“Outsider and unbeliever though I am, he made me feel like a member of his search party. … And he made me feel loved—by him and by his God.”
Last Friday, Timothy Keller, one of this generation’s best-known Christian leaders, died after a three-year battle with pancreatic cancer.
Although I never met him, Tim Keller had a profound impact on my life. His 2008 bestselling book The Reason for God solidified my faith and became a go-to gift for friends with questions about Christianity. His small-group studies helped me integrate my beliefs with my whole life. His sermon on Psalm 42 encouraged me in a period of doubt, and his Atlantic article ‘Growing my Faith in the Face of Death’ strengthened me when cancer hit my own family.
But after reading tributes to him, I’ve been struck not just by the huge influence he had on Christians like me, but also by how he is remembered by those who aren’t in his camp.
In particular, the above quote from journalist Jonathan Ranch stood out to me. As an atheist, Ranch admits he “can’t understand Tim’s world.” But through Keller, he says, he got “glimpses of it”—glimpses of a world with humility, love, and grace at its core.
Keller was someone with strong convictions, but he wasn’t arrogant or dismissive of others’ views. He engaged with a posture of openness and generosity, treating people with dignity and respect. He sought to build bridges between faith and culture, and invited people to consider whether Christianity might have something surprising—and liberating— to say about the biggest questions of life. Millions took up his invitation.
His approach to “public Christianity” has greatly shaped the way we write and speak at CPX. Vale, Tim Keller—and thank you.