Keller’s theological errors have led to his political missteps.

Why Timothy Keller is Wrong about Politics

Glenn Ballard
10 min readOct 11, 2018


Timothy Keller is the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan. In this article, as is obvious from the title, I criticize Timothy Keller’s positions on politics. But before getting into that, I would be remiss if I did not give credit to Mr. Keller for being a very positive influence in my life in some paramount matters of religion. In matters of religion, Mr. Keller gets some things beautifully right, and he has a superb capacity to communicate some of those fundamental truths in eloquent language that drives home the power of his points. However, at the same time, Mr. Keller falls woefully short in some other matters of religion, and it is precisely these theological shortcomings that lead him to make some very troubling missteps regarding politics.

As mentioned previously, Timothy Keller has a had a profound, very positive influence on my life. I am thankful to him for it. Mr. Keller’s church ministry in New York City, Redeemer Presbyterian, has heavily influenced three churches, and even founded two, which have played crucial roles in my spiritual development, including one in Atlanta, one in San Francisco, and one in Silicon Valley. Mr. Keller’s brilliance in religious matters is reflected in this marquee statement of his: “The Gospel changes everything.” He’s right about this. The Gospel — the “good news” of God’s love, mercy and grace — does change everything. And when we rightly understand the Gospel, and the myriad implications of it, it deeply affects the way we think and live. It changes our paradigm — our fundamental worldview through which we contemplate the world and our lives in it. Keller helps elucidate this profound truth with another one of his hallmark sayings: “I am more sinful and broken than I ever dared believe, but in Christ, I am more loved and accepted than I ever dared hope.” Keller’s greatest religious contribution to me personally has been his elucidation of the meaning of idolatry in our modern, ultra-high-tech world. When we think of the word “idolatry,” we tend to think of ancient people bowing down to strange things like stone statues and totem poles. But Keller explains that idolatry is a spiritual phenomenon that is a very insidious and ever-present risk. He hearkens to this wise quote from John Calvin on the subject, which Keller has paraphrased to bring into modern time: “The human heart is an idol factory.” The meaning is that idolatry is a matter of the heart. Whenever we make something other than God the chief affection of our heart, we fall into the trap of idolatry. That is, when we try to obtain our ultimate sense of self-worth, meaning, happiness or contentment from anything other than God; we effectively make that other thing an idol, and that sets us on a path not only of utter disappointment but also of spiritual destruction. All of these teachings by Keller are tremendously insightful and helpful. And to all of this, he also adds the importance of Christian charity. Keller insists that Christians must be concerned with helping the poor and needy. And he is right to do so. True religion, the Bible teaches us, expresses itself in caring for widows and orphans. Christians must do this, as Keller so insistently reminds us. “With all of these glowing praises, what could you possibly have against Timothy Keller?” I hear you asking. Trust me — I’ve asked myself the same question.

It has been said that a person’s greatest strength, if not properly balanced, can become that person’s greatest weakness. I think that is what has happened to Timothy Keller. Mr. Keller is right to say, “The Gospel changes everything.” But because of the way he avoids other, more controversial and less pleasant Biblical topics, his practical application of the foregoing quote effectively boils down to, “The Gospel is the only thing.” In this, Keller errs greatly. He shortchanges not only the Gospel but also the whole of Biblical teaching.

I understand why Timothy Keller does what he does. I mean, who wants to talk about hell? (As a point of relevant information, Jesus talked a lot about hell.) Who really digs getting into a deep, thoughtful discussion about the meaning of the Ten Commandments (as Jesus did in the Gospel According to Matthew, chapters 5–7)? If we actually understand the underlying, penetrating meaning of the Ten Commandments, as elucidated by Jesus, we are cornered into the unpleasant realization, along with the Apostle Paul, that “every mouth will be stopped” and the “whole world held accountable to God”. And the “whole world” includes me personally. There is something called “Judgment Day” and the “Great White Throne Judgment” proclaimed in the Bible. This is extremely uncomfortable stuff. When the weight of this reality falls forcefully on the human conscience, it is fearful and dreadful. It is the weight of this fear and dread that caused the Puritans to rightly warn, “Fee to Christ!”

The word “gospel” means “good news,” and Timothy Keller wants to emphasize the good news. But the good news cannot be appreciated nor apprehended if the bad news is not first comprehended. Thus, Keller does a disservice to those he is trying to save by not also elucidating the bad news. And the bad news is not merely that we are “broken” and thus unsatisfied. That, of course, is part of it. But the bad news also encompasses the reality that we are “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” as Jonathan Edwards reminds us. But that sort of talk will not do for Keller and his sophisticated Manhattan friends. That sort of language is entirely inappropriate for New York cocktail receptions.

Timothy Keller wants to make the Gospel “attractive” to Manhattan elites. I get it. I mean, who doesn’t want to be popular with the cool kids? I was voted “Most Popular” six years in a row in my middle school and high school (the titles were sometimes different, but effectively, that was the meaning), and I liked it. Who wouldn’t? Keller realizes he would never endear himself to the elite Manhattan power brokers by thundering scary language from the likes of Jonathan Edwards. And it certainly would not do to hold to the Biblical teaching of a literal six-day creation of the universe when everybody who’s anybody knows that “science” has proved the Bible wrong about that (even though actual science has not — and will never — do any such thing).

So, herein lies Timothy Keller’s theological faults. He is so keen on promoting the Gospel and making it attractive and popular that he intentionally avoids the unpopular stuff. Keller and his proteges rightly condemn a shallow form of “Christianity” in our modern American culture, especially in the “Bible Belt,” which promotes the idea that a person can live like the devil, but still go to heaven, as long as he or she just “believes in Jesus.” Ironically though, Keller and his Manhattan social elite crowd have done essentially the same kind of thing. In their efforts to make the Gospel attractive to a modern, high-tech, scientific, progressive society, they’ve stripped their version of “Christianity” of all the unpopular stuff: the absolute moral standards of the Ten Commandments, the idea of an angry God punishing sinners, hell, the inerrancy of the Bible as inspired in its original languages, and the Biblical account of creation, which in no uncertain terms, declares a literal six-day creation. Keller has fallen prey to the temptation to sell an unbiblical version of the “Gospel” to his customers.

From Timothy Keller’s monumental theological errors, it is an easy couple of steps to his political errors.

Timothy Keller is a socialist. He promotes the idea of redistribution of wealth forcibly administered by the power of government. This may surprise you, but I don’t fault Keller for this. I staunchly disagree with him. I believe socialism actually hurts, rather than helps, the poor. And I believe a thoughtful, honest, factual study of history, including recent history, thoroughly bears out my conclusion. But I understand and sympathize with Keller’s fondness of socialism. He seems to really want to help the poor (he’s just wrong about how to go about it). Modern socialism has its historical roots in New England Puritanism. The New England Puritans enacted a simple social welfare system to help the poor among them. They did what the Church should do. But at that time, the Church controlled the State, and the Church and the State were effectively the same thing for all practical purposes. Today, we have a government that is very far removed from Christianity, and today’s form of socialism is filled with corruption and all sorts of bad consequences for the people it is purportedly designed to help. But again, I understand and sympathize with Keller’s preference for socialism. I don’t agree with it. But I don’t find great fault with him about this.

In his desire to promote government administered social welfare, Timothy Keller promotes the Democratic Party and urges Christians not to vote for Republicans. In doing this, Mr. Keller is so biased in favor of governmental social welfare that he ignores the current Democratic Party’s flagrant and extreme promotion of violating two of the Ten Commandments: “Do not murder” and “Do not commit adultery.”

“Oh come on,” I can hear the moans and groans and instinctive complaints and dismissals. “Christians should be focusing on the Gospel and the love and mercy of God — not the Law and certainly not all that ‘hellfire and brimstone’ stuff.” Actually, when it comes to politics, Christians should be focused exclusively on the Law — not the Gospel. To support my assertion, a little background information is needed.

Classical Christianity recognizes the importance of civil society — humans, after all, are social beings — and it recognizes three crucial institutions of civil society: (i) the Family (the most important and fundamental institution of civil society); (ii) the Church; and the State (what we refer to as “government”). The State is unique in that it has the authority to “bear the sword.” It is the State’s responsibility to ensure its citizens live in a just and safe society. One of the fundamental responsibilities of government is to restrain evil by punishing evildoers. It is not the government’s role to promote the Gospel — that is the responsibility of the Church. It is the government’s responsibility to maintain law and order. Ultimately, as the founders of the United States understood, it is the government’s responsibility to develop and maintain a system of law and justice based on the Ten Commandments. As the Acton Institute puts it, “The reality of sin makes the state necessary to restrain evil.”

In light of the God-given responsibility of government to restrain evil and to punish evildoers, and to establish a system of law and order to maintain a just and safe society, and to base its system of law and order on the Ten Commandments; it is a cause for great alarm and concern that one of the political parties in the United States — the one that Timothy Keller promotes — is effectively giving the LORD the finger and despising two of his Ten Commandments.

Abortion is not “reproductive health.” It is not “reproductive medicine.” It is not “a woman’s right”. It is murder. I could get into the mountain of science that proves my claim — separate heartbeat, separate fingerprints, separate DNA — but the plain, obvious, scientific fact is that human life starts at conception. A growing baby inside its mother’s body is not part of the mother’s body. It is not merely a clump of cells. It is not an inanimate object. It is a separate human life, and it has a right to live. The State has no right to sanction the killing of it.

Same-sex marriage is not lawful marriage according to the Bible. It is adultery. It is an adulteration of God’s clear design for marriage — one man and one woman, as one flesh, for the reminder of life after marriage — as elucidated by Jesus.

I’m sure some people will falsely accuse me of being “unloving” and even “hateful” for simply holding to what the Bible plainly says. But I’m not being unloving or hateful. I’m simply submitting to the Creator of the universe. But I will show you what is unloving and hateful. The way this father treated his daughter is unloving and hateful → . And the way homosexual activists treated this very decent and accomplished man was unloving and hateful → . And the way abortion shops butcher babies — literally dismembering tiny, defenseless human bodies — is unloving and hateful. And the way the Democratic Party promotes the destruction of human lives by trampling on God’s laws is unloving and hateful. And the way Timothy Keller and his followers turn a blind eye to the Democratic Party’s promotion of these atrocities is unloving and hateful.

Inevitably, some will accuse me of being an unthinking “right-wing extremist” who ignorantly equates the Republican Party with Christianity. But that’s not true. I have no delusions of the Republican Party being the equivalent of Christianity. Honestly, I’m very dissatisfied with the Republican Party. Current politics in the United States is pathetic. But on the two issues in which the Democratic Party is flagrantly defying the LORD, the Republican Party currently is on the right side.

What Christians should do is destroy the Democratic Party with their votes. Every Christian should vote against every Democrat in every election — until and unless the Democratic Party repents of its extreme wickedness. And meanwhile, Christians should work to reform the Republican Party. We should not be under any delusion that the Republican Party is perfectly modeling Biblical principles. It isn’t — not by a long shot. But the Democratic Party is actively, purposefully subverting the Ten Commandments, and it should be destroyed.

I’m sure my forthrightness will unsettle some folk in the Manhattan and San Francisco and Seattle and D.C. social circles. The kind of straightforward Bible talk I am doing — reminiscent of the Puritans — just won’t do in their circles. But take note. Jesus Christ is not a kitty cat. He’s a Lion. He does not need a slick marketing campaign. He’s the King. Yes, he’s a meek and humble Savior. But he’s also a mighty Warrior. He’s the Rock. Everyone who builds his life on this Rock will have a secure foundation. But everyone who despises this Rock will be crushed by it.

Mr. Keller — if you ever read this — thank you for the good you have done. I mean that. I’ve been blessed by your ministry and by some of your insights about the Gospel and about idolatry. But you’ve also made some very serious errors. You can’t preach the Gospel, while ignoring the rest of the Bible. You can’t communicate the good news, without being honest about the bad news. And you need to bow the knee to King Jesus and quit turning a blind eye to your favorite political party’s promotion of the destruction of the “the least of these.”