Tim Keller on the Christian Tradition in America

Question: How does Christianity differ from the center of the US to the coasts?

Keller:    I think Orthodox Christianity, Orthodox Protestant Christianity tends to be in North America, tends to be in the middle of the country Southern and Midwestern, it tends to be for blue collar people and it actually hasn’t been very contextualized for the Coast, it hasn’t been contextualized for the people who live in cities.  And so when I began to, in a sense, I contextualized it, just translate it, and awful lot of people said this is very unusual and I think that’s part of the appeal.

Question: Is the message different geographically?

Keller:    When you talk to somebody, you always take into considerations some of their prejudices and world view in order to make what you’re saying coherent.  So, you assume they know this and this and this and yet they disagree here.  So, what you do is you build a bridge, everybody does that.  You say, I know you believe this and this and this so do I, but if you believe that, then you might want to consider this, and that’s just a normal way in which we reason with each other and I very often find the folks from a different culture that want to bring Islam or Christianity or Judaism or even in a way secularism to a new culture don’t know how to do that and I’ve, I’m from, you might say, this culture and therefore it came more naturally to me.

Question: Why don’t you like the term “evangelical?”

Keller:    I would like to communicate and if I use a word I want to believe that every word has a kind of semantic range, right and if I’m talking to somebody who uses the word over here to mean, for example, Republican, it’s just not necessarily the way I would use the word evangelical or evangelical doesn’t necessarily mean politically conservative or Republican like it does in New York City.  So, that’s the main reason.  I mean, if you actually go back to Martin Luther, if you go back to the Jonathan Edwards and the evangelical awakenings of the 18th century, I’m an evangelical, but the word has actually come to mean something else in New York City that if people say, if I say to them, if I say to people in New York City I’m an evangelical, they have a bunch of assumptions.  And if they ask me 20 questions, when they’re done, they’ll say you’re not what I expected, which means I raise false expectations by using the word.  That’s the only reason I would stay away from the word in New York.

Question: Why should someone believe in the Christian faith?

Keller:    You see, I actually think that Christian beliefs are true and therefore I would want people, there’s a place where C. S. Lewis, my patron saint says, “Don’t believe Christianity because it’s relevant, though it is.  Don’t believe in Christianity because a lot of smart people believe it, though many do.  Don’t believe in Christianity because it fulfills your need, though it eventually will.  Don’t believe in Christianity because it’s incredibly relevant to our cultural moment, though I actually believe it is.  Believe in Christianity because it’s true.  And if you don’t believe in Christianity because it’s true, what will happen is to some degree won’t fulfill your needs.”  After all, Jesus believed in God didn’t have a very good life, I mean, he was tortured and killed.  He says, “You’ll find that if you don’t believe Christianity because it’s true, you’ll have your faith rocked at some point because these other things are only partly right, it’s partly relevant, it’s partly fulfilling, but sometimes you’ll be in situation when it won’t feel very fulfilling.”  And so I try to say if you believe it’s true, you will need to know why you believe it’s true and then you’ll believe it no matter what the circumstances.

Tim Keller on Christianity in New York.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

4 reasons Martin Luther King, Jr. fought for universal basic income

In his final years, Martin Luther King, Jr. become increasingly focused on the problem of poverty in America.

(Photo by J. Wilds/Keystone/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Despite being widely known for his leadership role in the American civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, Jr. also played a central role in organizing the Poor People's Campaign of 1968.
  • The campaign was one of the first to demand a guaranteed income for all poor families in America.
  • Today, the idea of a universal basic income is increasingly popular, and King's arguments in support of the policy still make a good case some 50 years later.
Keep reading Show less

A world map of Virgin Mary apparitions

She met mere mortals with and without the Vatican's approval.

Strange Maps
  • For centuries, the Virgin Mary has appeared to the faithful, requesting devotion and promising comfort.
  • These maps show the geography of Marian apparitions – the handful approved by the Vatican, and many others.
  • Historically, Europe is where most apparitions have been reported, but the U.S. is pretty fertile ground too.
Keep reading Show less

Why I wear my life on my skin

For Damien Echols, tattoos are part of his existential armor.

  • In prison Damien Echols was known by his number SK931, not his name, and had his hair sheared off. Stripped of his identity, the only thing he had left was his skin.
  • This is why he began tattooing things that are meaningful to him — to carry a "suit of armor" made up the images of the people and objects that have significance to him, from his friends to talismans.
  • Echols believes that all places are imbued with divinity: "If you interact with New York City as if there's an intelligence behind... then it will behave towards you the same way."
Keep reading Show less