R.I.P. – Tim Keller

It grieves me to know that Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City, died today, at age 72, after a three year struggle with pancreatic cancer.

I never knew Tim Keller personally, but I have friends who knew him when he pastored a small P.C.A. church in Hopewell, Virginia, less than an hour’s drive from where I grew up and still live. In those days, the 1970s, Hopewell was going through a rough time. As a kid I would love to swim in the James River, but then the ecological disaster of the toxic Kepone leak at the Allied Chemical plant shut down the river, and much of nearby economy with it.

Tim Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, in New York City, and co-founder of the Gospel Coalition.

Tim Keller made a lot of mistakes as a young pastor, in an economically depressed town. But in those years he cultivated a love for reading which would set him on a path of being one of most influential evangelical intellectual Christian leaders in the first quarter of the 21st century. Years before, when Keller was in college at Bucknell University, he met the Lord through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship. After leaving Hopewell, to go teach at Westminster Theological Seminary, Tim Keller and his wife Kathy eventually surprised everyone to go plant a church in the heart of urban New York City, where Redeemer Presbyterian Church eventually became one of the fastest growing churches in New York City in the 1990s and early 2000s.

My small group read his 2009 book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, which convinced me that Tim Keller was the new “C.S. Lewis” for the early 21st century. He had co-founded The Gospel Coalition, an alliance of churches and church leaders committed to a renewed vision for evangelism and church unity, with a broadly Reformed theological orientation. My wife and I both agree that The Meaning of Marriage: Facing the Complexities with the Wisdom of God, written together by Tim and Kathy Keller is the best book on having a Christian marriage in print today.

Alas, being a prominent Christian leader is bound to bring out the critics, from within the church. When Keller published his 2010 book Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just, his critics accused him of being “woke”, a closet-Marxist in Christian clothing. Perhaps the criticism is due to the fact that Keller proposed a winsome approach to winning the culture over to Christ, whereas other Christians were becoming convinced that a more combative approach was needed in the face of more opposition to Gospel values. While I do reject the “woke” movement, I will take the more winsome approach over the combative approach any day of the week.

In my mind, Tim Keller’s voice represented perhaps the best intellectual and spiritual mind that evangelical Christianity has had to offer to our 21st century world, a heart for spiritual renewal within the church and a passion to reach a lost world with the Gospel. He will be sorely missed.

About Clarke Morledge

Clarke Morledge -- Computer Network Engineer, College of William and Mary... I hiked the Mount of the Holy Cross, one of the famous Colorado Fourteeners, with some friends in July, 2012. My buddy, Mike Scott, snapped this photo of me on the summit. View all posts by Clarke Morledge

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