I like Tim Keller. I find his preaching thought-provoking, interesting, sometimes even inspiring. He has so much to say that is good. So many helpful thoughts about the theology of the gospel and of mission.
However, I do often find myself worried about his use of Scripture. I like creativity, but sometimes I think Keller gets carried away with it, leaving me wishing we could have listened to the text a bit more.
For example, on Acts 16, (“A woman a slave and a gentile”) Keller gives us over 10 minutes on Lydia being converted by the beauty of the gospel. She has an aesthetic experience, through a rational discourse. She is attracted. Her heart is opened to listen, and the word ‘listen’ actually means ‘attracted’.
Inspiring stuff. I like this talk about the aesthetic appeal of Christ. I buy that.
There’s only one problem. Luke doesn’t say any of this. In Acts 16 there is no mention Lydia’s aesthetic experience. The word translated ‘listen’ doesn’t mean ‘attracted’. Nobody thinks it means that. Don’t know how Keller came up with it. It means ‘pay attention.’ Or ‘listen.’ At least, that’s what everyone else thinks it means!
Read Acts 16 for yourself. Luke says nothing about the beauty of Christ in this episode. Yet Keller can get 10 minutes + on aesthetics out of it.
I just pick this as an example, but really, he’s doing this often. I think he’s just got so many ideas he wants to share, it must be hard to be limited to preaching the Scripture texts.
I love creative preaching. It’s so lacking in my scene. But I also love good exegesis. I mean I value people listening carefully to hear what the text is saying. In Acts 16, and other places, I’m not sure Keller is doing that. For me, this is not a small failing.