Pastor Tim Keller has warned against mistaking “blue state or red state individualism” for true Christianity in a post-Christian culture that it has “co-opted” biblical ideas and taken them to an extreme.
In a recent video posted on the Gospel Coalition website, Keller, senior pastor at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, said that in today's post-Christian Western society, it's very difficult for Christians to engage culture without becoming colonized by it.
“The reason for that is, a post-Christian culture is quite different than a non-Christian or pre-Christian culture,” he explained, adding that the "post-Christian culture has co-opted a lot of Christian ideas" and "taken them to the extreme.”
Keller argued that biblical principles — like the importance of doing right and justice, for example — have been turned into “extreme individualism” by Western culture. Unfortunately, he said, it’s easy for Christians to get co-opted by that individualism.
“Liberal individualism,” Keller asserted, says, “I need to do justice for the poor and I need to do racial justice, but nobody should tell me what to do sexually.” On the other hand, “conservative individualism” says, “I believe in traditional values, but I can do anything I want with my money and please don’t talk to me about race because I didn’t own any slaves and I don’t think that’s a problem.”
“It’s extraordinarily easy for Christians to think that they are being Christian, but they are actually getting co-opted by either what I would call ‘blue state or red state individualism,’” Keller continued. “That’s just not as likely to happen if you’re a Christian who grew up in India. You’re not likely to just sort of fall into Hinduism. You’re not as likely, if you’re a Christian growing up in Japan, to just fall into Buddhism, but you are very likely to fall into one of these forms of liberal or conservative individualism thinking it’s Christianity.”
Because of this, it’s important to understand how the Biblical worldview differs from all different worldviews, Keller contended, adding: “Worldview education or apologetics is actually necessary even to disciple people nowadays.”
The pastor acknowledged that it’s not easy to engage culture and seek to convert people, but Christians “have to do it” because the Bible commands Christians to do so.
“Even in Western culture, where there are those dangers, we have to do that,” he concluded.
Keller, who recently released his latest book Prodigal Prophet: Jonah and the Mystery of God’s Mercy, frequently argues that while believers can be active in politics, they should not identify the Church with a political party as the only Christian one.
Previously, he shared how the book of Jonah highlights the importance of finding one’s identity in Christ — not in any one political party.
“I’m a Christian first, I’m an American second,” he said. “I’m a Christian first, and I’m white second. If that’s not true, then you need to read the book of Jonah because that’s part of what it’s trying to say. Every time Jonah is near the pagans, the pagans look better than Jonah does. Jonah is sneering at these people, but actually, there’s a lot of admirable things about these people. Jonah was putting his national interest over the spiritual good of the people of Ninevah. God cares about all races and all people, and in the end, His church will consist of people from every tribe, people and nation. We can’t lift up one nation over other nations.”
While certain nations behave better than other nations, Keller conceded, commitment to Christ “relativizes” that fact — and Christians should feel “somewhat uncomfortable” in either political party.
“Christians need to recognize the danger of what they call xenophobia,” he said. “I’m afraid of Christians getting too radicalized on either side.”