About that Tim Keller quote (Part 1)

During her Saturday morning address, Wendy drew attention to the following statement made recently by evangelical minister Tim Keller:

If you say to everybody, ‘Anyone who thinks homosexuality is a sin is a bigot,’ . . . you’re going to have to ask them to completely disassemble the way in which they read the Bible, completely disassemble their whole approach to authority. You’re basically going to have to ask them to completely kick their faith out the door.

One of the thing I noticed about this quote was the fear involved.  Some evangelical Christians fear that if they allow themselves to question their views on same sex sexual relationships — any one of a host of other issues — they might end up losing their faith altogether.  In a lot of ways, I get that fear.  I experienced it once upon myself at times, too.

And I get it because, in some ways, I represent the realization of those fears.  I started out as a devout Christian.  When I allowed myself to rethink my views on homosexuality, it also gave me the freedom to grapple with a number of other questions.  The end result of that process, which only started with my struggle with my sexual orientation, was that I eventually chose to follow an entirely different path altogether and serve other gods.

It’s easy for someone like Tim Keller to point to me and others like me and say, “See, this is what happens when you start down that path!”  And I can understand their tendency to do that, at least to some degree.

The problem is, people like Tim Keller think that what happened to me is inevitable for anyone who starts asking those questions.  I don’t think it is.  I sat in a room with roughly fifty other people this weekend, most of whom serve as living evidence that a journey that begins by asking the tough questions and reconsidering what they’ve been taught doesn’t have to lead one down the path I took.  It’s just as likely that one could change their mind about same sex sexual relationships — or any other single topic — and go no further.  It’s just as likely that after one does all the thinking and reconsidering, one ends up back at the same conclusions they held before then.  So people like Tim Keller are fearing something that’s not inevitable.

I would like to suggest that the fear people like Tim Keller are feeling is the exact reason I think they need to rethink something about the way they do faith.  Because right now, the way they’re doing it causes them fear, and I don’t think that’s healthy for them.  So I’d personally like to see them to start asking some hard questions — and maybe not even questions about human sexuality — in an attempt to restructure and firm up their faith so they don’t have to worry about it unraveling on them so much.  In short, I’d like to see them develop a faith — and a way of doing and having faith — in which they can actually have more faith.

2 thoughts on “About that Tim Keller quote (Part 1)”

  1. Thanks for the post. I do have a question though. I don’t see Tim Keller saying anything about fear. Why the leap to that assumption?

    For me it’s doctrine that he was referring to, not fear. Christian doctrine (theology etc) would need to be “kicked out the door” if people are to drop homosexuality from a list of sins. Fear doesn’t necessarily have to drive this concern, does it? Can’t it simply be concern? If Christians ignore certain parts of scripture…then aren’t they making a significant step away from the authority of all scripture?

    1. Why the leap to that assumption?

      I tend to think that at any given time, people are operating either out of love, out of fear, or some combination of both. I think when people like Tim Keller are expressing “concern” (and I’ll be honest, I think it requires a certain amount of questionable parsing to make a distinction between “concern” and “fear” in this context) about reconsidering one point of theology to bring down one’s entire faith and make it worthless, it’s pretty obvious they are not operating out of love.

      I want to focus on the following question:

      If Christians ignore certain parts of scripture…then aren’t they making a significant step away from the authority of all scripture?

      Christians “ignore” certain parts of scripture — or at least contextualize it in a way to get around the “plain reading” of those parts — all the time. Ask most middle class Christians why they aren’t selling all their possessions and giving the money to the poor as Jesus commanded, and you’ll see many appeals to context and other explanations. You know, the kind of stuff that gay-affirming Christians say in response to the “clobber texts” about homosexuality and get accused of “not respecting the authority of scripture.” (For a more nuance example of this, see Fred Clark’s post in which he talks about the year he struggled with the Bible’s condemnation of usury and how his fellow evangelical friends were happy when he finally contextualized those passages in a way that made him feel comfortable with working in the banking industry, yet became distressed when he started applying the same contextualization process to passages they felt should be read “literally.”)

      When you get right down to it, “Biblical authority” is a complex topic and involves a certain amount of nuance. In fact, I’d say that the knee-jerk reaction to invoke the specter of “disrespecting Biblical authority” when dealing with this particular issue is further evidence that fear is an — if not the — underlying motivator.

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