Engaging with Keller, Thinking Through the Theology of an Influential Evangelical,Ed. By Iain D. Campbell and William M. Schweitzer (Darington, England: Evangelical Press, 2013), 240 pp., paper $14.39

One of the most creative and influential pastors, theologians and thinkers in the evangelical church today is Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and a prolific author. The six contributors to this volume all admire Keller, share his Presbyterian background and theology, yet believe some of Keller’s doctrines and practices fall short of biblical teachings. Keller is trying to package Christianity for the “contemporary unchurched and largely postmodern audience” (p. 21), yet at the same time maintain orthodoxy. This is a different endeavor and these men believe that Keller often falls short of his goal. One general concern is that Keller adopts a twofold answer to many questions. For the traditional modernist he provides standard orthodox theology, but for the postmodern audience he supplies a different approach and set of answers (p. 21). It is the second set of answers that have these authors concerned. In attempting to make the gospel and theology understandable and winsome Keller tends to pull his theological punches and provides philosophical answers rather than biblical ones. Each chapter of Engaging with Keller critiques one such area of concern.

  • Chapter one, written by Iain Campbell, suggests that Keller has rebranded sin, via Kierkegaard, as seeking to get ones identity apart from God (p. 39). Keller confuses the symptoms of sin with the cause of sin (pp. 43, 58-59).

  • Chapter two, by Kevin Bidwell, accuses Keller of drawing his understanding of hell from C.S. Lewis rather than Scripture in an attempt to soften its horror for sensitive postmoderns.

  • Chapter three, Kevin Bidwell contends that Keller’s metaphor of a dance for the Trinity, fundamentally weakens the Triune God and misunderstands the eternal nature and essence of who God is.

  • Chapter four, by Peter J. Naylor, deals with one of Keller’s most popular themes—the role of the church in social justice. Naylor thinks that Keller misrepresents the biblical ministry of the church and confuses the duty of the individual Christian with the duty of the church.

  • Chapter five, written by C. Richard Holst, challenges Keller’s hermeneutical approach, believing it falls short of Reformed hermeneutics resulting in flawed exegesis on many occasions.

  • Chapter six, by William Schweitzer, attacks Keller’s promotion of theistic evolution.

  • Chapter seven, written by D. G. Hart, claims Keller has exchanged many of his Presbyterian roots for broader ecumenical affiliations such as the Gospel Coalition.

Engaging with Keller is an intermural critique of a brother in Christ. While appreciating much that Keller has done and teaches, these authors believe that Keller’s views are seriously flawed on several fronts. With irenic but careful and serious biblical evaluation, the authors expose what they see as areas in which Keller has missteped or gone beyond Scriptural teaching. For those who want to take a closer look at Keller and his teachings this little volume is invaluable.

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor-teacher, Southern View Chapel