Tim Keller, influential Evangelical pastor and author, dies at 72
Timothy Keller, the notable Evangelical author, theologian and New York City-based pastor, has died following a lengthy battle with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old.
Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, a congregation that Keller helped found, sent a statement to members informing them that he died Friday morning.
"We are forever grateful for his leadership, heart, and dedication to sharing the love of Christ with others. While we will miss his presence here, we know he is rejoicing with his Savior in heaven," stated Redeemer in the message that was shared with The Christian Post.
"Tim loved what he did. He loved interacting with Redeemer congregants and global ministry leaders alike. He delighted in communicating the profound wonder and transforming power of the gospel of grace. He would quickly disarm you and brush away your addressing him as Dr. Keller. 'Just Tim, please.'"
Read the full announcement below:
It is with a heavy heart that I write today to inform you that Redeemer Presbyterian Church founder and long-time senior pastor, Tim Keller, passed away this morning at age 72, trusting in the sure and certain hope of the resurrection. We are forever grateful for his leadership, heart, and dedication to sharing the love of Christ with others. While we will miss his presence here, we know he is rejoicing with his Savior in heaven.
Tim loved what he did. He loved interacting with Redeemer congregants and global ministry leaders alike. He delighted in communicating the profound wonder and transforming power of the gospel of grace. He would quickly disarm you and brush away your addressing him as Dr. Keller. “Just Tim, please.” The life I witnessed was rooted in his identity as a beloved child of God.
There was no dissonance between the man you saw publicly and the man you witnessed privately. When asked how he wanted to be remembered, he would say that he didn’t think a lot about legacy, and then reference something Martin Lloyd Jones said about his name being written in the Lamb's book of life. And he might on occasion say, “I do hope my grandchildren remember me.”
There will never be another Tim Keller and we will all miss him.
A worship service followed by a memorial will be held in New York City in the coming weeks, and both will be available by live stream for those who would prefer to participate remotely. More information will be provided as details become available.
We ask for your continued prayers for his beloved wife whom he adored and Redeemer co-founder, Kathy, as well as the entire Keller family.
In a public update on Facebook, the famed pastor's son, Michael Keller, wrote:
"Timothy J. Keller, husband, father, grandfather, mentor, friend, pastor, and scholar died this morning at home. Dad waited until he was alone with Mom. She kissed him on the forehead and he breathed his last breath. We take comfort in some of his last words, 'There is no downside for me leaving, not in the slightest.' See you soon Dad."
Born in Allentown, Pennsylvania, in 1950, Keller earned a bachelor of arts degree from Bucknell University, a master in divinity from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary and a doctor in ministry from Westminster Theological Seminary.
He served as pastor of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church of Hopewell, Virginia, an associate professor at Westminster, and the director of Mercy Ministries for the Presbyterian Church in America.
In 1989, Keller founded Redeemer Presbyterian Church of New York City, a congregation that would eventually grow to have approximately 5,000 average weekly worship attendees.
Keller also chaired and co-founded Redeemer City to City, an organization that helps to launch new churches in New York and other cities, and provides resources on how to minister in major urban environments.
Keller authored multiple books, including the 2008 bestseller The Reason for God, an apologetics work centered on tackling tough questions like why God allows suffering and sends the unsaved to Hell.
“Keller has compiled a list of the most frequently voiced ‘doubts’ skeptics bring to his church as well as the most important reasons for faith,” noted the book’s official description.
“Keller uses literature, philosophy, real-life conversations, and reasoning to explain how faith in a Christian God is a soundly rational belief, held by thoughtful people of intellectual integrity with a deep compassion for those who truly want to know the truth.”
Other books authored by Keller include: The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness, The Meaning of Marriage, The Prodigal God, The Songs of Jesus, and The Prodigal Prophet.
Keller occasionally garnered controversy for his theologically conservative views, as well as his opposition to other clergy posing a political litmus test for Christians.
In 2017, Princeton Theological Seminary decided not to award Keller their Kuyper Prize due to complaints over his church’s stance on LGBT issues and the ordination of women.
“In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America's views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year," stated Princeton Seminary President M. Craig Barnes at the time.
During the 2020 presidential election cycle, Keller garnered widespread attention when he took to Twitter to denounce the idea that American Christians had to vote for one party or another.
“The Bible binds my conscience to care for the poor, but it does not tell me the best practical way to do it,” stated Keller at the time. “Any particular strategy (high taxes and government services vs low taxes and private charity) may be good and wise … [It] may even be somewhat inferred from other things the Bible teaches, but they are not directly commanded and therefore we cannot insist that all Christians, as a matter of conscience, follow one or the other.”
In May 2020, Keller was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer and underwent chemotherapy and an immunotherapy drug trial at the National Institutes for Health in Bethesda, Maryland.
On the two-year anniversary of his diagnosis, Keller took to Twitter to report that chemotherapy was reducing the cancer, noting that “God has seen it fit to give me more time.”
Watch Tim Keller's last video interview with CP on forgiveness, repentance and fallen pastors
In March, Keller announced that new cancer tumors had developed in his body, prompting him to return to the National Cancer Institute in Bethesda for additional treatment.
“They are unfortunately in some fairly inconvenient places, so the doctors encouraged us to go through the treatment again, this time targeting a different genetic marker of the cancer,” he explained at the time.
Keller’s son, Michael, shared an update on Thursday, saying that his father had been moved to hospice care at his home. Michael also quoted a prayer that Keller had prayed earlier that week.
“I'm thankful for all the people who’ve prayed for me over the years. I'm thankful for my family, that loves me. I’m thankful for the time God has given me, but I’m ready to see Jesus. I can’t wait to see Jesus,” Timothy Keller prayed.
“Send me home.”