Tim Keller is one of the most prominent theologians in the United States today and author of numerous books. He is widely quoted by sectarian and secular opinion makers — in part because he has built a large ministry in New York City that is both compassionate to those outside the church while also basing his ministry on Biblical orthodoxy.
He wrote recently about Matthew Vines, the 25 year old gay activist who has decided the New Testament does not condemn homosexuality. I’ve seen a familiar pattern with Vines. When an orthodox Christian like Keller points out the overwhelming flaws in Vines’ arguments, Vines responds by claiming they misunderstood him or misread him. Apparently every orthodox Christian who has read Vines’ book has misunderstood him because all of them, including Keller, have said Vines is wrong.
The funniest bit of Vines’ response to Keller is noting that he quoted Keller in his book and “Keller shows no engagement with any of those chapters in his review.” Seriously, he said that.
The issue orthodox Christians need to grapple with is that for people like Matthew Vines and others, the gospel is death, not life. So they have created a gospel of their own. In their gospel, Christ says they need not repent of their defining sin because it is no longer sin. With their new gospel, they have life. They have celebrity appearances, they have TV appearances, they get to be the token responder to orthodox Christianity claiming that there is another way.
The actual gospel is death to them because the actual gospel is death to sin. They have traded the gospel of eternal life for the gospel of the here and now. And that is not the real gospel. The real gospel makes them new, but those who think the Bible is neutral on homosexuality reject the oughts of faith — because Christ died and showed them grace, there are things they ought to do.
Grace, though, is not ultimately universal. Not everyone will get it. Those who get it are those who believed and repentance is the other side of the belief coin. One who does not truly believe does not truly repent. A gospel that does not call for repentance and belief is not the gospel of Christianity. It is other.
I am reminded of this from Fr. Lawrence Farley an Orthodox (as in the church, not orthodoxy itself) priest in The Sounding.
In every age, there are Christians who compromise with the standards of their age, and accept the world’s values as their own. These people always call themselves “Christians” and denounce those who disagree with them as rigid and wrong. But the Christ whom they preach is not the real Christ. They in fact misrepresent Him, and preach a Christ made up by themselves, one who conforms more closely to their own secular age. St. Paul, St. John, and St. Athanasius pulled the mask off them in their day, and denied them the label of “Christian”. It is time that we Orthodox follow in their footsteps now and do the same to those who offer a counterfeit faith and another Jesus.
The gospel of Jesus Christ is death to those who do not repent. As Christ himself said, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations.” (Luke 24:46-47)
The Bible does make clear, as Tim Keller noted, that homosexuality is a sin. Matthew Vines has written to challenge that and redefine a 2000 year old understanding because he does not want to repent of his sin, so he must will it to not be a sin because he has decided it is a defining characterize to him.
He is left to tell us all that we have misunderstood him, did not read him, or that Tim Keller just doesn’t know as much as him. In other words, he is a millennial in need of serious prayer.