28 April 2009

Keller on idolatry at TGC 2009

by Dan Phillips

In the past, I've had a few critical words to say about this and that from Tim Keller. I reserve the right to have a few more in the future.

But not about his talk at The Gospel Coalition 2009. I am working (enjoying) my way through the talks, and Keller's was first. It was titled The Grand Demythologizer: The Gospel and Idolatry. On balance, I found it thought-provoking, instructive, convicting, and helpful. To the point where it stopped me in my tracks as I walked, more than once; and I had to pause my iPod to deal with some of what Keller had said.

We should not think that preaching on idolatry is something that should be done in evangelism alone, and then safely dropped after a profession of faith. "Little children, keep yourselves from idols," are the apostle's closing words to Christians (1 John 5:21).

Now, I wondered if I had to get my angry eyes when Keller started quoting two apostate Jews on the subject of idolatry, towards the end. But their comment was apposite, and then Keller brings a very deft, on-target observation that could be paired with Messiah-rejecting Judaism vis-a-vis the Old Testament, on the whole.

I commend Keller's address to you.

Dan Phillips's signature


danny2 said...

he really unpacked it well, didn't he.

i love how he speaks to the horror of molech and how people in manhattan are so offended by the concept, yet their children are sacrificed for their career daily.

i also appreciated how he illustrates that the same sin manifestation may be due to different idols.

the heart truly is an idol factory

Drew said...

I've contended that idolatry is the number one sin of the American church. Don't believe me? Try changing the room in which you worship.

Paul said...

Is that "All Your Base Are Belong To US" on that graphic? Has it been there for ages and I haven't noticed it?

DJP said...

Yes to both.


The Squirrel said...

Thanks, Dan. I just downloaded it, and will listen during some downtime this afternoon.

I would listen during my afternoon walk, but it's snowing right now... A week ago, it was 80... Ah, Spring!


Boerseuntjie said...

I am just completely stunned!

I am sad to see that Mr. Mark Driscoll has been given the platform at The Gospel Coalition, when he has disqualified himself as an Elder.

What a sad message he sends out to those still caught up with lacivious sins.

SORRY I AM JUST NOT ABLE TO PROCESS this and need to say SOMETHING here as it refrences The Gospel Coalition, especially in light of the recent fray at the Shepherd's Fellowship Pulpit Magazine blog recently, regarding Mr. Driscoll.

May the other God fearing men around Mr. Driscoll show us by example what is required in these circumstances from Scriptural discipline.

Your fellow bondslave for the glory of our Master and King Alone,

Rachael Starke said...

I was just listening to this one yesterday as a counterpoint to my current study of Hosea.

Turned out to be more like a counterpunch. Especially, like Danny2 mentions, his points around children.

Sometimes I find Keller's softspoken, conversational style not so helpful, but in this case it seems to make his points even more devastating.

Alexander M. Jordan said...

I was just listening to this sermon on my commute to work this morning, having downloaded it because so many have been pointing out its merits.

So far so good-- speaking on idols of the heart has been a theme of Mr. Keller for years now, and as a result I think he has developed great insight into this.

His very personal style of speaking also challenges one to apply what he's saying to oneself, not just consider his points abstractly.

Anonymous said...

As much as I agree and understand Pastor Keller's description of much of the working world serving Molech, his description of the idol of truth and family and one's wife...has hit me hard.

I will be examining my outlook on those things, and repenting.

Mike Westfall said...

Was the podcast really supposed to be only 38 minutes? Seems like it ended rather abruptly, and in the middle of a sentence...

But what I did hear was pretty good.

DJP said...

Nossir. Fifty-nine minutes, fifty-nine seconds.

Mike Westfall said...

Hmm. Must've only got part of it when I downloaded it. I'll try again.

Stefan Ewing said...

Someone in church mentioned Keller's session, as well. Sounds like a must-listen.

Merlin said...


I was impressed and had never considered the totality of his presentation before. The last topic is one's spouse. That one hit me between the teeth and blew me away.

At least we have the answer unlike those two Jewish book writers he quoted.

Thanks, Dan

DJP said...

Aigh. I'd meant to comment on that in the post. Thanks for the reminder; updated.

Anonymous said...


Keller says a few things in this presentation that he went over in his preaching class he co-taught with Clowney.

I'm curious to hear what you thought of Bryan Chapell's presentation. I really enjoyed Chapell's too. He is so good at using illustrations to really bring the message home.



SandMan said...

Paraphrasing from memory:

"When you confront the idols of the world you put your life at risk... Paul risked his life to confront idolatry... Jesus gave His life to defeat idolatry... Only when forsake our idols and learn to confront people's idols will we impact the world for Jesus Christ."

What else can I add to that?

Cathy Mickels said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Susan said...

How funny--I was just chatting with a friend online the other night about TGC 2009 because he and his wife attended it (he's a pastor). He said he "was really impressed with tim keller, john piper and d.a. carson [sic]." As for Driscoll, he said:

[E]veryone stuck to their exposition of 2 Timothy and spoke 60 minutes their alloted time, [but Driscoll] decided to do his assigned text in 2 Tim with his creativity. [H]e had 41 points and took 90 minutes as the last speaker of the day. The convention hall personel must have went home and turned off the air system...because [the air was] quite warm and stale.

Haven't heard any of the sessions yet. I guess I'll start with Keller.

Brian said...

Someone who went to TGC told me that he was disappointed in Driscoll at the conference as were most who heard him and he was under the impression that Driscoll will not be allowed back at future TGCs. This attendee was glowing about every other aspect of the conference except Driscoll. Sounds as if Driscoll was given the benefit of the doubt and will not get it again. Long story short--enjoy and be challenged by the speakers who understood the purpose of this conference and skip Driscoll.

DJP said...

Oh, good grief, GBA strikes again.

So I can't listen to any one of these guys, because each one is responsible for everything Driscoll does?

Then I suppose you can't read anything I write, or listen to anyone who reads me or listens to my sermons? Or anyone who reads or listens to his sermons?

Well then, if that includes all the TGC speakers (and attendees!), that's going to include D. A. Carson. I guess I can't listen to any of his talks either, is that it? And I can't read any of his books.

And of course that is going to mean that I can't really listen to nor read anyone who reads D. A. Carson. Because I have to separate from someone who won't separate from someone who won't separate from Driscoll, right?

But of course, that will rule out just about every literate evangelical pastor in the English-speaking world.

Now, there is one thing I'd draw from this. The guys who do continue to associate themselves with Driscoll without speaking out candidly about his ongoing tongue-sins — as long as Driscoll does not deal humbly, specifically, and Biblically with the legitimate concerns that have been voiced — need to know that it raises questions in the minds of some.

DJP said...

Brian, haven't heard Driscoll yet, but yikes. Impressions I have heard so far aren't terribly positive. And I did note, loading the mp3s, that his was 'way the longest.

pdm said...

I have to agree with Cathy- this was a "disgrace." As a grandma who reads pyromaniacs but never comments I had to stick up for Cathy. (I am not computer savvy so am not comfortable commenting) I am not saying you cannot listen to anyone else who comes around MD but "birds of a feather flock together" is a true but stinging truth- being associated with MD is the sting here. Whoever thought of inviting him to this conference, since he is a public, controversial figure, should have reconsidered. Coming from a grandma who cares about what my grandson is hearing in "church" i find MD beyond anything i could have imagined would be taking place in this society, let alone in our "church society." So associating with him certainly didn't give too much credibility to the conference. Also, the comment "oh good grief" wasn't exactly kind to Cathy- sometimes writing comments instead of face to face comments can come off as not very loving indeed and also gives people a chance to vent and say things that would never be said in person. Maybe Mr. Keller had a great lesson at the conference but it is disturbing that men of God continue to look the other way when MD is involved, or other "celebrities."
Way to go, Cathy, for saying what i was thinking but didn't have the nerve to....and God bless pyromaniacs.

DJP said...

The sad thing is you don't know just how really funny that is, in a larger context.

You, here - at Pyromaniacs.Complaining that we are too easy on people who are too easy on Driscoll.

I will retire to Bedlam.

Well, since I liked Keller's one talk, having criticized one earlier article of Keller's...

...and since Keller spoke at the same convention as Driscoll...

...and since Phil Johnson lets me blog here...

...and since Phil Johnson works for John MacArthur...

...and since tens of thousands of people listen to or read John MacArthur....

According to my calculations, nobody can listen to or read anybody.

threegirldad said...

If you're interested in "not watching" Tim Keller rather than just "not listening" to him...video here.


pdm said...

DJP, well, I guess i didn't see the humor in it but when you put it like that, it is funny and a tad ridiculous sounding. I do hope, tho, that you can understand this grandma's concerns. I do hope you will pass on to people who are sponsoring Bible conferences our concerns about things like this association and affirmation of MD, among others. Sorry i got off topic-i'm not planning on commenting again in the near future but i read pyro nearly every day and thank you for it. May God grant you wisdom in all you do and say.

Canyon Shearer, DMin said...

A different persective; What's up with all of these conferences anyways? Do we really need to reconnoiter each one? The attention given to Driscoll's exploits is one step short of a soap-opera.

How would Jesus respond? I know exactly how: I know your works, your toil and your patient endurance, and how you cannot bear with those who are evil, but have tested those who call themselves apostles and are not, and found them to be false. I know you are enduring patiently and bearing up for my name’s sake, and you have not grown weary. But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first.

I ask, What is that to thee? Follow thou Christ.

Morris Brooks said...

I attended the Gospel Coalition and did not get to hear Driscoll due to an unexpected trip to the emergency room, but heard the other speakers. They were all very good, especially Bryan Chappell and Ligon Duncan. The worship was serious and powerful, the speakers spoke with passion and with attending power. The Lord was present in the presentation of His word and in the worship and praise of His people...who were gathered there for the purpose of promoting His gospel.

I say this to those who continue to blast away at the organizers for having Driscoll on the program. Driscoll was not the focus of this event, the Lord and His gospel were.

None of us knows what Carson, Keller, or Piper et al, have said to Mark Driscoll, or whether they will continue to associate with him. So why don't you give them some benefit of the doubt, as fellow believers, before you pronounce judgement.

DJP said...

C. B. Shearer, meet pdm, Cathy Bickels, and Boerseuntjie, who think (or seem to imply) that we are far too easy on Driscoll.

pdm, Cathy Bickels, and Boerseuntjie, meet C. B. Shearer, who thinks that bringing up Driscoll's ongoing occasional misuse of the pulpit brings us under Christ's condemnation of the Ephesians as being doctrinally correct but loveless.

Now, perhaps you all could go to a nearby Sonic, work it out, and get back to me.

DJP said...

Thanks, Morris, but yikes. Emergency room? Are you OK?

Morris Brooks said...


Thanks for asking. It appears it was viral meningitis. Still having a few side issues, but otherwise okay.


Cathy Mickels said...

In all honesty, I have lost so much respect for the men who are leading the Coalition that I cannot bear to listen to them. Men such as Piper, Keller and Carson provided a cover to Driscoll, a pastor who perverted an entire book of the Bible, not to mention his other shameful behavior. What does it say about Keller and others, who gave Driscoll a platform that served to validate him? Why were these men silent and left a handful of believers, many of them women, to fight the battle for the purity of the Church?

For example, a couple of months ago, D. A. Carson was speaking at Driscoll's church, which resulted in totally undermining the concerns my son was expressing to his friend who attends Mars Hill. Carson's visit validated Driscoll and as a result, my son's friend totally wrote off my son's warnings.

In essence, intended or not, Carson was helping to build the ministry of a man who brags that he knows all the breast verses in the Bible. The silence of these men created great obstacles for anyone who dared to warn others about what was coming out of the mouth of Mark Driscoll. They helped exacerbate the problem.

"Now I urge you brethren, note those who cause divisions and offenses, contrary to the doctrine which you learned and avoid them."

In this case, the one who was causing the divisions and offenses was highlighted by the leaders at the 2009 Gospel Coalition Conference. Therefore, it should come as no surprise that many of us are questioning why this blog is now highlighting speakers and "leaders" who showed us they were spineless in the face of attacks on Truth. Even after John MacArthur rebuked Driscoll, have we heard of any of these men publicy agreeing with MacArthur?

Like Grandma above, this was the first time I have ever posted at this blog and for sure, I wasn't prepared to have my legitimate comments met with such condescension by Dan. I will simply move on.

Canyon Shearer, DMin said...

To defend my point, I'm not saying we shouldn't call out Driscoll for his ungodly behavior. I believe he will be one of my favorite preachers if he ever grows up, but until then I don't listen to him.

What I was trying to say is that these constant conferences reek of the Ephesian error of loving doctrine more than people. I am a 5 point Calvinist, I teach expositionally through the Bible, I have a definite opinion on pretty much every doctrine and I hold to them dearly, but I know that these doctrines are meant to be used to love God and love people, not to entertain scholars.

Keller made some awesome points on idolatry...that said; don't let your sanctification and education become your idol. On one side, the Charismatic movement chases the feeling of euphoria, on the other side, the Reformed movement chases the feeling of conviction...is either less of an idol?

I imagine the meetings in Ephesus went something like this, "Did you hear what Nicolais said this time?!?! And those guys in Pergamum are following him and haven't denounced him! Can you believe that!"

Doctrine and discernment are catalysts. Doctrine and discernment as the end goal is idolatry. Doctrine and discernment without love is worthless. Doctrine and discernment in action towards loving God and loving others is awesome.


DJP said...

Sorry you feel that way, Cathy. I wish you had actually engaged what I said. While (as I said) I share your concerns about Driscoll, I don't think your point is clear. Keller preached a very good sermon. But I can't enjoy it, because he was at the same place as Driscoll. How far does it go? Do we have to separate from people who won't separate from people who won't separate from people? As I said just above, we end up not being able to listen to nor learn from anyone.