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Tim Keller Says the Gospel Was Not Spread in the Early Church Through Preachers, But “Life Examples”

by | Dec 6, 2019

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Today, it seems like more and more we toss aside the solid works of historic theology in favor of the modern, the fresh, and the new. Tim Keller is a prime example of this as he represents a wave of postmodern thinking that has so infected the Church. Works of the Puritans and the Reformers and works of the early Church fathers — these collect dust on the bookshelves as many have given them a backseat to the influx of the nuanced and noncontroversial.

Yet, Keller, adds very little to the treasury of knowledge we have about our God and I would actually argue that his contributions have caused more harm than good. In fact, through Tim Keller, the postmodern mindset has become a normal way of thinking and teaching in churches and seminaries.

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Keller recently published a tweet that asserts that in the early Church, the gospel wasn’t spread “even through preachers,” but through “personal conversations” and “life examples.”

Of course, this is not only historically inaccurate but biblically implausible. As the Apostle Paul asserts in Romans 10:13, “For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,” he then explains to us not only how one can call on the name of the Lord, but how that message is spread.

How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.

Romans 10:14-17

Not only is preaching the primary biblical model for spreading the gospel, historically, but the great revivals have also come through faithful men who preached the gospel — both openly in public and inside their churches. The early church had such preachers as, of course, Paul and many of the Apostles, Barnabas, Silas, Ignatius, Titus, Polycarp, Ananias, and Stephanas. The early church father, Augustine of Hippo, was famous for preaching against Manichaeism, a form of Gnosticism. And the Christian gospel was redeemed from Catholicism through the faithful preaching — even unto death — of the Reformers, the Puritans, and faithful preachers such as George Whitefield and Charles Spurgeon.

Preaching as the primary means of spreading the gospel has always been the biblical model and to teach otherwise is dishonest at best. But Tim Keller has long departed sound biblical Christianity and has embraced a postmodern, neo-pagan style of Christianity.

Keller has in many ways legitimized forbidden forms of spirituality such as mysticism and contemplative prayer. Through devices such as a prayer rope — similar in many ways to a Roman Catholic Rosary — and activities such as “centering prayer,” Keller says, “Come discover age-old methods of contemplative prayer and worship that can help you encounter Christ in a more intimate, experiential way.” He has given practices like chanting and meditation which are generally unique to Eastern religions a new front. Practices that have been mainstreamed through the Emergent Church and even condemned by much of the orthodox Evangelical and Protestant Church, he promotes as acceptable forms of worship. This front, the Christian Church, has embraced much of what Tim Keller teaches because so many revere him as such a high authority as a theologian today.

So, perhaps, in his version of “Christianity,” preaching is unnecessary. But according to Christ, it’s our calling.

He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.

Mark 16:15
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