Tim Keller is an apologist, bestselling author and occasional public speaker, but before anything else he is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City. Keller and his wife helped found the church in 1989, and against all the odds of postmodernist, big city living, the Kellers have cultivated a thriving church in the heart of America's largest city.
The ‘success' of Redeemer Presbyterian is due largely to the fact that Keller meets people where they are at, allowing them room for skepticism and questioning, while at the same time providing thoughtful, empathetic answers to their wrestling. In a new series of videos, Keller sits down with a group of atheist and agnostic New Yorkers, all of them unconvinced of the viability of the Christian faith. In an open conversation, they discuss some of the most common objections to Christianity.
One of the objections many in the group have involves the question of biblical historiography; whether or not the Bible is factual history or simple myth. One man, Menon, views the Bible as art and sees no reason to decide whether or not it is historical truth, as you can learn a great deal from fiction and myth. Keller responds by saying that the impact of the Bible depends on whether or not it is true. If it is all just stories, then it can be ignored and passed over without consequence. But, if Jesus really did die on the cross and rose again, that has massive implications for our everyday lives. Myth can be ignored, or we can take simple moral lessons from it, but historical truth of this sort goes beyond myth. As C.S. Lewis wrote,
"Now the story of Christ is simply a true myth: a myth working on us the same way as the others, but with this tremendous difference that it really happened: and one must be content to accept it in the same way, remembering that it is God's myth where the others are men's myths. The pagan stories are God expressing Himself through the minds of poets, using such images as He found there, while Christianity is God expressing Himself through what we call 'real things'."
Throughout the conversation, the group of New Yorkers voice varying degrees of doubt and belief, asking questions about the relationship between science and the Bible ("The Bible has to allow room for evolution"), the existence of miracles, and the moral restrictions of Christianity. Throughout each question Keller responds with respect and understanding, admitting at times that Christianity may seem cut and dry, or harsh.
Citing arguments about the believability of eye-witnesses and the problems with moral relativism, Keller urges his friends to be "skeptical about their skepticism", acknowledging that we all approach the question of God with an agenda, because wherever we land on the issue will affect our lives dramatically. This type of open dialogue can be rare in our churches, and we would do well to take a lesson from Keller and his hospitable approach to evangelism.