Four Theological Problems With Tim Keller and Why He Should Be Avoided

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Tim Keller is the former senior pastor and founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York and is a best-selling author of several books relating to theology and apologetics. He is also one of the founders of The Gospel Coalition — an Evangelical blog consisting primarily of Southern Baptists and Presbyterians who share a common interest in practical theology.

Keller is held in high regards as one of the most profound theologians of the modern New Calvinist movement and his influence is on par with that of other theologians such as John MacArthur and the late R.C. Sproul. His teachings are part and parcel in practically every Evangelical church in America from Calvinist-leaning to Arminian.

Yet, Tim Keller, as popular and influential as he may be, holds to, practices, and teaches some very dangerous theology.

Theistic Evolution

Tim Keller is a staunch advocate of theistic evolution — that is, the belief that evolution, as taught by Darwinians, is mostly true with the exception that God has played a hand in it. Keller teaches that God used evolution as his method of creation and that the biblical account of creation is not literal.

In a paper he published at Biologos, he argued that in dealing with people who are unable to reconcile science with their Christian views, Christians must figure out how to present the Scriptures to them in a way that seems compatible with science. Theistic evolution was also heavily pushed in his 2008 book, The Reason For God, where he sought the solution to doubt — which he insists is normal and healthy — is to reconcile the secular view of evolution with the biblical creation account.

The compromise is extremely dangerous because it undermines the truthfulness and reliability of Scripture. Not only does it call into question the reality of the fallen nature of man and the curse the world is under because of sin — it also calls into question the reliability of the doctrines of the virgin birth and resurrection of Jesus Himself.

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Eastern Mysticism

Tim Keller practices and teaches such things as contemplative/centering prayer — also known as “wordless prayer” — which is a method of emptying one’s mind into solitude.

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In 2009, Keller’s church taught a class called The Way of the Monk which involved several dangerous practices including contemplative prayer.

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Under the guise of “biblical mysticism,” Keller has continued to promote this dangerous practice.

Roman Catholicism

Tim Keller has sought common ground with the most subversive false church in all of history — the Roman Catholic Church. Keller has spent much time platforming the works of Roman Catholic mystics and theologians such as Flannery O’Connor and Peter Kreeft.

In his book, The Reason For God, Keller cited Flannery O’Connor as his favorite example of a depiction of God’s grace, over and above the Apostle Paul, Augustine, Martin Luther, and John Wesley. The fact that a so-called “Reformed” theologian would cite a lost, Roman Catholic mystic with a false gospel as someone whose works were worthy of exemplifying God’s grace is more than baffling, it’s disturbing. Perhaps this is why one of his most famous church members left his church to convert to Roman Catholicism while he stood silently by.

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Social Justice

But perhaps the most dangerous of Keller’s views and teachings are his teachings on social justice. It is important to understand that Keller has redefined the gospel to include works. It is in the same category as the Galatian heresy of adding to the gospel. Tim Keller, in one sermon, said posed the question “How do you know you’re saved by faith?” He responded to this with a gospel of social justice, stating,

You care about the poor. When you see people without resources, your heart goes out to them. If it doesn’t, maybe you’re saved, but you’re lacking the evidence of salvation. Justification leads to justice. Justice is the sign of justification. It’s all through the Bible.

You can see the entire sermon here.

Keller has continued to advocate the false conflation of justice and “social justice” which translates into a gospel of works righteousness. It is no more than the heresy propagated by the early 20th-century theologian, Walter Rauschenbusch who wrote A Theology For the Social Gospel.

This article is not exhaustive by any means but is meant to be a primer on the many ways that Tim Keller has compromised the gospel and the body of Christ with his false teachings. It is also meant to serve as a launching pad for you to research these serious errors and heresies on your own. Faithful pastors should not, under any circumstances, turn their flock toward such a dangerous and subversive man — to do so would be to feed them spiritual poison. Jesus said to feed them, not poison them.

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14 Comments

  1. Hello Jeff Maples,
    Thank you for writing this article. I wish someone would write a book.
    My husband and I have been combating the issue of Tim Keller for at least seven years. Warning many (including our own children) … only to fall on deaf ears.
    This past year the church we currently attend (an ev free church) has increasingly shown signs of going the way of what we call Tim Kellerism/Social Justice/Missional mindset. It saddens us. Three younger (40’s) pastors that are increasingly quoting people like Keller, Keller himself, catholic priest authors, psychologist etc. etc.
    We head up one of the small groups and my husband finds himself increasingly having to disagree with the pastors. Very frustrating. We have done EXTENSIVE study into this entire realm… reading Keller’s books, researching the “missional” mindset, etc. It’s so insidious. Every week my husband continues to give scripture after scripture to feed our small group. It is becoming increasingly difficult to find ourselves at odds with the leadership. Praying for wisdom.
    It would be great to have a book to pass on to those we love and want to warn of this dangerous trend. I will be posting a link to your article on my Facebook page HOPING others will do their own research.
    THANK YOU!!!

    • Norma, I can so relate to what you are saying. I am also concerned with the Social Justice movement and how there is a Social gospel replacing the true gospel..our son lives in NYC and attends elsewhere yet I cannot help but think that many of the NYC pastors have laid hold of these unbiblical solutions to man’s basic problem of sin. I long for Pastors to teach through the Bible precept upon precept, line upon line rather than topically–I think that is how these additions to God’s Word come about…thank you for your comment….judi

  2. I have been in a PCA church that embraced Kellers teaching; Prodigal God is required reading for membership; a book I was most uneasy with.

    I do not like to blog personal stories – but mine is real and involved, and there was a bruising- but I can agree that I was not wrong in my discernment about Tim Keller. Its been a lonely time since my membership was dropped, as I drifted away the church -due to personal issues in my life that needed payer and support – The Lord is my Sheperd and I trust Him to Love me and protect me.
    APPRECIATE YOUR COURAGE TO EXPOSE HIM. he has become the darling of the tech generxers and millenials.

  3. Due to the utter impossibility of the gradual formation of a living, irreducibly-complex cell, darwinism cannot possibly be a scientifically-proven fact. Thus, the claim that it did is based solely on faith.

    Darwinism is a heretical denial of the first 11 chapters of the bible and of what Jesus said about our first parents that has major soteriological implications (Romans 5:12)!

  4. As tired as it sounds, Western Christianity has been “evolving” in reformation as well as in developing the “correct” interpretation of God’s Word. When mere humans decide that their theology (perceptions of God) is more important than “knowing” God (re-read the book of Job and realize that this is one of the main themes of the story (symbolic or literal) we need to re-think our “state of being” in Christ.
    I believe that God’s warnings are as applicable today as they were when originally spoken and followed by the original disciples and Apostles: 1 Corinthians 4:6  ”6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.” (NIV)
    THIS IS EVEN MORE NEEDED TODAY THAN THAT UNEVOLVED PAUL WAS CAPABLE OF UNDERSTANDING.
    1 Corinthians 13:9-12 “9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears………. 12 For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” (NIV) PAUL NEEDED DARWINISTIC CHRISTIANITY – I MEAN, WESTERN CHRISTIANITY. And Proverbs 3:5-7 “5 Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding;………7 Do not be wise in your own eyes; fear the Lord and shun evil.” (NIV) Could it have been symbolic for “shun theology?”
    Jesus stated to John in reveling the book of Relation that two main concerns of our Lord were sexual immorality and eating food sacrificed to idols. Re-read your “symbolic” Bible with a word study of consuming scripture as spiritual food for personal growth and for teaching the only truth. Sweet on the tongue but sour to the stomach. Meaning that it is not up for translation. After all the not literal interpretation of 2 Tim 3:16 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, New Living Translation All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right.” English Standard Version
    (biblehub.com/2_timothy/3-16.htm) to Western Christian Version which ADDS to this Scripture: “when properly interpreted by mere human beings because they have bought into the false religion of having to know the “truth” because they’re gonna be judged for teaching outside of Proverbs 3:5-7; 1 Cor 13:9-12; and 1 Cor 4:6.”

    Could the sin of “eating food sacrificed to idols” be “symbolic” of sacrificing the “Living Word” to our idols of “correct interpretation” before 2 Tim 3:16 can take place? Has our theological positions become our IDOLS??? Since the term “bad theology” is always preceded with “their” and our zealousness for “correct interpretation” is far more evolved than our knowing in part, choosing one fellow over another, leaning on our understanding – our need for “correct interpretation” you know – the “language of the profits”. Oooooo, was that symbolism? Splintering the body of Christ 600 to 38,000 denominations (depending on how one “interprets” denomination) has been a product of reformation by man – NOT JESUS.
    We devalue the process of Salvation, Justification, Sanctification, clothing ourselves with Jesus, not to mention dying to ourselves, perfecting forbearance (as Jesus commanded us) and by not saying “NO” to ungodliness and the worldly passions of lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and pride of life in order to belong within the splinter that has a better grasp of “correct interpretation.”
    When I hear a “teacher” say, in effect, “You can’t trust God’s written Word but you can trust my interpretation of it.” my skin begins to crawl. When I try to listen to a “teacher” when he or she leaves scripture and starts teaching their theological bent I settle in on my Savior’s lap (or at His feet for the literally, symbolic believer) and answer His question to me: “Who do you choose to worship?” I find it very comforting in not leaning on my own understanding, choosing one mere human’s theology over another (including my own). The “knowing in part” thing becomes acceptable in my rest from “getting as much right as I can because I’m gonna be judged really harder.”
    Were not these three warnings given to us to follow “In this current age” or were they meant for the unevolved, unstable believers like, Paul who died thousands of years ago?

    With all the compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and forbearance I can clothe myself in,
    Sincerely, bob s.

  5. How horrid!
    1. Tim looks intelligently at Genesis and sees all the hallmarks of the allegorical genre.
    2. He looks back on the deeply contemplative techniques of ancient mystics and encourages frazzled modern-day Christians to consider them.
    3. He seeks common ground with Christian brethren in the largest Christian denomination.
    4. He desires justice in society as well as among individuals.

    Disgusting!

    Here’s the solution
    1. Let’s ignore the true meaning of scripture and take everything literally, so the 23rd Psalm proves that David was actually turned into a sheep for a while. If we don’t like the results of science, let’s just be stupid enough to ignore them.
    2. Let’s mistrust anything which might be practiced outside our own little circle.
    3. If we dislike the practices of any other Christian groups, let’s exclude ’em and hate ’em like they deserve.
    4. Works don’t matter – any evil is okay if you’re saved. Have at it. Injustice in society? Who cares?
    These are the real ways to be Christian.

    • You, sir, made my night. Thank you for giving my wife and I something to laugh about.

      on a serious note I was telling my wife there’s five guys besides Jesus that have helped me grow most in my life I proceeded to list them out (Keller made the list) and before I got to the fifth my wife blurts out “the babylon bee guy?” 😂

      I love that woman.

  6. I am of average intelligence. I can read and study on my own and come to conclusions which I believe are properly founded. Also, I can “sense” something is going on within the American church that should be addressed. The spirit of the age is infecting the pulpit and our seminaries. Secularism is staking out its ground among our leaders and it is evidenced within the lives of the congregations. The Germans use the word, “zeitgeist”, we say “spirit of the age”.

    I read history and enjoy it immensely. I have books which are old and worn which depict the world in a completely different light than what our present-day historians are providing. Columbus has become a disgrace, Lincoln a racist, and anybody born with white skin is a natural born supremacist, born with a fixed hatred towards any other race. This revisionism is crawling into our pulpits and bring great division. I am just an average guy, average I.Q., family, kids, three dogs and absolutely NO cats – and I can see this and sense this.

    People need to look at theology and have a workable understanding of the doctrines presented in Scripture. To the chagrin of the church, theology aside, 90% or more of the people in the pew do not ever read the Bible’s they have, much less theology. But, if you are reading this, I would assume that you and I do. For those of us who have a concern, these things are very troubling.

    I am more convinced than ever that we are vacating what is written in favor of embracing what we “feel”. Society is dictating our positions. We are striving to keep up appearances, to be relevant, and cogent. To achieve this, we are forsaking what is written and wandering past the Cross in search of new ways to have our voice heard.

    Christ had twelve men, and some pretty bummed out men at that, however they were men committed to what HE said and the Word of God they possessed. In refusing to deviate from that, they were killed, imprisoned, beheaded, mocked, burned, sawn in two, starved, and one in particular, was CRUCIFIED. Why? because they would not placate a clamering society that refused to accept what they had to say. The stuck by what was written and did not try to modify it in order to be accepted and relevant.

    The Gospel of Jesus has never been socially acceptable. Christ will accept all those that call upon him, true, but they must come through repentance and faith. Every true Christian has come the same way – Christ said we must deny ourselves, take up our cross daily, and follow Him. That was His message then, and that is His message now. We are trying to make it more palatable. You cannot paint the cross and cover it with decorations to make it socially acceptable.

    Stick with the message… come suffer with me. Bonhoeffer, though liberal in his leanings, did say one thing that has stuck with me… “When Christ calls a man, he bids him come and die.” Too many of us are still alive!

  7. Thank you for this article. There is a group who is writing about what’s going on in the church .. namely the apostasy that is spoken of here called “ Lighthouse Trails “ Young people today are being so caught up in the New Calvinist Movement …Tim Keller organizer of it , John
    Piper is the spokesmen / orator
    Al Mohler writer
    Mark Driscoll is the evangelist for it
    and it was started with new covenant theology
    You can’t call them all new Covenant because some are Amil but they are all “ progressive sanctification “
    They don’t mention the “behavioral fruits of the spirit.
    They teach Gods grace only in regards to get the motivation to focus in on Christ
    And mark Dever … I would say he is the darling of the new calvanist movement. I have loved the doctrines of Grace since I was saved but these people have turned that beautiful doctrine that we hold dear , Gods Grace into lasciviousness and Gods going to hold them accountable. A new book out is called “ the UNsocial Gospel” that helps define a lot of it as well. Thank you for this post.

  8. The error in Keller is subtle because he uses Scripture to justify his social gospel position. For example, he equates justice with helping the poor. This is not valid. Secondly, he ignores total depravity and asserts that the world will realize their need for justification just by watching Christians care for the poor. (This is in his talk on Justification and Justice). Third, his definition of sin is watered down and very Aristotelian. Man’s primacy sin, as Van Til pointed out is autonomy, which is rebellion against God. That cannot be gleaned by pagans watching the church do “justice” to the poor. Overall, this is a false gospel, because it dilutes the true gospel of Jesus Christ with its total demands on every creature under heaven. To help the poor without telling them that they need to repent is a disservice to the poor (and even to the rich). Keller’s words are deceptive because he appeals to the believer’s conscience by his careless exegesis and application of Scripture.

  9. Wow! I only recently heard of Tim Keller and watched him on youtube. I didn’t understand him to say any of what you propose he stands for. What I understood him to say is that the entire old testament points to Jesus as our savior. That the Bible is about Jesus, not about our works. That it’s about his Grace given freely for which we don’t deserve.

  10. Beware falling out with a brother over secondary issues. Does Tim Keller preach the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ through faith? YES! The Apostle Paul would encourage him.

    Have people been converted through Tim Keller’s ministry? YES! If only more people were like him.

    Has God blessed Redeemer Church through him? YES! Beware of castigating a brother who God is blessing.

  11. Tim Keller does not preach salvation by works. He goes to great lenghths to say that forgiveness is a gift and cannot be achieved by any act of ours. He is very biblical in all of his approaches in his sermons and speaks with great insight. You are being critical where you do not need to be! This man is a gem and has helped me through so much of my doubting to come to a place of real peace and joy in the salvation which is mine through Jesus Christ’s shed blood for me and His consequent resurrection.

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