Keller Project: “Preacher, you’re not telling me how…” [part 1]

This again from my work on Keller: Dutch Reformed theologian G.C Berkouwer says:”it’s a mistake to ask ‘we know we have imputed righteousness, but now how do we move on to actual righteousness?'”

Keller adds:

we do not ‘move on’. Any particular flaw in our actual righteousness stems from a corresponding failure to orient ourselves toward our imputed righteousness. Sanctification happens to the degree that we ‘feed on’ or ‘orient ourselves’ or ‘have commerce with’ the pardon, righteousness, and new status we now have in Christ imputed through faith.

As far as I can tell, in the churches I’ve attended this question is rarely asked in Berkouwer’s words. Yet you do hear something slightly similar. ‘I know Jesus died for me, but you’re not telling me how to live a Godly life at [work, family, marriage …]’.

Now of course it is always important to appreciate the context where a particular expression of a doctrine/teaching originates. Keller is instructing US evangelical preachers, many of whom may have a reputation for ‘self-help’ style sermons, and plenty of application not flowing from the gospel of Jesus Christ. They’re rarely accused of not doing application, but of not doing Christ-centered application.

In Sydney circles, our sermons are not typically self-help in style and when the application elements of our sermons are noticeable, they’re usually criticized for being superficial, repetitive or minimal. We’re often accused of being Christ-centered with no application. (I say ‘noticeable’ because what is appreciated as application by a congregation, may be different to what is application.)

Yet if Berkouwer and Keller are right and there’s a problem with asking the ‘moving on’ question, does that mean we’re generally doing the right thing having minimal noticeable or useful application in our sermons? And should we even eliminate this noticeable application altogether?

Should we (continue to?) avoid ‘how to’s in our sermons? [ tomorrow … part 2]


3 Responses to Keller Project: “Preacher, you’re not telling me how…” [part 1]

  1. Mike Doyle says:

    very very very nice post.

    I’m looking forward to reading your project.

  2. […] the meantime, Luke has begun sharing some thoughts from his project, which is an analysis of Tim Keller’s preaching. Sounds fascinating. Head of Theology at […]

  3. […] Keller Project: “Preacher, you’re not telling me how” [part 2] see part I here. […]

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