Jim Davis and Mike Aitcheson talk live at TGC’s 2021 national conference with Tim Keller and Irwyn Ince about a biblical theology of race and justice. The panel explores the similarities of the 1940s course that Carl Henry charted between fundamentalism and liberalism, and how maintaining a prophetic witness will be important as we observe the phenomena of dechurching and deconversion.
- How does Tim Keller define mishpat?
- How does Irwyn Ince define shalom?
- What inferences are drawn as to the relationship of mishpat to shalom?
- As you observe our cultural moment, what things bring you to a place of lament?
- As you observe our cultural moment, what things bring you to a place of encouragement?
- What are some of the negative consequences of failing to pursue mishpat and shalom in this particular conversation?
- What does good leadership look like in such difficult and complex conversations?
The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Tim Keller: The Bible says that there’s a complex relationship between individual and corporate responsibility. And to live justly means to recognize that on the one hand, poverty, for example, is not only due to structural issues, it’s also due to individual behavior, but it’s not only due to individual behavior, it’s also due to structure. And that there is both individual and corporate responsibility.
Matt Kenyon: You’re listening to the season finale of As in Heaven season two, a Christian conversation on race and justice. This season concludes with a very special live episode from the TGC National Conference, in which our hosts, Jim Davis and Mike Aitcheson, interview Dr. Tim Keller and Dr. Irwyn Ince on the topic of biblical justice. We want to thank everyone that made this season possible, from our numerous interview guests and collaborators, to our co-hosts, and the Gospel Coalition for coming alongside us and offering us a platform for our podcast. And last but not least, we want to thank you, the listeners, for your kind words, for your feedback, and just being willing to listen. We hope this season has, at the very least, been a helpful conversation starter as we continue to navigate ongoing issues of race and justice. As in Heaven season two was produced by Mike Graham and myself, Matt Kenyon. Your hosts and co-hosts are Jim Davis, Mike Aitcheson, Justin Holcomb, and Skyler Flowers. And with all that said, please enjoy this final interview with Dr. Tim Keller and Dr. Irwyn Ince.
Jim Davis: All right. Well, welcome to the very first live episode of, As in Heaven here at the Gospel Coalition national conference in Indianapolis. My name is Jim Davis, I will be your host. I’m also the pastor of Orlando Grace Church, and I’m joined by my cohost and dear friend and brother Michael Aitcheson, pastor of Christ United Fellowship, also in Orlando. And we get the privilege of speaking with these two brothers here, Dr. Irwyn Ince and Dr. Tim Keller. Dr. Ince, you are the director for the Institute of Cross-Cultural Mission in our nation’s capital. You are also a visiting lecturer at Reformed Theological Seminary in Washington, DC. And this is not your first time on our podcast. You joined us in episode 20, where we talked about your book, The Beautiful Community. And we also learned that you were the first black moderator of the PCA and an avid crossfitter. That’s right. Thank you for joining us today.
And our second guest really needs no introduction at the organization that he helped to found, but Dr. Tim Keller is joining us live from New York City where he is the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church and the Redeemer City to City Network. And like Dr. Ince, you are a visiting lecture at RTS, which I only mentioned because Mike Aitcheson and I both graduated from RTS, Orlando. So between the four of us, we pretty much have three of the 50 campuses covered here. But very pertinent to your introduction is the fact that you recently wrote a four-part long form article on a biblical theology of race and justice, along with some evaluations and critiques from some other writing on this topic. Dr. Keller, we really appreciate you joining us today.
So a lot has happened in the, As in Heaven world since we started recording and publishing this season. As in Heaven was developed to be a deep dive, one season on a topic kind of podcast. And we decided Mike Aitcheson and I, and much of our crew down there, that season two would be a Christian conversation on race and justice. And we’ve designed this resource to be helpful for those who are new to the conversation, those who are confused by the conversation, and those who are skeptical about the conversation on race and justice. And we’ve invited these two men to join us in our live and final episode for season two, because of their writing and their embodied commitment to this very important conversation.
Thank you again both for being here.
Irwyn Ince: Thank you. Thank you.
Jim Davis: All right, Dr. Keller, we are going to start with you. There are a lot of competing claims about what actually constitutes a biblical theology of race and justice. If you only had eight minutes to give a biblical theology of race and justice, eight minutes, what would you say?
Tim Keller: Do you mean I only have eight minutes? Is that what you’re really trying to get across?
Jim Davis: Did I mention you only have eight minutes?
Tim Keller: Okay. Bottom line, doing justice is giving people what is their due as a people in the image of God. There’s two biblical words that are used the most for justice. One is [setakah], one is [mishpat], talking about the old [inaudible]. And setakah means, just living, means treating people justly. Mishpat, more to do with rectifying when there’s injustice. But justice consists at least of these four things [inaudible]. It means equal treatment. That is to say, since everyone’s in the image of God, we are not to be treating people differently on the basis of race, creed, obviously, class, gender. So we’re supposed to do fair treatment, treating them in that way. Secondly, besides the equality, there’s supposed to be generosity. I know this is controversial, but I think the Bible teaches that it is unjust not to be generous with your power, with your money. If you have more, to give to those who have less. So I do believe that actually generosity is part of justice. Equal treatment is part of justice, according to the Bible.
Thirdly, there’s special advocacy for the poor. It’s definitely part of justice in the Bible. The Bible acknowledges that the world is broken in some ways, in many ways, because of sin. And therefore there is an unjust distribution of resources. So for example, children who are born in the poorest parts of New York City right now, they’re growing up in places where they’re behind right away. They may never catch up in the ability to read and their schooling may be very bad and they’re behind right away. Now, the liberals say that’s systemic racism’s fault, it’s society’s fault. The conservatives say, well, that’s the family breakdown’s fault. But here’s one thing everybody agrees on, I hope, it’s not the kid’s fault.
It’s not their fault that they just happen to be born into a situation in which there’s that… Maybe it’s an unjust distribution of human capital, maybe it’s an just distribution of other kinds of capital. But the fact of the matter is, the Bible teaches us that people are born into the world in which we have unjust distribution of resources, of goods. And therefore we are supposed to be special advocates for the poor, for the marginalized. The last thing I’d say about justice here, by the way, the last thing, would be that the Bible says that there’s a complex relationship between individual and corporate responsibility. And to live justly means to recognize that on the one hand, poverty, for example, is not only due to structural issues, it’s also due to individual behavior, but it’s not only due to individual behavior, it’s also due to structure.
And that there is both individual and corporate responsibility that in some ways, for example, as a white person, I have no actual responsibility for many things that go [inaudible] other things as a white person, I actually think I do share some corporate responsibility for injustices. I think I make a case in that… The stuff that you were talking about, that the relationship between individual and corporate responsibility, it’s there in the Bible. It’s complicated. As soon as you just go in a Marxist way and say, it’s all structural and corporate, or as soon as you go into a kind of enlightenment and libertarian way and say, it’s all individual. That you’ve moved away from the biblical concept of justice. So there it is. It’s giving people what they do, living in a way that we maintain a just order in society, or fixing injustice where we see it. Giving people equal rights, equal treatment, special advocacy for the poor, generosity, recognizing individual and corporate responsibility. It’s complicated. And I think that’s less than eight minutes. If not, don’t tell anybody.
Mike Aitcheson: Dr. Keller, thank you so much for your insights and your commitment to a biblical vision of race and justice. Dr. Ince, this questions for you. Is there anything that you’d like to emphasize about what Dr. Keller said or add to what Dr. Keller just shared?
Irwyn Ince: Yeah, Mike. I definitely agree with what Dr. Keller said. The only thing that I would add, and it’s not a differentiation, it’s just that I’ve, I think through issues of justice under the biblical notion of shalom. And so, as Dr. Keller said, justice, essentially, biblically speaking is giving image bearers their due, as image bearers and that’s right. And the reason that that matters is because what God calls us to is the pursuit of shalom. And shalom is not… It’s not simply a peaceful coexistence or strife free coexistence. Shalom is things being as they ought to be right.
Right ordered. Everything being in harmony with one another. And so justice, biblically speaking, is for the purpose of pursuing shalom. That’s the end, that’s what we’re striving toward. And so that’s the only thing I would nuance or add to what Dr. Keller has said.
Mike Aitcheson: So I appreciate, collectively, what both of you have said, but I think that’s especially important for us as we engage this rising generation. That was very cause-oriented, likes to see things done the right way. And it’s very challenging to be a pastor in this age, but that gives us a vision that I think people can hold fast to in terms of bringing peace to spaces where things need to be made right. So thank you. Want to follow up with another question. 2020 reached a recent peak. A national peak in the conversation about race and justice. And it appears that 2021 is going to have much of the same. We’ve had a number of high profile murder trials and the cases of George Floyd, which is underway right now. Ahmaud Arberry, Brianna Taylor. And as we speak right now, it appears that Minnesota is facing unrest again with the shooting of an unarmed black man, Dante Wright.
We also have ongoing debates, in evangelicalism, about God’s heart for justice. You add to that, the capital insurrection, January six, and then the Atlanta massacre. In light of these layers, what do you want to share about these things in this cultural moment?
Irwyn Ince: Yeah. This is a tough question, Mike.
Irwyn Ince: I’m glad I got the softball question. Here’s the first thing that we need to press in on in these conversations about these grievous, tragic, horrific incidents in our country, in our culture. So often the response in the evangelical world is the debate about, okay, it wasn’t justified? Wasn’t it justified? What were the reasons behind it? Who’s to blame? Who’s not to blame? And that’s just simply the wrong place to start. The response to these things is first to lean in on lament, to grieve, to grieve that image bearers’ lives have been cut short, to understand that that Dante Wright’s mother has lost her son.
And that’s a permanent thing for her to deal with in this life. And that is grievous and tragic, and we’re called to weep with those who weep and to mourn with those who mourn. There’s time to work out what were the causes behind it, what happened or didn’t happen? But God’s people start from a place of love and compassion and empathy. God’s people look first to see what has been broken and to mourn and grieve over it. And when we don’t do that, we are not being helpful, we’re not being beneficial, we are not actually being present as the light of Christ in dark circumstances and situations. So that’s what I would say. That’s always the call. That’s always the first call, to come alongside in grief, mourning, lament, to understand why people are angry about injustice and oppression and to not try to rush to find a solution or to look to where we might lay blame or things like that.
Jim Davis: Dr. Keller, I want to ask you the same question. If you had anything else to say here in this cultural moment on race and justice, what would it be?
Tim Keller: I’m really glad Irwyn said what he said, and he said it better than I could have. I think what everyone is saying is the pastoral can’t be somehow, oh I don’t know, obscured by the theological. I do think, by the way, white people, especially older white people like me, want to say, “Hey, we’ve got a lot of theological issues here,” and we don’t have agreement about … and I’ve already mentioned this once. One of the huge divides in the country … in the church, I mean, and in the country, is over the question of responsibility, individual versus corporate responsibility. What is structural? What is individual? I mean actually, every single day on social media, I see that that’s the argument, that conservatives just do not see the systemic and the structural. And actually, very often people on the left don’t really see much in the way of the individual.
And my first response tends to be, “Hey, we actually have the theology …” and I know everyone agrees with us. “We have the theology. We have a rich biblical approach that actually can account for the whole thing. We don’t have to reduce things this way.” But see, that’s such a theological, white, heady kind of approach. And what Irwyn is saying, I think we need to start by weeping with those who weep. I think we need to realize that we’re in the body, we’re in the world. We need to lead with lament. I would also say … and so I think he’s right, but I would add that as we talk, we actually do have a theology that can address this in a way the world doesn’t, the world’s ideologies don’t.
The only other thing to say is I can’t wait until we actually started talking face to face again. I’ve got some real deep convictions that a lot of our polarization in the last year has been because we’re not face-to-face, because we’re not actually embodied. We’re not with each other in body, but that we are doing everything online and we’re doing everything through social media. And I actually think that’s not the place where you come together. It’s really the place that pulls us apart. So I would say I’m looking forward to the future of being able to lament and theologize face-to-face.
Jim Davis: Well I appreciate the way both of you have brought up this idea of lamenting. Dr. Keller, this question is going to be for you. 2020 is … there’s definitely a lot to lament in 2020, but we know that we have a God who is in control, a God who is always at work. So as you look back over the past few years on the national conversation on race and justice within the church, what are some things that you find lamentable and what are some things that you’re encouraged by?
Tim Keller: Well, I can be quick on this on both sides. The lamentable is still the fact that such a huge part of the white evangelical church has lived, I do think … I don’t know [inaudible]. They’ve lived in enough of a white bubble that many of them just do not believe there’s any real, strong disadvantages to being nonwhite in this country. I mean, I’m trying to find a language that stays away from all the terms. I’m just trying to say I do think that an awful lot of white evangelicals feel like it’s not that big of a difference to not be white. And when you say that, then you really do [inaudible] what ours nonwhite brothers and neighbors are saying, and that’s still pretty lamentable. It’s still the thing that’s breaking apart the evangelical church between people who, on paper at least, maybe not just on paper, seem to have the same convictions and doctrinal convictions, but underneath, they actually are operating on different social theories.
In other words, there were still some pretty obvious differences. Nevertheless, people that looked like they were all together, and I don’t want to name anybody, individuals or groups really are breaking out, breaking apart over it. I do think that that’s what lamentable. I just think a lot of white people underestimate the difficulties of being nonwhite in this country. Here’s the encouraging part. The future of the evangelical church, not just in the world, because it’s already there in the world, but even in America, the future of the evangelical church is going to be multi-ethnic leadership. The evangelical church will increasingly be multi-ethnic in the leadership, because every generation in the west becomes more multiethnic. And I think that’s just absolutely inevitable. And that is really good news. Why? On the one hand, it’s good news because it’s going to undermine the image of the evangelical church, just increasingly the spokespersons of evangelicalism are going to be non-white, and that’s just going to get rid of the image in some ways.
But secondly, it’s not just an image thing. The reality is that nonwhite Christians are a kind of interesting … nonwhite evangelical Christians, in combination of concern for justice and theological orthodoxy and ethical orthodoxy, and nonwhite Christians just don’t fit into the left/right categories as well. And increasingly they are going to be the faces, the leaders, the people we see, because of immigration, white people who are actually not [inaudible], all the indications are simply the persons in the evangelical church are going to be … it’s going to be all very interracial, and I think that’s going to be very, very good. That’s inevitable and that’s really encouraging.
Jim Davis: Well, you called it the breaking up in your lamenting part, and I’m hearing you lamenting the divisions that are rising in the evangelical church. So when we started this podcast, it was really just some guys in Orlando wanting to do something for some people in Orlando. I was actually on … our families were on vacation together when George Floyd was murdered. And at that point in time, if I remember well, it was May, we weren’t having church, we didn’t have adult education. As pastors, we’re just trying to figure out how we minister to people. So we created this resource hoping it could be a helpful discipleship tool for people who don’t have access to what they would normally have access to when our churches are fully open.
We had no idea at the time that we would join TGC. We had no idea at the time just how divisive this conversation was going to be in the church. And frankly, we had no idea how divisive this podcast would be in certain churches and certain contexts. I’m in the Acts 29 network, Mike is in the PCA, and we know lots of pastors, young pastors particularly, who want to be faithful to the Bible, who want to love people in their midst, and feel like there are angry people at every turn and are walking dear brothers and sisters in the church to the proverbial exit door more than we’ve ever had to do before. So here’s the question. This room here is full of pastors. We have streaming lots of pastors. What would you say to us pastors who want to be faithful to the teaching of the Bible and want unity and love and peace to prevail in our churches?
Tim Keller: You’re still looking at me. Okay. I’ll say again, the thing that I … here’s the plus. I just in the last week … maybe I shouldn’t even bring this up since I haven’t digested it completely. I just read a book by a Duke University sociologist called a Breaking the Social Media Prism. And it’s about why we get polarized through social media. And he actually denies the idea that we are simply in our bubble. He actually has done research to show that when … the basic idea is that if you’re a conservative, all you do is read or hear conservative tweets and newsfeed things every day, or if you’re liberal, it’s the liberal bubble. So you’re just really having confirmation bias and you’re not hearing the other side, so we’re becoming polarized.
And his research shows that that wasn’t the case, that actually online, when they actually paid people to read 10 things a day from the other side that were really reasonable, it just made them more extreme. He began to come up with this idea, which I think fits in with the Christian anthropology actually, that what social media does, is it’s not a place for discussion, it’s a place for identity formation. It’s a place for status seeking. It’s a place for people trying to pull … basically, create identities online and create communities online that are very reductionistic. It’s a fascinating book, and what it actually shows is that the online world is not a very good place to actually make progress when it comes to coming together. It necessarily divides, and that’s the reason why I am trying to say to people, I think it will get better as we are not as confined as doing everything online.
Nevertheless, by the way, this man does not believe social media is going away or we should just… there’s any way to turn it off. So, we really are going to have to think about that. I would say going forward, we can’t not think about this. Up until a few months ago, I, as an older person, dismissed social media as something that I hoped would not really be a big issue, but it is.
Here’s the other thing. There’s a sorting coming [inaudible]. I don’t know whether I should, maybe I should be asking everybody whether I should be saying this because I know that it sounds weird. In the 1940s, there was a sorting between fundamentalists, evangelicals, and liberals. There was a group that came out and said, “We don’t want to be disengaged like the fundamentalists, but we are theologically orthodox and we want to be [inaudible] to be intellectually engaged, but we don’t want to be heterodox like the liberal.
So, we’re not liberals, we’re not fundamentalists. We’re something else. We think we’re being biblical. I think there’s going to be a similar kind of sorting going on in the next few years and everybody’s going to think they’re right, but that sorting is going to happen again, and what we ought to just do is just speak the truth in love and be very, very… Lament, but at the same time, not shrink from speaking our minds and sometimes having to say goodbye to some people who say, “I can’t associate with you. Can’t be in your denomination, can’t be in your organization anymore.” That’s going to be very painful. As long as we are gracious and the way we do it, we should recognize the sorting to some degree is coming.
So it’s something that happened 20 years before I actually got onto the scene. So I just saw the end of the beginning of that sorting and now it looks to me like it’s going to happen not long after I leave the scene. So anyway, this sorting, it’s not going to be easy, but I actually do think we’re going to have to deal with how we talk online to each other. Well, it’s going to be much more painful and difficult than it should be.
Mike Aitcheson: Dr. Keller, thanks for your wisdom. Thanks for your very clear call to press into these realities and present a more rounded version of the truth, so thank you. In a similar vein, Dr. Ince, this question is for you.
Being a resident of DC, you were in very close proximity to the January 6th Capitol insurrection. Could you speak to that and other lamentable things with regard to race and justice? But we also would like to hear things that have encouraged you over the past few years in connection with the church’s conversation on race and justice.
Irwyn Ince: So just one corrective, I always have to qualify that I still consider myself a New Yorker because that’s where I was born and raised. So yes, I live in Washington DC, but anyway…
But yes, I was in very close proximity and we knew… So in DC, as you might imagine these tensions exist and is the central point where people come for protests on a national stage, and before the January 6th insurrection, there had been an incident in December where the Proud Boys had showed up and there was some violence at night, there were some protests they had. They had vandalized some historic black churches in the city taking the Black Lives Matter signs and burning them in the street and there was some violence.
And so we knew coming up, we weren’t anticipating what happened on January 6th, but we knew some of the same elements were coming back to the city and so the word around town that was very clear was stay off the streets, stay inside. Folk are coming to the city. We don’t want a repeat of what we saw last time or even people being mixed in with that. And so in terms of being a DC resident, people were not out and about. People were not out and about going to see what was happening for the most part, was staying inside and watching it on TV, just like everybody else.
And at the same time, these are the kinds of things that continue to show our polarization, that continue to show our divides in the church, that continue to grieve us. When we have people who say they follow Jesus Christ involved in these kinds of events. And so, yes, lamentable, we all know that. When you asked me about encouraging things and I will say, I’ll say it’s often challenging to find things that are encouraging.
Over the past two years, and let me just be frank, since the election in 2016 of Donald Trump. It didn’t start there, of course. If we weren’t touch points, let’s go back to the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin, where these things began to be discussed in a very public way as social media arises. As everybody’s got a camera and a video in their pockets, that these things are thrust in front of us in culture and in the church.
And yes, they come to a particular kind of head in 2020. Here’s if there’s encouragement, it’s two-fold for me. One, is what I’m finding in the work that we do with the Institute for Cross-cultural Mission, is that there are more and more churches who are wanting to find healthy, faithful ways to engage this conversation, who realize we haven’t done a good job of this and we don’t know what to say and how to say it.
And yes, we find people pulling us in multiple directions, but we know this is too important for us to ignore. We know we can’t retreat into a fortress mentality and act as if we can’t engage or don’t have to engage these issues, but we want to do it from a robust, biblical and theological framework that demonstrates a love of neighbor.
And so I’m finding more and more pastors, churches, Christian organizations reaching out to our organization to help navigate that conversation. So that’s encouraging to me in this because that’s the work that I do and our workload has increased exponentially, but that’s because people want to engage it well. And so, yes, I know all of the noise on social media, all of the polarization, all of the unkindness, all of the malicious talk and engagement is very real, but it doesn’t mean, and here’s the second part. It does not mean that the spirit of God is not at work in the hearts of his people, calling them to try to pursue faithfulness to the Lord in the middle of it. And so that’s where I find my encouragement.
Mike Aitcheson: Along those lines with the encouragement. Have you found fruit from the labor of your ministry among generational lines? In other words, are you seeing, are you hopeful for maybe boomers and maybe folks in your age group and Dr. Keller’s group and far as the repentance is concerned and progress in this space? Or are you more hopeful for the rising generation?
Irwyn Ince: And I appreciate you said, “My generation” and didn’t call it out as the [crosstalk]-
Mike Aitcheson: But you look good, Doc, you look good.
Irwyn Ince: It’s the Crossfit and the kettle bells, that’s it. I do think about the coming generation. My wife and I have four children from age 28 to 16. And as I think about ministry and what I do, they’re always on my mind. What kind of church are they going to find? Where are they going to be following the Lord?
And I think Dr. Keller is right in terms of the changing face, as it were, of the church in the United States and in the West. The more multiethnic nature of it that is coming by necessity even as we change demographically and I know there are even people today who are down on the concept of multiethnic cross-cultural church but the reality is we’re becoming much more diverse and that’s true of the church as well.
And the coming generation is unashamed about engaging these issues forthrightly. They’re not bashful about it at all and I talk to my kids, they’re not bashful. And it is a substantive [preshant] issue for them in the church that for them, for the church to be faithful, it has to speak well to these issues. It has to engage these issues well.
So it’s kind of forcing it upon my generation and the like to engage. The last thing I’ll say, I can’t tell you… It was a number of years ago, this is even before 2016, I was doing a Fall retreat of your Perform University to Fellowship campus ministry, and the PCA’s campus ministry and this Fall retreat had about 300 plus students from a variety of schools in it and as I was speaking, I can’t tell you how many conversations I had with these college students who over just meals and different meals together and different kids that are all asking me, “What do we do?” And most of these students are white. “We don’t want to be just go back to all white church. Where do we go? How do we move forward into… Our campuses are diverse. We think our lives are diverse. Why is that not happening in our church?”
So you have this conversation around that in that generation that they have to engage in this, and they’re not going to be content if we’re staying in our ethnic and cultural bubbles.
Tim Keller: Thank you. Thank you.
Jim Davis: Well, we have about seven minutes left and I have one question left, but it’s for both of you and it’s a two-parter, so we’ll have to be brief. In our context, in Orlando, well, this is pre-COVID, so we’ll see what happens once 2020 and 2021 is accounted for, but pre-COVID, 49% of our city was churched, 8% was never churched, and at 43% is de-churched. So we consider this problem so significant that we’re going to devote the entire third season of our podcast on the de-churched phenomenon. And as we have been studying what’s going on with the 43% who are currently de-churching, one of the common refrains that we’ve been hearing has been evangelical struggle to properly name racism as a problem and make steps towards justice and human flourishing.
So here’s the two-part question. First, what role do discussions of race and justice play in de-churching, and second, how can churches shape people better in this conversation moving forward? So, Dr. Keller, I’ll start with you.
Tim Keller: Well, there’s three issues that we’re going to have to be able to face and speak to well because a lot of people are walking away for three reasons. One is how the church talks about sexuality, how it talks about justice and race, and how it talks about science. And all three of those, unless you give people cogent answers that connect with their concerns and their rightful objections to the way the church has operated in every one of those areas, but at the same time, draws on our confessional orthodoxy, we are not going to make much progress. So all three of those things.
So when you say what role is the justice/race thing, one to three, okay? And going forward, it means we have to change the way in which we do our own catechesis and our own doctrinal way of training people because we actually do not tend to connect biblical doctrines with cultural narratives, and so our people get co-opted by the cultural narratives.
That’s a long story. Let me just say something encouraging kind of quick, is I believe that the de-churching thing will bottom out in about 20 or 30 years because, number one, immigration means non-white people are a lot less secular and a lot less individualistic than white people, and therefore they’re much more [inaudible]. Secondly, you’ve got two kids of religious people in the country. You’ve got nominal people and true believers, converted people. And what’s happening of course is the nominal people, they’re the ones that are leaving very quickly and shrinking, Whereas the true believers retain their children better and they evangelize.
And so what’s going to happen is, as you might say, is as our culture becomes more multiethnic and as the nominal believers leave and we get down to the converted, you’re going to find the church started to grow back in many, many ways. So I would actually say that the secularization, the deconversion is going to last for another couple of decades, but it’s going to bottom out. I say that by way of trying to encourage some people.
Jim Davis: Thank you. Thanks for that encouragement. Dr. Ince, I want to ask you the same two questions.
Irwyn Ince: So, and I agree with Dr. Keller in the three issues that he names. I would encourage folks [inaudible] sister, African-American sister, Lisa Fields, and she’s got a ministry. She started an apologetics ministry she started called Jude 3, the Jude 3 Project. And she’s recently done a series of YouTube interviews and one of them was on younger African-American folks who have left the church, de-churched and they have left primarily the majority Black church context. And there’s a fascinating conversation on why they left. And they were encouraged even in the conversation because they hadn’t been asked that, hadn’t been engaged to say why they left.
And here’s the thing too, here’s how I’ll describe it, that here’s the issue, and I’m borrowing a phrase I got from Dr. Carl Ellis over 20 years ago and it speaks to exactly how Dr. Keller just expressed it, the church has to be able to engage the core cultural concerns of the community, that is, where it’s placed. It has to be able to identify what are the core cultural concerns in this place of our neighbors.
And so, whether [inaudible] race and justice, sexuality and gender identity and the like, right, those core cultural concerns, they shift and they change, and we’re typically behind the curve in understanding what they are and being willing… And we’re still answering the apologetics’ questions of the last generation in seminary.
So the need is to do deep dives into engaging with humility, because I have to actually learn what and why those concerns exist and what the gospel of Jesus Christ brings to the fore to help answer and engage those heart cries.
Jim Davis: Well, I really want to thank you both for your time with us today. I know I speak for Mike and myself and many people in this room that we have been tremendously blessed by your ministries. One of the reasons that I just love this podcast is because I’m not the expert. I just get to sit here, I get to ask questions, things that I’m curious about. So thank you both for the time that you’ve given us here. And I also want to say, and again, I know I speak for Mike and myself, I’m sure I speak for everyone here, Dr. Keller, we have been and will continue to pray for your health as well.
Irwyn Ince: Amen.
Tim Keller: Yes, we will. Thank you. Thank you.
Jim Davis: And I also want to say thank you to our live audience, the people who are here, the people streaming. Thank you for being a part of a very special occasion for us. This is our first ever live episode. If you like what you have heard here, if you liked the other episodes, please share it and please be on the lookout for season three as we take a deep dive into the de-church phenomenon. Our hope is to address it well and maybe produce some resources that would be helpful to address it in your own local church.
The last thing I’d like to do, I know there was a spontaneous applause, which I appreciate in a reformed crowd, but let’s all thank our guests, Dr. Irwyn Ince and Dr. Tim Keller for joining us today.
Irwyn Ince: Thank you.
Tim Keller: Thank you.