Tim Keller, Research, and Podcast
Keller, Stetzer discuss evangelism, belief in an age of skepticism
By Chris Turner
NASHVILLE, Tenn.--A recently released LifeWay Research study reveals that more than 70 percent of unbelievers surveyed agree that "Jesus makes a difference," but more than 70 percent also affirmed that "the church is full of hypocrites." One prominent author understands why both questions would elicit such strong responses.
"They almost have to feel that way because the view from the outside is that if you aren't living like Jesus Christ you won't go to heaven," said Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan and author of the New York Times bestseller, The Reason for God: Belief in an age of skepticism. Keller's comments came in a recent Inside LifeWay podcast with Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. Both the unchurched study and the podcast can be found at LifeWayResearch.com.
"When they see Christians saying they are born again and they don't see an incredibly changed life they assume you are a hypocrite," Keller said...
"Of all the objections to Christianity, saying God is the same as all the others is the weakest and easiest to disprove," he said. "There are two ways to go about it. The practical way is that all other religions have someone who says 'I am a prophet come to show you the way to God.' Only Christianity was founded by a man who said 'I'm God come to find you.' Now if Jesus said that...then either Christianity is either a superior or inferior way to God, but it can't be equal [to all the others]. You ask any rabbi or imam or anybody who knows anything about their religion they'd say the same thing."
Stetzer pointed out that one of the findings in the study was that 52 percent agreed somewhat or strongly that Jesus died and was resurrected, and among those 30 years of age and younger, 66 percent responded likewise.
"Chris Smith talks about this in his book, Soul Searching," Keller said. "The average young person has adopted Christian beliefs. Smith calls it moral therapeutic deism. Moral being 'I'm going to heaven because I'm good.' Therapeutic means 'my purpose in life is to be happy and fulfilled and satisfied.' Deism is that 'God isn't part of my day but somebody I bring in when I have a need.' The resurrection clobbers all three of those. The resurrection means this world matters, you're here to serve, and God is rehabilitating the world and dealing with the results of sin."
"The real issue isn't so much, 'Is there a God?' as much as 'Is Jesus really who He says He is?'" Keller states.
Stetzer pointed out that even though there are skeptics, 78 percent of those surveyed said they are willing to listen to a Christian talk about faith and are open to having conversations about God. "If that's the case," he asked, "How do we become better at proclaiming the gospel?"
"Almost everybody who doubts does so for personal reasons, mainly because they have had bad experiences with the church, Christianity or Christians," Keller responded. "[As a Christian] you can't just say, 'I'm going to give you the gospel and you're going to hear it.' You have to embody a different kind of Christianity than the one they have experienced in the past or they are simply not going to hear it. It has to do with tone, graciousness, consistency of your own behavior, it's all stuff we know but it is absolutely true.
"People are not used to Christians being patient with them, sympathetic with them and their doubts," he said. "They are not used to that. They are used to propaganda, criticism, and being talked down to."