It was a “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” story except that in this real-life adventure, Tim Keller goes to New York to shake things up for the better.
He was “perhaps the most gifted communicator of historically orthodox Christian teachings in the country” per The New Yorker. The New York Times described him as a man who “performed a modern miracle of his own – establishing a theologically orthodox church in Manhattan that attracted thousands of young professional followers.” After serving as pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church from 1989 to 2017, Keller changed his focus to training pastors.
Keller enjoyed engaging skeptics and non-believers in a caring, winsome way. He believed that honest objections to Christianity should be treated with thoughtful respect. That was his approach in his 2008 book, The Reason for God. In this book, he addresses common objections to the ultimate truth claims of Christianity.
One of those objections is, “There can’t be just one true religion.” Keller examines the oft-told story of the blind men and the elephant. Each blind man discovers the elephant is like a snake, tree, or wall, based on where he touches the animal – trunk, leg, or side. Skeptics use the story to illustrate the claim that the various religions of the world only see a part of the same reality. But Keller reveals the flawed logic. “How could you possibly know that no religion can see the whole truth unless you yourself have the superior, comprehensive knowledge of spiritual reality you just claimed that none of the religions have?”
You may be a truth seeker, like the blind men. But truth need not be “discovered” because God has revealed all you need to know. “If you continue in My word,” Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free” (John 8:31-32). When you come to know the truth, you realize it’s not a concept but a Person. “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” Jesus said. “No one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). That is the knowledge of spiritual reality you need.
Keller enjoyed repackaging ancient truths for modern ears. His oft-repeated explanation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is, “We are more sinful and flawed in ourselves than we ever dared believe, yet at the very same time we are more loved and accepted in Jesus Christ than we ever dared hope.”
Among Keller’s last words were, “I’m thankful for the time God has given me, but I’m ready to see Jesus. I can’t wait to see Jesus. Send me home.” For him, this has become true: “Now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face” (1 Cor. 13:12).
In 2023, Tim Keller left for the land of the living. He was 72.