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Tim Keller Article Notes — “Lloyd-Jones on the Problem of Preaching”

In a March blog post at Redeemer City to City titled, “Lloyd-Jones on the Problem of Preaching,” Tim Keller has begun a discussion on D. M. Lloyd Jones’ book of lectures Preaching and Preachers. If you are someone who admires Keller, you’ll be interested to note that he attributes this book as an influence and a help in shaping the preacher he is today. Several things stood out to me from Keller’s introductory comments on the book:

  • Lecturing in 1969, Lloyd-Jones addressed trends in Britain that have been visible in America over the past decade; in general, folks were concerned about the value of preaching. Could preaching God’s Word really reach modern people who had televisions and a general distrust for orators?
    • The internet has us asking and experimenting with the same question today.
    • As a public school teacher, I hear a question along the same vein being asking amongst my colleagues: how do we reach students in the internet age?
  • Lloyd-Jones then went on to discuss the various ways that churches were proposing to address this alleged fall in the primacy of the pulpit:
    • Modifying preaching by making it more showy (more appeal to the emotions, more story-telling) or adding new media to it (in Lloyd-Jones’ time, that was TV and radio; now it’s a slew of digital media).
    • Making artistic expression the centerpiece of worship, rather than preaching.
    • Greater emphasis on social justice.
    • Disbanding from centralized congregations and becoming smaller, multi-voice pockets of Christians.

Isn’t it amazing how these observations, made in 1969, could easily be made today? I’ve only been a Christian for half a decade, but I’ve seen or heard of examples of all of the above proposed changes L-J saw in the contemporary church in Europe.

There’s nothing new under the sun, right?

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Resource Review: Reason for God Discussion Guide and DVD

Recommended. Meaty material for discussing 12 objections to the Christian faith and life.

If you’ve read The Reason for God (2009), you likely benefited from the fruit of Tim Keller’s two decades of ministry in New York City. Using literature, philosophy, anthropology, and a number of other disciplines, Keller met those who doubt on neutral ground. However, for those of us who wanted to share the ideas in his book with others, our best option was to try hosting a book club.

Now, there is a superior option for equipping fellow believers with “an answer to give to everyone who asks [them] to give the reason for the hope that [they] have… with gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15). In The Reason for God Discussion Guide and DVD, small groups will find the ideal resource for transferring lessons learned from Reason for God to deep group discussions and the skeptics in our lives.

Discussion Guide

The curriculum is divided into six sessions, each of which addresses two related, common objections to Christianity. If you’ve never experienced a Redeemer City to City discussion guide before (Gospel in Life, Prodigal God), prepare to have your expectations of group curricula raised.  Each session begins with an opening thought and prayer prompt, a section for taking notes on the 20-minute DVD clip, a set of discussion questions (with ample easy-access background material for group leaders to read), a final thought and prayer prompt, and a list of additional resources.

Two aspects of the discussion guide are worth elaborating on. First, the quality of the discussion questions is difficult to overstate. Many of the questions use quotations from various sources to connect to what was discussed in the DVD. Some questions push participants to try new things (for example, in one session participants are asked to summarize the Bible from Genesis to Revelation in three minutes). In general, each question leads participants to think about how they would respond to comments made by skeptics in the DVD. From the questions alone, participants will emerge from each session more confident and more sensitive to have discussions with the skeptics in their lives.

But these questions are made richer still by the gray text boxes that contain Dr. Keller’s thoughts on each discussion question. Often times, this kind of material would only available to leaders, but I like how any group participant can easily look down to Keller’s thoughts on a question if he or she desires more information.

DVD

The six DVD sessions (20 minutes in length) are shortened version of hour and a half long discussions that Dr. Keller had with a group of skeptics in New York City. Overall, these sessions illustrate a deep respect for skeptics, acknowledging that everyone who questions Christian faith has questions that come from varied life experiences. I like that these filmed discussions are very obviously unscripted and honest. At one point, a comment from Keller is followed by a straightforward, “You’re going to have to do better than that.” Viewers get to see someone lovingly deal with nitty-gritty, real-life people. In this way, the DVD shows Keller’s book taking on flesh and blood. When paired with the discussion guide, the DVD is invaluable.

All in all, I’m left with one response to this curriculum: I can’t wait to bring it to my local church to see when we might begin a Reason for God group in my area!

 

FCC Disclaimer: A complementary copy of this resource was provided by the publisher for review purposes.

Tim Keller Blog Notes — “Revival: Ways and Means”

In a recent blog post, Keller carefully describes several “factors that, when present, often become associated with revival by God’s blessing.” Tim’s favorite book on this topic is William B. Sprague’s Lectures on Revivals of Religion (1832) — an oldie but a goodie, apparently 🙂

Here is the list of factors that Keller shares:

  1. Extraordinary prayer
  2. Recovery of the grace-gospel — that we are saved by God’s grace, not by moral effort
  3. Renewed individuals
  4. The use of the gospel on the heart in counseling
  5. Creativity

Keller’s addition of creativity to the list encouragers believers to unwed themselves to specific techniques or programs, and to instead be on the lookout for new ways to communicate the timeless truths of the gospel. “For example, under Wesley and Whitefield, outdoor preaching was a new, galvanizing method. Mid-day public prayer meetings were important to the Fulton Street revival in downtown NYC in 1857-58. I’m ready to say thatcreativity might be one of the marks of revival, because so often some new way of communicating the gospel has been part of the mix that God used to bring a mighty revival.”

May the gospel be the centerpiece of all that we do.

Tim Keller Blog Post — “Revival (Even) on Broadway”

If you haven’t heard of Redeemer City to City yet, I strongly encourage you to check them out. You will see there a movement of churches striving to live out the gospel in major cities around the world.

Recently, Tim Keller posted on revivals. Some interesting points:

1. The differing definitions of revival based on tradition (Methodists/Baptists vs. Pentecostals/Charismatics vs. Puritan/Reformed)

2. Tim and Kathy’s early experiences of revival at their undergraduate campuses

3. Tim/Kathy’s time at Gordon-Conwell, where they studied revivals under the teaching of Richard Lovelace (and reading from Edwards “modernizers” Lloyd-Jones, Packer, and Lovelace)

4. Comparing the Keller’s non-revival experience in Hopewell, VA (which was still a good experience, in which people were converted and Christians grew) and their revival experience in Manhattan in the late 80s-early 90s.

5. Mentioning a future discussion on the “means” of revivals; what brings them about; and whether or not it’s even right to discuss such things.

 

Tim Keller Article Notes — The Lord of the Rings and Redemptive Art

In this article (conveniently posted as a pdf and archived at Redeemer City to City’s website), Tim Keller talks not only about one of his favorite series of novels, but also about how Christians can engage culture in the city.

Mini-overview:

I. The Importance of Christian community

II. The Difference between Christian Art and Propaganda

III. Christian “Messages” in LOTR

 

 

I. The Importance of Christian community

  1. LOTR was prodded along by the Inklings, most notably C. S. Lewis. Were it not for Lewis, Tolkein implies, LOTR would never have been finished, let alone published.
  2. Christians who come to the City to make an impact, beware: it won’t be down outside of a “stimulating and supportive community.”

II. The Difference between Christian Art and Propaganda

  1. Many believe that art that does not evangelize is inferior to art that does.
  2. Tolkein purposefully excluded any hint of “religion” in the LOTR world; instead, he allowed the “religious element” to be “absorbed into the story and symbolism.”
  3. Tolkein’s beliefs fertilized his imagination, rather than shaping his story in an allegorical or deliberate way.

III. Christian “Messages” in LOTR

  1. “Good vs Evil” is highly nuanced and biblical. No characters were bad in the beginning (not even the Dark Lord), and the greatest, most powerful characters have the greatest danger of succumbing to “the seductive power of self-glorification and lust for power.”
    1. There are no stock “very good” or “very bad”  characters; several good characters go bad, several bad characters are redeemed, and Gollum, a broken character, makes progress until a final destructive lapse.
  2. Rather than being a heroic quest, this is an anti-quest
    1. Characters aren’t trying to get something, but to lose something
    2. Heroes aren’t the strongest, they are the weakest
    3. Ultimately, salvation comes not from the amassing of power, but from the surrender of it.
    4. Frodo becomes so wounded by his task that “he loses the ability to enjoy or live in the world in order for others to have and keep the world” (Keller).
  3. A Christian, non-sentimental hope
    1. The ending of LOTR is sad; many have perished; Frodo’s wounds will never fully heal; Tolkein knew, as a Christian, that the world was more marred by sin than we cared admit
    2. Yet, the songs and poems in the story whisper of a future consummation, in which “everything sad will become untrue.”

Closing:

“Since they originally “unconsciously” shaped the story, these messages do not demand that the reader convert to Christianity to understand or embrace them. Peter Jackson, the director of the movies, is a man of uncommon artistic skill and integrity, but he shows no evidence of sharing Tolkien’s Christian doctrinal commitments. Nevertheless, in an interview with Charlie Rose, he expressed so much admiration for the power and quality of Tolkien’s work, that he said, “We decided to honor him by not injecting our own messages into the movies, but rather by letting his messages come through without tampering.”That is remarkable. It shows that Christians may find less hostility to the gospel in the world if we incarnate it with the excellence and imagination that Tolkien did in his art.”

(See the full article at Redeemer City to City here).