I just finished reading Collin Hansen’s book, Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation. Keller went to be with the Lord on May 19, as many of you know. Hansen’s book about Keller was released only a couple months prior to Keller’s passing.
I appreciated this book and received extra benefit from it because it wasn’t organized like a normal biography. Typically, when I read a biography, I try to discern what factors God used to shape the profiled person into what he or she became — with hopes that I might somehow grow by observing the subject’s example. What made this book different from other biographies I’ve read is that Hansen organized his book according to primary influences on Tim Keller. If you are interested in reading a general biography of Keller, this is probably not the book for you. But if you want to delve into the means and personal agents God used to shape Keller’s spiritual and intellectual life, then this book may be exactly what you need, as it was for me.
Here are some of the influences (personal, situational, geographical) that Hansen highlights:
Keller’s mother, Louise, whose exacting external standards precipitated Keller’s move away from religious legalism and eventually toward emphasizing grace,
Keller’s friend, Bruce Henderson, who helped lead Keller to faith,
A core of Christian friends at Bucknell who together experienced small-scale revival, functioned as a close-knit Christian community, and shared Christ to other students on campus,
Dick Merritt, pastor of the church Keller attended after coming to faith at Bucknell,
Barbara Boyd, who taught Keller how to read the Bible,
Kathy, his wife — certainly the most important of all influences on Tim — in uncountable ways,
Elisabeth Elliot, especially regarding women in ministry,
The “Robins,” a group of life-long friends of Tim and Kathy,
The community of Hopewell, Virginia, and the congregation of West Hopewell Presbyterian Church, where Keller pastored for nine years,
Edmund Clowney, who was Keller’s only long-term personal mentor,
Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia, where Keller was a faculty member for five years, and in particular, Keller’s doctoral advisor and senior colleague, Harvey Conn, who helped Keller think through contextualization and urban ministry,
Jack Miller, pastor of New Life Presbyterian Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania, where Keller’s family worshiped during their years in Philadelphia,
The city of New York, and in particular, the way the culture and pressures of the city helped Keller develop apologetics appropriate to secular and sometimes hostile contexts,
Redeemer Presbyterian Church, consisting of more individuals than can be named,
The attack of September 11, 2001, and the spiritual climate-change effected in New York City and Redeemer Church via that tragedy,
After reading about Keller’s influences (personal, circumstantial, intellectual, geographical), I started thinking about how particular people, books, locations, and decisions have influenced my life. Last night before going to bed, Trudi and I took turns talking through factors that have molded us into what we have become today. That conversation with Trudi reminded me of how the hand of a sovereign God has shaped and guided our lives. I found myself thankful and encouraged as I drifted off to sleep.
That bit of self-reflection was triggered by reading Hansen’s book about Timothy Keller.
If you have been touched by Keller’s ministry and want to learn more about the means God used to shape his life, I am glad to recommend Collin Hansen’s recent book, Timothy Keller: His Spiritual and Intellectual Formation.
This post and other resources are available at Kindle Afresh: The Blog and Website of Kenneth Berding.