Back Rubs Don’t Work With Heart Disease

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The first thing to do is go here, and read through the post, particularly the transcript of the Q&A at the bottom. Tim Keller is at Covenant, and is asked a very good question about homosexuality. In the course of his answer, Keller says that there is no question about where Redeemer stands on the question (which I am happy to accept). Their position is the biblical position. But what this does is raise questions about evangelism, faithful witness, and moral courage. It raises questions about the strategic value of an evangelistic and apologetic strategy that is not prepared to confront, directly, some of the central sins of the people you are addressing.

And by “confronting sin,” I do not intend to commend the kind of preaching that gets its jollies from calling other people sinners. That is a problem, but it has to be confessed that in this age, this era, it is not our problem. We should want to preach about the central sins because as preachers of the gospel, we have scattered through the dungeons, with our gospel keys. In that circumstance, why wouldn’t we want to unlock the biggest and thickest chains?

But instead we are like Lot’s pastor in Sodom, who gradually over time saw his sermons get diluted into bland blessings and blander bromides. At the end, he may have wondered how that ever happened. Or, more likely, he may never have wondered. Although he may have wondered, at one point, what that odd glow outside his study window was.

The second thing is to refer you back to this post. In it, I make reference to the

problem faced by evangelical big city pastors, and this is it in a nutshell. If a surgeon wants to do gospel work on the heart, he has to first open the patient up — and nothing will do for that but the knife of the law. Without that, evangelical preachers are reduced to applying their treatments of the heart through various forms of accupressure.

Relevant gospel ministry, relevant evangelistic ministry, is willing for the rich young ruler to go away saddened. It is willing for riots designed to get you and your message out of town. I have written recently about the utter irrelevance of an undue concern for relevance. Out of all the practicing homosexuals in Manhattan, are there none who want to hear liberty proclaimed to the captives? Out of all the professing Christians who struggle with same-sex temptations, should they not be able to hear clear, biblical instruction about what they should do with their temptations? Would that not be relevant? Yes, it would be, and precisely because it was relevant, the enemies of sexual liberty (that liberty which is enjoyed over decades between one man and one woman) would create a political stink.

I am not on the warpath against Keller. I think he has done a lot of fine work. But when it comes to this issue of sex and the city, I believe his strategic thinking is misguided in the extreme. Instead of being held up as a model for young seminarians, at this point Redeemer should be held up as a cautionary tale. Why? Because backrubs won’t work with heart disease.

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