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Tim Keller’s Ungenerous Justice: Cultural Marxism and the New Branding of Liberation Theology

Posted by admin in February 23rd, 2020
Published in freedom, obedience, Politics, Social Issues

I believe Tim Keller is a Democratic Socialist and a Cultural Marxist. But it doesn’t really matter what I think. Let’s take a look at what Tim Keller says and we can come to a conclusion based on Keller’s own words.

In 2018, Tim Keller tweeted, “Do I really need to defend that I’m not a Marxist? Definitely not one.” Then Keller pastes a quote from Reason for God, “The…departments were socially radicalized and were heavily influenced by the new-Marxist critical theory…The social activism was particularly attractive, and the critique of American bourgeoisie society was compelling, but its philosophical underpinnings were confusing to me. I seemed to see two camps before me and there was something radically wrong with both of them.”

The two camps Keller is referring to here are orthodox Christianity and the Frankfurt School.

In this quote, Keller says of these two camps, “…something was radically wrong with BOTH of them.”

Something was radically wrong with orthodox Christianity?

Interesting too that Keller says, “confusing” rather than evil. I read the same heady stuff in college and found the philosophical underpinnings evil, destructive, and immoral. Okay, my parents were Birchers, but still, I came to these conclusions on my own.

But most disappointing of all, was that Tim Keller didn’t use this as a teachable moment for his followers and say a resounding “NO!!” Or even a clear, “Here’s why I would never be a Marxist.” In the feed there were hundreds of his followers begging him to explain how/why Marxism is wrong. Keller remained silent.

Technically, Tim Keller saying he isn’t a Marxist is basically true. Marxism has many flavors, but at its core and fundamental to its beliefs, one must be an atheist. I do not believe Tim Keller is an atheist.

BUT, early in the 20th century, a group of Catholic priests wanted to form an ideology that embraced both Marxist theory and belief in God. They’re known as the Liberation Theology guys and they’re the boys who coined the phrase, “Cultural Marxism.” With this ideology, you can believe in God and embrace Marx’s ideas on money, government, the oppressed worker, and the ending of free enterprise.

And there my friends, is the rub.

I do, without a doubt, believe that Tim Keller is a Cultural Marxist.

First, I need to differentiate between Marxism and Socialism.

Socialism is the practice of economic equality and the ending of private enterprise. Socialism embraces a broad system of ideas such as redistribution of wealth, getting rid of “selfish” and “individualistic” corporations, and a creation of new patterns of work and education to promote the communal good as opposed to individualistic good.

Socialism believes that well-rounded individuals, who are holistic in their approach to life, prefer the common good of the group over the good of the individual. Socialism supports womb to tomb policies that include everything from government paid maternity leave and universal health care to comprehensive state benefits like free university education and housing—all paid for by insanely high taxes.

Venezuela is a Socialist country that went from being the wealthiest nation in South America in the 1980s to the poorest in less than two decades—all as a result of Socialism.

Socialism is an absolute necessary stepping stone for a society to move from capitalism to eventual Marxism. In fact, Karl Marx thought of socialism as sort of a weaning process to move society away from evil capitalism to the Utopia of Marxism.

Socialism is not Communism, though they share a few traits, especially in their view of government’s role and the elimination of free enterprise and a market economy.

Socialism is practiced in several countries: Armenia, Bolivia, Ecuador, Iceland, Nicaragua, Portugal, Venezuela, and Serbia—just to name a few.

Now it starts to get complicated, because within Socialism there is a thing called “Democratic Socialism.”

Democratic Socialists identify as Ethical Socialists, an idea developed by Methodist/Wesleyan R.H. Tawney in the 1920s in the UK. Tawney, a member of parliament, was a socialist who believed that the Bible strongly supported the idea of government’s role to prevent greed and the abusive actions of those who were powerful and wealthy. Tony Blair identified as an Ethical Socialist. And if you read their stuff, it sounds pretty amazing. But sadly, it’s completely and totally erroneous.

In my opinion, Tim Keller is a Democratic Socialist. You can be both a Democratic Socialist as well as a Cultural Marxist.

What is a Democratic Socialist?

A Democratic Socialist is someone who believes the government should provide a wide-range of basic services to the public for free or at a significant discount, such as health care, child care, housing, and education. Unlike plain old Socialists, Democratic Socialists do not believe the government should control all aspects of enterprise and commerce, but only provide basic needs and help all of its citizens have an equal chance of success. Democratic Socialists, like Denmark, the UK, Sweden, like to call themselves, compassionate capitalists. These folks pay extremely high taxes.

There is a big difference between Socialism and Communism.

Individuals under a Communist system do not receive merit-based pay. Their wages aren’t based on productivity or contribution of work, they are simply given an “allowance” based on an equitable distribution of the nation’s GNP. But in reality, the Communist Party’s Big Dogs get the pay dirt and the hoi polloi get to divide whatever is left, which usually isn’t much.

Communist countries today are Cuba, North Korea, Laos, Vietnam, and sort of China. However, pragmatic China decided in the 1980s that they wanted “capitalist practice with Marxist principles.” So, they made something up and actually China has better free-enterprise than the US. Under true Communism, citizens are given what the government thinks they need in terms of food, clothing, housing, and health care. Citizens are not rewarded for working harder or better – everyone receives the same amount regardless of output. Communism works hard to control citizens and revokes basic human rights such as freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and freedom to criticize leaders.

Democratic Socialism vs. Socialism

Both Democratic Socialism and Socialism advocate for a redistribution of wealth and power to meet citizens’ needs. They both believe that big earnings and big profits for the few are immoral. Both aim to weaken the power of corporations, industrialists, and increase the power of the workers, or “alienated workers” as Keller calls them, quoting Karl Marx (pg. 98 of Every Good Endeavor). How any follower of Jesus Christ could EVER quote Marx is beyond me! If I could label one person responsible for the chaos, fallen economies, and demonic oppression of our world, it would be Karl Marx. He was more evil and destructive than anyone in the 19th and 20th centuries, because he fed and inspired brutal dictators such as Lenin, Stalin, and Mao. How could any evangelical leader ever quote such a monster much less adopt his ideas and call them good?!? Tim Keller quotes Marx extensively in Every Good Endeavor. It’s dumbfounding.

Democratic Socialists, do not think the government should immediately take control of all aspects of the economy. Democratic Socialism focuses more on providing basic needs to all people, such as health care, food staples, housing, and education. Democratic Socialism, unlike regular Socialism, achieves their goals through a Democratic means (like a vote) and not through an authoritarian rule or hostile takeover.

Marxism, on the other hand, is an entire worldview that includes a belief about the human condition, as well as economics and governmental structures. Marxism seeks to explain the development of all societies and even makes predictions about future social change. Marxism is godless; atheistic; and looks to create Utopia by its design. Marxists consider the material world as an integrated whole in which all things and phenomena are interconnected and interdependent. I personally would call it a religion–one based on the material world. In Marxism, there’s no after life, the present is all that exists.

Marxism provides a so-called scientific explanation of nature and society and hence, was a powerful instrument for revolutionary transformation that gave birth to Communism around the world. You cannot have Communism without Marxism.

Keller in his three books, Reason for God, Generous Justice and Every Good Endeavor, markets Marxism as Democratic Socialism (DS). DS rests on certain values. Values that we as Christians understand and often embrace: caring for the poor, feeding the hungry, housing for all, medical care for those in need. DS takes care of people and as Christians we want to take care of people, right? But Keller’s love for Marx is rather disguised, dodgy, and suspect. And I don’t like that. Trying to cut and paste Marxism so that it fits into a biblical worldview is not only wrong and dangerous, it’s terrifyingly deceptive.

So why is Democratic Socialism wrong? How is Keller’s approach wrong? Well…

HERE IS THE MAIN PROBLEM (and if you don’t take anything else away from this post, please take this): Democratic Socialism is NOT a New Testament principle. The New Testament Church did not pool all their resources and distribute them equally. It’s a nuance, but an important one. The New Testament Church pooled all their resources, VOLUNTARILY, and then distributed as there was need. And even that didn’t work too well.

And let’s not forget that the New Testament also teaches that if someone doesn’t work—they don’t eat. Check out 2 Thessalonians 3:10.

As one brother put it, “I’m willing to give some latitude regarding the communal aspects of Christ’s Church, but that has nothing to do with…a God-less governmental system led by evil men desiring control and power and using coercion and confiscatory means.”

Drawing heavily on Ecclesiastes, Keller tries to make a case that Democratic Socialism is a valid and trustworthy form of government and I cannot help but follow his thoughts out to their only logical conclusion: Democratic Socialism, based on Marx’s ideology, is BETTER than capitalism. And on that I completely and totally disagree with Keller. I also think that history is on my side.

Let me give you a clear example right from the pages of American history. Anyone remember William Bradford and the first colony of Plymouth? America wasn’t founded by European capitalists.  In fact, “America was founded by socialists who had the humility to learn from their mistakes,” abandoned the errors of socialism, and embrace economic freedom and capitalism’s rewards for hard work (see Jerry Bower’s brilliant article on Plymouth https://www.forbes.com/sites/jerrybowyer/2011/11/23/occupy-plymouth-colony-how-a-failed-commune-led-to-thanksgiving/#554576386dfe ).

Plymouth was founded in 1620 by God-fearing Puritans. The original colony wrote into its charter a system of communal property and labor.

As William Bradford reported in his journal, “a people who had formerly been known for their virtue and hard work became lazy and unproductive.” Applying communal principles, resources were squandered, vegetables were allowed to rot on the ground, and mass starvation resulted. After years of hardship, the leaders of the colony decided to abandon their socialist mandate and create a system which honored private property. As a result, the colony survived and thrived and had an abundance. That’s human flourishing. (The Plymouth gang based their idealistic socialism on Plato’s blueprint. Marx wasn’t original in his theory).

Bradford writes, “The failure of this communal living, which was tried for several years and by good and honest men, proves the emptiness of the theory that the taking away of private property and the possession of it in community by a commonwealth would make a state happy and flourish; as if they were wiser than God. For in this case, community of property was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment which should have been for the general good. Let none argue that this is due to human failing, rather than to this communistic plan of life in itself. I answer, seeing that all men have this failing in them, that God in His wisdom saw another course was fitter for humankind.”

Bradford goes on to say that once private property was given to each colonist and each was able to tend his or her own plot, the colony thrived because capitalism works with the way that God made us.

History is a series of experiments. What one writer calls, “The Human Gamble.” Some gambles work and are adopted by society and some do not and should be abandoned by it (like Socialism). The problem is that the human gamble only teaches us a lesson if we keep track of the outcomes. For three hundred years, the story of the first failed communist economy in America was part of every school curriculum. But Progressive Education found that story unhelpful and it has fallen into obscurity, which explains why someone like Tim Keller can repackage Socialism and redistribution of wealth and get away with it.

I wonder why our current church leaders forget the lessons of the past? They are, after all, very smart men and women who love God and read Scripture. Don’t they know that collectivism will always fail? Even in the Book of Acts we see how the system was fraught with problems and those distributing the goods neglected some while favoring others. Welcome to fallen human nature.

Through Socialism, the government must use coercion and confiscatory means to level the economic playing field. And that is not a biblical principle nor is that commanded of Christians. It’s a false narrative that Keller is pitching again and again. In fact, moving the ancient markers is called stealing (i.e. redistribution of land and land ownership revoked).

Democratic Socialists (DS) rely on the government to procure, or TAKE, the resources from the people usually through high taxes; DS demand that people, through their taxes, but through other means as well, give their stuff to others so everyone has equal amounts—regardless of effort, time, or energy exerted by those “others.”

Capitalism and Free-Enterprise benefit the poor through the creation of jobs, through an abundance of resources, and through a strong middle-class giving to and supporting those in need. It’s the “teach a man to fish” kind of thing…

Keller has said, “If you do not actively and generously share your resources with the poor, you are a robber.” This is at the heart of Socialist philosophy. Keller goes on to claim, “To fail to share what you have is not just uncompassionate, but unfair, unjust.” A statement that fits perfectly into a Democratic Socialist worldview.

What’s wrong with these statements?

Well, first of all what’s Keller’s definition of a robber? Someone who is actually breaking the law? And Keller is using hyperbole here to guilt white, middle-class, church goers into thinking that redistribution of wealth is the morally superior high ground. Everyone likes the high ground, right?

But there is a bigger problem here with Keller’s statement and it has to do with the whole concept of giving and what that means to the follower of Christ.

Giving is to be an act of worship. Nowhere in Scripture are we commanded to give out of a need for justice, or even for equity. To take an Old Testament Scripture from Saul’s unholy sacrifice and Saul’s impatience on waiting for Samuel, “Obedience is better than sacrifice.” Giving calls us into a more intimate and more communal relationship with God. There is a biblical principle in the OT to give 10%, or the tithe, and we are to bring that tithe into the House of God, or the storehouse, and we are to use that to cover the expenses of the Temple, give an allotment to the priest, and to distribute as there is need. That’s an application we use for the Church today.

Giving though, is not just to help the poor and this is key. Giving should always be with wisdom, prayer, and knowledge. We want to know that those to whom we give are going to use God’s money wisely, appropriately, and honestly. So, we must be discerning, prayerful, and for married couples like me and Daryl, we need to be in agreement about how to use what God has given us. That’s obedience.

When helping the poor, sometimes money is not required. Sometimes the poor need training, or someone to come along side them and help them get out of poverty through mentoring, teaching, and friendship. I have seen firsthand the good that teaching English has done by lifting people out of poverty and empowering them to get good jobs and to assimilate into their communities – that’s vitally important. Jesus said, “The poor will always be among you.” What did he mean by that? Jesus never said that if the poor are among you and you have money, “you’re a robber.” But Marx certainly did.

To paraphrase brilliant Tim Kauffman from The Trinity Foundation, the “economics” dimension of the typical Social Justice argument is “some sort of appeal to economic equality, where the sense of justice implied is that of alleviating economic needs” of everyone. But the Bible doesn’t teach that principle.

Nowhere in scripture is equity ever a part of God’s justice. In fact, justice in God’s economy means we don’t get what we deserve, but He gives us grace and an abundance of mercy. If we got justice, we’d all be damned.

Keller is using a slight of hand technique here in bringing socialist ideals into the Church. We’re then indoctrinated by his books and Bible studies and convinced that this is a biblical approach to money and goods. Then Keller tells us to go and practice these principles in the real world – in schools, churches, government, politics, business—in the marketplace. And the contamination of these anti-biblical ideas spread throughout our culture in the name of Christianity, but in reality, they are nothing more than broken, worn out, failed Socialism. Philosophies that are in direct opposition to how God designed us. That’s why Socialism and Marxism always fail.

Jesus gave us everything we need to comprehend and live out what it truly means to love justly.

You know how people often say, money is the root of all evil? That’s a misquote, isn’t it? But it’s used often and is one of those phrases you hear and think, “Well that’s godly.” But the actual Scripture is “The LOVE of money is the root of all evil.” The Scripture has a completely different application dealing not with money, but the attitude of one’s heart. This is very similar to what Keller is doing here.

Democratic Socialist ideals created by godless philosophers are not an appropriate life principle for Believers, in fact, they are antithetical to New Testament living. Remember, Jesus and the Apostles, including Paul, all lived under Roman occupation, all lived with unjust governance and yet the Church flourished.

Of course, Keller and other “economic equality” proponents, never explain that once we divide all the wealth equally, we’re all equally poor. Time and again, economics have failed in nations where this principle plays out. And if we are looking at it biblically, he who does not work, does not eat and Paul goes on to say, “settle down and earn the bread you eat.” The causes of poverty are complex and varied and money is not always the solution to poverty. We see this in lottery winners. Giving money to the poor without wisdom, can do more harm than good.

JD Hall writes, “The only way you can perceive helping the underprivileged as being ‘justice’ and not ‘mercy’ is if you also believe the underprivileged are underprivileged by virtue of injustice (as opposed to ignorance, laziness, divine providence, or misfortune). In other words, the entire concept of ‘Social Justice,’ [which Keller preaches] which assumes that the underprivileged are underprivileged because of systemic oppression, is Marxist ideology.”

My biggest struggle with Keller’s teachings is found in the common themes of the three books I mentioned above. In them, Keller tries to sanctify Socialists philosophers such as Gustavo Gutierrez and Karl Marx and call their ideology Scriptural.

An ideology, that instead of encouraging Believers to live Spirit-filled lives of holy obedience and communion with God, instead of a clarion call to win souls and rescue the perishing, instead of reminding us of the Great Commission, Keller is telling us that to love justice is more important than winning souls and spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, Keller’s main themes in these three books can be lived out by non-believers. So not only is this a misinterpretation of Scripture, but it lacks an important element of Christ-centered living and thinking of the world around us. It’s a radical departure from the core mission of the Church and of us as followers of Jesus. It’s another gospel.

Keller wants us to change the culture; he’s dissatisfied with the status quo. He wants a Revolution of vanguards. It’s always a mistake when Christians are called upon to cry “Revolution.” The cry of Believers shouldn’t be Revolution, but Reformation and as a Presbyterian, I think Keller should know that.

In Scripture we are not called to change our culture, we are called to bring Jesus to all of humankind, and the by-product of that is then, a changed culture. Bringing truth to the individual can then bring truth to the culture. Look at Ephesus. Paul, Priscilla and Aquilla turned Ephesus on its ear by sharing the good new of Jesus Christ, and what happened? The culture turned from idol worship and put the silversmiths out of business.

Transformation always begins with the preaching of Jesus Christ and Him crucified and the power of His resurrection. This is the Gospel and cultures may or may not change. But this is the hill we would die on. Not Social Justice. Not economic equity. Not Democratic Socialism.

Of course, Christian are to do the right thing, like fight slavery. The abolition movement was primarily driven and executed by Believers. The battle against sex-trafficking today is a battle led by Christians who are fighting for the oppressed—these are ways to be salt and light and truth bearers in our culture. But for me, Keller’s constant preaching about Social Justice and Generous Justice eclipse the motivation that should spur us to good works: love and commitment to Christ.

Any good work not done out of a central love and worship of Jesus is a carnal work and throws us off balance. I Corinthians 13:3, “If I give all I possess to the poor and but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Christ is all; Christ is in all.

Why do I say Keller teaches another gospel? I’ll use Keller’s own words, “When Jesus suffered with us he was identifying with the oppressed–not with their oppressors…Jesus came to identify with the poor and the oppressed.” (Straight out of Liberation Theology BTW).

Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus suffered for and identified with ALL humankind–to redeem both the oppressed and the oppressor. To free all of us from sin. That’s why at the Cross He prayed, “Forgive them Father, they don’t know what they’re doing.” He was praying for those who nailed Him to the cross – the oppressors; He loved both the executioners and the crowd who wept seeing Him suffer.

And Keller insists, and actually quotes Gustavo Gutierrez, that God gives preferential treatment to the poor. But Scripture teaches that God is no respecter of persons – He loves the poor and rich equally and before God we are all sinners in need of the saving grace of Jesus. Not rich, not poor not male, nor female, nor Greek nor Hebrew – all before God are the same. Imagine if Keller’s teachings were, “God prefers the female…” we see that as off balanced and unbiblical, but the teachings about the oppressed appear to be so righteous, so virtuous. No one dare say, “No. That’s not right.” As it sounds like we are trying to oppress the poor.

I think we must have discernment. Colossians 2:8 says this: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ.”

We are to be discerners and we’re to test the spirits, especially of those in leadership who are preaching and writing in the name of Christianity. Right? Okay, this isn’t exactly what this Scripture means, but there is an element to it that applies here, “Know those who labor among you…” We don’t just honor someone because he or she is in leadership in our Christian circles. In fact, the Bible makes it very clear that those who call themselves teachers and preachers are to be held to even a higher level of accountability.

Call it Social Justice, Generous Justice, or plain old Political Correctness, they’re all un-biblical and Keller has remarketed, repackaged, and refurbished Socialism in order for Christians to embrace it.

Keller does a good job, whether intentional or not, of cloaking this ungodly philosophy in a garment of white and telling his followers, “it’s nothing but kindness and compassion” that Jesus would want us to practice.

As Hungarian-born economist Peter Bauer once wrote, “Politicians and intellectuals have supplied…a veneer of intellectual respectability to envy and resentment—otherwise known as socialism.” You could add to that, Christian leaders like Tim Keller as well as, in his subversive advocacy for Socialism.

But here’s the irony. Tim Keller—who tells Christians they should not have excessive amounts of money and surplus and actually tells us that if we have money and the poor do not we are robbers – this same Tim Keller lives on Roosevelt Island in NYC an area that the average cost of an apartment is over $2 million. You can’t live on Roosevelt Island for under $1 million. And sadly, the individualistic, capitalist society Keller is so hell-bent on criticizing and labeling ungodly – is the same society that made Keller a millionaire.

His salary, when he left Redeemer, was $500,000 a year and his books sales are estimated at upwards of $3 million. Take a look at the speaker’s bureau that represents Keller and his speaking fees are $5,000-$10,000 depending on length of speech and location. I don’t mind Keller being paid tons of money, but just like the Socialists and Marxist he enjoys quoting, he is scolding the little people for one thing and living something completely different.

You want to know of people who lived in poverty because of their convictions and commitment to Christ? Mother Teresa, St. Francis of Assisi, Dwight L Moody and Ira Sankey all gave up their wealth to join the poor and minister among those living in poverty. That is Scriptural.

Keller isn’t waiving his speaking fees or even giving his books away, but he asks me to give my hard-earned wages, and my hard-earned resources to the poor. I’d really like to see him live out that example. With the kind of money Tim Keller has, he could make a significant difference. Keller said, “If you do not actively and generously share your resources with the poor, if you fail to share what you have, it’s not just uncompassionate, but unfair, unjust.” That’s exactly what Liberation Theology teaches, which ironically, is neither. Peace.

WOW! I just read this article from the Gospel Coalition, which Keller founded alongside D.A. Carson…uh…do these guys even know Tim Keller?!? Highly recommend it!

The Incompatibility of Critical Theory and Christianity

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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54046. carriebradshaw said,
February 24th, 2020 at 4:08 pm

This was the most informative and educational blog I think I’ve ever read. There are so many groups to keep straight and I never feel confident that my thinking is on target on any of it and it makes me lack confidence in discussions. Thank you so much for this thorough post. I am new to following you and I really appreciate your writing and perspectives. I still haven’t read the one from Saturday, but looking forward to it.

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