Kevin’s Conversations: Doubting the Benefit of the Doubt

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23 Responses

  1. Josh the Baptist says:

    Funny, because I have the same thoughts.

    We think this way because we’ve seen it too many times.

    I want to think the best of a guy like Keller, but honestly I don’t know him. I admire his intellect, but he could be a real jerk in real life. Who knows? He seems to think it best for the next generation to move away from celebrity pastors, and I agree. When our pastors are not celebrities, but just neighbors, then we’ll be able to give them the benifit of the doubt.

  2. Xenia says:

    We wonder “Now what?” when we see these headlines because we have too much information. People we would never have even heard of if it weren’t for the Internet fall into sin and we read about it, day after day. Fifty years ago most of us would never have even heard of this Keller person and now, because scandalous info is always in our face, we find ourselves thinking dark thoughts. We are being discomfited by the deeds of people whose lives don’t intersect with ours at all. Who here goes to Keller’s church? Who here is even Presbyterian?

  3. Josh the Baptist says:

    Very good point by Xenia.

  4. Josh the Baptist says:

    I wish I would have made Xenia’s point instead of mine.

    Kevin, could switch out the text in comments # 1 and #2 and then just delete this one?

    Thanks! ūüôā

  5. Kevin H says:


    If only I didn’t like Xenia, too, I’d do that for you. And also right after Michael would give me administrator rights. But first he’d have to double my salary if he’s going to stick me with that duty. ūüôā

  6. Potatoehead says:

    love your transparency Kevin.

    I think that the Bible statement John 8:15 comes to my mind because I stand guilty.

    “You judge according to the flesh; I judge no one.”

    “So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer.”
    2 Corinthians 5:16

    This is the ideal.

    l still have the internal battle of calling an ace an ace and a spade a spade.

    You know, “Where there is smoke there is fire.”

    Dear Lord help me to see others as you see them.

    Help me to be supportive and encouraging instead of letting my mind wander into the gutter when it comes to those that I am tempted to know after the flesh.

  7. Eric says:

    Different story with me. Keller is a leader in the intellectual evangelical tradition. My part of the Church. One of the sensible guys. So I wouldn’t have assumed anything bad. But if if was one of the other guys…

    I remember three stories that all happened around 2008.
    A priest guilty of abusing multiple children. Well, I said, priests in his tradition of his vintage might not have real faith anyway.
    Then a prominent pastor & worship director found to have lied about stuff – big scandal. Well, I said, that’s the celebrities in the pentecostal megachurch scene. They get sucked into all kinds of folly.
    Someone else who suicided and he was found to have defrauded a whole lot of people in his church and around the churches. That time he was from my denomination in my state. Someone in a sensible people’s church – one of my people. It taught me that “my guys” and I are not immune from the devil’s tricks.

  8. Steve says:


    I am not a Presbyterian but my church accepts both Baptist as well as Presbyterian reformed theology particularly when it comes to baptism. We met with our pastor last night about the upcoming baptism of our baby daughter on Easter Sunday. Anyway, many in our church endorse Tim Keller. In fact we are going through Kellers “Gospel in Life” series in my home fellowship. I had the same reaction that Kevin did when I found out that Tim Keller was stepping down. But to me it doesn’t bother me much. I don’t put pastors on pedestals any more. Anyone of us is capable of falling and that includes pastors. Its just a reality of the sin fallen world we live in. I’m not happy about it but this is the reality we live in.

  9. Disillusioned says:

    I’ll give you one word that explains it all:


  10. grberry says:

    One issue with big time anything is that the famous are exposed to more people, and thus more exposed to the temptations involving interacting with more people. Another is that fame, in our culture, readily, perhaps even typically, feeds pride. And pride is classically one of the deadly sins, and probably likely to lead to other sins.

    There have been way too many failures in the church, and that is part of the problem.

    But I think there is failure in my, and our, rush to suspicion. There is an element of seeking to see the mighty fallen, so that we can be risen up above them. This is another form of pride.

    I think the verb tenses in the announcement can also feed suspicion. Here the famous person announced forthcoming retirement a few months away. So the announcement should have been “will retire soon” versus “has retired”. A planned, non-scandal change is more likely to be in the future; a scandal driven change is more likely to be immediate with the announcement.

  11. Siggy the Terrible says:

    I think it is necessary to think this way these days, to not have anyone built up too much, or place some unrealistic expectation of infallibilty upon them, or to let them assume such high ground. After my family’s last burn, I don’t feel bad for keeping eyes open and ears to the ground. It goes to show that those who are sealed by Him are not beholden to any “church” or doctrine, but just to Him, to being transformed by Him. What is the saying of our Lord?
    “”Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”

    The trick is being loving, trusting, serving without having our love grow cold.

  12. Siggy the Terrible says:


    Good thought. People are rubber neckers, Christians can be the worst.

  13. Duane Arnold says:

    “And even when given an innocuous reason for why he is stepping down, I am still suspicious that we‚Äôre not getting the whole story.”

    I think this is part of the problem, we want “the whole story”. Now, I’m not talking about Keller, but anyone in a similar situation, do we always have a right to “the whole story”? If there is an issue concerning his church, well then, his church might deserve the whole story. But us… not necessarily. Let us suppose that there is a health issue related to the person themselves or a member of his immediate family that informs a decision to retire – Do we deserve the whole story? I don’t think so. How about their church? Maybe yes, maybe no…

    We are so prone to a “scandal mentality”, access via social media, etc., that we now somehow believe that we are entitled to know everything about someone else, including the exact reasons for their decisions, even when those decisions do not effect us in any real or substantial manner apart from our desire to judge the right and wrong of those decisions from a distance. In fact, judging such matters from a distance may be our own way of not giving due attention to matters much closer to home.

    Just my opinion…

  14. Xenia says:


    It makes sense to pay good attention (while always thinking the best) to your own pastor, but why should we even have an opinion about someone else’s pastor, one clear across the country from us and a member of a completely different denomination? I believe this continual surveillance of other people’s pastors gives us a warped view about pastors and churches in general.

    My pastor has been faithful his whole life. Every pastor I have ever had, from Baptist to Calvary Chapel to Orthodox- they have all been faithful, decent men of God. We never hear about them because what is there to say? Pastor Jerry visited a lady dying of cancer today… Pastor Bill conducted the funeral of a teenage girl today…. Fr. John invited some folks to his house for dinner this week…. Father K. cried with a sinner today….

    Doesn’t make the headlines but this is what goes on day after day.

    Cynicism is not a virtue.

  15. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Funny – I heard and I thought he is like the rest of us – getting older and wants out of the rat race.
    Never gave a thought that he was a dog and hiding something.

  16. Siggy the Terrible says:


    Is expecting the worst and hoping for the best cynicism?

    If it is, I’m only talking about being cynical of one’s own pastor ūüėČ I have no opinion of John Courson or Jack Hibbs, for example.

    The good news of a pastor’s faithfulness yo God in his life only proves the goodness of God. But sin resides in us all, and Satan looks to destroy the best of us, especially. We shouldn’t let our love grow cold, nor should we always be looking for a train wreck. However, blind optimism in the face of reality isn’t a virtue either ūüôā

  17. Siggy the Terrible says:

    And I really have no opinion of Tim Keller. My mind did wander like Kevin’s, but once the situation was explained I didn’t feel like investing anymore thought about it, because I don’t have any opinion of Keller. Now that I do think about it, it was kind of a click bait article to begin with, titled to make you assume the worst.

  18. Kevin H says:


    I very much agree with your comment.

    To clarify what I was meaning about not getting the whole story (and again this is a general point, not specific to Keller) is that something nefarious is being hidden. It shouldn’t be the general public’s business if factors such as health or a family situation, etc. are playing a part in the decision to step down. However, if disqualifying sin of some sort is a factor in the resignation, then that is where I get concerned if this is being hidden.

  19. Duane Arnold says:

    #18 Kevin

    Yes, I got your original point about “the whole story”. I just wanted to take it out a bit farther.

    I’m even getting a bit “softer”, however, concerning other issues that seem to continually arise. People can leave positions in ministry for a variety of reasons. I think we have gotten to the place that if that change is not explained in full to everybody’s satisfaction we tend to assume something nefarious. Then there’s the matter of the person who leaves because they sense that there are going to “burn-out” or “breakdown” if they don’t. Sometimes it can even be the result of an abusive or overly demanding congregation (I have seen such). If the real reason is made public or explained, they carry that “mark” with them for the next several years and can even affect the call to another congregation. I guess what I’m saying is, we should be slow to judgement and a bit more merciful in our approach to situations about which we don’t know everything and, indeed, don’t need to know everything…

  20. Steve Wright says:

    Nobody commented when I mentioned it in the linkathon but given this article I will just repeat that I found it fascinating to learn that Keller’s wife is on staff and also that is son is now on pastoral staff at the church.

    Oh the humanity… ūüėČ

  21. Duane Arnold says:

    #20 Steve

    I noticed and chose not to comment as my thinking on this matter remains the same…

  22. Dave Rolph says:

    Several years ago, as I was working on my doctoral dissertation on pastoral succession, I saw several interviews with Tim Keller in which he described this as his end game. This wasn’t just an ad hoc plan that materialized out of nowhere. I have learned to be suspicious when something like this comes out of nowhere but this has been Keller’s plan for years. The most interesting thing about it, in my opinion, is that it is a deliberate plan against the mega church movement. He didn’t want to create a mega church, which is really revolutionary in this day and age. Almost everyone else is trying to create mega churches and here is someone who wants to deliberately stop that from happening.

    I suspect the reason why it is so easy to get suspicious is because we are so used to being lied to by pastors and churches, and we are conditioned to read between the lines. We become jaded and an honest guy looks like a suspect.

  23. Steve Wright says:

    Dave, that’s why the Idaho thing hit me pretty hard. Because I was at that first pastor conference after Chuck died and it sounded like there was a deliberate effort and plan taking place in Idaho to pass the torch too.

    Personally, I applaud Keller in this move. And like MLD I figured he was ready to move on. I know I have no desire to be doing what I am doing now when I’m his age…there are other ministries and opportunities for service out there.

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