Tim Keller’s Fruit: The Arts are Critical to Flourishing

Bad Fruit

When I was a member of Tim Keller’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, I began to see more and more that his teachings were straying from the Bible.  Anytime I would mention this to other Redeemerites (as we called ourselves), they would say, “Well, you sure can’t argue with his fruit?”  By which they meant his success.  To them, fruit equated success and success was measured by numbers.  And the numbers said that Tim Keller had been enormously successful in building a mega church in one of America’s most secular cities.

They seemed to believe that if he was not accurately teaching God’s Word that God wouldn’t have blessed him with such a successful and packed church.

However, when Jesus said, “You will know them by their fruits”, did he mean that good fruit could be measured by large crowds?  Surely not!  If so, then Joseph Stalin, Adolph Hitler and Chairman Mao would have been seen as bearing enormously good fruit!  They had huge and adoring crowds.

Jesus uttered this famous phrase as he was speaking about false teachers.  He was explaining how we can know the difference between a false Christian teacher and a good teacher.  Here is what Jesus had to say:

Matthew 7:15-20 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Therefore by their fruits you will know them.    (NKJV)

The context of this passage is false teachers.  The dichotomy that Jesus drew was not between large crowds and small ones, but between good teachings and bad teachings – between being right or wrong and between being Biblical or un-Biblical.  In fact, he never mentioned the size of a teacher’s following in this passage, or even alluded to it.  Neither does any other part of the Bible make reference to the size of a church as an indication of its “fruit” or acceptability before God.  Which was rather wise when you think about it.  Because God knew that churches teaching false doctrines would in fact generate huge crowds.  The Bible says “broad” is the way to destruction.  God knew that churches teaching false doctrines would in fact draw larger crowds than those teaching Biblically correct doctrines.  That’s why God never made the test of a church the number of people that sit in its pews.

Jesus repeatedly called the false teacher the fruit of a “bad” tree and the faithful teacher the fruit of a “good” tree.  Jesus’ concern was not for how large a group of followers a teacher could attract.  His concern was only for whether or not a teacher was true to the Word of God or strayed from it.  He was concerned with the quality of the teaching, not the quantity of followers.

Recently, I received an email from Redeemer’s Center for Faith & Work (CFW), the “Cultural Renewal/Social Justice” arm of Redeemer.  This is where all of Keller’s theology gets played out in the real world.  By watching the Center for Faith & Work’s website, you will see the real fruit of Keller’s ministry.  Redeemer puts an enormous amount of money and effort into the CFW. They have several full-time paid staff members that run it and they call it the “social justice arm of the church”.  It is the ultimate manifestation of Keller’s theology of “cultural renewal“.

While Keller himself says the Gospel must be taught by word and deed, CFW is completely devoid of “word”.  It is all deeds.  And the deeds have only the most tenuous connection to the Gospel.  To show you what I mean, here is the text of an email they recently sent out:

You may have noticed last month that our monthly updates now include a monthly listing of Arts Offerings in New York City. At CFW, we believe the arts are critical to the flourishing of our city. Artists steward the development of a healthy imagination crucial to innovation in every sector. There is a sense of awe and wonder when artists create because we experience something integral to our being created in the image of God. Promoting the arts not only leads to the flourishing of the city but helps materially express the manifold glory of God. For this reason, we hope highlighting a few arts offerings each month will help engage the imaginations of those in all vocations to do their work as an expression of God’s glory. If you have suggestions you think we should include, send them to arts@redeemer.com.

Sincerely,
David H. Kim,
Executive Director, Center for Faith & Work

(Emphases mine)

So Redeemer, which I probably need to remind you at this point is a church, believes “the arts” are critical to the flourishing of the city.  And they believe that promoting the arts helps “materially express the manifold glory of God”!  This is a stunning statement coming from a self-proclaimed Christian church!  Stunning in its anti-Biblical, pro-secular slant.  Nothing in the Bible even hints at the idea that the church should be involved in promoting “the arts”.  And certainly not the secular arts!

You must keep in mind here that Redeemer is not talking about some kind of Christian art.  They’re talking about secular art.  That is made clear on CFW’s website where they constantly promote secular arts events and showings around New York City.  For instance, today they are promoting the following:

You may be thinking, Les Miserables is Christian.  It has a Gospel message.  But is it really?  While Le Mis is certainly heavy on the Christian themes of grace, mercy and redemption, it is doubtful anyone would be led to salvation by it.  In fact, they could easily be misled.  The main take away line from Les Mis that everyone seems to remember is, “To love another person is to see the face of God.”  That’s not exactly based on the Gospel of Christ.  It’s actually an idea rooted in works-based salvation.  ‘Love others’, ‘do good’ and you can be saved is the main takeaway from Les Mis.  Any direct
King Lear isn’t exactly a Christian story either.  While it may contain certain Christian themes that were common even in the nominal Christianity of Shakespeare’s time, it certainly isn’t pointing people to the Gospel.  In fact, even the most knowledgeable Shakespeare scholars, to this day, have no idea what religious beliefs Shakespeare held.  They can’t even tell if he was Catholic or Protestant!
I don’t personally have a problem with people watching these stories, but they are certainly not the kinds of stories that spread the Gospel.  A church has no business promoting these types of events.
NYC Makers:  The Mad Biennial, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Gospel that Tim Keller says we should introduce New Yorkers to.  It’s not even distantly related to any Gospel themes.
The Brooklyn Museum is certainly no friend to Christianity.  They frequently have exhibits that are overtly hostile to Christianity.  You may remember the exhibit they hosted in the 90s featuring a crucifix of Christ in a vile of urine.  That’s the same Brooklyn Museum that Redeemer believes is featuring “art” that can “materially express the manifold glory of God”!

 

Why Dispensationalism is Important

by Matt Recker
Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, New York City
Originally published at Proclaim & Defend, http://www.proclaimanddefend.org

agesanddispensations

Francis Schaeffer lamented in his final book, “Accommodation, accommodation … to accommodate to the world spirit about us in our age is the most gross form of worldliness … and unhappily, today, we must say that in general the evangelical establishment has been accommodating to the forms of the world spirit as it finds expression in our day.”[1]. That was the great evangelical disaster according to Francis Schaeffer, and this series of articles is attempting to show that the New Evangelicalism that accommodated to the worldly spirit then is being carried on by the New Calvinism today. In this article I will deal with points three and four in the list below as they are somewhat related. Continue reading

The New Calvinists and Speaking in Tongues

tongues

 

 

 

 

 

by Matt Recker
Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church, New York City
Originally published at Proclaim & Defend, http://www.proclaimanddefend.org

In his final book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer, with tears, passionately pled with evangelicals of his day to repent, saying, “in the most basic sense, the evangelical establishment has become deeply worldly.”[1] In this second article in our series comparing the tenets of the New Evangelicalism of the 1940’s and 1950’s with the New Calvinism of this present generation, my premise is that the same disaster is being repeated. Continue reading

Tim Keller, the New Calvinists and Evolution

evolution
by Matt Recker
Pastor of Heritage Baptist Church
, New York City
Originally published at Proclaim & Defend, http://www.proclaimanddefend.org

The New Calvinism is a movement that boasts groups like The Gospel Coalition (founded by D.A. Carson & Tim Keller in 2004) and Together for the Gospel (Ligon Duncan, Mark Dever, C. J. Mahaney, and Al Mohler, founders). As a movement, the New Calvinism repeats in some ways of the original New Evangelicalism of the late 1940s and 1950s. Several emphases of the New Calvinism are to be appreciated: the Gospel focus, expository preaching, and the desire to have the Gospel touch every aspect of a believer’s life. Nevertheless, there are also dangers to be found in the movement. Continue reading

What’s so Bad About Sin Anyway?

dirty mirrorPeople don’t seem to be able to understand why small sins are so big to God. Most people don’t think it seems right that God would damn someone to eternal hell for everyday run-of-the mill kinds of sins.

If you ask somebody if they’re a bad person they will inevitably say NO! Then if you begin to point out some of their sins, they’ll start making excuses. The most common excuses are, “Ah, come on! Everybody does that!” Or, “I’m not nearly as bad as some people.” Continue reading

POPE ALERT: Francis Says Good and Evil are Whatever You Conceive Them to Be

popePOPE ALERT:  In my last Pope alert I wrote that the pope had said atheists can go to heaven even if they don’t believe in God! Many Catholics attacked me for posting that. They said I had misread it and that I was wrongly interpreting his words. They said the media had mis-characterized what the Pope meant, although they had quoted him word-for-word.

Well, now he has clarified it.  Now he says as long as everyone goes with their own idea of good and evil – we’ll all be fine.

Here’s the Pope:  “Each of us has a vision of good and of evil. We have to encourage people to move towards what they think is good. Everyone has his own idea of good and evil and must choose to follow the good and fight evil as he conceives them. That would be enough to make the world a better place.” Continue reading

Tim Keller’s “Trap-Door” Theology

by Dr. E.S. Williams

Redeemer Presbyterian Church - 150 W 83rd St - Manhattan -C
Redeemer Presbyterian Church’s new building on West 83rd Street in Manhattan

The Rev. Tim Keller is one of the pillars of the New Calvinist movement. As the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York, Keller claims to promote Reformed Christianity. He has served as Assistant Professor of Practical Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, and regarded by many as a great Christian intellectual in the mold of CS Lewis. He has reputation of being a deep thinking, conservative Christian leader—an expert in Christian apologetics, and skilled in arguments that demonstrate the truth of Christianity in a postmodern world. In a sermon on who is Jesus, Tim Keller helps his listeners to see Jesus Christ as ‘existentially satisfying’ and ‘intellectually credible’. His church holds that “the gospel is the good news that through Christ the power of God’s kingdom has entered history to renew the whole world. When we believe and rely on Jesus’ work and record (rather than ours) for our relationship to God, that kingdom power comes upon us and begins to work through us.” [1] Continue reading

The “Holly” Bible

 

by Hassan Nurullah
originally posted at DigitalPublius

A Major reason for my becoming Christian was that I was shown the Old Testament prophecies concerning Christ, beginning with the first telling of the gospel in Genesis 3:15: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.

This passage is known as the Protoevangelium. Proto meaning first and evangelium refers to the gospel message, the good news of salvation through Christ—In other words the “first gospel.”

Here God is telling Satan, from the beginning, exactly what his demise will be. God tells Satan he is destroyed by the seed of a woman, this is Christ born of a virgin. The serpent is told he is dealt a deathblow by the seed while Satan will only be able to temporarily hurt the seed. Though the seed is struck down, He would again rise. Continue reading