My friend and fellow pastor at TRC, Joshua Appel, recently recommended Tim Keller’s book Encounters with Jesus to me, and I dutifully mashed the “buy now” button on my phone and lo, here I sit cruising through the first chapter. Now let the reader beware that I have some serious reservations about some of what I’ve seen in the “Keller” program. I’d prefer more bloody noses and false accusations in a robust gospel presence in New York City and less of the Vanilla Frappe vibe I get, but Jesus is not hindered by any of our deficiences, and I have greatly benefitted from Keller’s Reason for God and Prodigal God as well as some of his other audio/video talks.
Anyway, I just want to take a quick point that Keller makes in the first chapter about the pride and prejudice that frequently keeps people from considering the claims of Jesus and Christianity, and I want to apply it more narrowly within the Church. The chapter is based on Nathanael’s famous question regarding Jesus, “Can anything good from Nazareth?” Keller points out that this is the rhetorical equivalent of the eye-roll. It’s a signal to the in-crowd that this person is clearly not in the inner circle. He cites a book on marriage that notes that “eye-rolling is one of the definitive warning signs that a relationship is in serious trouble.” It’s a sign of disdain, and that disdain signals the breakdown of communication, trust, love. But this instinct is also incredibly short-sighted and arrogant. Keller uses a car key example to point out that people frequently search for the car keys in all the places where they “could be” and only after exhausting those possibilities do they try the places where they “couldn’t be” — only to find them in one of those places. Keller concludes: “There’s nothing more fatal to wisdom and good relationships than rejecting certain ideas — or certain people — out of hand.”
And my point here is just to note that this same kind of pride and prejudice can frequently show up in the Church broadly and within particular congregations. Of course there’s a kind of open mindedness that is slackjawed and thoughtless and sits like a bump on a log, but frequently what passes for “open minded” is a highly cultivated system of cultural, theological, or intellectual markers that become the badges and uniforms of who the cool crowd is and who makes up the nerd herd. And this frequently shows up in snide or smug comments about leaders, denominations, movements, whatever. But what is frequently not realized is that the Christians who are practicing these small acts of derision are actually practicing to play for the wrong team. The eye rolling disdain for a Christian leader who speaks the truth boldly is practicing for the eye rolling disdain that can’t see what the big deal is if a man sodomizes another man and calls it love. In both cases you’re not thinking judiciously, carefully — it’s a pride and prejudice that prevents you from actually listening to the claims being presented and honestly seeking the truth.
I may be tempted to wonder if anything good can come from Redeemer Pres, but perhaps you have given in to the skepticism that wonders if anything good can come from Douglas Wilson, Voddie Baucham, or RC Sproul Jr. Or maybe it’s your parents, one of your siblings, or a faithful, trusted friend. Maybe you’re embarrassed of anyone who says a husband is the head of his wife, that a wife is called to obey her husband, or maybe it’s the dreaded word “courtship.” Maybe it’s six day creation, psalm singing, feminine modesty, or if you see one more article about Bruce Jenner, you’re going to blow a gasket. But if you love Jesus, you have already died and your life is hidden in Him (Col. 3:3). He is your standard, your center, your fixed point, and all truth and beauty and goodness flow from Him and His invincible word. Humble yourself: love God, love the Bible, and repent of your eye-rolling. You aren’t required by God to stand up on your chair and cheer for everything and everyone all the time. How could you? But you are required by God to love Him with all of your mind and not be ashamed of the gospel anywhere.
Perhaps the keys to our culture are right where you’ve already decided they can’t possibly be found.