Tim Keller delivered the keynote address at the 2018 National Parliamentary Prayer Breakfast in Westminster Hall, London on June 19th. He spoke to UK politicians.
He answered the question, “What can Christianity offer society in the 21st century?”
Keller based his answer on Matthew 5:13, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.”
Keller said Jesus is saying his disciples should be dispersed throughout every society on earth. They should be bringing out the best in each society and preventing its worst tendencies. But he warned, “that will only happen if Christians remain different from the rest of culture.”
Christians have a history of being the kind of salt Jesus spoke of. Keller mentioned a few examples:
Christianity taught an ethic built on love. That was a departure from cultures that preceded it whose ethics were based on shame and honor. And they were successful. Today the universal ethic is the one taught by Christianity.
Slavery was accepted in ancient cultures until Gregory, the Bishop of Nyssa, preached the worth of each human being created in the image of God. The same ethic also applied to segregation, sexual relations and women’s rights.
Keller believes that Christians can still be influential in society by being a preservative; preventing decay. He said Christianity provides a moral source for our beliefs. Without that source, Keller said, humans are left to arguing about them.
Christianity also has the unique ability to elevate sacrifice. Keller said American culture, like all cultures, can’t create sacrifice, it instead “produces self actualizers.” He said “only a transcendent worldview can do that.”
Using Jesus’ metaphor of salt, Keller instructed Christians to be different from the world around them, warning “We can’t benefit society if we are just like them. We live through the self-sacrifice that Jesus exemplified.”
He also had a word of advice for the British political leaders in his audience. Keller told them, “Don’t demand Christians become like everyone else…tell Christians be true to their own ideals and then critique them based on those ideals. We deserve the critique and that will be good for British society.”