Robert Jeffress suggests that Tim Keller is a “wimpy Christian” who has “cloaked” his “cowardice in theology”

Jeffress SWBTS

Listen to this recent conversation with Eric Metaxas and Robert Jeffress, two leading court evangelicals.

Jeffress is pushing his new book Courageous: 10 Strategies for Thriving in a Hostile World.  After listening to this interview, it is unclear whether Jeffress’s book is about showing courage in the midst of warfare against sin and evil or showing courage in the culture war against the Democratic Party and the opponents of Donald Trump. I have not read the book, but I don’t think Jeffress sees any difference between these two kinds of “courageous” spiritual warfare. Metaxas, however, uses the interview to push Jeffress in a culture war direction. The host chastises evangelical Christians who are “not bold in encounters with other people.” Metaxas wants a fight. Jeffress quickly enlists on his side.

It is in this spirit that Metaxas brings up Timothy Keller, founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City and a leading evangelical thinker. (Keller has co-authored a forthcoming book with Washington University law professor John Inazu titled Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference. The book focuses on showing respect to those with whom we differ and cultivating a robust pluralism in our nation). Metaxas says, “I was sorry to read that my friend Tim Keller talked about how Christians shouldn’t get in bed with any political party as though the two political parties were equal.” I am assuming Metaxas is referring to this New York Times opinion piece.

Jeffress then offers his take on Keller and others (he does not mention Keller by name) who are not willing to engage in “courageous” culture war politics:

What [people like Keller] have done  is they have cloaked their cowardice in theology.  They have found a theology that will excuse their unwillingness to take a stand. They don’t want to take unpopular stands in their church. They can’t stand any kind of criticism. They are wimpy Christians. And I think it’s increasingly hard to be a wimpy Christian in this culture.  There’s no mushy middle. You’re either on the side of righteousness or unrighteousness.

Metaxas then asks Jeffress about his role as a surrogate for Donald Trump in the upcoming election. Jeffress responds:

I am a well-known supporter of president Trump…Because of my role as a Fox News contributor there are limits to what I am able to do in organized ways but I don’t intend to back off at all in my vocal support for the president.

This is not surprising.  But notice what Jeffress said.  The reason he doesn’t organize for Trump is because he is a Fox News contributor, not because he is a minister of the Gospel.

Jeffress then talks about his evangelical critics:

I think there is an attempt to shame evangelicals like you and me for our support of president Trump and they think if they can try to tie us to everything he’s ever said or done in his life maybe we will disassociate ourselves from the president and not support him any longer.

On one hand, Jeffress says that the church should be involved in politics. But he only wants the church involved in matters related to his political views, which he believes are the only political views based on the Bible.

But a truly engaged church should call out corruption and immorality in our leaders with the same kind of zeal that it praises particular politicians. When Trump acts in ways that are blatantly immoral, people like Jeffress and Metaxas say nothing. The silence is deafening.

On this point, Metaxas says that he doesn’t like everything Trump does, but he won’t say anything about it publicly because he does not want to join the “drumbeat” of criticism. Silence in the face of evil is not a Christian response. It is people like Jeffress and Metaxas who lack courage. They seem to be the evangelicals who have cloaked their “cowardice” in theology. The call of the church, to quote theologian N.T. Wright, is to “denounce what needs denouncing.”