When Heroes Die
by Daniel Speer
Tim Keller was, to put it lightly, a giant of the faith in my generation. Story after story is currently being told of what he meant to others, many of whom (much like myself) never even had the chance to meet him in person.
Keller was a man who taught me to “doubt my doubts” when it came to grappling with my faith. He taught me how applicable the gospel is for daily life through the careful exposition of scripture. His love for C.S. Lewis and Martin Lloyd-Jones was so contagious that it inspired me to dive deeper into the writings and teachings of both. Most importantly, perhaps, he helped me see the glory of Jesus in the entirety of scripture.
And now, suddenly, he is gone. Battling with cancer for some years now, he has succumbed to the long defeat: death itself. Reality rears its ugly head again…we live in a world where even our heroes die. The “already” that we see of God’s goodness in and through the lives of these exceptional people is still very much in tension with the “not yet” of their, and our own, mortality.
The truth is that on their best day, the heroes that we have now are those who do well in pointing others to the truer and better Hero…one who also faced death, but who was raised again to conquer it forever. And because that’s the case, though Tim Keller has died…and though Harry Reeder has died…yet they live. Their souls, absent from their bodies, are present with the Lord. The long defeat has been undone.
And for those of us who are bereft in the tumultuous wake of such losses…we should rightly mourn; but then like King David, we should rise, wash our faces, and then whole-heartedly press onward. Their races are over, but as we yet have breath, we can still pick up the mantle of faith that they helped foster in us and run even further.
Through the power of the Spirit, we can go to war daily with our selfish and sinful hearts, pick up our crosses, live lives of servitude, and be reflections of Jesus. We can yet burn brightly in a world that is desperate for any flicker of hope, and in so doing lead others to the True Light of the World.
And may we, when it is our turn to die, leave a legacy behind us of others, rising up to take the same mantle of faith, pressing forward into a sure future of hope where the great light coming from the Lamb on his throne will never be extinguished.
For now, though, to borrow a few words from the Japanese song “Homura”:
“Sayonara, arigatou, koe no kagiri”
(“Goodbye, thank you, to the fullest extent of my voice”)
Tim Keller Bolstered My Faith
by Michael Lytle
I’ve been reading many of the tributes to Tim Keller that poured in over the last few days. Some were from people who knew him well, others were from those influenced by his work. If you want to read a recap of his life and the broader impact of his ministry there are plenty of great options out there. I am not qualified to write that type of tribute, but I will share how Keller’s work affected me.
Believers come to faith and grow in their faith in different ways. For me having rational, historical, basis for what I believed was always important. I have enjoyed apologetics since high school when my dad recommended that I read Josh McDowell’s Evidence that Demands a Verdict. Over the years I have read and benefited from various apologetic writers, but Tim Keller stands at the top of my list.
My first encounter with Keller’s work was reading Reason for God about 12 or so years ago. It was unlike any apologetics work I had ever read before.
Right, off the bat I noticed that Keller was not as argumentative as other writers I had read in the genre. He was willing to give ground in some areas and admit that Christians did not always get it right, but as soon as it appeared he might be conceding too much he would brilliantly point out inconsistencies and holes in logic that modern, secular people were guilty of and oblivious to.
Simply put, he approached the rational defense of the Christian faith in a way that I had never really encountered to that point in my life.
That book led me to his church’s podcast where I was blessed and challenged by his sermons. In listening to those sermons, I realized his ministry extended beyond the realm of apologetics into all aspects of the Christian life.
Over the years I purchased just about every book he wrote and found great content in each one. Topics like prayer, forgiveness, marriage, and suffering were each approached in a unique and interesting way that forced me to pay attention and rethink many of my assumptions.
While I never met Tim Keller or got to hear him speak at a live event, his work enriched my life and will continue to do so. I have several books on my upcoming reading list that are stacked up in my bedroom, Collin Hansen’s biography of Tim Keller just went to the top of my list.
Thank you, Dr. Keller, for your life of faithful service. You will be missed.
Practical and Spiritual Influence in Life and Death
by Nathan Patton
Tim Keller’s influence has been profound and far-reaching. He has personally impacted me on multiple occasions, and that impact spans both the practical and the spiritual. I would like to highlight the first and the most recent instances.
On Raising Children in the City
Nearly fifteen years ago, my young family and I relocated to the vibrant city of New York, NY to help with a church plant. Raising children is challenging regardless of location or culture but navigating parenthood in New York City presents its own unique set of obstacles and anxieties.
It was during this time that Tim Keller’s insights resonated deeply with me, as he addressed these challenges and fears head-on. His article, titled “It Takes a City to Raise a Child,” provided me with hope and invaluable practical advice (although the article seems to be unavailable now, you can still find the original sermon that inspired it here).
What made this experience particularly meaningful was the realization that Tim Keller was not merely a stranger offering words on a page. Although I never had the privilege of personally knowing or interacting with him, we coincidentally (or, providentially, if you are so inclined) lived in adjacent apartment buildings. Seeing him in our everyday lives, going about his routines (no, I didn’t stalk him), lent a tangible authenticity to his message on raising children in the city.
On Dying Well
I was delighted to discover that Tim Keller was recently a guest on one of my favorite podcasts, “Unbelievable?”. During the episode, he answered listener questions and discussed his new book, Forgive. However, what struck me most deeply was his candid account of his battle with cancer, which ultimately claimed his life.
In many ways, my father shared similarities with Tim Keller. While not as renowned, he was an eloquent and educated pastor whose preaching and teaching style would have felt more at home in a bustling metropolis than in the quiet foothills of the Missouri Ozarks. Like Keller, my father confronted a terminal illness with unwavering faith, serving as an extraordinary example until his last breath.
This episode aired the day after my father died. Keller’s vulnerability and honesty regarding his mortality and his Christian response to it were profoundly uplifting to me during this time of sorrow.