Keller passed away at the age of 72 on Friday, May 19, after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
Before his death, the best-selling author and theologian thoughtfully picked which hymns he wanted to be sung at his memorial service and shared why he chose them.
“The hymns sung in today’s service were chosen by Tim Keller and he spoke about why he chose each one during a worship service held at the National Institutes of Health during his treatment in April,” Keller’s memorial service program explained. “His words of introduction from that time of worship have been transcribed and added before each hymn in today’s program.”
The first hymn that the 2,000 people in attendance sang was “Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise.”
Keller shared, “I chose each hymn and there’s an order to them.” He explained that the reason for choosing the first song was because of its “tremendous depiction of who God is and his attributes.”
“It’s really all about God. Who is he? And what’s really interesting is some of the lines in here summarizing the most important Christian ideas, I’ve never seen it summarized better,” he continued. “So for example. We’re here at a cancer hospital, and sometimes you want to say: God, what in the world, are you up to? What’s wrong with you?”
“And the last line [in the hymn] is this—’Tis only the splendor of light hideth Thee,’” Keller continued. “There’s a tendency for us to think there’s a darkness in God and we’re smart instead of saying, well, wait a minute, no, He’s more light than we can handle. And the darkness is in us. ‘Tis only the splendor of light hideth thee.”
The next song Keller chose was “Amazing Love, How Can It Be?” The well-known apologist asked, “How do you connect with God? Do you actually have a personal relationship with Him?” Keller said that the meaning behind this hymn is “the key to the Great Awakenings, and to personal awakening as well.”
Keller selected “How Firm a Foundation” to be the next hymn.