be open to rebuke and challenge (2 Sam 16:10). Piper believes this to be ‘an essential’ issue. He might be wrong, but if Keller is gentile and subtle, and Piper is more confrontive, this does not in itself, translate into Piper behaving badly. I leave you with this. Should we not first place ourselves before God and ask if John Piper has been sent to stir and rebuke us? This posture must be taken up FIRST, before we begin to ride the bandwagon and begin to suspect Piper’s spirituality. Myself, I find the issue complex; no final word has been spoken; therefore, I receive his rebuke as someone who has arrived at a place of conscience and conviction and pleads with us to pause and ponder. I intend to do just that. Perhaps the Lord will grant clarity.

  • Alex

    I think it is significant that with all the endorsements for DeYoung and Gilbert’s “What is the Mission of the Church?” that Keller was not one of them.
    He often marches to the beat of a different drummer, but lives as a peacemaker. Though I disagree with him on some things, I will listen to him. His lecture on justice and justification is a wakeup call to many in his reformed backyard.

  • Luke Allison

    I think Keller is more intelligent. That sounds harsh, but Driscoll represents everything I don’t enjoy about Christianity: hard-edged, “this settles it”, an extremely skewed historical and sociological perspective, conspiracies of evil behind every cultural shift, etc.
    Piper obviously has brains to spare, but he’s so intense about things that I can’t be intense about.

    Keller presents a very calm, level-headed voice and
    he seems to have read widely in the areas of philosophy and sociology, for the purpose of LEARNING, not for the purpose of deconstruction.

    I have also greatly appreciated DA Carson as a scholar, particularly his commentary on The Gospel According to John. Can’t stand him on Paul, though.

  • megan

    Can’t really add to what’s been already stated: He’s gracious and humble and conversational, he keeps the minor issues in perspective, and he seems to hold to his convictions without feeling the need to blow them up into outlandish statements like “Christianity has a masculine feel.”

    What has always, always, always puzzled me is why the Pipers and Driscolls and Mohlers of the world don’t take a page or two from Keller’s book. They tend to lapse immediately into the Col. Nathan R. Jessup “you can’t handle the truth!” defense, as though evasion of the truth would be the only reason for objecting to them–with the bonus effect of turning any disagreement into further proof of their rightness. But I wonder if they ever stop and consider why people react so negatively to them, while their TGC brother Keller is almost universally respected.

  • lamb

    As a woman, I am troubled by a couple of things here. The most blatant is that virtually all the comments on this site appear to be from men. There are a few women’s names and a few that are not specific, but the bulk are men.

    What is going on that women can’t even read and respond to a post like this, or think about the issues? I think many have been intimidated by the Driscoll-types into silence.

    While I do agree that tone and attitude have a lot to do with the difference between the various men, I think there is another, deeper level at work. A number of comments mention that Keller distinguishes this as a secondary issue, while the others do not, treating it as primary. They do treat it as primary, yet they state that it is secondary (I don’t have a quote to hand, so if someone can post one that would be great). This kind of double-talk further confuses the issue. Women under the complementarian framework are given a lot of double-talk, “equal but subordinate” being the most noticeable. That kind of poor logic and sleight-of-vocabulary move makes me question the speaker’s knowledge and motive both.

    That leads to my final thought: the motives. When I listened to or read (past–because I don’t any more) to Piper, Mohler, or Driscoll, I often questioned their motives for promoting female subordination. Mostly it seems to be about preserving male power, since everything in their construct is geared to keep women under male control. Women as a class seem to be, for them, ordained to serve male need. Again here the vocabulary thing happens: serving (what women do) and loving (what men do) are presented as the same, though clearly they are not.

    Keller, on the other hand, does not come across as pursuing power. I’m not sure where he is on the double-speak because I haven’t listened enough.

    So, I agree that tone and attitude are the surface issues that provoke different reactions to these men. I also think that they ways they go about presenting their positions and the purposes they reveal in promoting their views also has a lot to do with how I, at least, respond to them.

  • When I’ve written about the comments of Mohler (more a few years ago than recently) and Driscoll and Piper (so far only once each, but those quite recently) in the past, I’ve found myself wondering if the ferocity of their comments betrays a deep-seated fear of some kind or another. For example, that masculinity may not truly be as innate as they are convinced it has to be for the Bible to be true (given how they interpret the Bible).

    While I would confess to having FAR less exposure to Keller, such exposure as I’ve had has never led me to ask that same question. Whatever his fears, he may well be hiding them better.

  • Rick

    Andrew #43-

    “Driscoll however, would say that those who disagree with him are all wrong.”

    Although it would depend on the issue, I think this perception of Driscoll is a bit wrong, partly because of his own doing. However, when you see who is associates with, you find that he is not a strict on doctrinal issues as you think. He may think you are wrong (again, depending on the issue), but that does not mean is does not recognize it as secondary, and thus still considers you a brother (or sister) in Christ.

  • keller hasn’t written a 10 commandments of gender whereas piper’s comments read like a stone tablet.

    i like this take on things ~ http://kathyescobar.com/2012/02/03/plant-new-trees/

    let’s leave room for the holy spirit sir,

  • Nathan R Topping

    I think that @adamshields has it right. sociologically they are very far apart. Beyond this their belief are similar yet Keller seems to be dependent on hope while the others hold focusprimarily on the negative: who us in/who is it. The power for Keller seems to remain God’s, while the others enjoy the distribution and manipulation of it. It is a scary thing that their voice and influence is so prominent. Scary and sad indeed.

  • Well, I am enamored with Keller, so much so I lanched a fan page 🙂 Keller is masterful in communicating in a nuanced manner, to a pluralistic society, and knows we all have to get along! The other guys don’t, at least in their rhetorics. And, sadly, there’s a larger audience among evangelicals that’ll buy the ‘masculine’ Christianity

  • Karl

    lamb @67, I join you in wishing more women would read and comment here in general, and on this post particularly. But don’t miss the fact that RJS is a woman and frequent contributor, and that she contributed maybe the best post in this thread, one that has been echoed or referred to by many of the male commenters.

  • Diane

    Lamb 67,

    Men predominate as commentators on this blog across the board. I don’t know why. I persist in throwing my thoughts in and speaking from a consciously female social location–all we can do is keep talking. I appreciate the women on the list who speak out.

  • If I might use an over-used slogan: “epistemic humility” captures Keller very well. I would totally agree w/ RJS (#9) & JL Schafer (#60): Some awareness of secondary issues could possibly create space for partial understanding and comprehension.

    Some might argue about the contextual nature of secondary issues possessing too much circumstantial elements, or conversely, having superior biblical evidence with which to render the label “secondary” irrelevant. I might even take you up on the argument.

    While the division of primary and secondary issues is a problematic one, I suppose the absence of taking up and understanding the “other’s argument” can be included as a a contributor to the inflammatory responses to Piper, et al.

    But, for Piper, for example, to demonstrate that he knows the other’s argument, and represent it well before his followers, *might* lead them to conclude that Piper actually believes the “opposition’s viewpoint” (whoever that may be) might be worth considering. It would be a wonderful sign of “Love your neighbor as yourself” as “epistemic humility.”

  • bruce

    I don’t know a lot about Keller and all of his positions, but I wonder if at the end of the day women are still not allowed to be in leadership at his church as elders or ministers or in some cases in a role as teachers just as at Piper’s church. The method of delivery of that message is different than Pipers. It may be the same policy and impacts the same but not as in your face or as strident as Pipers.

    Kind of reminded of the differences between our governor here in Michigan in contrast to the governor in Wisconsin. Both newly elected Republicans. Both with a similar agenda and end result of changing policy and laws. But one has a personality and presentation that stirs up strong protest and the other has a quieter, sort of reasonable approach, coming from a business background. Here it doesn’t have that strong of a protest, but he got a similar result of cutting programs, going after teachers and public employee unions and tinkering with pensions.

    Here is a sample from Reedemer’s Women in Ministry at RPC document fond at this link:

    http://www.redeemersa.org/helpfulpapers/Women in Ministry at RPC.pdf

    Summary Position: It is the view of Redeemer Presbyterian Church that men and women, being equal image bearers of God, are fully equal in dignity and worth before God and one another. Both men and women are also of equal need and, upon exercising faith, equal recipients of the saving grace found in the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Through the Holy Spirit, men and women are to exercise the full range of their gifts in the Church. There are no gifts of the Spirit that are to be exclusively exercised by men, meaning men and women are to be real partners in ministry. At the same time, Scripture teaches an authority structure for humanity established at creation and rooted in God’s Trinitarian identity. It is called “headship” by the Apostle Paul (Gen. 2:18-20; 1 Cor. 11:3; Eph. 5:21; 1 Tim. 2:11-14). For Christians, the pattern of Biblical headship has particular application to the family and the church. Importantly, this authority structure does not violate equality, but rather provides for distinction, which complements both men and women in wonderful ways. Therefore, at Redeemer Presbyterian Church women may join and participate in any ministry responsibilities except those distinctive to the ordained offices of elder and deacon.

  • Nathan

    It’s not merely tone. It is the actual content.

    It’s one thing to see issues as secondary, it’s another thing to foreground the issues and then to verbally emasculate all other men who might differ…along with clear implications that somehow positions that differ from them are also less Christian and some god-awful slippery slope to the the death of Truth.

    When Grudem can, with impunity and no real evidence, basically level the charge that egalitarianism is a direct assault on the Trinity, it’s fundamentally offensive. It’s also a blatant rhetorical power move. It’s suspect on its face.

    The other issue, for me, is that with the stats about male dominated leadership in the churches (liberal or conservative) the whole “feminization” of the church sounds like the ravings of people with a dark dark agenda…since I know these guys are actually really smart despite their being wrong about a lot of what they talk about. So it’s not a problem of them not grasping the data.

    The most maddening issue for me though is the idea that polemicists posing as theologians can make a career and a name out of poking people in the eyes and kicking people in the shins for the sake of their “truth”, but when they get the justifiable and correct response of rebuke they complain and their sycophants come out of the wood work to defend what is plainly indefensible.

    I also have a huge problem with a community of people who basically construct their public identity and engagement from a position of being publicly offended and critical.

  • Kristin

    Keller demonstrates Philippians 2; the other guys do not.

  • TJJ

    Humilty, tact, and concern not to offend/stoke up controversy more than necessary.

    But I think ego has a lot to do with it (desire for attention and response, because for some that translates/equals importance/significance.

    But also don’t underestimate the desire to simply make money (selling books, speaking fees, etc). You don’t make as much beig more low key and non-controversial.

  • Ken

    I would hope that one outcome of the Elephant Room 2 debacle will see Driscoll’s influence diminished. He placed aside his screaming tirades of what he calls biblicist doctrine for the sake of his relationship with two other megachurch pastors – MacDonald and Jakes. I don’t personally wish Driscoll ill, but I do hope that many who had previously looked to him as an authority will not be so quickly inclined to give him a platform. I doubt this will be the outcome, however. He will most likely ride it out and regain his standing and position.

  • James

    I’m not reading all these responses, so someone may have brought this up already…

    Could it be that people react to Piper’s remarks about masculine Christianity through the filter of their feelings about his remarks on physical abuse in marriage? Is it that they have already made determinations about him because of that brouhaha that now cloud everything he says?

  • David Dollins

    Darla – “Alfalfa, will you swing me before we have lunch?”
    Alfalfa -“Sure, Darla.”
    Spanky – “Say, Romeo. What about your promise to the He-Man-Woman-Haters-Club?”
    Alfalfa – “I’m sorry, Spanky. I’ve got to live my own life.”

    I just couldn’t resist! 🙂

  • scotmcknight

    Bruce, precisely the point — same theology, different approach.

  • Beakerj

    #8 Susan N – love your comments, was just thinking about this the other day. Please don’t stop!

    I’m greatly heartened by the unanimity shown here – tone & behaviour is important as it is a sign of character. Keller sounds kind & thoughtful, & if you are a woman, like you wouldn’t feel a need to hide your talents & achievements in case you reveal yourself as being as able as a man. He might even celebrate the great gifts God has given women!(Please note sarcasm).There are times I wonder whether someone like Piper would reject, for example, a female neuro-surgeon who gives orders to men in her OR, even if he needed one.

    Whenever I hear Driscoll I feel he has an agenda beyond the spiritual; he has a deeply personal need to believe the things he does, & therefore feels personally threatened by robust criticism. At least this is how his work reads…with Keller this is missing.

    I would love to see some considered thought about what it does mean to be a woman within christianity, where I’ve said before that some women wait to find out how much of themselves they are allowed to be in there. No wonder some feminists find us ridiculous & destructive.

  • Beakerj

    #80 James; you weren’t there when I wrote my post. You are onto something there, at least as far as my thinking is concerned. I was AMAZED that it was the beaten or abused woman, who he does seem to harp on about needing masculine protection that was the one who should ‘endure suffering for a season’. To me it is the man who should ‘suffer for a season’ by being removed from the family home & not allowed back until he poses no danger, even if the Elders have to call the Police to do it.

    It seems Piper follows doctrines that protect the strong at the expense of the weak.

  • PLTK

    Though I would agree that Keller comes across as more humble and less likely to push his ideas upon others outside of his church, his church doctrine still does not allow women to fully participate in God’s kingdom. Whilst a kind master is much preferable to an abusive one, I would still much prefer to be completely free.

  • Terri

    Scot @82: But isn’t there at least a subtle difference of theology too? Keller’s seems to be that there is hierarchy because it is biblically mandated for the purpose of order. While Piper/Grudem et. al. seem to propose that the hierarchy is there to in some way protect women and exists because the nature of God and Christianity itself is male/masculine. It seems this more recent form of complementarianism ties the gender issues to the gospel and nature of God much more than has been done in the past or than is done by other comps. I’m not sure it is just tone and humility; I think there is a different content. Maybe I’m wrong?

  • Yet it must be said plainly that there is no way by which the Bible can be restored to the laity by taking it out of the hands of the scholars… A much more exciting and costly move is called for, namely a genuinely missionary encounter between a scriptural faith and modern culture. By this I mean an encounter which takes our culture seriously yet does not take it as the final truth by which scripture is to be evaluated, but rather holds up the modern world to the mirror of the Bible in order to understand how we, who are part of modern culture, are required to re-examine our assumptions and reorder our thinking and acting. This is, I believe, our present task.

    Leslie Newbigin, The Other Side of 1984, p. 47.

  • Tamara Rice

    I believe this more recent trend could be called reactionary hyper-complementarianism, because that is precisely what it is. I attended a very narrow Bible college where women were not allowed to hold roles of spiritual leadership over men, and I’ve come a long way since then, pulling out of that mindset. However, the tone of the complementarianism I experienced then and growing up was very different than what Piper and Driscoll are saying now. What I’m familiar with–and frankly can accept–is those who say, well, the Bible says women be silent and women submit, so that’s what needs to happen. I disagree with that point of view, but I can respect those who hold to it. They are right in one sense. The Bible does say those things. (The Bible also says a lot of other things, but I digress.) And I suspect Keller is more like those I grew up with, though I haven’t studied his views.

    But this stuff from Piper lately is more than “the Bible says” it goes beyond into this crazy stuff about masculinity … things I never heard growing up in a strictly complementarian home and in male-led churches. They have taken things out of “the Bible says” and into new territory, which I find very disturbing. They are pushing a man-centered agenda of male dominance at any price–even preaching things like “masculine ministry” which the Bible never hints at. (Thanks, Scot, for your last post on Piper’s words.)

    The difference between Keller and the Driscolls/Pipers of the world is something that others have brought up, and it is birthed from this subconscious need to create an enemy in order to start a movement. What more recent complementarians have done is react to the fact that more and more evangelicals are abandoning the idea that women can’t preach and teach men. With so many mainstream evangelicals falling off their wagon, I believe they felt they had to make a strong rally cry against the “enemy” of “feminism” and begin chanting the greatness of masculinity in the church in order to be heard. And we are hearing them. Loud and clear. Case in point: I don’t know what Keller says about men and women, but I sure know what Driscoll says.

    Now … the question is, will we become reactionary hyper-egalitarians and make an enemy of these men? I really appreciate the women who have been speaking out on this issue and trying to figure out how one can speak against reactionary hyper-complementarianism without becoming reactionary or “hyper” about our own gender views and theology. I think that is key right now, and it’s not about tolerance, it’s about being Christ’s Body.

  • RJS, Diane and I have been commenters on this blog for years. Susan N — I am grateful for your place here because you say things that speak to me … now that I do not speak here so often.

    I cannot speak for the other women who don’t comment, but I am truly exhaused with the women’s issues conversation … waiting for a time when I can approach it with more grace and less frustration. I am luxuriating in Father affection for me and learning to find my own voice — as I have listened and studied the wisdom of so many.

    Thanks to Scot and the brothers and sisters whose support has been so important to my journey.

  • Kevin Glenn

    I think it’s the fact that Keller treats second-order issues like second-order issues. His underlying tone is relational. In other words, you can disagree with Keller and still know that you are his brother or sister because of your common ground in Christ.

    Driscoll, Mohler, Piper, and MacDonald speak as if second-order issues are make-or break, and that to disagree calls for the relationship to be abandoned. Mohler even portrays second-order issues as those that will divide Christians (“A Call for Theological Triage and Christian Maturity” – Tuesday, July 12, 2005, albertmohler.com).

    I wish they could concede that believers can remain in fellowship while disagreeing on non-essentials. Keller strikes this tone, making him less inflammatory, but more conversational…and to me, more respectable.

  • DRT

    This one is simple for me. Keller who?

  • DRT

    I have watched a few vids of Keller today and come to this preliminary conclusion.

    Keller seems to acknowledge that disagreement and sin on any issue is no worse than disagreement and sin on other issues. I saw a good vid on homosexuality where he basically said that greed is worse. I doubt the masculine crowd would ever give that.

  • DRT

    That made no sense, let me rephrase.

    He seems to think that the big hot button issues are not any worse, and maybe less worse, than some other issues. For example, greed is probably a much bigger problem in god’s eyes than homosexuality.

    Just because he views a particular stance on issue a certain way does not mean that he looks down on those who view it in opposition to his view.

  • leah

    i’ve been reading Jesus Creed for years, only started commenting recently.

    like Peggy #91 i too am exhausted by women’s issues. so much so that i’m considering giving up on evangelicalism entirely. i’m currently in a PCUSA seminary and interning at an episcopal church and it is… more than refreshing to not only not have to justify my desire and ability to teach and preach but to be actively welcomed to do so!

    i think the main issue for me is that i don’t feel like Keller would question my commitment to Jesus and his church because all evidence seems to point to my main gift to offer to the church is teaching. i feel like Piper, Driscoll, and Grudem might.

    i don’t question any of their commitments or desire to follow Jesus. i just won’t bother to think about committing to a local church which won’t treat me on equal footing with my husband. that includes Keller’s.

  • Keo

    Tim Keller’s approach seems to be: “This is what the Bible says, and means, and we’re in a conversation about it”. John Piper and Mark Driscoll’s approach seems to be: “This is what the Bible says, and means. The judges’ decision is final, and no further correspondence shall be entered into”.

    Tim Keller has won my heart. Now, if only he would make his sermons freely available 😉

  • Craig

    As an aside, having seen TK engage with people of different views in public debate and contrasting this with the recent radio interview in the UK with one of the nicest guys you could be interviewed with http://cognitivediscopants.wordpress.com/2012/01/15/driscoll-brierley-on-women-in-leadership/, where MD seemed to be so offended. I’m of the opinion that TK has the intellectual chops and honest certainty to cope and MD must avoid any kind of critique of his views to be offended by such a gentle probing.

  • Ben

    I’ve blogged about both Driscoll and Piper’s recent controversial comments, so I’ll take a shot at this question.

    Part of it, as others have noted is a matter of tone. Keller doesn’t strike me as seeking provocation in the same way that Driscoll and (to some extent) Piper do.

    That said, to the extent that Keller espouses the same views of gender as Driscoll and Piper, I would have to disagree with him as well.

    In my case, I feel compelled to write about Piper and Driscoll because I’ve seen firsthand the damage they’ve caused. For several years, I went to a church that was heavily influenced by Piper, and I saw the implications of both his theology and the manner in which he presents his theology (the latter being the main distinction between Piper and Keller).

    When I lived in Seattle, I had several friends who belonged to Driscoll’s church. At first, I was reluctant to say anything about Driscoll out of respect for them – but then many of them started coming to me with questions and stories of how Driscoll’s teachings and attitude were adversely affecting them (or, in at least one case, their non-Christian friends, who wrote off Christianity as a result).

    So part of it for me is that I have more of a personal connection to Driscoll and Piper than I do Keller – because I know more people who’ve been negatively impacted by Driscoll and Piper’s presentation.

  • Ben

    Several have pointed to tone and attitude, and this is certainly an important difference. But it seems to me that behind the irenicism of Keller is the recognition that these matters are not of the essence of the faith. The old adage comes to mind: In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Love. When I hear Driscoll, Piper, and Mohler talk it becomes apparent to me that they don’t really recognize their systems of Reformed Theology or views of gender and ministry roles as non-essentials, but equate them with truth itself. This of course makes them land harder on their positions. When a person feels that somethign is really, really important, but still not essential, it is much easier to have a civil discussion and recognize with a degree of humility that it is wiser to hold your positions loosely. Driscoll and Piper seem unwilling or unaware of this approach, Keller embraces it and this is what makes the “tone” come across and be received differently.

  • Jon G

    Keo #97-

    Here’s 150 of his sermons for free. Enjoy! 🙂


  • Sue

    I feel the same about Tim Keller as I do about John Piper, ever since I read a paper by him on women in ministry that said that in society we all need access to the seat of authority (ie democracy) to prevent abuse of authority.

    However, he wrote that marriage was not the same as society but was an authority/submission relationship. I felt that in that particular paper, written many years ago, he was full of empathy for the person in society who might suffer abuse, but there was no thought for the abuse a woman might suffer in marriage. I was shocked, that a paper could include such empathy for the need for men to vote and have access to the seat of authority, but no thought that women have needs for this in their marriage.

    The premise was that in society we need participatory demoscracy because of sin, a logically reasoned position, but in marriage that would be wrong, and authority and submission are the only way to interact in marriage. This seemed very callous and seemed to me to go against the command that we should love our neighbour as ourself.

    Granted that was a very old paper, but he was a logical and reasoning adult when he wrote that paper, which was so perceptive about men’s needs, and so unaware of the agony of women bound to suffer in relationships with sinful men. There was no recognition that all humans were sinful, even in marriage. No mention of that at all.

    So when in NYC, and others want to attend his church, I run the other way.

  • Sue


    I was deeply disturbed by this, and my heart went out to any woman who would believe this position.

  • Susan N.

    Beakerj (#85) and Peggy (#91) – Your comments have touched my heart. I am inspired by the women who contribute in the comments here; your courage and integrity inspires *me*. I was thinking of all of you — and thanking God for you — while I walked last night. Listening to Sara Groves on my iPod, ‘When the Saints Go Marching In,’ I was power-walking to the vision of being among that great cloud of witnesses (that is, with all of you!) and pressing on in the Mission that is bigger than all of us put together. You strong women are my heroes. ((Love))

  • From the Meaning of Marriage by Tim & Kathy Keller, p. 200.

    “It is my experience that it is nearly impossible to come up with a single, detailed, and very specific set of “manly” or “womanly” characteristics that fit every temperment and culture. Rather than defining “masculinity” and “femininity” (a traditional approach) or denying and suppressing them (a secular approach), I propose that within each Christian community you watch for and appreciate the inevitable differences that will appear between male and female in your particular generation, culture, people and place… Notice the distinct idols women have and men have in your generation, culture, and place… Once you see them, respect and appreciate them… Without the gospel, people often turn temperamental, cultural and gender differences into moral virtues. This is one of the ways we bolster our self-esteem – a form of “works-righteousness,” a way to earn our superior status. And so men and women scorn and mock the other gender’s distinctive traits. But the gospel should remove that kind of attitude.”

    Keller may be complimentarian, but he is certainly more nuanced and thoughtful in his approach. And when it seems to me that he would disagree with Piper’s ‘masculine Christianity’ entirely.

  • Matt Edwards

    Tone certainly has a lot to do with it, but Keller comes across as a “Big Tent” evangelical more than the other guys.

    Keller seems to “get” dialogue and the nature of authority in a postmodern age. Driscoll and Mohler (and to a lesser extent Piper) seem to think that God has entrusted them with the stewardship of managing the orthodoxy of everyone claiming the name of Christ (and by orthodoxy, I mean that they are Reformed and Complementarian).

  • Kee

    Saying that Keller basically believes the same things as Piper, Driscoll & Mohler is like saying all Reformed complementarians believe the same things.

    The fact that Keller has the tone he has, is humble in his approach, and exudes a respect for those who disagree with him cannot simply be attributed to mere packaging–an attempt to wiggle difficult beliefs through the backdoor. It is my conviction that Keller is the way he is because he has priorities, beliefs and a philosophy that are fundamentally different from Piper, Driscoll, & Mohler. (I had a nickname for those three reminiscent of the fun label often used for the “new” atheists, but I have a feeling I’d be sinning if I were to go there.) Keller’s method emerges from these differing beliefs.

    While Keller has reservations about egalitarianism as well as some moral issues (e.g. abortion, etc.), he has made it abundantly clear that his main priority is communicating and living out the gospel; only by doing this, will these other issues even have the possibility of healthy discussion and will the moral situation have the possibility of transformation. He is certainly not naive about these goals, but he is also reasonable enough to recognize that demonizing Christian brothers and sisters–saved Christians brothers and sisters, I might add–is probably not the right approach. I firmly believe that Keller winces at what Piper, Driscoll & Mohler are doing; in fact, I think it saddens him. Frankly, while those guys say that the gospel is priority (i.e. the gospel coalition), they sure as heck don’t act like it. From their content to their (prideful, angry) tone, it would seem to the outsider that morality is their key concern. Being a pastor myself, I get that sometimes we mess up our messaging and that we feel certain things are fundamental to the gospel (i.e. the gospel compels us to fight for the marginalized, and what population is more marginalized that the unborn; thus, my fight against abortion). But there is a way to fight for those things with a gospel message and with grace. What concerns me is that when others hear these guys, the gospel message is either utterly clouded or absent altogether. What I find so praiseworthy about Keller is that he still associates with these guys as colleagues, which shows that he, again, is consistent in his belief about working and respecting those with whom he disagrees. (I guess a rebuttal would be that the other three themselves still consider Keller a colleague, but I think you guys get the basic point I’m trying to drive home.) My hope, however, is that Keller would act like a faithful brother to these three, and correct them where they err. Otherwise, given time, the choir is going to be their only audience, if it isn’t that way already.

    Also, here’s a few notable items just to point out how different Keller is from these guys. (1) In terms of inerrancy, Keller has gone on record saying that even if the church got a couple of the books in the canon wrong, he wouldn’t worry because the NT repeats itself so often. Those other three wouldn’t be caught dead saying that. (2) Keller says that when it comes to salvation through Jesus alone, he only knows what is revealed. Philosophically speaking he admits that it is possible that God may have a backdoor to salvation that has not been revealed to us. But, he says, with what has been revealed to us in the Bible on what he calls “a need to know basis,” Jesus is the only way. Again, conceding the philosophical point is something the others guys would consider crazy. (2) Keller says that people of varying worldviews have beliefs that are respectable and arguments worthy of consideration in friendly dialogue. Again, something the other three would rarely admit. (Piper did once have a nice tribute to Bruce Metzger, chair of the translating committee for the NRSV, who held to infallibility as opposed to inerrancy and was a stalwart at Princeton Theological Seminary, a place where Satan supposedly resides according to many conservative evangelicals.) (3) Keller says Arminians would feel right at home in his church. (4) Keller would never use the language Driscoll uses concerning homosexuals. (5) Though complemenatarian, Keller would never say Christianity is masculine; personally, I think he’d find the assertion laughable and absurd, though, again, he would never say it that way. 😉

    Man, I had a few more, but they’ve slipped out of my flu-ravaged brain.

    Blessings to you all.

  • Kee,
    I appreciate what you have to say about Keller. I’ve heard Tim preach in New York, have a niece who attended Redeemer for years, attended a PCA church plant in Toronto (in the late ’90’s) that looked to Keller and Redeemer for guidance and have said & written many positive things about Tim.

    That being said, Keller with DA Carson is a primary leadership voice for The Gospel Coalition – which lies more closer to the thoughts/words/actions of Mohler, Piper et al than it does to any ecumenical spirit within evangelicalism. Scot’s question is more than fair.

  • Kee


    Thanks for the response. I’ve actually been following Keller since the 90s, and I am good friends with two pastors who’ve worked with him personally (one is still on staff and one is not). I am also friends with someone deep in Hope for NY, the non-profit side of Redeemer. Can’t get specific lest I expose this person, but he/she meets/dines with the Kellers on a regular basis. I’ve have had significant conversations about Keller with these people. I also am very well aware of the leadership make-up of the Gospel Coalition, and I know how some of the leadership discussions have gone concerning the GC’s core beliefs (i.e. gender issues, etc.). Now, I’m not trying to play the one-up game, but I’m familiar enough with Keller’s material to say with confidence that his approach comes from a philosophy that differs significantly from the other three. Yes, Scot’s is a fair question, but with the information I have on hand, it’s not necessarily the most accurate question. What exactly does it mean that they believe basically the same thing? How broad or narrow are we supposed to interpret that? Could not people in the Gospel Coalition, even its core leadership, have major differences while agreeing in the core areas relevant to the organization? From what I know, I would have to argue, yes (to the last question). Of course, I came in on a particular angle on Scot’s question as I want to distance Keller from the other three as I believe he differs in many significant areas (as I mention in my prior comment); but, I hope you get my point. Anyway, the question was asked, and my beef is not with Scot at all. I’m glad he asked the question as it’s generated some healthy and helpful discussion. My contention is with the three.

    Lastly, I hope I don’t give the impression that I agree with Keller on everything. I like his style and much of what he believes, but he uses philosophical sleight of hand more than I think is helpful. There are other areas of departure, but no need to get into those here. Regardless, my belief is that he is advancing the gospel in a way that I can appreciate and respect. I cannot say the same for the other three. That doesn’t not mean God is not using them or that they are not advancing the gospel somehow. But I do believe these guys have some areas in which they need to repent. We all do, of course, including Keller. But, recently, these three have made statements that need significant rebuke and correction from the greater Christian community.

  • Rob McFarren

    Love the question, and the discussion in the comments. There is one element that is still part of the question that hasn’t really been addressed. It is our response to the way the others act. If tone, humility, etc. are what we admire or at least allow out of one, while those who have a harder edge are protested against, are we then responding in the same manner as the person who started the conversation?

    I will admit that when someone comes across arrogantly, I am much more tempted to respond indignantly to their actions. Yet if someone is willing to learn, to dialogue, to act with humility but still state their stance, its much easier to reply in-kind.

    I have found that while of course being able to critique another person’s view, it is the character of God, the humility, love, and grace which ultimately must trump any concept of “right and wrong” on a controversial topic. (I do not mean there is no right or wrong, I just mean on a topic that has complexity, it is our faithfulness to allowing ourselves to be transformed by the Jesus who is Lord!)

    So, to answer the question, I think we (or at least I) tend to respond with a visceral or fleshly response to the way the first communicator speaks. But, if I’m honest, I should respond Driscoll, Piper, Keller, McKnight, or any other person in the exact same manners which we find in Jesus. This doesn’t mean there is time to disagree, but rather that if I can recognize humility in Keller but not Driscoll, that I should respond out of humility to one and a similar arrogance with others. This turns the question inward – because ultimately is it not our action that we have an form of control over, or of allowing God to transform us to live in participation of the Kingdom, under the reign of Jesus?

  • Andrea

    I would suggest the difference between individuals who seem say the same thing but come across differently is in their heart and in their mind. Is their heart humble and sincere? Is their mind exercised and perceptive. Two gentlemen scholars/theologians whom I will always love and respect, in part because they played a very positive and formative role in my Christian growth, but primarily because of how they communicate publically and relate interpersonally face-to-face are JI Packer and Bruce Waltke. I don’t necessarily agree with their current conclusions on women in ministry, but these men I love and respect and would not hesitate to go to for pastoral care. The character in Seattle strikes me as a remake of an insincere televangelist of the 70s. The other two in question, I am not so familiar with. I’ve not been drawn to read Piper’s works because of how his views have been represented by his “fan club” of which my local community has many members. Keller hasn’t been on my radar for some reason – I know the name, but have never read his works.

  • Keller would never accuse the church of making Jesus “a Richard Simmons, hippie, queer Christ,” a “neutered and limp-wristed popular Sky Fairy”. Tone, intent, delivery. Also, Tim Keller has never screamed at his congregation.