Last week, I put up two videos to compare and contrast -- with the requirement that the readers of this blog (somehow watching videos has now made you "readers"; nice work, internet), find something good to say about both videos. These are the videos right here, for reference:
First, from John Piper:
Second, from Tim Keller:
Before we get to the red meat here (such as it is -- I think it's not what most people would say that it is), let me say that the one thing I expected absolutely happened, and that is that some people couldn't find anything edifying in the work of people whom they have decided (for right or wrong) to abhor. That should be instructive as a stand-alone point without any further deep-diving into the content of these two videos, but it won't be -- because they will all hide behind DJP's lack of enthusiasm toward the Keller video [which is not motivated by a pre-condition of disdain] and say, "see? Even someone with good intentions toward Keller ought to have a hard time finding good things in this video. Ergo, Keller should [insert denunciation of Keller here]."
That, of course, also speaks for itself.
here, in an old post by me on the subject both of these videos are treating. Both of these videos are wildly successful at overcoming the question of guilt by association which true Christians face at the hands of violent and moralistic posers. Whatever you may think about the approach of both these videos, they both understand that the real person of Jesus has to speak to the real person of the sinner in order for the real sin to be made clear and the real reconciliation to take place.
The reason that is important is that we don't live in the 1920's anymore when people, as debased as they were, at least knew that there was a difference between men and women which ought to be in some way understood as necessary. The topic is homosexuality and public life. See it plainly: this is not about the right to privacy, and to do what you will behind closed doors, but about how one sort of lifestyle must be treated publicly, by all people, as dictated by the law. It is frankly never going to go away until Christ returns or Western Civilization goes the way of the Medo-Persian Empire. This arrangement and all the permutations of it now created by "science" (a topic for another day) are stuck with us, and we must learn how to speak to it and speak to the people who believe in it as dearly as they believe in happiness.
That said, let me first offer my very small and incidental critique of the Piper video out of the way. Dr. Piper's video is plainly made to speak to those who are believers, or those who think they want to be believers, and therefore uses the Bible in a way which, it seems to me, that only believers can receive. Here's what I mean by that: it's irrefutable that Dr. Piper spells out the essential case for the sinfulness of homosexuality in completely-certain terms, and does a fatherly job of saying these things graciously and seriously. He takes the listener from the provocative basic case to the right and true applications of those things -- but he puts every argument up on the theological shelf (except maybe one -- the part about self and sex) where the unbeliever, it seems to me, can't reach it.
Now, I say that guardedly because it also seems to me that this video is intended for believers who are trying to reason through this issue and not, as the Keller video is, a presentation to a hostile audience. We say things in Sunday school which are intended for a different kind of people than the average person you might sit next to on the airplane, or find at the NYU or Columbia Student Center. So the approach is warranted, and it is not a shortcoming as much as it is a feature of the context of the video.
That said, the context of the Keller video is much different. He's not speaking to believers at all -- regardless of what some of them might present as a self-identification. He's speaking directly to the lost, and fielding their questions about our faith and our beliefs about God. So as a primary virtue of this video, let's be honest: he's got a platform here that nobody at TeamPyro is likely to ever get. Additionally, his host is plainly interested in Dr. Keller as an example of the Christian faith -- not just a religious person or someone with a with moral opinions or good advice. And let's face it: this fellow hosting puts the issue on the table plainly: is homosexuality a sin?
From that perspective, Keller says some really great things in this video:
- The definition of Love is to give yourself up for people who are actually opposing you, actually your enemies.
- Is homosexuality a sin? Yes.
- Is it the only sin? No.
- Greed is a more-insidious sin because it is harder to identify -- but it tells us about how sin works. "What sends you to hell is your own self-righteousness."
- Gay people have a different view of sexuality (vs. the Bible) in the same way that the Hindu has a different view of who or what God is -- these are the same sort of thing.
Lastly, making this only about sin as a diagnosis of a failure to thrive forgets this biblical truth: all kinds of people thrive. One complaint from the Old Testament of Israel to God is, "hey: where is your justice? Why do those who scoff at you and hate you do so well in this life?" It's disingenuous to say that sin is about God's assessment of what will allow us to thrive when eventually we have to account for the problem of evil and the problem that in every case, and relating to all kinds of sin, people who are guilty seem to also get away with it and do pretty good.
So there you have it. There are some other things I could say here which would line out other faults I perceive in this video, but this is already longer that you can read during coffee break.
So should we now start campaigning for Pastor Keller's trial at the next session of his presbytery and see to it that he is removed from leadership? Is that really the answer we're looking for here -- to drum out the guy who is encountering unbelievers and giving them some sort of grain of truth when they ask him hard questions? Because while I will be the first one to say I think Keller did not deliver the actual Gospel in this video, he did deliver some of the fundamental truths necessary for the Gospel to people who probably actually heard them for the first time -- and by "heard" I mean, "listened, and had to think again about what they were hearing."
If we had to draw lessons here, one of them ought to be about us -- those of us who are not getting invited to the Veritas forum to speak to unbelievers. What we ought to ask ourselves is this: how come Paul and Tim Keller get invited to their respective versions of the Aeropagus, but we are stuck here on our blogs? One self-congratulatory answer is that there is woe to us when everybody thinks we're fine fellows -- and I think that answer can be undone by thinking about Keller's implication of self-righteousness. Another answer is this: maybe we are people who haven't mastered love of neighbor even though we know it's the second greatest commandment.