Lamenting the Passing of a Public Figure
With gratitude for Tim Keller
“We experience this death as a noticeable loss because their life did, in some way, touch on ours, and they were, in some small measure, known to us… Because we witness the shape of their public existence, we can now more readily see the hole created by their sudden absence. So it is fitting that we pause to acknowledge what has been lost in their passing.”
—Lamenting the Passing of a Public Figure, Every Moment Holy, Vol. II
There are no teachers outside my personal life who have impacted me more than Tim Keller.
Tim Keller was not my pastor and Redeemer is not my church.
And yet, Keller’s voice was one that came alongside me in needed ways and I can trace pieces of my life to things I heard from him over the past 15 years. I think Ray Ortlund summarizes the main characteristics of his ministry so well here.
Where I live. How I think about and execute my work. The way I think about faith itself and the ways I understand the Gospel. How I think about sex and marriage. My belief in the Christian call to justice. None of these aspects of my life were shaped by Keller alone, but all of them were shaped by Keller in some way.
Below are a few quotes from some of Keller’s books that sum up his teachings that have shaped me the most over the years. These teachings have become so part of my life that it’s easy to forget how transformative they were to me when I first heard them.
Also, I think (hope?) we’ll be seeing the fruit of Keller’s teaching ministry for years to come. One of my favorite books this year has been “Everything Sad is Untrue” and I was surprised (and then unsurprised) to learn that Daniel Nayaeri has been part of Redeemer for years.
I’m thankful for Keller, and I grieve his passing.
Rest in peace, brother, and rise in glory to the prodigal God of the everlasting city.
“Jesus does not divide the world into the moral “good guys” and the immoral “bad guys.” He shows us that everyone is dedicated to a project of self-salvation, to using God and others in order to get power and control for themselves. We are just going about it in different ways. Even though both sons [of Luke 15] are wrong, however, the father cares for them and invites them both back into his love and feast. This means that Jesus’s message, which is “the gospel,” is a completely different spirituality. The gospel of Jesus is not religion or irreligion, morality or immorality, moralism or relativism, conservatism or liberalism. Nor is it something halfway along a spectrum between two poles—it is something else altogether.” —The Prodigal God
“The Christian Gospel is that I am so flawed that Jesus had to die for me, yet I am so loved and valued that Jesus was glad to die for me. This leads to deep humility and deep confidence at the same time. It undermines both swaggering and sniveling. I cannot feel superior to anyone, and yet I have nothing to prove to anyone. I do not think more of myself nor less of myself. Instead, I think of myself less.” —The Reason for God
“When we look at the whole scope of this story line, we see clearly that Christianity is not only about getting one’s individual sins forgiven so we can go to heaven. That is an important means of God’s salvation, but not the final end or purpose of it. The purpose of Jesus’s coming is to put the whole world right, to renew and restore the creation, not to escape it. It is not just to bring personal forgiveness and peace, but also justice and shalom to the world. God created both the body and soul, and the resurrection of Jesus shows that he is going to redeem both body and soul. The work of the Spirit of God is not only to save souls but also to care and cultivate the face of the earth, the material world.” —The Reason for God
“We instinctively tend to limit for whom we exert ourselves. We do it for people like us, and for people whom we like. Jesus will have none of that. By depicting a Samaritan helping a Jew, Jesus could not have found a more forceful way to say that anyone at all in need - regardless of race, politics, class, and religion - is your neighbor. Not everyone is your brother or sister in faith, but everyone is your neighbor, and you must love your neighbor.” —Generous Justice