Keller on Salvation Outside of Christ

Editor’s note: Last week Justin Taylor featured a 2008 interview Tim Keller gave Martin Bashir related to the release of The Reason for God. Keller clarifies and corrects one of his responses in this article. If you’d like to learn more from Keller about the need to believe in Jesus Christ for salvation, watch this brief clip (also embedded below) and listen to his sermon “Exclusivity: How Can There Be Just One True Religion?” preached at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York.


This interview from three and a half years ago was the first public event like this I had ever done, and a number of my responses were less than skillful. One in particular—the one about whether there is any way of salvation outside of faith in Christ—was misleading and unhelpful.

Then and now, when people struggle with something the Bible says, I sometimes invoke the principle of Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may follow all the words of this law.The thought that God doesn’t tell us everything there is to know, and that if he doesn’t we don’t need to know it, is helpful at a number of points in life. It’s helpful when people are struggling with the difficult doctrines—of the Trinity, or how God can be sovereign and yet human beings be responsible for their decisions, or over why God allows suffering to continue. At those points it’s helpful to say, “There is more truth than God has told us, and maybe when we get to heaven he’ll show it to us. That may shed new light on things that we find difficult. Till then, we go with what we are told. That’s all we need.”

What I did that night, however, was to bring up that Deuteronomy 29:29 principle (though not quoting the text) when I felt people struggling with the teaching that all are lost if they don’t believe in Christ. I said, “This is what the Bible says, but I and we don’t know everything there is to know about this.” Almost immediately I sensed that was a wrong thing to do. And afterward my whole team, including my wife, said the same. By saying, “Maybe there’s more to it than we can see now—but this is all we are told,” I was giving people the impression that I thought maybe there is another way of salvation.

I hope this clarifies things for those of you who have rightly been concerned. Some commenters said I should correct and renounce what I said. But they assume I didn’t—actually I did, immediately, several years ago.

I admitted my mistake and haven’t answered in that muddy way again. For the record, I didn’t know the interview was being recorded. When it pops up on the internet it’s a humbling reminder that I don’t always get things right. Nevertheless, I was on a study week when Justin Taylor put it up on our TGC website, and I should have seen it sooner to tell him that my answer at that point was a mistake and didn’t at all represent my teaching on that subject over the years.


  • Pingback: Martin Bashir Interviews Tim Keller – Justin Taylor()

  • allan

    Those who did not receive Christ before dying and rejected the truth will not be saved

    • jason

      Romans 2 says, “To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.”

      Despite it’s plain language, you (and others here) probably understand the passage to mean the following: “If anyone could persist in doing good, then they would get eternal life. But no one can, so God had to provide Christ to do it for us.” That’s not what the passage says (either in context or out of it), but that’s another discussion for another day. The point I’m making here is the same people who twist that passage often also jump on universalism for suggesting that even though Christ spoke about hell no one may actually ever go there if God eventually grants all repentance. You do see the pot is calling the kettle black, right? The same Protestants that think universalism twists its way around the hell passages twist their way around Romans 2 using the same sort of logic.

      I tend to think that, if anyone fails to finally repent, they will be destroyed. Isaiah says the smoke of Edom’s land burning will rise forever. However, it isn’t rising right now. Welcome to the Bible, people, where much is spoken in allegory and hyperbole. Don’t claim to know everything because only God does.

  • Pingback: Keller on Salvation Outside of Christ – The Gospel Coalition Blog | My Life is for Christ()

  • taco

    This good to hear, I was a bit surprised when I saw the interview.

  • Pingback: Tim Keller Explains His Remark on the Exclusivity of Christ – Justin Taylor()

  • paul

    It’s a humbling point to make and he does it well…
    All we know is Christ…so that is all we can and should teach.
    We know that God is God and He can do whatever He wants. But like the Deut. 29:29…that is simply a mystery and we aren’t called to preach the mystery but rather the Gospel. Thanks Tim, your humility and ministry are a great blessing!

  • Pingback: What was Keller thinking??? - Page 2()

  • Pingback: How to Respond to Objections Toward Christianity with Grace | One Pilgrim's Progress()

  • Pingback: Keller on salvation in Jesus Christ « Savouring the Gospel()

  • Basilius M. Kasera

    I’m glad to hear that Tim had acknowledge the error of his answer. I for one was greatly disturbed…I’ve posted this correction on my blog and it’s great seeing Keller humbly acknowledging this error without being defensive.

  • Aaron

    I’m still unclear on whether Timothy Keller is an exclusivist (only those with conscious belief in Jesus will be saved), or perhaps a kind of agnostic inclusivist (some people perhaps will be saved apart from conscious knowledge of Jesus, but only through the work of the blood of Jesus). This post suggests to me that he merely regretted the way he *expressed* his position, not that his position is actually strictly exclusivistic. Am I reading it wrong? Any clarification is appreciated.

    • Brandon Silas

      Aaron, I’m still unclear too. Saying, “By saying, “Maybe there’s more to it than we can see now—but this is all we are told,” I was giving people the impression that I thought maybe there is another way of salvation. I hope this clarifies things for those of you who have rightly been concerned.”

      doesn’t really clarify anything other than he wishes he had said “it” differently. But he doesn’t state what he wishes he would have said.

  • Joseph E. Torres

    Aaron, thanks for asking for clarification. Before I moved I was a member of Redeemer for several years and I can say in good conscience (as one who’s heard hundreds of Keller sermons and open forums) that he is a classic exclusivist. All those that are saved by Jesus are only saved as they place Spirit-granted faith in the person of Jesus.

  • Wes Faulk

    I appreciate Dr. Keller’s response to concern. I am saddened by how quickly people will tear apart a man called by God on their blogs over one comment without first looking at his body of work and seeking to clarify it with him in a private way. Are we simply scavengers looking for the next feed? As a preacher I know I have said things in my pulpit that I have later repented of.

    • Stan McCullars

      I didn’t see anyone tear Dr. Keller apart. I saw people who were rightly…concerned express their disappointment in his previous comments.

      • Daryl Little


        One or two did call Mr. Keller a false teacher or something close to that.

        I was one who expressed disappointment, and am glad to have read this.
        It’s always good, when seeing someone fall, to discover that they tripped, and didn’t jump.

        • Stan McCullars

          That’s too bad. Sounds like something I would impulsively say.

          It’s always good, when seeing someone fall, to discover that they tripped, and didn’t jump.


          • Daryl Little


            It does sound like something you’d say…but hey, it’s not like you’re an unknown quantity. :)

            Some people are a little quicker on the trigger than others. It’s what makes life interesting.

            • Stan McCullars

              Daryl, You made my day!

    • paul

      I agree Wes…there is certainly a difference in “mis speaking” and willfully communicating false teachings…especially when you go back and correct it on your own.

  • jason

    Yeah I was bummed when viewing the first interview, I kind of fwlt like I lost a friend. But Im stoked to see this/ keller, if your reading this, Im sure it is difficult to be scrutinized at every corner (but this is no doubt a given when involved in a ministry like yours), I know that even accusations alone (regardless of false, or if the accuser doesnt have the entire picture, just as we see here, that is to say we were not aware of this video above) are very burdensome to the accused, and extremely disheartening, Im sure you have a great crew around you encouraging you about this but I just wanted to be one of the voices on the www telling you that Im able to feel your burden and to not grow weary, you are doing a great job and I am blessed by your ministry (and especially now that you have cleared this up). Stay well and stay rad.

    • Andrew Morrison

      “Stay well and stay rad.”
      Amen to that!
      Was anyone else here convicted of how we (as Christians and also children of the internet) hold public teachers to a higher standard than we ourselves LIVE up to? I know I was.
      Dr. Keller, thanks for your clarification and even more for making the good news of Jesus so clear to me and many others. Please forgive us internet geeks for getting up in arms so easily.

  • Pingback: What I Read Online – 09/14/2011 (a.m.) | Emeth Aletheia()

  • Rich

    What I don’t understand is why did Taylor feel the need to post the interview in the first place? If anyone looked at the body of work that Keller has done, all the times he has undeniably stated that Jesus is the only way, no one that read or heard Keller in any substantial way would question where he stood. So putting up one sub-par interview–what did he hope to accomplish? It’s pitiful. Where is discernment here, folks?

    • Scott Howard

      This was my question exactly. I don’t understand why Justin Taylor didn’t go to Dr Keller before posting the interview. In light of Dr Keller’s response, a lot of flurry could have been avoided had he been patient and awaited Dr Keller’s response.

    • Brandon Silas

      I think he did a great service in posting this. This wasn’t the only “muddy” answer he gave. What about at 50:48 and 53:45 when he was asked if homosexuality was a sin. Was that a clear answer? He was also asked if being homosexual would send you to hell. He rightly answered no. But why didn’t he follow that up with “Not repenting of it and turning to Christ for forgiveness – not doing that is what sends you to hell.” I guess we could all second guess him and ourselves all day long on things like this. But it seems for a pastor who has been doing this for over 20 years, IF he wanted to bring the Gospel into it, that would have been another great opportunity to do so.

    • Noah


  • Pingback: Worth a Look 9.14.11 : Kingdom People()

  • Femi

    I’m quite relieved to hear this. Incidentally I listened to the interview for the first time two days ago and when I heard it I had to play it again about two more times to be sure I did hear correctly. When I was sure of what he said, it truly disturbed me, but I shrugged it off as a surprising and a ‘really should have known better’ mistake. I became fully Reformed in my theology about a year ago now and Tim Keller has been one of those people who have helped root me in the practical aspects of the Reformed faith. So I was more surprised hearing that from some one I KNOW is humbly an exclusivist.
    At the same time I understood again that even the greatest of men are mortal and only Christ is infallible (in knowledge and expression). Nonetheless, the many of Tim’s messages I had listened to did not for one minute make me doubt his conviction, I just felt he could have expressed it better, much better.
    Thanks Tim for putting this up, it gives me (and I’m sure some others) a lot of relief. Keep doing what God has called you to do and may His grace be evermore sufficient for you.

    PS: For anyone who easily castigates someone with all the burden of being a public minister, please remember that when you make some of these basic errors (and we all do) you’re only spared because perhaps only one or two people were there at the time. He was wrong, you know it, we know it, He knows it and God knows it. But he has also admitted it to God and publicly as well…..I hope you’ve done the same

  • Pingback: Tim Keller’s Doctrinal Clarification « Antagoniz()

  • Tom

    A couple of things. I was the first responder to the Keller video over at JT’s blog. I was saddened to hear Keller’s response to Bashir’s question about the exclusivity of Christ. But, what has become more troubling to me since then is the number of people defending Keller’s response as being somehow missional or appropriate for the given context Keller was in. And now that Keller has come out with his mea culpa, I wonder how many of these same defenders will now admit his answer was “misleading and unhelpful” or if they will continue to insist that “misleading and unhelpful” statements about the gospel are okay to make in certian contexts and as long as we’re trying to be missional.

    • Daryl Little

      Good point Tom.

      It says a lot about how we will defend our heroes unnecessarily.

      We all fail. Lets not pretend our friends and favourite preachers don’t.

      • Tom


        The scarey thing is that I don’t know if they were defending their hero as much as defending their faulty understanding of the gospel or their faulty belief that how you communicate the truth of gospel is unimportant… As long as you’re being missional, everything gets a pass.

  • Pingback: The Pastor and Humility « Ricky's Reflections()

  • Normand Lavoie

    Pastor Tim, I’m very glad to see that you were taken out of context and you are re-affirming your rock solid conviction of the exclusivity of the the Gospel.
    May you persevere until the end on the Narrow Way!

    Love your writings,
    Orlando, FL

    • Brandon Silas

      Normand, I don’t see where he re-affirmed a rock-solid conviction of the exclusivity of Christ. The closest he came was when he said, “By saying, “Maybe there’s more to it than we can see now—but this is all we are told,” I was giving people the impression that I thought maybe there is another way of salvation.

      I hope this clarifies things for those of you who have rightly been concerned.”

      But that doesn’t really clarify it, does it?

  • Mike

    I wonder how often I would mince my words if I was recorded all the time. How about you guys?

    • Darrell Todd Maurina

      God does record all of our words, all the time. Let’s not forget that.

      Accountability is not a minor principle.

      What I write is routinely seen by thousands of people every day, and not uncommonly by tens of thousands. I know that and I know why I need to be careful in my secular work to say what I mean and mean what I say. We’ve all said things we regret saying, but let’s try to remember that **BEFORE** we say them. I don’t hear Rev. Keller blaming the person who tape recorded him, but lots of people do blame people for reporting what they said rather than blaming themselves for saying it.

      I trust Rev. Keller understands that he is held to a far higher standard that that of secular writers, and that we all understand that even if we’re talking to only one or two people in person, God is the unseen audience… and his tape recorder never shuts off.

      Think, for example, of Rev. Billy Graham who years after a conversation with President Nixon he didn’t know was being taped, got publicly humiliated for horribly derogatory and anti-Semitic comments that he had forgotten he said to President Nixon and probably never would have come to light if it were not for the White House tapes. Rev. Graham apologized, which was the right thing to do.

  • Truth Unites… and Divides

    No Christ… Hell-bound!

    Know Christ… Heaven-bound!

  • Brandon Silas

    I say this very sadly, but I remain unconvinced. I believe Tim Keller is walking a very fine line and that’s why his answers sounded muddied and convoluted. He sounds just like someone who’s trying to play both sides of the fence. He wants to be liked by secular liberals as well as conservative Christians. So in that room on that night in 2008, when he thought nothing was being taped, he spoke freely. He spoke in a way to provoke as little offense as possible among the secular liberals in attendance. He did this confidently knowing it would never be seen outside that room.

    But now that it has been seen by the rest of us (even though apparently according to his last paragraph he would have done everything in his power to stop it from being published if only he had known about it), he is in the uncomfortable position of having to explain to all of us what he meant.

    However, he doesn’t really say what he meant here. He only says his answers weren’t “skillful”. But even here he does not come out and clearly state, “I believe there is only one way to God and that is through Jesus Christ.” That’s all he had to do to convince me. But he didn’t, so I remain unconvinced.

    I think it’s clear that he is having trouble saying that here because then the secular liberals whose approval he seeks would be offended.

    The bottom line is you can’t have it both ways. You can’t win over Christians to your preaching while preaching in a way where you primarily seek to win over secular people by making the Bible more palatable for them.

    If you proclaim to the truth of the Bible, you’re going to turn off Manhattan’s secular liberals. If, on the other hand, you seek to appease them by not clearly, courageously and boldly preaching the Gospel as Paul and all the other New Testament preachers did, then you’re going to turn off your Christian base.

    So to Tim Keller I would say, as gently and lovingly as possible, figure out who you are. Figure out which side you’re on and then be bold and unapologetic in defending it. We love you Dr. Keller… but you really gotta figure out who you are willing to be disliked by? You can’t be universally loved. Choose a side and stick to it! We’ll all be praying for you.

    • Kyle S.

      Have you ever read one of his books? He speaks just like he writes; he hides nothing. As an agnostic I can tell you that his exposition of scripture does nothing to make it more palatable to a non-believer; I’m just as squicked out by the squicky bits of the Bible as I ever was. All Dr. Keller has done (as if it were some small thing!) is to show me that my aversion to certain Christian teachings doesn’t necessarily make those teachings wrong.

      He responded to criticism by apologizing for his mistake and your response is to not only seek out other aspects of his presentation to criticize, but to go so far as to accuse him of basing his entire approach to ministry on deception. Not cool.

      • steve loeffler

        Kyle, Brandon is critiquing Keller on the virtue of his discussions at the Veritas forum. On those merits, how does he do in presenting Christ and His work and sin and judgment? Brandon and I believe Keller failed. Please read my post below yours to find out more. May the Lord Jesus Christ be exalted and every tongue be found a liar. Jesus is the resurrection and the life. He died for sinners. All sinners who are thirsty are welcome to drink of the fountain of living waters for eternity. May you, Kyle, be so inclined. Grace to you, my friend, just as I have needed – a sinner in desperate need of grace and still do.

        • Kyle S.

          Steve, when Brandon accuses Dr. Keller of “seeking the approval of secular liberals” he is no longer merely discussing the contents of the Veritas Forum event but is, in fact, making broader criticisms about the man’s work. I’m neither equipped nor inclined to argue theology with either of you, I just don’t feel it’s very kind to use this apology as an excuse to launch an attack on what is, by all accounts, a very successful ministry.

          • steve loeffler

            You are fair on that comment. We do need to be careful of judging motives. Thanks.

        • Brandon Silas

          Hi Kyle,

          Yes, I’ve read most of Keller’s books and heard hundreds of his sermons. So I am quite familiar with his teachings. I don’t mean to sound like I’m attacking him. But in the Christian faith we’re all asked to be accountable to our brothers and sisters and to hold them accountable to God’s Word. And that’s all I’m trying to do here. Steve expressed it better than I could so I’ll let his response serve as mine as well.

          I would also point out that in the name of holding each other accountable, The Gospel Coalition itself was set up to do just that as well. That’s their whole purpose.

          When you have a chance, check out this page:

          You’ll see there that The Gospel Coalition exists because they have problems with what many churches are teaching. You’ll see in this document that they are critical of other churches. So, it wouldn’t seem right for The Gospel Coalition to ask those of us who have some problems with what some of their members teach to remain silent on the matter.

  • steve loeffler

    Yes, we often speak to our own disgrace. Shame on us for such times. I hope I would be the first to admit such. Thanks for pointing to Keller’s admission of ‘some’ mistake. He is not a universalist and never did I think he was. What I am still disturbed with is his lack of clarity and Biblical forthrightness. He still did not clearly correct himself about his dealings with those who do not confess Christ. He still did not forthrightly say that those who die confessing any other prophet or religion than that of Christ and the Christian religion as their only hope for salvation then they will go to Hell. This issue is not universalism but inclusivism vs. exclusivism. This issue still needs to be cleared up. May courageous faith well up within Keller before he speaks in such forums. May Veritas hear from Keller who failed miserably on a rather simple Christian teaching. For Keller, this was a rather blaring failure for a minister of the gospel. Ok, that is one.

    Second, Keller still needs to own up to his rather twisted understanding of Hell and sin – and in particular with homosexual sin. It is simple: The wages of sin (all sin: pride, theft, lying, greed and homosexuality) is death (Rom. 6:23). 1 Corinthians 6:9-10 9 Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, 10 nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.

    So, like Rev. 21:8 – 8 “But the cowardly, unbelieving, abominable, murderers, sexually immoral, sorcerers, idolaters, and all liars shall have their part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death.”

    Sin sends people to Hell, all sin; rather, God sends sinners, who are by nature and activity, to Hell. Sin is the cause for our judgement of God. Denying Christ sends us to Hell.

    Psalm 2:12 12 Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish in the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all those who put their trust in Him.

    Yes, Keller made some good points and clarifications – but let us not whitewash his atracity. Let us unleash MacArthur on Bashir and the other guy. Then we will not get a ‘Christian’ philosopher but a preacher and proclaimer of the Word of God. I am sorry – Keller did not represent us well at all. Understood, we all can drop the ball at times on various subjects, but a guy like Keller to drop the ball on subjects of faith and the gospel is not acceptable at all and he needs to clearly repent for his unfaithfulness publically. Let us hear terms like – failure, unfaithful to Christ, unfaithful to the Word, unfaithful to represent the church etc. Of course, I am not asking for a groveling in the mire but shame on him for not being clear during the interviews and not very clear in his response.

    This is a time we need soldiers of Christ to boldly and proudly confess Him and the truth. If a faithful Muslim were interviewed, I can guarentee he would be far clearer than Keller was on both issues. All infidels will go to Hell and all homosexuals will too.

    Oh, for grace to stand both firmly yet graciously.

  • Tim Keller

    Hi Brandon —

    I believe there is only one way to God and that is through conscious faith in Jesus Christ and his work.

    I’ve always been happy to say that loud and clear (when I was being recorded and when I was not) as well as happy to say it to you here and now.

    I have never believed otherwise since I became a Christian or a minister. The reason I freely confessed my mistake that very night was because I could tell that I hadn’t communicated the conviction of my mind and my heart.

    I hope that helps.

    Tim Keller

    • steve loeffler

      As Bashir asked, will the unbelieving Muslim, homosexual go to hell if he or she dies in their unbelief?

      Also, will the person who has never heard the gospel (but followed their supressive ways according to Rom. 1) and dies in their unbelief – go to Hell?

      Is sin the cause for the judgment of God including homosexual beliefs and practices (1Cor. 6; Rom. 1)?

      Do you believe that you failed your audience at Veritas and Christ at that occasion?

      Tim, you are not responsible to me only as far as a brother in Christ is. I am just tired of the lack of clarity in our day all under the guise of love to our neighbor. Acts of service is one thing, like the good Samaritan; but, so is speaking the truth – in love. We need the spoken truth and all the truth.

      Please agree with me on this point. Let us be soldiers of the cross of Christ willing to die. We are His slaves; yet, how we fail Him every day – thus another reason for the gospel.

      Love you even in the midst of heat.


      • Stan McCullars

        Did you read what Tim Keller wrote?

        I believe there is only one way to God and that is through conscious faith in Jesus Christ and his work.

        That sounds like clarity to me and I am a cynic of the highest order.

        • steve loeffler

          Thanks Stan. Yes, I read Keller’s remarks and they were still vague. I understand his point and am thankful for it. My questions were targeting specifics. I am just trying to make it clear given varying situations and what abouts – just as Bashir would do. E.g.: “So, if I understand you correctly, then what you said at Veritas was not really your position at the time and you misspoke? So, you do have knowledge about unbelieving muslims, et. al. and where they will spend eternity if they do not believe in Jesus? And, you are saying that all who have not heard the gospel and die in unbelief will also go to Hell – is that correct?”

          I am just clarifying what may be clear; and, why not, let the response be further made and even more clear. Varying questions can be good to give further help and clarity on one’s true beliefs or at least stated beliefs.

          • Stan McCullars

            I see what you mean. There does appear to be a bit of fog remaining that could be removed easily enough.

            I will wait and see if a further clarification is in the works.

    • Brandon Silas

      Thank you Dr. Keller. That means a lot to hear it from you. I hope you won’t be afraid to speak that clearly in your gracious and gentle way when before “hostile” audiences. Not everyone will respond, but those whom God is calling will.

      • Mark Robinson


        In reading through your comments, I was sobered by certain Pauline sentiments:

        “Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.”

        As a PCA minister, I’m mindful (and again, sobered by) of how my denominational catechism frames the prohibitions of the 9th commandment:

        Q. 145. What are the sins forbidden in the ninth commandment?

        A. The sins forbidden in the ninth commandment are, all prejudicing the truth, and the good name of our neighbors, as well as our own, especially in public judicature; giving false evidence, suborning false witnesses, wittingly appearing and pleading for an evil cause, outfacing and overbearing the truth; passing unjust sentence, calling evil good, and good evil; rewarding the wicked according to the work of the righteous, and the righteous according to the work of the wicked; forgery, concealing the truth, undue silence in a just cause, and holding our peace when iniquity calleth for either a reproof from ourselves, or complaint to others; speaking the truth unseasonably, or maliciously to a wrong end, or perverting it to a wrong meaning, or in doubtful or equivocal expressions, to the prejudice of the truth or justice; speaking untruth, lying, slandering, backbiting, detracting, talebearing, whispering, scoffing, reviling, rash, harsh, and partial censuring; misconstructing intentions, words, and actions; flattering, vainglorious boasting, thinking or speaking too highly or too meanly of ourselves or others; denying the gifts and graces of God; aggravating smaller faults; hiding, excusing, or extenuating of sins, when called to a free confession; unnecessary discovering of infirmities; raising false rumors, receiving and countenancing evil reports, and stopping our ears against just defense; evil suspicion; envying or grieving at the deserved credit of any; endeavoring or desiring to impair it, rejoicing in their disgrace and infamy; scornful contempt, fond admiration; breach of lawful promises; neglecting such things as are of good report, and practicing, or not avoiding ourselves, or not hindering what we can in others, such things as procure an ill name.”

        Speaking as someone who uses lots of words, crafty, conniving excuse-making, and ‘doubtful equivocations’ are so easy to deploy. Even in the very act of admitting such sinful speech, I often commit the very things I’m seeking to redress. My repentance needs repenting!

        I’m thankful for healthy, courageous (not cowardly), sisters and brothers who can discern when I offer I-was-wrong-because-I-was-trying-too-hard-to-be-right type of apologias et al and have the character to call me on my wimpy cop outs.

        It hurts to be called (rightly) a liar. But in the end, it helps and proves fruitful for my soul.

      • Brandon Silas

        Mark, thank you for that. I totally understand the temptation Tim Keller must have been under. I have been in the same situation so many times. It was only when I began to understand that the decision people make, whether for or against the Gospel, isn’t really my concern that I became better able to share it honestly. It’s not my place or within my power to move them to the right decision.

        There is only one thing God charges us with and that is to faithfully communicate what his Word says. We can try to do that in the most effective ways possible, which Dr. Keller is a genius at, that’s his gift. But with all gifts there’s always a temptation. When we become too concerned with being “effective” that we are no longer able to faithfully communicate God’s Word, then we will be only effective in making people like us personally. We will not be effective in communicating God’s Word.

        I was just looking around the Gospel Coalition website and found an interesting article on the inerrancy of scripture. It is here:

        In this lengthy article, the author quotes Billy Graham early in his ministry and I think it would do us all well to keep what he said in mind. Because it is God who draws people to Himself through the truthful and faithful communication of his Words. Let’s just proclaim his Word and live our lives to reflect it and God will draw people to Himself.

        Billy Graham: “The people were not coming to hear great oratory, nor were they interested merely in my ideas. I found they were desperately hungry to hear what God had to say through His Holy Word. I felt as though I had a rapier in my hand, and through the power of the Bible was slashing deeply into men’s consciences, leading them to surrender to God. Does not the Bible say of itself, “For the word of God is quick, and powerful, sharper than any two edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of souls and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Heb. 4:12)? I found that the Bible became a flame in my hands. That flame melted away unbelief in the hearts of people and moved them to decide for Christ. The Word became a hammer breaking up stony hearts and shaping them into the likeness of God. Did not God say, “I will make my words in thy mouth fire” (Jer. 5:14) and “is not my word like as a fire? . . . and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces?” (Jer. 23:29)?”

    • Webutante

      Thank you Tim Keller. I’ve listen to dozens if not hundreds of your semons on CD, video and at Redeemer when I’m in Manhattan and I’ve never heard you teach anything, ANYTHING, but salvation through grace alone by faith alone in Christ’s finished work on the Cross alone. You teach that when you’re in the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Psalms.

      If a clarification was necessary as you and your wife indicated, you’ve made it clearly and concisely. If some here are unwilling to accept it and let it go, then let them duke it out—in Pharisee fashion—amongst themselves.

    • Steven Tyra

      I wonder how many of the posters here have worked in ministry with non Christians? I work with college students, many of them quite secular. Of course the truth is to be preached, but there’s such a thing as tact and timing. Paul doesn’t even name “the one man whom God has appointed” at the Areopagus. Shouting TULIP at people and then walking away satisfied that you’ve done your part, and they’re simply too hardened, is hardly faithful missions. In the search for the right communicative balance, fuzziness may occur, or even misstatements. And yes, sometimes humble clarification is called for. But the men and women in the trenches deserve some grace — especially from those who haven’t been there. Tim Keller is among the most faithful and gifted communicators of the Gospel in our time. God bless him and his ministry.

  • Steve Cornell

    “God, help us all to turn to You with broken and contrite hearts. Enable us to repent even of our repentance when we are subtly proud of ourselves for being repentant. Help us to serve You and one another in humility. Forgive us for the arrogance and selfishness that too often characterizes our lives. Help us to be more like Jesus, the One Who loved us and gave Himself for us. Help us to never think that we have or are anything before you apart from what we have and apart from our identity in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Savior.”

  • Steve Cornell

    The more I’ve reflected over this discussion/debate, the more I thought that it would be interesting (and maybe a little disturbing) to move the discussion to another level. In “Love Wins: Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived,” Rob Bell raised questions about who will be in hell (or, who won’t be there). Perhaps it would be helpful to take a different approach and ask who will be in heaven. But to do this, we’ll have to move beyond cliches about those who “accept Jesus into their hearts.” I fear that salvation cliches (and perhaps theological statements) too often conceal an important truth that Jesus so often exposed.

    But it’s not only cliches that potentially obscure truth. False ideas about Jesus do the same. I appreciated the way Bell acknowledged potential misunderstandings when people reject inaccurate versions of Jesus. Unfortunately, Bell did not offer consistent answers that lead to truth.

    The inescapable point that dominates the teaching of Jesus is that only the humble will be in heaven. I’m not sure how one could read His teachings and reach any other conclusion. Heaven will be filled with humble people, with the poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). The proud of heart will be excluded. The broken and contrite, God will not despise. This should make all of us do a few gut checks but especially people who strive to be religious. It should also warn those who are working their way “up” the structured ranks of orthodox Christianity to pause (as the apostle Paul did) over a ledger of gains and losses in Christ (Philippians 3:3-9).

    In saying, “Only the humble will be in heaven” are we saying, “All those who turn to God through Jesus Christ for salvation are among the humble?” And at what point could this make humility a human achievement that contradicts the necessity of the cross? To avoid a lengthy comment, I’ll provide a link for anyone interested.

    Who will be in heaven?

  • Pingback: The Cripplegate « Gairney Bridge()

  • Pingback: Links of the Week | My World()

  • Michael Snow

    John Wesley gives an excellent answer on this topic from which many Christians could learn something before they start proof texting:

    ‘He who believeth not shall be damned’ is spoken of him to whom the Gospel is preached. Others it does not concern. And we are not required to judge their final state. But this we know. that ‘in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him’…[and that God judges justly]

    [quote is from memory; it may not be exact but is very close]

  • Noah

    As usual Keller handles the situation with grace and clarity. I’d love to see Justin do the same in the future. A simple call or email from Justin might of cleared things up- Justin seem to look for “gotcha” momens. Blog artist might be well served to spend less time typing and more time face to face to curb their need to be overly provocative.

  • Phillip

    The posting of discerning the Keller remarks,once brought to the light, brought a regret from Keller, once his personal position was publicized,is worthy of review and discussion.

  • Jack Brooks

    And Wesley was wrong. We don’t like the enormity of the task thrust upon us, if no one can be saved apart from hearing the Gospel; and we have these needless fears that God might be unfair if there isn’t a side-door into the kingdom of heaven (when Cornelius’ example lets us know that the Lord has an endless number of ways to get the Gospel message to the seeker).

  • Adam Spaetti

    Tim Keller wrote “The reason I freely confessed my mistake that very night was because I could tell that I hadn’t communicated the conviction of my mind and my heart.”

    Dear Pastor Keller, I am glad you confessed, but it’s important to realize there was much more at stake than an accurate, clear testimony about your mind and heart.

  • Jonathan Cousar

    I went to Redeemer for 19 years. The last couple of years I was there I decided to get much more involved in the church than I had been before. I volunteered to lead a small fellowship group as well as one of the Faith & Work groups. The more involved I got the more I began to see that a surprising number of people who had gone there for a few years or more had trouble answering the same question Dr. Keller was asked on this video.

    To be fair, I have also had embarassing amounts of trouble answering that question when asked by friends and acquaintances. But I realized my trouble came from my mistaken belief that they would be either won over or lost to the Gospel by MY words instead of by the Holy Spirit. The more I realized that God calls people to himself through his Spirit and only asks us to lovingly and gently share the truth of his Word with them, the more boldly I’ve been able to answer that question.

    With that said, I had an email conversation last summer with Dr. Keller in which he was gracious enough to give me some of his busy time in reading and responding to my messages.

    I wanted to share part of what I wrote to him because it bears on this conversation. I won’t share his response because it was a private conversation and I haven’t asked for his permission (an internet lesson I learned earlier this year the hard way!).

    But I share this because Redeemer has long endorsed authors and teachers who do have a universalist view. And that’s what I wrote to Dr. Keller about. I was certain he must not have known about it. He assured me that he and the church didn’t agree with those authors on that point. But I kept insisting – eventually to his annoyance I’m sure – that it was such a major point that maybe we shouldn’t be fellowshipping so closely with people who held such views.

    Here are some excerpts from one of my emails to Tim:

    “My concerns about what the church was teaching grew out of what I was hearing from members and long-time regular attenders. I never (well, rarely!) had a problem with anything I heard you preach on Sundays and couldn’t figure out why so many people seemed to disagree with what I thought you believed and preached.

    Then when I took a closer look at the website it all started to make more sense. I found endorsements of new age teachings there. For instance, the class called “Way of the Monk” – has deep roots in Buddhism and universalism. (

    Several authors are recommended on the website by people who have said rather disturbing things. For instance, Henri Nouwen, who wrote:

    “Today I personally believe that while Jesus came to open the door to God’s house, all human beings can walk through that door, whether they know about Jesus or not. Today I see it as my call to help every person claim his or her own way to God.”

    — Sabbatical Journey, Henri Nouwen, page 51, 1998 Hardcover Edition

    I’ve been told by at least one pastor and one elder that of course the church doesn’t endorse Nouwen on that point. But they will continue to recommend his books because he has a lot of other good things to say. The elder even told me that the church believes that Christian and non-Christian New Yorkers are so discerning that they trust them to discern the good teachings from the bad!

    Tim, universalist beliefs are so pervasive in our culture that if the church doesn’t actively counter them, no one will. And the church can’t effectively counter them if they’re also actively endorsing people who teach them!

    Also, I sat in on a Project Timothy class taught by Ron Choong recently and I have to say, I was really surprised at what I heard there. His teachings had the net effect of casting considerable doubt on the reliability and authority of scripture.

    In the one class I sat in on, I heard him teach that:

    – Jesus never gave proof that he was the son of God, only signs;

    – The people who copied the New Testament scriptures made a lot of changes and mistakes. Their intentions were good, but they didn’t realize they were copying the “word of God” so they weren’t as careful as they could have been;

    – “If you grew up thinking the Bible is inerrant you’ll be very frustrated”;

    – Christianity is obliged to explain itself on creation since the discoveries of the sciences offer a compelling scenario of what happened;

    – The books of Paul weren’t selected, they are simply the only ones we have;

    – Ephesians, Colossians, Philemon and Philippians were most likely written by someone claiming to be Paul;

    – Adam and Eve weren’t real people, rather composite hominids endowed with a moral sense;

    – Job wasn’t a real person.

    I understand that a compelling case can be made for all that he said. I just find that those cases are usually made by people who are attempting to undermine Christianity and Biblical authority and reliability. I would hope that teachers in our church would show us how these objections to and criticisms of Biblical authority might be overcome and answered by the believer. However, the clear message Ron communicated to the class that night, whether explicitly stated or not, was that we can’t know for sure what the Bible really says. We can’t fully rely on it because there are just too many problems with how it came into existence. Too many mistakes have been made with it. …

    New age beliefs, universalist beliefs and the belief that scripture isn’t authoritative are so common in our culture that new Christians coming into the church continue to hold them. And people who have been at the church for years hold them as well.

    I think the church not only needs to stop recommending teachings and teachers who hold these beliefs, but should actively teach and prepare people to counter them. I’ve heard you do this in several sermons and you do such an excellent job at it…”

    • Steve

      Censorship and banned books lists don’t prevent the spread of heresy or error. If anything, such tactics leave the victims less equipped to respond to false teaching; in my experience, the Christian college students who fall the fastest are those who grew up in churches that discouraged hard questions about faith. Everything from secularism to “higher” biblical criticism appears all the more seductive to such students, because of its perceived novelty and their inability to formulate a response–“Mom never told me about that! I can’t think why not…” Maturing a congregation is the best way to prevent error, and maturity involves reading critically and selectively. There is much that is God honest gorgeous and true in Nouwen. Gregory of Nyssa, a father of the church in the late fourth century, was a prime architect of the expanded Nicene Creed in 381. To Gregory we owe some of our classic formulations of the Trinity, particularly the deity of the Holy Spirit. And Gregory was a “universalist” (although that needs some nuance). Would I ever prevent a student from reading the Nyssen or any other church father? Heavens no! But I’d teach them to read with discernment. If we only talk to the people who agree with us on every point, we might as well not talk.

  • Jack Brooks

    @Steve: You aren’t distinguishing between examining a teaching and allowing it to be promoted without critique.

  • Sandy Pryor

    Thank you for your helpful comment, Jonathan. I’ve learned alot through this particular post and follow-up comments.

    • Sandy Pryor

      I meant to add that I am still in need of someone to help me locate posting policies for this blog. My previous comment requesting this was deleted (maybe because it was sort of irrelevant) but there have been a small handful of other comments removed as well and so I was trying to educate myself as to what would be acceptable and unacceptable for posting. Any help would be appreciated.

  • Sandy Pryor

    Ok this is crazy. Why is it that anyone who tries to get answers as to why things are deleted, where the posting rules are, or reposts something that was removed for an unknown reason gets their comment removed? There are plenty of critical remarks aimed at Tim Keller, yet they are still available to be read. Why do I feel like I’m dealing with the Wizard of Oz? Please, someone step up and take responsibility for what’s going on at this blog and explain things!

  • Pingback: Gospel Powered Living()

  • Jonathan Cousar

    I was just thinking about this question Tim was asked, and realized there’s such an easy answer! (there are no easy answers they say… well just wait).

    When people ask whether or not people can come to God through their own religions, without Christ, they’re really asking about the fairness of God. They’re asking, “how can God be fair when he requires Jews and Muslims who are taught to reject Christ that they must come to God through Christ?”

    That’s the real question. And the answer is so simple it escapes most of us most of the time! But this shows the ultimate fairness of God. He gives all people everywhere the exact same access to Himself through the same process!

    He doesn’t require Muslims to do something that he doesn’t require Christians to do or atheists to do. He asks all people to do the exact same thing. And He gives all of us the same access through the same method. He gives all people salvation through Christ – alone. Whether Jew or Muslim or Sikh, Hindu, atheist or even cultural Christian. God has given us all the exact same access to Himself through Christ! That’s the Good News!

    We humans are the ones who put artificial limits on God, it’s not God being unfair with us. We’re the ones who artificially limit God by saying, “I can’t come to God through Christ because my religion, (or lack of it), forbids it.” God said ALL can come to me through my Son, regardless of what religion or race or sexual identity or nationality we are. Regardless of how we were raised.

    If people want to reject that, that’s their decision. But it’s not God rejecting them. It’s them rejecting God.

  • Phillip

    And then there is the God breathed word of Romans, chapter nine.
    Praise be to God most high.

  • Charles M. Recker

    I just am amazed that even in Mr. Keller’s correction he said he was “less than skillful.” That still misses it. The reality is he was NOT BIBLICAL. The real fear seems to me to be a trepidation of quoting SCRIPTURE. Mr. Keller, where is SCRIPTURE? Why do we believe Jesus is the ONLY WAY TO HEAVEN? Because God in Scripture speaks clearly this truth. ACTS 4:12; there is no other name under heaven whereby we must be saved. Phil.2:10; At the NAME OF JESUS EVERY KNEE SHALL BOW. Rom. 5:1; We have peace with God through our LORD Jesus Christ. Romans 6:23, etc. We need to stop worrying about who the GOSPEL will offend, because it is OFFENSIVE Galatians 5:11. When God comes down, even his enemies and the nations tremble, Isaiah 64:1. People will be saved, not by intellectual, skillful responses that ignore Scripture, but by the incorruptible seed of God’s Word; faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. We need revival, not psycho-babble!

    • steve loeffler

      Thanks Charles. Let us be firm with our brothers that drop the ball lest they go further astray. Jude 21-23.

  • steve loeffler

    Tim, is sin the cause for the judgment of God including homosexual beliefs and practices (1Cor. 6; Rom. 1)?


  • Brandon

    Steve, I think you’re right to ask for more clarity. The more I’ve thought about this, the more uncomfortable I’ve become with his apology. I wonder if Dr. Keller would be willing to not only address this to his congregation from the pulpit of his church at ALL services one Sunday, but would he be willing to preach a whole sermon on who gets saved, who doesn’t and how they get saved.

    This is such a serious lapse of pastoral competence that I feel he needs to bring it to the attention of his whole congregation. If he doesn’t then I feel his apology here was made only because he got caught here and he made the apology only to the audience he got caught by. If he’s genuinely sorry and genuinely understands how serious this lapse was, he would show that by showing e courage to bring it to the attention of his whole congregation — most of whom probably know nothing about it. Will he hide it from them, or will he confess it and make it right before them?

  • Philip

    Keller reply,
    At its best shall we say, “inconclusive”.
    In a word, there occasions where the academician and pastor do not meet. “Recorded” or not, there in One who records it all.

  • Pingback: The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism | Reeling by on Celluloid()