Blog Archives

Notables (1/12/2013)

Here are this weeks noteworthy articles and blogs:

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The Gospel and Social Justice: Tim Keller

Tim Keller Defines Biblical Justice

A major point of Tim Keller’s book Generous Justice is defining what the Bible says about justice and what that practically looks like in the life of a Christian. Here’s how Keller teases out the concept:

The term for “mercy” is the Hebrew word chesedh, God’s unconditional grace and compassion. The word for “justice” is the Hebrew term mishpat. In Micah 6:8, “mishpat puts the emphasis on the action, chesedh puts it on the attitude [or motive] behind the action.” To walk with God, then, we must do justice, out of merciful love….Mishpat, then, is giving people what they are due, whether punishment or protection or care…Over and over again, mishpat describes taking up the care and cause of widows, orphans, immigrants, and the poor—those who have been called “the quartet of the vulnerable.”

But in the Bible tzadeqah [righteousness] refers to day-to-day living in which a person conducts all relationships in family and society with fairness, generosity, and equity….the righteous [tzaddiq] . . . are willing to disadvantage themselves to advantage the community; the wicked are willing to disadvantage the community to advantage themselves… Bible scholar Alec Motyer defines “righteous” as those “right with God and therefore committed to putting right all other relationships in life.”…In the Scripture, gifts to the poor are called “acts of righteousness,” as in Matthew 6:1-2. Not giving generously, then, is not stinginess, but unrighteousness, a violation of God’s law.

When these two words, tzadeqah and mishpat, are tied together, as they are over three dozen times, the English expression that best conveys the meaning is “social justice.”…Biblical righteousness is inevitably “social,” because it is about relationships.

And here’s how he brings together the larger picture:

We do justice when we give all human beings their due as creations of God. Doing justice includes not only the righting of wrongs, but generosity and social concern, especially toward the poor and vulnerable. This kind of life reflects the character of God. It consists of a broad range of activities, from simple fair and honest dealings with people in daily life, to regular, radically generous giving of your time and resources, to activism that seeks to end particular forms of injustice, violence, and oppression.

-Timothy J. Keller, Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just

Biblical Theology of the City

But how should Christians approach city life? Is Christianity compatible with places like New York City, “city that never sleeps”? Well here are some wonderful articles written about a theology of the city by the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in NYC, Tim Keller.

  1. A New Kind of Urban Christian
  2. Biblical Theology of the City
  3. Christ and the City

And here are some great sermons on the same topic:

1. Should I Not Love That Great City?
2. The Meaning of the City
3. Love for the City

For more, see Keller’s comprehensive guide to doing gospel-centered ministry in an urban context, Center Church.

Turning Good Political Causes Into Counterfeit Gods

A timely warning from Tim Keller:

When love of one’s people becomes an absolute, it turns into racism. When love of equality turns into a supreme thing, it can result in hatred and violence toward anyone who has led a privileged life. It is the settled tendency of human societies to turn good political causes into counterfeit gods. As we have mentioned, Ernest Becker wrote that in a society that has lost the reality of God, many people will look to romantic love to give them the fulfillment that once found in religious experience. Nietzsche, however, believed it would be money that would replace God. But there is another candidate to fill this spiritual vacuum. We can also look to politics. We can look upon our political leaders as ‘messiahs,’ our political policies as saving doctrine, and turn our political activism into a kind of religion.

-Tim Keller, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters

Carson, Piper, and Keller: Only the Triune God Is Love

From the blog of the Gospel Coalition:

We’re tempted to take the doctrine of the Trinity for granted. But there is scarcely any belief unaffected when we get the Trinity wrong.

So argue Don Carson, John Piper, and Tim Keller in this new video discussion recorded at a recent meeting of The Gospel Coalition’s Council. Pull the thread of the Trinity and the universe unravels. Without the Trinity, grace and glory disappear. So does church unity. And we lose a powerful opportunity to share with unbelievers how the Trinity distinguishes the gospel as the source of love for the world.

Stay tuned to hear Piper’s practical application along with Keller’s reflections on the social Trinity and egalitarian relationships.

Old Testament Law and The Charge of Inconsistency

The following is an article written by Dr. Tim Keller, Pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church, for their newsletter. It’s so helpful that I thought I would quote it in it’s entirety:

I find it frustrating when I read or hear columnists, pundits, or journalists dismiss Christians as inconsistent because “they pick and choose which of the rules in the Bible to obey.” What I hear most often is “Christians ignore lots of Old Testament texts—about not eating raw meat or pork or shellfish, not executing people for breaking the Sabbath, not wearing garments woven with two kinds of material and so on. Then they condemn homosexuality. Aren’t you just picking and choosing what they want to believe from the Bible?”

It is not that I expect everyone to have the capability of understanding that the whole Bible is about Jesus and God’s plan to redeem his people, but I vainly hope that one day someone will access their common sense (or at least talk to an informed theological advisor) before leveling the charge of inconsistency.

Read the rest of this entry

The Gospel and the Poor

Here’s a new article by Tim Keller on the Gospel and the Poor, in the new issue of Themelios.

Here’s Keller’s summary:

Jesus calls Christians to be “witnesses,” to evangelize others, but also to be deeply concerned for the poor. He calls his disciples both to “gospel-messaging” (urging everyone to believe the gospel) and to “gospel-neighboring” (sacrificially meeting the needs of those around them whether they believe or not! The two absolutely go together.

1. They go together theologically. The resurrection shows us that God not only created both body and spirit but will also redeem both body and spirit. The salvation Jesus will eventually bring in its fullness will include liberation from all the effects of sin—not only spiritual but physical and material as well. Jesus came both preaching the Word and healing and feeding.

2. They go together practically. We must be ever wary of collapsing evangelism into deed ministry as the social gospel did, but loving deeds are an irreplaceable witness to the power and nature of God’s grace, an irreplaceable testimony to the truth of the gospel.

Keller’s expanded thought on the subject can be found in (click the picture for more information):

The Trouble with Christianity: Sermons by Tim Keller

Prior to the release of his first bestselling book, The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism, Tim Keller a series of sermons titled The Trouble with Christianity: Why it’s so Hard to Believe it. Much of the material in these sermons serve as the basis for Keller’s apologetics book. Below are sermons with links for free downloads (click on the DL)

  • Exclusivity: How can there be just one true religion?, 1 John 4:1-10 DL
  • Suffering: If God is good, why is there so much evil in the world?, 1 Peter 1:3-12 DL
  • Absolutism: Don’t we all have to find truth for ourselves?, Galatians 2:4-16 DL
  • Injustice: Hasn’t Christianity been an instrument for oppression?, James 2:1-17 DL
  • Hell: Isn’t the God of Christianity an angry Judge?, Luke 16:19-31 DL
  • Doubt: What should I do with my doubts?, John 20:1-18 DL
  • Literalism: Isn’t the Bible historically unreliable and regressive?, Luke 1:1-4; 24:13-32 DL