Tim Keller – The Gospel


“The first to plead his case seems just until another comes and examines him.” Proverb 18:17


This section is a review of Keller’s gospel in comparison to the one true gospel according to scripture.

Below is a short video excerpt (4.32 minutes) of Keller speaking at John Piper’s 2006 Desiring God conference on the subject of the gospel in evangelism. Piper is one of Keller’s strongest supporters, promoting and partnering with him on a regular basis.


Did he actually say what he clearly said?  To summarize Keller’s statements:

-You cannot give modern people a simple gospel presentation…..
But I am afraid just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from the simplicity that is in Christ.         2 Corinthians 11:3
For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.   1 Corinthians 1:18

-The church must change because we are evangelizing post-Christian people…….
Post Christian people, pre-Christian people, anti-Christian people….it makes no difference! They are corrupt, unconverted people, just like the people Jesus and his apostles evangelized.  In every culture, no matter which century, to all kinds of people in every walk of life, a “simple” gospel presentation unleashes the power of God!
For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believes.”    (Romans 1:16)

-Christianity, oh yes- New Yorkers remember when Christianity was in charge– blacks had to be at the back of the bus and women were beaten by their husbands……..
How is it exactly that this pathetic statement can be laid at the feet of the Christian? And if the “average New Yorker” holds to such a belief (as Keller wants us to believe) perhaps it is the darkness of their unbelief that produces such ignorance of the Lord’s people.  Either way, Keller seems wholly in agreement with this assessment- and I would suggest it is actually his own position.

-In the past the entire West had a Christian understanding of things so all you had to do was get people together and tell them “you need to do what you know”…….
“But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are only spiritually discerned”       (1 Corinthians 2:14)

-A simple gospel presentation will not work because “the demon is in too deep”…….
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  Romans 10:17

-A simple gospel presentation cannot be done because there are no magic bullets anymore……..
Please take note of the word anymore in Keller’s statement, as it is the key to fully grasping what you have just heard; the gospel is “living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow” Hebrews 4:12….. but not anymore, according to Dr. Keller, who clearly believes and would have us to believe that the gospel has lost its power; referring to the supernatural gospel of Christ as “a magic bullet that doesn’t work anymore” – blasphemous.
* There is no room here for the typical Keller defense of being taken out of context, as he makes his position clear, and with the beloved John Piper, who invited him to speak at this event, sitting on the front row. 

Please heed the warnings of the Apostle Paul to flee from anyone who denies the supernatural power of the gospel:
“Ever learning, but never able to come to the knowledge of the truth; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof:  from such turn away”      (2 Timothy 3:5)

Keller starts out in the video by quoting Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, and though it is true that Lloyd-Jones acknowledged the dismal state of modern society, there is nothing in the large volume of teachings left to us by Lloyd-Jones that would indicate any agreement with Keller’s assertion that a simple gospel presentation is now insufficient and powerless to pierce the human heart. But Keller is content to leave his audience with the impression that “The Doctor”, a biblically sound teacher deeply committed to scripture, is “saying the same thing.”  During my research I discovered that this is a common deception in Keller’s teachings- to invoke (and often distort) random quotes from well respected, sound men of God, thereby leaving his audience with the impression that a stalwart of the faith like Lloyd Jones is wholly in agreement with his dreadful conclusion. The link below illustrates Martyn Lloyd Jones’ true teaching on the supernatural power of a simple gospel presentation.

Martyn Lloyd Jones – sermon: Not In Word, But In Power


Below is an excerpt from an article written by Keller titled “Religion-less Spirituality”- In this excerpt Keller’s deceptive skills are on display, cloaking error in exactly the right Christian language so as to mask his unbiblical message:

“We must demonstrate the difference between religion and the gospel in our deeds—how we embody the gospel in our community and service. Even more than Marx, Jesus condemned religion as a pretext for oppression: “If you only greet your brothers, what do ye more than others?” (Matt. 5:47). Lesslie Newbigin makes the bold case that Christianity is a better basis for true tolerance of opposing beliefs than any other religion or even secularism. Saved only by grace, Christians true to the gospel will not feel superior to those with whom they differ. This must be more than rhetoric. Only when Christians non-condescendingly serve the poor, only when Christians are more firm yet open to their opponents will the world understand the difference between religion and the gospel. We will be careful with the order in which we communicate the parts of the faith. Pushing moral behaviors before we lift up Christ is religion. The church today is calling people to God in a tone of voice that confirms their worst fears.”

A review of what Keller is telling us:

-Christians must demonstrate the difference between religion and the gospel through community service…..  
So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking.  They are darkened in their understanding and separated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardening of their hearts.  That, however, is not the way of life you learned when you heard about Christ and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus.  You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires;  to be made new in the attitude of your minds  and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”  (Ephesians 4:17-23)

The difference between religionists and Christians has nothing to do with community service and everything to do with living in the power of the Spirit that produces righteousness. Scripture confirms that this is what the unbelieving world needs to see. Though the truly transformed believer has a deep concern for the needs of others it is clearly not what distinguishes us, as there are multitudes of atheists and secular humanists more than willing to serve the soup kitchens and homeless shelters or write very large checks to various philanthropic organizations….this proves nothing.  All of the natural man’s righteous deeds are as filthy rags before a Holy God.
(Isaiah 64:6)

-Jesus and Karl Marx agreed that religion is a pretext for oppression…..
Jesus:    “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.  Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness!  So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”     (Matthew 23:2-3, 27-28)
Karl Marx:  “My object in life is to dethrone God and destroy capitalism.”

There is no likeness between Karl Marx and Jesus Christ regarding religion.

-Lesslie Newbigin rightly asserts that Christianity is the best basis for real tolerance of non-Christian beliefs…..
When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require on your hand.  Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul.   (Ezekiel 3:18-19)

 I sat not in the assembly of the mockers, nor rejoiced; I sat alone because of thy hand: for thou hast filled me with indignation.   (Jeremiah 15:17)

But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, they speak evil of the things that they understand not; and shall utterly perish in their own corruption, which have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Bosor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness, These are wells without water, clouds carried with a tempest: to whom the mist of darkness is reserved forever!
(2 Peter 2: 12,15,17)

Real tolerance of non-Christian beliefs?? Warnings of God’s wrath to come against all who reject His truth in Christ are a constant theme of scripture and believers are commanded to be the Lord’s very messengers of that warning to a lost world; it is called The Great Commission. The Keller-Newbigin message of “real tolerance” is the complete opposite of scripture and a road to destruction.

-Christians must be firm but open to opposing views……
*Firm position:  strong stand, unyielding viewpoint, resolute belief, non-compromising
*Open position:  willing to consider new ideas
By definitions, you are either firm with regard to false belief systems or open- but you cannot be both.

-Pushing moral behavior before lifting up Christ is religion……
“Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.   (Romans 7:7,12)
Keller’s statement is a complete departure from scripture; proclaiming grace through Christ before a person has any concept of their hopelessly sinful condition is futile and the knowledge of sin comes only through the law. Does a physician administer treatment before informing the patient that he is sick?

-The church today is calling people to Christ in a “tone of voice that confirms their worst fears”……

It seems that Tim Keller is concerned about the “tone of voice” of the Lord’s church……..

The Apostle Paul’s tone of voice to the Romans:

 “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? 36 As it is written: “For your sake we face death all day long; we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”  (Roman 8:35-38)

Jesus Christ’s tone of voice to the multitudes gathered around Him:

“Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household.”   (Matthew 10:34-36)

The Apostle Paul’s tone of voice to the Corinthians regarding his Christian experience thus far:

“In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequently, in deaths often.  From the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.  Three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned; three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep;  in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils of my own countrymen, in perils of the Gentiles, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren;  in weariness and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”    (2 Corinthians 11:23-27)

Jesus Christ’s tone of voice to His followers:

“If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me first. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said unto you, the servant is not greater than his lord. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you;  if they have kept my saying, they will keep yours also. But all these things will they do unto you for my name’s sake, because they know not him that sent me.”    (John 15: 18-21)

It also seems that Dr. Keller is grieving that the church’s tone of voice to a godless, corrupt, and deeply depraved world really just ”confirms their worst fears”?  Their rebellious, idolatrous, self-absorbed , unrighteous, unholy and extremely corrupt worst fears?  The worst fears of a corrupt, unconverted world come from a corrupt heart, so their “fears” would be unrighteous and corrupt, too- and therefore irrelevant.  Scroll back up a few notches and really take in the language of the Lord and His apostle in the above passages; do Paul or Jesus seem the least bit concerned with their tone of voice? or with the worst fears of the multitudes gathered to hear them? Keller’s statement is ridiculous. 

Arthur Rosh has posted an excellent article warning about Keller posted at Sermon Audio:




Dr. Paul Elliott has written an excellent and accurate critique of the gospel according to Keller in 5 parts (links below). I could not possibly lay it all out as well as he has done.







The link below is another excellent critique of Keller’s dangerous error and the dreadful impact it has on the gospel by Dr. E.S. Williams.     (45.05 min).

I think one can clearly see that Keller’s error is deliberate; this is not an “interpretation” issue, as is clearly demonstrated when Keller tells us that “Careful obedience to God’s law can serve as a strategy for rebelling against God”…….really?

This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and keeping his commands.  In fact, this is love for God; to keep his commandments. And his commands are not burdensome.  1 John 5:2-3

And it shall come to pass, if thou shalt hearken diligently unto the voice of the Lord thy God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command thee this day, that the Lord thy God will set thee on high above all nations of the earth.  Deuteronomy 28:1

Beloved, if our heart condemn us not, then have we confidence toward God. And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight.  1 John 3:21-22

Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my commandments and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him.  John  14:23

But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.  James 1:22

And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Spirit, whom God hath given to them that obey him.  Acts 5:32

As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.”  He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”  Luke 11: 27-28

“Love is not just a sentiment. Love is a great controlling passion and it always expresses itself in terms of obedience.”
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones


The below video excerpt (15.53 minutes) is quite strange. I am unable to break it down in comparison to scripture because it is completely incompatible with anything contained in scripture; it really comes across as senseless babble that has nothing to do with Christian evangelism. I only include it on this site to show how disconnected Tim Keller is from the gospel and the commission of Jesus Christ to His church.




In the short video clip below (1.27 minutes) Keller makes the case that your contextualization skill level determines the number of people you will be able to convert.


It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life.   John 6:63

 “And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel that displays the glory of Christ, who is the image of God.”    2 Corinthians 4:3-4

A timely warning below from Pastor John MacArthur:

“Contextualization” and the Corruption of the Church

by John MacArthur

It should be clear that modern church marketers cannot look to the apostle Paul for approval of their methodology or claim him as the father of their philosophy. Although he ministered to the vilest pagans throughout the Roman world, Paul never adapted the church to secular society’s tastes. He would not think of altering either the message or the nature of the church. Each of the churches he founded had its own unique personality and set of problems, but Paul’s teaching, his strategy, and above all his message remained the same throughout his ministry. His means of ministry was always preaching—the straightforward proclamation of biblical truth. By contrast, the “contextualization” of the gospel today has infected the church with the spirit of the age. It has opened the church’s doors wide for worldliness, shallowness, and in some cases a crass, party atmosphere. The world now sets the agenda for the church. This is demonstrated clearly in a book by James Davison Hunter, a sociology professor at the University of Virginia. Hunter surveyed students in evangelical colleges and seminaries, and concluded that evangelical Christianity has changed dramatically in the past three decades. He found that young evangelicals have become significantly more tolerant of activities once viewed as worldly or immoral. Hunter wrote:

The symbolic boundaries which previously defined moral propriety for conservative Protestantism have lost a measure of clarity. Many of the distinctions separating Christian conduct from “worldly conduct” have been challenged if not altogether undermined. Even the words worldly and worldliness have, within a generation, lost most of their traditional meaning.… The traditional meaning of worldliness has indeed lost its relevance for the coming generation of Evangelicals. (Hunter, Evangelicalism: The Coming Generation, 63)

What Hunter noted among evangelical students is a reflection of what has happened to the entire evangelical church. Many professing Christians appear to care far more about the world’s opinion than about God’s. Churches are so engrossed in trying to please non-Christians that many have forgotten their first duty is to please God (2 Cor. 5:9). The church has been so “contextualized” that it has become corrupted by the world.  (source: www.gty.org blog)



In the radio link below Jonathan Cousar (former Redeemer NYC member, 19 yrs) discusses his experience at Redeemer NYC.  Since leaving the church he has devoted much of his time to exposing Tim Keller.

Cousar Radio interview


Jonathan’s article exposing Keller’s radical environmental gospel

Jonathan Cousar’s website  http://gospelmasquerade.com/



Through the undermining of the law (Matthew 5:17) and the trampling of God’s grace underfoot (Hebrews 10:29), the gospel according to Tim Keller is a non-transforming, powerless “presentation of intellectual credibility.”

The below link is a sober warning by Paul Washer and others on the dismal state of the professing church (6.33 mins)    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Oi2kbnTvlUA

RC Sproul and John MacArthur on the “unconditional” love of God (5.53 mins)   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fcOzTZUOBn0



“We are so utterly ordinary, so commonplace, while we profess to know a Power the Twentieth Century does not reckon with. But we are ‘harmless,’ and therefore unharmed. We are spiritual pacifists, non-militants, conscientious objectors in this battle-to-the-death with principalities and powers in high places. Meekness must be had for contact with men, but brass, outspoken boldness is required to take part in the comradeship of the Cross. We are ‘sideliners’ — coaching and criticizing the real wrestlers while content to sit by and leave the enemies of God unchallenged. The world cannot hate us, we are too much like its own. Oh that God would make us dangerous!”     

Jim Elliot, martyred missionary Ecuador 1956