I didn’t know Tim Keller, author and pastor who died May 19 after battling pancreatic cancer for three years. Many who did know him have written wonderful tributes. For example, here is one from Don Carson, who co-founded the Gospel Coalition with Keller. Carson writes that “A giant has left us”.
I saw Keller twice. We were both members of the Presbyterian Church in American (PCA) denomination. In 2017, I attended our annual General Assembly in Greensboro, North Carolina to present a seminar. As my wife Tammy and I walked up to the entrance to the convention center we saw Dr. Keller standing outside. I remember being surprised how tall he was. A second time was when he was walking in front of us toward the convention center where the 2019 Gospel Coalition National Conference was being held. It was at that conference that we heard him speak in person for the only time. Both times I was tempted to say hello to him and tell him how much we appreciated his ministry, but didn’t, thinking it would be seen as hero worship. But truth be told, he was one of our theological heroes.
Several times during my studies at Covenant Seminary I would attend a weeklong class in St. Louis. Driving to St. Louis on one of those three-hour trips, Keller was my companion as he read his book The Reason for God, perhaps the book he is best known for. During another week of classes, the audiobook version of his book City Church was my companion. I still remember Scotty Smith, telling us in a class that he jokingly referred to Keller as “the pope of the PCA”. Here is Scotty’s reflections on his good friend.
Recently, all of Keller’s sermons and talks were made available free on the Gospel in Life website. There is also a Gospel in Life podcast and app. As she would prepare for the Bible Study she attends at our church, Tammy would often listen to Keller’s sermons on the passage she was studying. She says that Tim Keller and R.C. Sproul were masters at taking difficult topics and simplifying them for better understanding.
In addition, Keller wrote more than 30 books. You can read my reviews of many of those books here. Though he has gone to glory, you can still enjoy and benefit from his sermons and books.
If you are not familiar with Keller, I would point you to Collin Hansen’s excellent 2023 book Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation. The book is not the definitive biography of Keller but does follow his life chronologically as it describes his influences. Here is my review.
Although we mourn over the loss of Tim Keller and pray for his family during this time, we also rejoice that he is no longer suffering and that he has now heard “Well done good and faithful servant” (Matthew 25:23) from the Lord he served and loved.