Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller on the doctrine of vocation and doubt

12 Apr

Last week I learned a bit more about Timothy Keller, the pastor of Presbyterian of Redeemer Lutheran Church in New York city from the Lutheran satirist, Anthony Sacramone, who used to attend there…

And yesterday on Gene Veith’s blog, a commenter named Abby talked about how while watching live-streaming of the Gospel Coalition Conference, she saw Tim Keller carefully explain Luther’s doctrine of vocation – and also say that “Lutherans (Luther) have this right.”

More from Abby:

“He described how a “milk-maid” is called by God to do her job. He said the people who do the simplest work are the fingers (masks) of God. And he said “Be the best at what you do,” and “Faith is our moral compass.”

It’s great to see ideas that Gene Veith has done much to popularize are being discussed more in non-Lutheran quarters.

And here is something I think Tim Keller gets right.  Take this question: “is doubting God always a bad thing?”  I think that this 1.5 minute video clip is convincing.

I, for one, am convinced that “wrestling with God” – as we seek to love Him with all our heart, soul, strength and mind – is a good thing, even if, strictly speaking, I do not think that the doubts of a Christian are a “good thing” (of the unbeliever – yes!).  Nevertheless in, with, and through Jesus our questioning can be sanctified, as questions born of adult-like doubt and cynicism give way to questions born of child-like curiosity and desire to understand instead.

A process indeed though…

This second [3.5 minute] video is excellent as well.  In it, he talks about what reading N.T. Wright’s 800 page book on the resurrection of Christ did regarding his own faith (and corresponding doubts).  How great it is to see doubt lose its grip…. :


Posted by on April 12, 2013 in Uncategorized


5 responses to “Presbyterian pastor Tim Keller on the doctrine of vocation and doubt

  1. Matt Jamison

    April 15, 2013 at 11:57 am

    I also used to be involved with Redeemer Presbyterian. Tim Keller is a wonderful communicator and says many true and good things but he is a true Calvinist and Lutherans should be on guard when reading or listening to him.

    He says lots of nice things about Luther, especially as it regards “Bondage of the Will.” But he claims that Calvin understood Luther better than the Lutheran confessors did, in other words, he tries to twist Luther into his kind of Calvinist. I think this is intellectually dishonest.

    Also, Keller has a very Calvinistic idea about how Christians should come to transform the culture for Christ, he talks about this in the context of New York City. This explains why Redeemer is so eager to reach young people in culturally important positions. At first, I found this idea terribly exciting but I think you can see this is not where Luther is going with the doctrine of vocation.

    Finally, and most importantly, there is no forgiveness of sins in Keller’s church. Now don’t get me wrong, they often do a good job of pointing you to Christ for forgiveness. But there is no direct absolution either individually or corporately at Redeemer. The service has a confession of sins followed by a “response.”

    So I left Redeemer for a small, humble LCMS congregation where sins are forgiven and the sacrament is given every week and individual confession and absolution is encouraged. It certainly doesn’t have the size, energy or cultural influence of Redeemer Pres and the pastor is nowhere near as charismatic. But I think we should keep our eye on the ball and not be seduced by churches and teachers who look more successful than our own.

  2. infanttheology

    April 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm


    I truly appreciate your remarks. Thank you. Great to have an insider’s perspective – and so happy to hear that you are a part of the LC-MS.

    Its too bad that he says those things about Luther. Still, I must commend him for the two quotes found in the You Tube videos above. Those are really quite good I think.

    “This explains why Redeemer is so eager to reach young people in culturally important positions. At first, I found this idea terribly exciting but I think you can see this is not where Luther is going with the doctrine of vocation.”

    That’s interesting. I’ve always thought that if we are to “target” anyone, it is probably the down and out…! To hell with strategy! : )


  3. infanttheology

    April 15, 2013 at 5:42 pm


    I hope you don’t mind – I used your quote in another blog post I did today.


  4. Steve Martin

    April 25, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    When these guys use the Bible, or quote Luther or Calvin to lift up Christ and His work for sinners…alone…we say ‘amen’.

    When they (even with the best of intentions) turn people back into themselves as do so many Calvinists, and even some Lutherans…we say ‘no thanks’.

    • infanttheology

      April 25, 2013 at 2:16 pm


      I agree some do do this. Is there any healthy way to have the Christian look at himself? Luther thought so. I’ll be doing a post in a few minutes that shows this in spades.



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