Tim Keller Contradicts the Westminster Confession

Who’s the Us?

Dear Editor,
In his letter about evil, Scott Conley claims that the Bible says that God “allows” evil but does not say why. Then he quotes the celebrity Tim Keller: “we now know what the answer isn’t. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us.”

Keller is a Presbyterian Church in America (PCA) clergyman who has signed the Westminster Confession which explains in its chapter 3, first paragraph: “God from all eternity did by the most wise and holy counsel of his own will, freely and unchangeably, ordain whatever comes to pass.” This is not “allowing”.

The second paragraph identifies the error: “ Although God knows whatsoever may or can come to pass upon all supposed conditions, yet hath he not decreed anything because he foresaw it as future, or as that which would come to pass upon such conditions.”

Keller ignores and contradicts this confession when he assures the people of New York City that we don’t know why. Paragraph three of the confession chapter 3: “By the decree of God, for the manifestation of His glory, some men and angels are predestined unto everlasting life and others foreordained to everlasting death.”

For the manifestation of His glory—that is how the Bible itself explains it. Romans 9:13 declares “Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.” Romans 9:22 tells the truth: “God, desiring to show His wrath and to make known His power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, in order to make known the riches of His glory for vessels of mercy, which He has prepared beforehand for glory.”

The New Testament was written to those who believe the Christian gospel, so when its readers see a “loves us”, they need to ask the question Tonto asked the Lone Ranger “who’s the us?”

According to the Bible, God does not love all sinners, and that love is never conditioned on the sinner. God has ordained evil things to happen to both the non-elect and the elect, but the promise of Romans 8:28 is that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose.”

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11 Comments on “Tim Keller Contradicts the Westminster Confession”

  1. markmcculley Says:

    Keller: In the gospel view, everyone is wrong, everyone is loved, everyone is called to recognize this and change. By contrast, elder brothers divide the world in two:

    mark: The gospel says that everyone is loved? Does the gospel also say that everyone is already justified and now needs to “recognize this”? Is that what the Westminster Confession says? Does the Bible itself operate as an “elder brother” when it “divides the world in two”?

    Romans 9: 7 and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but “Through Isaac shall your offspring be named.” 8 This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring. 9 For this is what the promise said: “About this time next year I will return, and Sarah shall have a son.”10 And not only so, but also when Rebekah had conceived children by one man, our forefather Isaac, 11 though they were not yet born and had done nothing either good or bad—in order that God’s purpose of election might continue, not because of works but because of him who calls— 12 she was told, “The older will serve the younger.” 13 As it is written,“Jacob I loved, but Esau I hated.”

    Matthew 1: 21 She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”

    Matthew 11: 25 At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26 yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.[g] 27 All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.

    Luke 4:25 But in truth, I tell you, there were many widows in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heavens were shut up three years and six months, and a great famine came over all the land, 26 and Elijah was sent to none of them but only to Zarephath, to a woman who was a widow. 27 And there were many lepers in Israel in the time of the prophet Elisha, and none of them was cleansed, but only Naaman the Syrian.” 28 When they heard these things, all in the synagogue were filled with wrath. 29 And they rose up and drove him out of the town and brought him to the brow of the hill on which their town was built, so that they could throw him down the cliff.

    John 1:12 But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

    John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but as many as do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. 19 And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their works were evil. 20 For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed.

    John 5: 21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom he will. 22 The Father judges no one, but has given all judgment to the Son, 23 that all would honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. As many as who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father who sent him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, as many as hears my word and believes him who sent me has the lasting life of the age to come. they do not come into judgment, but HAVE passed from death to life.

    25 “Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself. 27 And he has given him authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice 29 and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment.

    • markmcculley Says:

      we sin in response to other people’s sin

      but does our sin result in God’s wrath

      or does God’s wrath result in our sinning

      or, if sin is both cause and result, which is first?

      chicken or egg?

      is a hand out the same thing as a hand over?

      Romans 1: 18 For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth, 19 since what can be known about God is evident among them,because God has shown it to them. 20 For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse. 21 For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools 23 and HANDED OVER the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

      24 Therefore God HANDED THEM OVER in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.25 They HANDED OVER the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator….26 This is why God HANDED THEM OVER to degrading passions. For even their females HANDED OVER natural sexual relations[p for unnatural ones…

      28 And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God HANDED THEM OVER to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.

      Romans 8: 32 God did not even spare His own Son
      but HANDED HIM OVER for us

      where there is no sin, there is no wrath

      where there is no sin, there is no grace

      where there is sin, there must be wrath

      where there is sin but also grace, there must be wrath on the Son

      where there is wrath on the Son, and the Son’s death is imputed to the sinner, there must be no wrath on the sinner

      where there is sin but no grace, there must be wrath on the sinner

      where there is sin, there is nothing about God which says there must be grace

      where there is sin, there might not be grace

      where there is sin and no grace, there will be wrath on the sinner

  2. Tim Keller— “We are an interfaith gathering today, and I freely acknowledge that every faith has great resources for dealing with suffering and injustice in the world. …Christians believe that in Jesus, God’s Son, divinity became vulnerable to andinvolved in suffering and death. He didn’t come as a general or emperor; he came as a carpenter…..True, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. It can’t be that he doesn’t care. God so loved us and hates suffering that he was willing to come down and get involved in it. And therefore the cross is an incredibly empowering hint. It’s only a hint, but F U grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength. ”


  3. Eph. 1:4 – “even as he chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before him. In love” the key to this verse is the “in Him” which refers to those God predestined to be saved. Anyone who comes to His saving knowledge will be saved.

    simul justus et peccator – that is what Keller asserts to that everyone that is saved is simultaneously a sinner and righteous… here is a great explanation from the late Dr. Sproul -> https://www.ligonier.org/blog/simul-justus-et-peccator/

    • markmcculley Says:

      and what does this have to do with Keller telling everybody that God loves them? God only loves the elect, and this is what is taught in the Westminster Confession.

      Tim Keller– “Unless you believe in Hell, you will never know how much Jesus loves you.”

      Tim Keller— “We are an interfaith gathering today….True, we don’t know the reason God allows evil and suffering to continue, but we know what the reason isn’t, what it can’t be. It can’t be that he doesn’t love us. And therefore the cross is an incredibly empowering hint. It’s only a hint, but if you grasp it, it can transform you. It can give you strength.

      Since we know that God loves us, does this mean that even people who don’t believe in hell will not go to hell?

      Or does it mean that God loved even those who go to hell, but still don’t “grasp it” http://www.reformation21.org/blog/2018/04/imagine-theres-no-hell.php

  4. markmcculley Says:

    Much of the tradition teaches that what was “worked out at the cross” was a “spiritual death” defined not as the end of physical life but as “losing the presence of God. Many have a gospel based on God the Son “losing the presence of” God the Father. But God the Son Himself warned “Fear Him who CAN destroy both body and soul”.

    Keller writes, “Since souls are in hell right now, without bodies, how could the fire be literal, physical fire?” Wait—souls are supposed to be in hell right now, before the final judgment when Jesus will separate the sheep from the goats? This popular but incoherent idea is yet another manifestation of eternal suffering’s distorting effects. Were it the case, the setting for the Lazarus and the Rich Man parable would involve hell, not Hades. Hades corresponds to the Greek Sheol, the abode of the dead, or simply, the grave. It does not correspond to Gehenna, or for that matter the lake of fire in Revelation


    II Thessalonians 1: 6 t is righteous for God to repay with affliction those who afflict you 7 and to reward with rest you who are afflicted, along with us. This will take place at the revelation of the Lord Jesus from heaven with His powerful angels, 8 taking vengeance with flaming fire on those who don’t know God and on those who don’t obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9 These will pay the penalty of permanent destruction from the Lord’s presence and from His glorious strength

    Matthew 10: 21 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will even rise up against their parents and have them put to death. 22 Y But the one who endures to the end will be delivered…. 26 “Therefore, do not be afraid of them, since there is nothing covered that won’t be uncovered and nothing hidden that won’t be made known. 27 What I tell you in the dark, speak in the light. What you hear in a whisper, proclaim on the housetops. 28 Do not fear those who kill the body but are not able to kill the soul. Rather, fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body.

  5. markmcculley Says:

    Keller–Jesus’ “body was being destroyed in the worst possible way,” “but that was a flea bite compared to what was happening to his soul. When he cried out that his God had forsaken him he was experiencing hell itself. . . . We learn that what he felt on the cross was far worse and deeper than all of our deserved hells put together. And this makes emotional sense when we consider the relationship he lost. . . . The longer, deeper, and more intimate the relationship, the more tortuous is any separation. But the Son’s relationship with the Father was beginningless and infinitely greater than the most intimate and passionate human relationship. When Jesus was cut off from God he went into the deepest pit and most powerful furnace, beyond all imagining

    1 Corinthians 15:3-8,makes no mention of suffering or emotional content at all, but instead cites Christ’s prophesied death for sin, his burial and resurrection, and his post-resurrection appearances.

    In Keller’s treatment of atonement, Jesus experienced what no human ever could. But under penal substitution, the punishment Christ bore in our place is precisely what some humans will also undergo in the end. For Keller to be painting this as something far removed from human experience only serves to confuse.

    How will those sent to hell experience the unbearable relational loss Jesus experienced, if they’ve only ever been in God’s presence fleetingly, on Judgment Day? They have no love for the Father, like the Son and Father have for each other. But preachers have developed (or copied) sermons where Jesus has a mystical, subjective experience of the Father abandoning him.

    All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; ‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’ . . . I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax; it is melted within my breast; my strength is dried up like a potsherd, and my tongue sticks to my jaws; you lay me in the dust of death. For dogs encompass me; a company of evildoers encircles me; they have pierced my hands and feet—I can count all my bones—they stare and gloat over me; they divide my garments among them, and for my clothing they cast lots.

    In this context, the cry, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” is rhetorical. Its purpose is to establish tension that is going to be quickly resolved, and transcended by the end. The psalm continues, “Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning?”

    HISTORY HAS TIME. Jesus had been silent for hours before he cried out in this way. Why does God delay his rescue? (see vv 1-2). Immediately, though, the psalmist is invigorated: “In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame.” (see vv 3-5). Verse eight is noteworthy: “‘He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!’” (Psa 22:8 cf. Matt 27:43). On and on the tension builds, until the psalmist calls for God to not be far off, but to come quickly to his aid, and save “my precious life” (see vv 19-21). He continues on in praise until the end, declaring, “For he has not despised or abhorred the affliction of the afflicted, and he has not hidden his face from him, but has heard, when he cried to him.” (Psalm 22:24

  6. markmcculley Says:

    History is not finished before history begins. God’s covenants are cuts in history. History takes time.

    Hebrews 5:5 The Messiah did not exalt Himself to become a high priest, but One who said to Him, You are My Son. Today I have BECOME Your Father. You are a lasting priest in the order of Melchizedek. 7. The Messiah offered prayers and appeals with loud cries and tears to the One who was able to save Him from death, and the Messiah was heard . The Messiah learned obedience through what He suffered. 9 After the Messiah was perfected, He became the source of lasting salvation for all who obey Him,

    If you don’t think that Jesus is human, then you might also think that space and time have nothing to do with Jesus. Or day and night…

    Psalm 22: My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?
    Why are You so far from my salvation
    and from my words of groaning?
    2 My God, I cry by day, but You do not answer,
    by night, yet I have no rest.
    3 But You are holy,
    enthroned on the praises of Israel.
    4 Our fathers trusted in You.
    they trusted, and You rescued them.
    5 Our fathers cried to You and were set free;
    they trusted in You and were not disgraced.

    6 But I am scorned and despised
    7 Everyone who sees me mocks me;
    they sneer and shake their heads:
    8 “He relies on the Lord;
    let Him rescue him;
    let the Lord save him,
    since the Lord takes pleasure in him.”

    11 Do not be far from me, because distress is near
    and there is no one to help.
    14 I am poured out like water,
    and all my bones are disjointed;
    my heart is like wax,
    melting within me.
    15 My strength is dried up like baked clay;
    my tongue sticks to the roof of my mouth.
    You put me into the dust of DEATH.
    16 A crowd of evildoers has closed in on me;
    they pierced my hands and my feet.

    19 Lord, don’t be far away, come quickly to help me.
    20 Save my life from the sword,

    23 You who fear Yahweh, praise Him!
    For He He did NOT hide His face from him
    but listened when he cried to Him for help.

  7. markmcculley Says:

    Turretin the “punishment of desertion” (Matt. 27:46)—with careful precision. The desertion on the cross was not “absolute, total, and eternal (such as is felt only by demons and the reprobate), but temporal and relative.”

    Likewise, the desertion Christ experienced was not with respect to “the union of nature,” nor “the union of grace and holiness.” Neither was Christ deprived of the Father’s “communion and protection.” Instead, God suspended “for a little while the favorable presence of grace and the influx of consolation and happiness.” In other words, the Son’s “sense of the divine love” was “intercepted by the sense of divine wrath and vengeance resting upon him” (Elenctic Theology 13.14.5).

    The Son of God experienced the horrors of damnation, but he was not himself damned. It would be better to say that Christ bore punishment than to say that Christ entered the place of the damned.

    Turretin i—As he is properly said to be damned who in hell endures the punishment due to his own sins, this term cannot be applied to Christ, who never suffered for his own but for our sins; nor did he suffer in hell, but on earth. Still there is no objection to saying that the Son of God was condemned for us by God, just as elsewhere he is said to have been made a curse and malediction for us. (Elenctic Theology, 13.16.10)

    Calvin–Yet we do not suggest that God was ever inimical or angry toward him. How could he be angry toward his beloved Son, ‘in whom his heart reposed.’” “How could Christ by his intercession appease the Father toward others, if he were himself hateful to God? He bore the weight of divine severity, since he was ‘stricken and afflicted’ by God’s hand, and experienced all the signs of a wrathful and avenging God” (Institutes 2.16.11).

  8. markmcculley Says:

    Tim Keller—while good works are in no way the reason for our justification, they are absolutely necessary evidences that we have justifying faith.

    mark mcculley–So 1. Without enough works, we can lose the evidence that we thought we had of being justified. So it’s not our being “in the covenant” nor is it God’s “promise to us” that God will “be our God”? 2. As long as we say that works give us assurance but that works don’t give us the not yet aspect of our justification, no problem? 3. How many works are enough, assuming perfection is not possible? Does the answer to “how many works” depend on what ability God has given us, or does it only depend on what God’s law calls sin? 4. If we do just enough works so that our faith is “not alone”, does that prove that we really have faith? 5. if we do just enough works, does that prove that our faith excludes these works as being any part of our standing? 6. Can we have faith that our works prove our faith without ever having faith in our works?

    Stoever, A Faire and Easy Way—“John Cotton professed himself unable to believe it possible for a person to maintain that grace works a condition in him, reveals it, makes a promise to it, and applies it to him, and still not trust in the work. Even if a person did not trust in the merit of the work, he still probably would not dare to trust a promise unless he could see a work…”

    “Grace and works (not only in the case of justification) but in the whole course of our salvation, are not subordinate to each other but opposite:as that whatsoever is of grace is not of works, and whatsoever is of works is not of grace.

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