Dr. Tim Keller Answers Like An Arminian Regarding Eternal Hell

The following 6 minute video (although you get the point in about 2 minutes) exposes the difficulty that Calvinists have in defending an eternal hell consistent with their theology and end up responding like an Arminian. Keller’s explanation is followed by a young man who points out how Keller elsewhere answers true to his Calvinism as one who believes in a special election of a few leaving the rest of mankind to the fate of hopelessness, consigned to hell forever. This of course contradicts his former answer in which he said that hell is a place where sinners want to go and remain there of their own “free-will” or as C. S. Lewis described, “they are successful rebels to the end.”

But you will see here how Keller struggles. Is the doctrine of predestination too difficult to defend in the public forum even by someone as brilliant and eloquent as Dr. Keller? Why did he veer from his professed Calvinism and borrow an Arminian explanation?  We have deep respect for Keller both as a believer and as scholar/teacher. We have learned a tremendous amount from his ministry but the manner in which he answers this question exposes an underlying problem with this aspect of our so-called “Reformed theology,” especially if it can’t stand on its own and must be altered to sound more “reasonable.”

From You Tube entitled “Tim Keller’s response to a questioner at the Veritas Forum shows a high regard for Arminianism”:

(Note: this is from 2008 but Keller’s argument for an eternal hell has remained the same. See his more recent article entitled The Importance of Hell including our response to it  A Response to Keller’s “The Importance of Hell.“  Also see Open Letter to Tim Keller)


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  1. John R. Gavazzonij says:

    I really don’t want to sound unkind in this comment, but as one of the red-neck comedians regularly quips: “You can’t fix stupid.” But, of course, God can, and will, in due time, but in the meantime an expression from a dear friend of mine, Jan Antonsson, comes to mind when one is exposed to such Babylonian gibberish: “It makes me feel like pulling my hair out at the roots, and go screaming into the night.” (visit Jan, and her husband, Lenny, on their site, “The Glory Road.”)
    Listening to the good doctor brought a mind-picture analogy to mind of someone who can’t swim being in water over his head, and thrashing around desparately trying to keep afloat. The theological paradigms of Calvinism and Arminianism—unlike the true hope of the gospel, which “maketh not ashamed”—are each on a path of embarrassment to the point of humiliation.
    But I must hasten to say, “been there, done that,” and would still be there doing it but by the intervening grace of God

    John Gavazzoni

  2. glwadmin says:

    I understand your reaction and frustration. Keller is for once “over his head.” But I think that there is a difference between being “blind” to our own inconsistencies (or being deceived) and that of “stupid.” We all are guilty of living in two minds over many things and that is why we need each other to sharpen our “dullness.”

    Therefore the point we want to make here at GodsLoveWins is how much we desperately need each other in the Body of Christ. Tim Keller is a leader who has caused the Church to take enormous strides by his missional emphasis and in his keeping Jesus and Him crucified central to every sermon. So for every “stupid” thing Keller says he says 100 things that I need to understand and believe and live. And I hope that he will have the humility to listen to what we have to say if ever confronted with our questions in regard to the nature of hell.

    I believe it is the Story of God as told through the ENTIRE Body that we will come to understand a more holistic and therefore coherent view of the Gospel: that God both loves all and is powerful enough to save all. The internet, ordained by God, is the vehicle by which He is bringing us close enough that we must listen to one another and unify or devour one another. But the fact that Jesus prayed for our unity we are guaranteed it will be the former!

  3. glwadmin says:

    John, the Scripture you quoted about the Gospel “maketh not ashamed” was something that is a very powerful diagnostic. We will NOT be ashamed of the Gospel when it is truly good news (Isa 61) But the ONE thing that Christians have always seemed to be embarrassed by is the doctrine of an eternal hell. It makes no sense and as you pointed out it is for different reasons shameful for the Arminians and the Calvinists. The Arminians are ashamed that their God can’t really change most of mankind’s hearts but must capitulate to His creation’s “free-will.” On the other hand the Calvinists are most ashamed to disclose that their God mysteriously has not determined to save all His creation even though they believe He is fully capable to do so.

  4. Chris says:

    I was doing a Keller search, and found this blog.

    I’m a Lutheran (LCMS) and at my church we have been going
    over some of Mr Keller’s modules “Center Church” and they are out standing. Great evangelism ideas for our post christian culture.

    I know a bunch of Lutherans that like Keller, I think because he is not divisive in ways. Don’t get me wrong guys, we share much of the same doctrines as you Calvinists, but a lot of the time we get beat over the head with the Sovereign grace thing, we get it! We are on board! You guys tend to focus on the sovereignty of God, and we focus on the finished work of Christ. But hey, different stokes for different folks.


    • glwadmin says:

      Hi Chris,
      Glad you are enjoying Keller’s work and ministry! You point out exactly what we are trying to reveal on this website: that the Body of Christ must be considered together to get an accurate understanding and vision of the Story of God. It is not the sovereignty of God against free-will but both together will reveal the true Gospel. The Church has always possessed the Good News of Christ but not all aspects, since the early Church, have been taught in the same location.

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