Before I even begin this post I must express that I have a personal bias toward both men I will be referring to. Both Dr. White and Pastor Keller have been huge blessings in my maturity as a believer. Tim Keller was my introduction to Reformed Theology and Dr. White was the cement that was poured into my foundation. I am forever grateful to both of them for the work they do for the Kingdom and I respect them very much.
For those not familiar with the issue I am referring to, yesterday Pastor Tim Keller of Redeemer Church in New York posted on Twitter: “The God of the universe became a wiggling baby in order to get close to you.” As some would expect with social media, this post didn’t go over very well in a few circles. Now, we all know that it doesn’t really matter what someone posts about God, the truth or biblical-anything, someone, somewhere will disagree or have an opinion about it. This isn’t inherently a bad thing though, there are times for correction, edification and instruction on issues such as these.
The almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wriggle and make noises needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk-It meant love to the uttermost for unlovely human beings, that they through his poverty-become rich. JIPacker
— Timothy Keller (@timkellernyc) June 26, 2018
What did happen that has caused me to dust off my keyboard and write about something on here is that Dr. James White, a personal favorite theologian of mine responded in disagreement about the tweet that Keller made.
His response was, “No sir, the second Person of the Trinity took on a perfect human nature first and foremost to bring glory to the Triune God in the redemption of a completely unworthy people upon whom the Triune God had decreed mercy and grace in eternity past. That’s not getting “close to you.”
Being the type of person that sometimes sticks his foot in his own mouth, I responded with, “Dr White I love and respect you so much but I think you’ve gone out of your way to nit-pick this post. Do you think Pastor Keller truly means opposite of what you said?” I still stand by my statement, I felt like Dr. White’s comment was nit-picking. Though Keller’s tweet was vague and certainly not a complete demonstration of all God did in the Incarnation, I don’t feel like White’s criticism was necessarily warranted at least in the sense of Keller’s past work and preaching.
Dr. White admits to not knowing much of Keller’s work, though I am sure he knows of his affiliation with The Gospel Coalition and the issues that have been coming out of that organization (those are to be addressed in another post at a later time). Considering my experience with Keller and what I have in fact read from him, the sermons of his that completely changed my mind toward Reformed Theology and caused me to embrace the stance I have now, I wouldn’t have questioned what Keller said on Twitter. I also see Dr. White’s side and agree with his explanation of the Incarnation and the magnitude of what it means to the Triune God.
It may be bold to assume, but I believe that Pastor Keller would also agree with Dr. White’s explanation of the incarnation and in fact both men would probably find they are on the same doctrinal side on a lot of things, though not everyone sees eye to eye on all issues.
The reason I am taking this much time to defend my opinion on this is for the very reason that Dr. White has taken his time to defend his good friend Dr. Michael Brown. Dr. Brown falls into a very different theological camp as White, though they agree on much doctrine so it’s even hard to say they are much different. The main difference between the two, if it could be summed up in a simple statement is, Dr. White is a Calvinist and Dr. Brown is not. On this note, people from White’s side have very unfairly attacked Dr. Brown and because White is his friend he has taken to defending him and stating that because they are such good friends, he can defend him with a good conscience. What I am asking for is the same respect to be given to Pastor Keller, at least in consideration that perhaps if they did know each other, the statement made by Keller wouldn’t have been taken so severely.
As with many things taken to on social media, the debacle that followed in the online groups was interesting to say the least. People on both sides vehemently defending both parties to a fault. In typical fashion there were some good points being spoken and some very bad biases also being spoken. I am not unaware of my own biases but in this situation, as I stated at the beginning, I am equally biased toward both men, which is why I feel it necessary to say something.
I agree that it’s incomplete to say that the only reason Christ became incarnate was to get close to us, but I also think it incomplete to say any type of human word that could fully describe the magnitude of the incarnation. No book could possibly hold enough information to explain to us the fullness of what God did through Christ on the cross. So, in essence, it is nit-picking to attack one phrase. It would also be nit-picky to say that what Dr. White said isn’t complete.
The Bible is never a sound byte, and the fullness of what scripture says cannot be contained in 240 characters online and I don’t think anyone on either side would say it could be. But if we are to be honest we should all learn from this that without knowing someone we could probably consider more grace in how we approach them (I am preaching to myself here of course).
Finally, Dr. White asked me that if Joel Osteen had said the same thing as Keller would I have defended him? My answer is simply no, but that “no” is based on the fact that I do in fact know Osteen’s theology as well as I know Keller’s. I would not consider Osteen a brother in Christ but Keller I would, and it is with that confidence that I can defend Pastor Keller.