Tim Keller:  The Slippery Slope from Religion to Oppression

Orginally published on Monday, May 12, 2008 at 8:04 AM
by Todd Rhoades

This is an interesting short video of Tim Keller, taken from a recent speech he gave at a Veritas Forum on the campus of UC Berkley. In this clip, Tim shares that he does think that religion has caused a lot of damage in the world; and he describes what he calls the 'slippery slope' of going from religion to oppression. Take a look; and let me know what you think. Next up, watch Rick Warren describe his PEACE plan in our next post today; then see the response when Rick Warren invited Ingrid (our friend from SliceofLaodicea) to an all expense trip to Saddleback, along with a place on his stage. I think all three of these posts work together. I'm wondering, do we sometimes use Tim Keller's 'slippery slope' even within different segments of Christianity?

Scoll down to watch this video:

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  There are 69 Comments:

  • Posted by

    Eric, you say, “additionally, why would I need to apologize for reporting a fact, regardless of how palatable it was to you?”

    That’s the problem, Eric, it wasn’t a fact.  You posted what you claimed was a quote, but turned out not to be a quote.  You state things that are not true and claim, even in the face of evidence to the contrary, that they are facts.  In journalism that’s call that libel, most people just call it lying.

    You later state “I quoted RW in the first place because I was making a point that these type of ‘superior’ statements are coming from both sides of this debate - and its wrong.”

    Except, again, that is not true.  You didn’t quote Rick Warren, you made up something inflammatory and posted it as a quote from Warren when if fact he never said that.

    And up to this point you have refused to even acknowledge that your “quote” was in fact not a quote.  You have also refused to apologize even when asked directly several times.

    At this point why would you feel that anyone would want to engage in any type of honest discussion with you?  If you just want to trade untruths and accusations we can certainly do that but I don’t believe this is the right forum for that, Ingrid’s website is much more suited for that type of discussion, Ingrid seems to favor exactly this type is misrepresentation and distortion of the truth.

  • Posted by Eric

    Daniel - you’re welcome to go and read the article I quoted - I placed it in a previous comment.  I quoted both the article and RW.  I didn’t make up something inflammatory - the article I cited indeed said what I indicated it to say.  I didn’t get it word for word - but later posted it word for word.  That is not a lie.

    It seems you and Wendi may be confusing a “lie” and “untruth” with opinion and interpretation.  I read the story on RW’s site, read it on another site - and felt that statement about people needing to “die or leave” was condescending to the folks it was directed at.

  • Posted by Eric

    Peter - did you not read the post where I cited the article I was trying to remember?  I’m at a loss for how you can read the statement by RW that if your church is plateaued that some people will have to ‘die or leave’ as not being at least slightly condescending to those folks?  Apparently you’ve never known or talked to those folks who are said need to “die or leave”.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm


    You just don’t see what you did wrong. Are you so bent on tearing down the man that you will say anything to do it, and say it in any way possible, even if it’s factually incorrect? More than one person (Christ-follower) on this forum has taken you to task, but you refuse to admit you might have done something wrong. You refuse to listen to the counsel of others. Daniel is right that there seems to be no way to carry on an honest discussion with you and Scripture instructs me to stop trying to convince you.

    And I’ve already gone on record here on how I feel about the sentiment in the article and particularly that line (the one you misquoted, distorted, and twisted to your own purpose it seems).

  • Posted by Eric


    I can only conclude that you haven’t read all my comments.  While I mis-remembered the exact quote initially - (I had read it months ago) - I since reposted the exact article I had pulled the quote from.  You are clearly not hearing my opinion on this - because you disagree with it - apparently when you disagree with someone you call their opinion lies and distortions? 

    I don’t know how much more clearly I can state that RWs statement about people needing to “die or leave” was a little harsh.

    Folks here can continue in ignorance to call a “lie” what is merely my opinion on what RW wrote.  Again - I’m not trying to tear him down - I think he’s a good man - I’ve already stated that - however you are apparently and purposely are ignoring the full context of what I’m saying.

    I have neither misquoted, distorted or twisted anything for “my purposes” - simply taking the “die or leave” statement for how it appeared to me - a little harsh to the older folks in our congregations.

  • Posted by

    RW’s statement was not wishing people dead, it was a statement of fact that turning around a dead church often requires people leaving or those who sit in control of everything dying.  You are not being genuine in your representation of RW’s statement.  Those people are not some victim of RW as you seem to want to make them.  As a senior pastor, I have had people over the years that had to go if God’s plan for the church was to be accomplished.  They stood opposed to any change because of their own comfort.  Sort of what was intoned in the original post. 

    Romans 12 reminds me not to think more highly of my self than I ought but to think with sober judgment.  Real Christians struggle with this all the time, I know I do.  I am amazed at our human capacity to become intoxicated with ourselves.  I do not think you are here for any other reason than to argue so I will dismiss myself from wrangling about in words with you and invite any others who are tired of your rhetoric to join me in the exodus.

  • Posted by Eric

    And no where did I say RW was “wishing people dead” - and I do know of people who feel like a victim of losing their church to some new church growth philosophies.  Doesn’t make it wrong or right - it’s just how they feel.

    As a senior pastor, I too have seen the need for opposition to either change their mind or find another place of worship.  I simply think that could have been stated better in the quotation in question.

    I, sir, did not come here to argue - I was initially commenting on the merits of the video clip - but have suddenly been thrust into a position of defending my stated opinions by being called a ‘liar’. 

    If opposing opinions are not welcome here - fine - but perhaps you should refrain from calling people liars based soley on the fact that you disagree with them or because they have a different take on an article than you.  Implying that someone is ‘full of themselves’ merely because you disagree them is a little over the top as well.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm

    Okay, Eric.

    you write [perhaps you should refrain from calling people liars based soley on the fact that you disagree with them or because they have a different take on an article than you.] I heartily agree. You are totally correct.

    My only question. May I call somebody a liar if they quote somebody as saying something that they didn’t actually say? Would that be okay…

    Sorry, but imho, YOU STILL DON’T GET IT!

    yes, I’ve read all your comments…

  • Posted by Eric

    LOL...perhaps we’re getting somewhere now - yes, feel free to call someone a liar if you know for a fact that they INTENTIONALLY meant to misquote and mislead someone by their words. 

    However if they accidently didn’t get the quote exactly right - then corrected it, that is not a lie.  I apologize for not remembering the exact wording in the quote from RW.  Please refrain from stoning an honest mistake.

    Let me shorten the quotation to include only “I’m saying some people are going to have to die or leave” - can we agree RW actually said that?

    Having established that - am I allowed to interject in this forum that SOME PEOPLE, obviously not your or Wendi, but some people may take that quote, in it’s context, as being a little harsh or oppressive to certain people? 

    That’s all I was saying....wow.

    I noticed that even RW followed that statement up
    with: “That may be brutally blunt”.

  • Posted by Peter Hamm


    we are getting somewhere. You said you were sorry for the first time in this whole thread. Please, in the future, be very careful when you put something “in quotes”. You are then saying that you know that person said that. It’s called misquoting. (I think you’re getting it.)

    Yes, I agree he said that, and yes I agree wholeheartedly with the article that forms the context of the quote. When your church needs to change (not necessarily to “purpose-driven” as he never mentions those two words in the whole article once) some will need to either die or leave. Someday, as I said, I may be one of the people that needs to either die or leave. And I hope I think then how I think now, that that is totally cool.

    But that is probably off-topic of this discussion anyway. So… now… back to the whole opression thing.

  • Posted by

    Eric, I am sorry for the harsh tone I took earlier.  I believe you were not purposefully misquoting RW.  It just seemed like you were not admitting that the quote was not correct.  RW’s assertion that for some churches to change (if they need to change) some people may have to leave or die is a harsh statement, as Warren acknowledged, but it is true.

    Warren isn’t saying that all churches need to change, or that all churches need to follow Purpose Driven models, he’s just stating that for churches that have plateaued and need change it is not easy.

    The way you (mis)quoted him made it sound like he was saying churches all needed to be PD. 

    I also think the discussion about Warren bashing fits right in with the discussion about oppression.  It seems to me that the “watch dogs” like Ingrid are very much in favor of oppressing Rick Warren or anyone else they disagree with. 

    The frustration with what is perceived as RW bashing is that we see it every time Warren’s name is mentioned here.

    Nice talking with you,

  • Posted by

    I would have liked to have heard Keller’s entire speech so I could hear his comments in context. Standing alone, they don’t provide a lot of insight.

    We all believe in some form of truth.  We all subscribe to some kind of religion, worldview, or philosophy of life.  And if we’re honest, we’re all “exclusive” in some ways, be it with regard to race, gender, culture, social status, intellectual standing, educational status, politics, religion . . . you name it.  So to single out religion as inherently exclusive oppressive is too narrow in my opinion.  Getting rid of religion (if that were even possible) would not rid the world of oppression because oppression is not a religious phenomenon but rather a condition of the human heart.  There are just as many atheists with elitist attitudes as there are religious people with elitist attitudes.  There are just as many poor people with elitist attitudes as there are rich people with similar attitudes.

    Jesus actually encourages us to know the truth --- Knowing the truth will set you free from pride and sin.  People such as Mother Theresa and Billy Graham have held very strong belief in their faith, yet I doubt many would consider their attitudes oppressive. 
    I don’t think that believing there is objective truth and oppression towards others are necessarily bound.

  • Posted by


    Thank you for acknowledging that you misstated.  Though the conversation was long and sometimes frustrating, I do think it has had value (thanks to Todd for providing the platform). 

    Tonight at bible study someone made a comment that reminded me of this discussion.  We were talking about trials and difficulties we all face.  This person “quoted” 1 Cor 10:13, saying “God will not allow us to face a trial that we cannot bear.”

    Of course we know that 1 Cor 10:13 actually says, “No TEMPTATION has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be TEMPTED beyond what you can bear. But when you are TEMPTED, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.”

    The book of Acts, church history and even Paul’s own words in 2 Cor 11, make it clear that Christians often face circumstances and trials they (alone) are unable to bear.  And there is a big difference between a trial and a temptation.  The woman’s comment reflects a common misunderstanding about Paul’s words to the Corinthians, and misrepresent Paul’s intentions.

    I submit Eric, that your slight change in the wording of RW’s quote, coupled with your opinions about RW’s motives for saying it, misrepresented RW’s intentions.

    Consider this scenario: Say you are called to pastor the church I attend.  And say that you and the elders clearly sense from the Lord a particular mission and vision for our church.  But a group of us strongly believe in a seeker sensitive, PD type model for church, which you and the elders equally strongly disagree with.  As the church’s called and anointed leaders, you lead in a manner that does not feel right to the group I’m part of.  Our group sets up a meeting with you.  We bring our PDL books and read you many quotes from it to make a case that our church needs to have a 40-Days campaign.  We begin talking about how our weekend services are not sensitive to seekers.  Finally we issue an ultimatum.  We tell you that we cannot stay in the church if you don’t begin leading in the way we describe, which we believe is biblical and right . . . and you don’t.  I doubt that you give in to us, so how do you advise us?  Even if you don’t say these exact words, our choices are simple, right?  Submit to your leadership, leave (or die)?

    When we tell people about our meeting, we say “Pastor Eric said that he didn’t care about seekers.” When explaining your position about seeker sensitive services, you probably didn’t actually say “I don’t care about seekers,” but through the filter of our passions and strongly held beliefs, that is what we heard from you.

    I submit that that is what you did when reading the Pastors.com article from RW.  Because you so strongly disagree with his methods, you read between the lines motives that may or may not have been there when RW penned those words. 

    We all must be cautious about how our biases influence the way we view reality, especially when the “reality” we’re talking about someone else’s heart.  I’ve learned that the best way to guard against this is to remind myself that the “reality” I see is more than likely my perception of reality . . . and nothing more.


  • Posted by


    “Finally we issue an ultimatum.  We tell you that we cannot stay in the church if you don’t begin leading in the way we describe, which we believe is biblical and right . . . and you don’t.  I doubt that you give in to us, so how do you advise us?  Even if you don’t say these exact words, our choices are simple, right?  Submit to your leadership, leave (or die)?”

    Who, here, in your hypothetical situation, has forced the ultimatum and decision as to whether or not you, as a dissenter, would stay or go?  The answer here is: You.  Eric, as the “pastor,” never said that you would have to submit or leave.  I imagine that any sensible pastor, in this situation, would say that you are welcome to stay, but the church would not change to the seeker-sensitive PDL model.

    Now, here’s the problem.  In Warren’s article that I (not Eric) cited from pastors.com, there is no one that is clearly identified as the initiator of the ultimatum to “leave or die.” However, given that Warren, in the role of the pastor, wrote the article, and in light of his comments later in the article, such as, “Find out who the legitimizers are; the ones who are willing to go for change,” I would argue that it was Warren issuing the ultimatum here.

    Again, to clarify, the article Eric cited was not from pastors.com, and he had quoted from that other source, which may or may not have gotten things wrong.


  • Posted by

    CS, the article does not clearly say there even was an ultimatum.  What it said was that for churches that need to change (not all do) some (those who refuse to change) may have to leave or die before the church can successfully make the necessary changes.  It was specifically about churches that have plateau’d and are in need of change.

    NOTHING to do with PD models or even with Rick Warrens methods, it just happened to be Warren saying what many others agree with.  Change is not easy for some people and some people will resist and ultimately refuse to change, even when it is necessary.

    I don’t think it matters to Wendi’s example who issued the ultimatum or even IF there is an ultimatum, just that the leadership felt change was necessary (or not) and some people disagreed.

  • Posted by

    Daniel is correctly understanding the question I was trying to pose, perhaps poorly. 

    Pastor Eric or CS are new leaders who feel called to bring about a “change” in the church, away from a PD styled, seeker sensitive model to a more traditional model.  I am part of a faction that doesn’t want or agree with the change.  We believe our ideas are biblical and right for this church, as we’ve been here for many years, and you, after all, are just a new young buck.  We’ve dug in our heels.  We talk to anyone who will listen about the wrong direction we think you are taking our church.  Because we are a group of longtime and influential members, we are effectively creating congregational resistance to the changes you are trying to implement.  Your change efforts are stalled.

    If we came to you and said (in effect) “we want it our way or we’re leaving,” I think you would probably say (perhaps under your breath), “don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” The reality is that before the change you are trying to bring about can happen, our influence in the congregation is going to have to go away; either by our leaving or dying.

    I believe this is the core of RW’s statement in the article you cited about plateaued churches.  It takes change to get off a plateau.  Sometimes influential naysayers can frustrate or even prevent change in a congregation.  In this case, the naysayer’s voices need to be gone, one way or another, if the change is ever to take place. 

    RW was simply reminding us of a universal principle which would apply whether a pastor is trying to lead a congregation to become PD (to use Eric’s phrase), or become fundamental, or liturgical, or charismatic, or, or, or . . . 

    I suspect that if the article had been written by, say, John MacArthur, and was called, say, “Leading a Church Back to the Fundamentals,” you would have agreed.  But because people have big time problems with RW, they read things that aren’t there in his article and then (this is where it becomes oppressive) pass on their personal “read” of the facts as though they are facts, when they actually are not. 


  • Posted by

    I believe this blog is supposed to be about the Keller video, but since most have chosen to write about Rick Warren --- here is my two cents.

    I think I know where Rick Warren was coming from by his comments, but I also think the words he chose left him open to be misconstrued as insensitive (or dare I say “oppressive” --- that seems to be a popular word to throw around these days although I’m not really sure what it means).  It could be interpreted that he is implying that those who disagree with a change can be marginalized or ignored.  Again, I’m not saying that was his intent, but it could be construed that way.  What one says is objective, but what one implies is subjective.

    How you make changes in a church is just as important as the change itself.  Too much change too fast without getting people on board and sharing the vision for that change can be poisonous to a church, even if the change is necessary.  I’ve seen it happen.

  • Posted by

    The church can be ministering to all kinds of needs, but if it isn’t addressing the spiritual needs of people along with the others, then it becomes just another “social organization” and has lost it’s unique mission.

  • Posted by

    thank you ww

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