Make no mistake—Keller has raised the stakes far beyond the debate on social justice. This is an assault on the nature of truth itself. Hanging in the balance is how we interpret Scripture. While Keller’s words aren’t an outright rejection of all propositional truth, that is effectively what he opens the door to when he subjugates the words of the Dallas Statement to his feelings about what has been said.
(Cameron Buettel – Grace To You) Words matter to God. After all, they are His chosen means of communication. He doesn’t bring people to a saving knowledge of Himself through mystical, subjective experiences. He has spoken clear, objective, propositional truth to His creatures through His written Word.
That’s why Peter—who saw firsthand the profound supernatural power of God, both in the life of Christ and in his own apostolic ministry—pointed to Scripture as “the prophetic word made more sure” (2 Peter 1:19). Even after Peter heard the voice of God from heaven (v. 17-18), his unfailing confidence was in the written Word of God.
Obviously, as fallen creatures not inspired by the Holy Spirit, we are incapable of replicating that divine standard of perfect, authoritative, inerrant communication. Nonetheless, Christians throughout history have deployed written statements as a vital defense in the ongoing war against false teaching. Ancient Christian creeds and catechisms have endured for centuries as constant reminders that the truth of our faith is non-negotiable and worthy of vigorous defense.
The Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel (also referred to as the Dallas Statement) was crafted for similar reasons. Troubled by the rapid rise of social justice rhetoric within the church, several Christian leaders drafted the Dallas Statement in response. John MacArthur is a key signatory to that statement and has moved with urgency to further substantiate his concerns in great detail. In recent months he has responded through a series of blog posts and sermons exposing the dangers posed by the evangelical social justice movement. As expected, loud opposition has flowed freely ever since.
What is surprising—even disappointing—about the pushback is the widespread failure of critics to engage with the actual content of what has been stated clearly in the articles, sermons, and the Dallas Statement. Many evangelicals have chosen to argue against what they perceive those declarations to represent—not what they actually say. What we’ve got here is failure to communicate.
Tim Keller, founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, is candid enough to admit his complicity in not dealing with the substance of the arguments set forth. But that’s because he believes how he feels about the Dallas Statement is more important than what it actually says.
Keller appeals to secular philosophy in order to make his case, using speech-act theory as the key to his interpretive approach.
You can’t just analyze words by what they say, you also have to analyze words by what they do. . . . When I go through [the Dallas Statement]—if you go really, really strictly—I think just about anybody would take about eighty percent of it. . . . But in the end what concerns me most about it is not so much what it’s saying but what it’s trying to do. . . . It’s trying to marginalize people who are talking about race and justice. It’s trying to say, “You’re really not biblical.” And it’s not fair in that sense.
Keller, perhaps unwittingly, is identifying as a postmodern philosopher. Truth, for him, becomes a matter of personal perception—even to the point of inserting ideas into the Dallas Statement that are objectively absent. He’s even willing to go so far as to project motives and concealed agendas onto those who drafted the statement.