Skip navigation

Some of my friends are into listening to sermons from pastors such as John Piper, Francis Chan, Tim Keller, and others, but for some reason or other I never cultivated the habit. Recently I’ve heard a lot of hype from Christian friends posting on blogs or Facebook, concerning Tim Keller, a pastor of the giant Redeemer church in Manhattan. My friends even dropped his name during a few conversations some times, but I never bothered to look him up to check out what the hype was all about.

Today, while I was surfing the Veritas Forum, a website which features recorded debates and talks among both secular and Christian scholars on Worldview issues such as the true meaning of life, the tension between science and faith, and other philosophical topics concerning the Christian faith (Dr. Francis Collins’ incredibly articulate lecture about the complementary nature of science and faith is particularly good), I found a video featuring NBC correspondent Martin Bashir and Columbia University professor David Eisenbach interviewing Tim Keller in a Q & A session. With all the hype that Christians friends have created for him on Facebook and other social media platforms, I expected to see a tense but enlightening interview that would showcase compelling answers from a man whose reputation for charisma and intelligence preceded him.

I was disappointed. To be fair, Bashir’s questions ripped through Keller like sniper bullets, and for anyone to come out of that with only a few grazes would have to be an a very crafty and creative person indeed, but the problem is that I found that the inquisitor’s questions were so good at encapsulating my own skeptical sentiment that I, too, eagerly awaited an answer from a man purporting to know the Truth with a capital T. What I witnessed, however, was a self-conscious man larding his arguments with the  fat of others’ opinions and thoughts, circumventing the issues at hand like a B-grade diplomat, allowing his reputation as a straightforward, thoughtful speaker to cave in itself like a house built on shaky (sandy?) foundations.

When Bashir asked Keller directly about the fate of billions of non-Christian people in this world, the pastor immediately parried back with an idea about how people who grow up in White, middle-class, Christian America are not necessarily guaranteed a spot in heaven either. He deflects the question because he doesn’t want to say ‘yes’ directly, as it would offend and turn off an already ambivalent audience, but of course would never say ‘no’, as he would probably have no congregation to preach to on the following Sunday. Working through the question,  he constantly reiterates that God only gives him information on a “need-to-know” basis, which I suppose is a roundabout way of stating that he doesn’t know, which more than one of his more hardline Christian followers picked up on, spreading doubts about his true convictions. After bumbling through his answer, he finally defaults to a pretty weak, albeit Biblical truth: while the Bible fails to comment on the ultimate destiny of an unevangelized unbeliever, it does declare the absolute justice of God’s judgment, therefore allowing Keller and other Christians like him to accept God’s decisions based on the tautological fact that God is the definition of justice. In other words, while Keller admits that he doesn’t know what happens to unproselytized people, he accepts the justness of their fates based on the fact the unchallengeable fact that God is just. It’s almost like asking what makes an apple an apple, and the answer being that it is an apple because it’s an apple! This is an abysmally unsatisfactory answer, especially for earnest, thinking people who are looking for compelling responses to such critical questions of faith.

I think, on a personal note, this question cuts at the heart more deeply than any other, and I don’t think I’m alone on this. In this information age we are learning more about and connecting with the Other more deeply and frequently than ever before, and with each contact we might ask ourselves some very basic, challenging questions that might alter the perspectives others,  or more dangerously, upend our own:

If I’m a Christian (sub category: Catholic/Protestant/protestant-baptist/protestant-presbyterian/protestant-anglican/etc.) /Muslim/Buddhist/Hindu/Sikh/Mormon/Atheist/Agnostic/etc. – what’s going to happen to the rest of the world?

Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Out of curiosity, what did you think about the accounts of God pouring his wrath over various groups in the OT, which some people liken to genocide?

    • Sorry so late – Hmmm…I think it’s a legitimate point that atheists/agnostics often bring up in their case against God. At the same time, I think these events offend us so because we project our own standards/morals into a very, very different time period, and therefore it would probably be imprudent to judge the events that unfolded in that era based on our own modern day morality.

      Yet, on the other hand, killing is killing, and killing off of a whole race of people is quite brutal whatever the time period, and for God, the champion of universal justice that stretches throughout time, to order the eradication of an entire race of people might coincide with his image as a might, “holy” God, but not as a “merciful”, “loving” one. I feel that you have a point in asking that question – please respond!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: