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9Marks Explained : A Letter From Mark Dever

Book Review: Center Church by Tim Keller

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I was recently on a conference call with a group of ten pastors who are all members of my theological “tribe,” as we’re calling them nowadays. Each of us took turns updating one another, and I mentioned that I was in the process of reviewing Timothy Keller’s Center Church. Would they pray for me? The conversation turned to Keller’s overall ministry program. One brother said that Center Church was “one of the best two or three books” he had ever read “besides the Bible.” A second brother explained that reading Keller sometimes made him want to applaud, and sometimes made him want “to throw the book out the window.”

Everyone had something to say.

I don’t know what church circles you travel in, but this cellular brouhaha mimicked the chatter I have heard for years concerning Keller. Many church leaders treat him as the bee’s knees, a Protestant with ex cathedra potentiality. Others grimace and wince. To be clear, the wincers wince as you would with a teammate and not someone playing for the other side. But it is our disagreements with the ones closest to us that most quickly boil the pot and rattle the lid.

Why the range of reactions to Keller’s theological vision? More than once conversations about Keller—I’m serious—have left me humming, “How do you solve a problem like Tim Keller?” as the priggish old nuns did with Fraulein Maria. Yes, I suppose that means I’m the old nun.

It is tempting to offer a Kelleresque “third way” for viewing Keller, a triangulated Keller for narrowing the space between the Keller critics and enthusiasts. To read Keller, after all, is to be trained in the art of the Aristotelian mean. This is his m.o. Perhaps, in like fashion, we should search for a balanced view of the balancer himself?

Read the entire review here.