The late Tim Keller (1950-2023) was a prolific author whose writings and sermons have had a great impact on my grasp of the Christian life. I have read eight of his books and am always amazed at the level of insight he brings into whatever topic he is writing about. I will only reflect on three of them in this short article.
Tim Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. I had heard of Dr. Keller in the 1990s through my denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), but it wasn’t until I read his book, “The Reason for God”, that I realized why he was so enormously successful at attracting young people to the Christian faith.1 His books and his sermons dive deep into the heart of the gospel message and are filled with pithy illustrations and anecdotes that communicate well.
In This Article:
- The Freedom of Loving God
- The Trinity as a Divine Dance
- The Songs of Jesus
- Connecting Your Work to God's Work
The Freedom of Loving God
Keller has a clear apologetic approach in the book “The Reason for God” as he attacks some of the common concerns of skeptics. His first few chapters include: 1) There Can’t Be Just One True Religion 2) How Could a Good God Allow Suffering? and 3) Christianity Is a Straitjacket.1 These are concerns I face daily in teaching Christian Worldview classes. In chapter 3 where he confronts the criticism that Christianity constrains personal freedom, Keller illustrates that as fish are liberated in the environment of water, so humans are liberated in relationships of love. He makes the point that in any relationship independence must be sacrificed for the sake of gaining intimacy. One's lover or close friend must have a say in how we live our lives.1
Likewise in our relationship with God it should be no surprise that his voice needs to be not only heard but trusted and followed. This does not constrain personal freedom but rather frees us to become the people we were created to be in all its abundance (John 10:10). The apparent constraints of the Christian faith are overwhelmed by the freedom to enjoy a relationship with a loving God. Keller then moves from addressing doubts to the reasons for faith in God where he deals with topics like the damage of Pharisaism (legalism), the importance of grace and the Trinity.2
The Trinity as a Divine Dance
My understanding of the Trinity has been greatly impacted by Keller’s last chapter, The Dance of God. This is a concept he borrowed from C. S. Lewis who briefly mentioned it in his Good Infection chapter in “Mere Christianity.” Keller explains that the Trinity is what makes it possible for God to be love. Love is something that is expressed between persons, and we see this played out in the Bible as the Father, Son and Holy Spirit glorify one another (John 16:14; 17:4-5). Only a multi-personal God may truly be love (1 John 4:8, 16) as an essential part of his character and be so eternally.1
Keller communicates this most powerfully in his sermon from 2006 entitled “Father, Son and Holy Spirit” based on Mark 1:9-13.2 This is a wondrously profound message that provides a lucid description of the Trinity as a Divine Dance. Through the life, death and resurrection of Christ, God extends his hand out to invite us into his family and join in the dance, a dynamic relationship that extends into eternity.
The Songs of Jesus
Keller was joined by his wife Kathy to write “The Songs of Jesus: A Year of Daily Devotions in the Psalms”.3 Every portion of every Psalm is addressed in order and closes with an appropriate prayer. For years I have loved to read, study, memorize and meditate on the Psalms, but this book pushed me to another level. It has blessed me more than any other devotional book as evidenced by my extensive underlining.
The devotion on Psalm 103:1, “Bless the Lord, O my soul” (ESV), expresses how we are to dialogue within ourselves to allow the life-changing gospel to transform our hearts. We are to preach to ourselves rather than listen to our own fleshly complaints. Unlike some meditation techniques that empty one’s mind for relaxation, this kind of meditation fills us with God’s truth which then alters our negative thoughts to set our hearts on fire.3
This inward dialogue practice is very helpful. The Psalms are perfect for elevated meditation, conversing with God and wrestling along with the Psalmist who likewise struggled with his spirituality. Although the Psalms are theological, historical and prophetic, their main use is for worship, contemplation and prayer. Likewise, Keller sees the Psalms as primarily a hymnbook inspired by God for our use (p. vii). It is a means of grace given by God for his people. I have memorized many Psalms and reciting them allows me to hear God’s voice and dialogue with him through prayer using his words to set my heart on fire.
Connecting Your Work to God's Work
If you are wrestling with your career choice or want maximum motivation for whatever career you have chosen, “Every Good Endeavor: Connecting Your Work to God’s Work” is the book to read for Keller brings out some powerful insights throughout. The passion Jesus has for us is so extensive and deep that when we fully apprehend this truth, it will profoundly motivate us to embrace our vocation with that same passion to impact our world for good.4
In 2005, Keller cofounded (along with D.A. Carson) The Gospel Coalition, which provides a powerful platform at the website and on Twitter for like-minded Christians to address the issues of theology and the Christian Church. So, Tim Keller’s style of communicating fresh and insightful biblical truths to a new generation of young people is ever expanding. His many outstanding quotes, articles and sermons may be accessed at the Gospel in Life website (gospelinlife.com) and on Facebook. Keller also continues to have a strong presence on Twitter @DailyKeller, @TGC, and @gospelinlife. Don’t miss out!
Do you want to further explore the power of God and his love through a Christian Worldview? The theology and ministry programs offered by GCU’s College of Theology can provide you with Christ-centered instruction to help guide you on your mission. Read more Theology Thursday and fill out the form on this page to learn more.
1 Keller, T. (2008). The reason for God. Dutton. Retrieved in May 2023.
2 Keller, T. (2006, Jan 15). Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Gospel in Life. Retrieved in May 2023.
3 Keller, T. (2015). The songs of Jesus. Viking. Retrieved in May 2023.
4 Keller, T. (2012). Every good endeavor. Dutton. Retrieved in May 2023.
Approved by the College of Theology on June 6, 2023.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Grand Canyon University. Any sources cited were accurate as of the publish date.