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Setting the Stage for TGC19 – Conversations with Jesus: Emotionalism, Collectivism, Universalism and Error

Cherie Vandermillen

Written by Toni S. Brown

The Gospel Coaltion launched their annual conference this week in Indianapolis, TGC19-Conversations with Jesus, and considering the massive global influence they have successfully established it seems fitting that we should pay attention to the message and instruction coming out of this powerful and far-reaching organization. 

Al Mohler kick-started the event with a pre-conference session titled It Takes a Church: Focused on the Family of God. He noted “the Right’s“ nostalgic obsession with the nuclear family, insisting that it takes a church to raise a child so we must focus on the church family instead. 

Former NFL football star Benjamin Watson was next up, recounting personal experiences with his family, especially their very recent trip to MonsterJam at the Superdome. 

Jen Wilkin filled her time elevating (and I do mean elevating) her personal and parental experiences, reminding the church that the youth will stay in church only if Bible teaching is front and center, adding that the Mormon church down the road from her is ”doing a great job of this – “  Wilkin tells her large audience that “by the time their youth reach high school they’ve learned Old Testament theology, New Testament theology and the overarching theme of the Bible.“ For the record, the Mormon church does not teach the Bible- they teach the heretical Book of Mormom as recorded by their false prophet, Joseph Smith. (18.40 minutes mark of her session).

Paul Tripp’s pre-conference session was one-endearing-personal-account after another, reminding us that it is not always about the parent ‘winning the day, so be sure to give them grace, after all “you are more like your child than unlike him.“

John Piper‘s session followed and of course, it was an emotionally charged ‘hour of power ‘ with Piper repeatedly declaring that it’s really all about falling in love with Jesus!

Late Monday afternoon D.A. Carson approached the podium to introduce his TGC co-founder and partner in ministry, Dr. Tim Keller, who would speak on the rebirth and regeneration. Keller’s speech was typical for him- lots and lots of psycho-babble (perceived by the audience as massive intellect) but sprinkled with just enough truth to keep anyone from walking out. Early on he defined the rebirth as:

“The power God is going to use to regenerate the world.“ 

“I pray for them: I pray not for the world, but for them which thou hast given me; for they are thine.”  John 17:9

Tim Keller: The Universalist expose’.

Keller continued his collective narrative telling us that though the new birth brings sensibility and identity it really comes down to identity, which is your sense of self-worth. He says Christians are being reborn into a new family with a new idenitity, adding that those in the “non-west“ already have some sense of ‘family as their identity‘ (so apparently it’s easier for them to be reborn???) – but there is a real obstacle in the west (that’s us!) because of individualism. He makes the below claim regarding the text in John chapter 3:

“To be reborn is not of natural descent or human decision –  and I’m sure that, uhh, it is only an accident perhaps that the two things that are mentioned there (in the text) are western and non-western culture…but don’t ya see what it means to receive rights as children of God?“

Keller ends his session with a pronouncement that if one is truly born again he will think differently about everything; life, work, race, the poor…everything! Tim Keller’s definition of the rebirth is actually his own personal redefinition, as he continues his long-time march to redefine Christianity.

Ligon Duncan wrapped-up day 1 with a session titled Catechetical Evangelism, and while he elevated doctrine, he also issued a sternwarning against becoming “lovelessly doctrinal. He gave a shout-out to the ecumenical, inter-denominational New City Catechism, produced by Keller’s Redeemer Network and The Gospel Coalition. It is important to note what Keller himself said regarding his new, better catechism:

“In part because of its brevity, NCC is less detailed than older catechisms and therefore can be used in a variety of churches.” 

”The other crucial feature of NCC is its brevity…by necessity, it leaves a great deal out. NCC exists to draw in the masses of people..

“So my best way of doing this — I got some of this from reading Charles Taylor— is to intentionally catechize for our secular age. We need to think about rewriting the catechism for a secular age.” (Please note that Taylor is a Roman-Catholic philosopher)

I’ve been coming to the conclusion that we have to redo catechesis. Actually, both the Heidelberg and even the Westminster Shorter Catechism are just set too high for church. I met Harvie Conn some years ago when I was at Westminster Seminary – He says we shouldn’t try to create one that is for testing orthodoxy.” (Please notethat Conn was a Professor of Urban Missions and staunch proponent of the social gospel who said this: “The church must recapture its identity as the only organization in the world that exists for the sake of its non-members.”)

In short and by Keller’s own admission, the New City Catechism was written to appeal to the world, not to teach and equip the church. Apparently, Dr. Ligon Duncan hasn’t caught on to that yet.


Keller NCC quotes source link. Personal blog interview with K.A. Smith.

Keller’s “New City Catechism: Error by Omission expose’.

Conversations with Jesus? I don’t think so. Mark, avoid and warn the brethren.