Allentown, Pennsylvania

The Keller family moved into their new Allentown, Pennsylvania, house in 1967, the year before Tim (far left) started college at Bucknell. Tim's mother, Louise, stands next to him, holding the family cat. Billy (center) died in 1998. Sharon stands next to their father, Bill (far right). Tim was the ringleader for his younger siblings, but everyone knew Louise was the boss of the house.

Letters with C. S. Lewis

C. S. Lewis mediated a dispute between twelve-year-old Kathy Kristy and her English teacher in this letter from April 1963. His last letter to her was sent less than two weeks before he died on November 22, 1963. So precious was Kathy at 14 that she traveled to Oxford with friends to visit Lewis's brother Warnie, then still living in The Kilns. Kathy shared her love for Lewis’s Narnia series with Tim Keller. Tim prefers Tolkien’s fiction. But Lewis gave Keller a model for wide reading and clear thinking. Lewis challenged Tim to deploy vivid illustrations for cultural apologetics in defense of Christian claims to truth and beauty. Aided by several biographies, and intimate familiarity with his personal letters, Tim can recall dozens of Lewis quotes and stories and illustrations. So when he’s searching for just the right way to make his point, usually Tim will opt for Lewis, his favorite author.

Bucknell University

Bucknell students went on strike in May 1970 to protest the National Guard killing of four Kent State students after President Nixon expanded the Vietnam War. Tim and other InterVarsity members engaged the striking students in evangelistic conversations. One particular sign caught attention, both positive and negative: "THE RESURRECTION OF JESUS CHRIST IS INTELLECTUALLY CREDIBLE AND EXISTENTIALLY SATISFYING."

Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary

Gordon-Conwell students sensed they were part of something new and exciting at the school led by the architects of American evangelicalism. Evangelist Billy Graham played the key role in securing financing and selecting leaders. Oil magnate J. Howard Pew, a longtime Graham backer, contribution two million dollars for the new school, which purchased a former Carmelite seminary north of Boston in South Hamilton, Massachusetts.

Gordon-Conwell Faculty

The faculty of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary offered students like the Kellers a theological smorgasbord that continued to nourish them over decades of ministry. Roger Nicole (top left) was a leading scholar of Reformed theology and biblical inerrancy. He excelled at teaching opposing views—sometimes so well this Baptist professor convinced students to become Presbyterian.

Richard Lovelace

The “notoriously absentminded” Richard Lovelace (right) introduced Tim to the pneumodynamics in writers as diverse as Flannery O’Connor and John Owen. Easily sidetracked, occasionally frustrating, and sometimes profound, Lovelace didn't have much of a personal touch with students. But he did set Tim on a lifelong quest for revival with Jonathan Edwards as his guide.

Table Talk

Tim Keller may not have spoken up in classes at Gordon-Conwell. But he and his friends, especially from Pittsburgh, hatched a bold plan that thrust them into the middle of the hottest campus debates. The first issue of Table Talk, edited by Tim and several other students, featured his article “Hermeneutical Nestorianism,” which sharply criticized two professors of New Testament, Ramsey Michaels and David Scholer. In this early article you can begin to recognize Keller's habit of steering between problems on both sides of a debate, his search for a "third way." After 25 years of teaching before and after the merger of Gordon-Conwell, Michaels resigned in 1983 under accusations of undermining biblical authority. Download the original Table Talk issue (PDF).

R. C. Sproul

R. C. Sproul’s ask-anything “gabfests” became a Monday night highlight at Ligonier Valley Study Center. Tim did the same on Sunday nights for his Hopewell church. When Kathy showed up in her night gown, the crowd knew it was time to leave. Tim also brought the practice to post-service Q&A at Redeemer Presbyterian Church. The answers helped disciple Christians as much as they won over skeptics.

Ligonier Valley Study Center

Classes offered by Ligonier Valley Study Center the summer before Tim and Kathy began seminary illustrate the broader Reformed revival underway in the Pittsburgh area during the early 1970s. The vision began with Dora Hillman, widow of a wealthy businessman, who planned to launch a study and conference center near Pittsburgh to train Christian leaders who would evangelize and disciple the city. This L'Abri style of evangelism eventually became a model for community life at Redeemer Presbyterian Church.

Edmund Clowney

Edmund Clowney was the only close personal influence who knew Tim from his awkward Bucknell years in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, through the Redeemer megachurch years in New York City. A simple invitation from Clowney in 1973 to take a walk and sip sodas together while talking about life and ministry shocked Tim out of his wits. By the end of Clowney’s life, he and Keller were teaching together at Reformed Theological Seminary. Tim credits Clowney for his basic interpretation of the two sons in Luke 15.

Urbana '76

Tim and Kathy joined more than seventeen thousand young Christians at Urbana ’76, which featured speakers Billy Graham, John Perkins, Edmund Clowney, Elisabeth Elliot, and Helen Roseveare. John Stott delivered four expositions on the biblical basis for missions.

Barbara Boyd

Barbara Boyd, the first female staff member for InterVarsity, delivered her “Lordship Talk” at Bear Trap Ranch in Colorado, the camp Tim attended for a month in the summer of 1971. Starting in 1950, Boyd worked for InterVarsity for forty years. Boyd’s “Bible and Life” series provided Tim with his foundation for studying God’s Word.

John Stott

John Stott gave Tim his first model for expositional preaching. At Urbana '76, Stott delivered four expositions on the biblical basis for missions. By this time Stott had become perhaps the leading light in the global InterVarsity movement. To Keller, Stott did more than anyone else in creating evangelicalism as the middle space between fundamentalism and liberalism.

Elisabeth Elliot

Elisabeth Elliot taught both Kellers in her Gordon-Conwell class on “Christian Expression in Speech, Writing, and Behavior.” Elliot shaped both Tim and Kathy in what came to be known as the complementary roles of men and women in the church and home. In her book Let Me Be a Woman, Elliot published an excerpt from one of Kathy's class papers.

Hopewell, Virginia

Hopewell became the focus of an environmental scandal just before the Kellers arrived in this former home of a DuPont dynamite factory. During the 1970s the signs that had long boasted of of the city as the chemical capital of the South were removed. The Kellers were just happy to have a job at West Hopewell Presbyterian Church. All three Keller sons were born in Hopewell.

Banner of Truth Books

Tim’s meager salary in Hopewell didn’t include a book budget. But friends and family gave him Banner of Truth titles for Christmas, and he read them throughout the following year. His favorite authors included Thomas Brooks, John Owen, and Charles Spurgeon. Tim sometimes drove around Hopewell with a Puritan Paperback resting on his steering wheel.

The Robins

The Kellers dedicated their book The Meaning of Marriage to “the Robins,” a group of friends from the Gordon-Conwell days who have stuck close through theological changes, child-rearing, and vacations together. Left to right, the couples are (women in foreground) Gayle and Gary Somers, Cindy and Jim Widmer, Kathy and Tim Keller, Louise and David Midwood, and Jane and Wayne Frazier. Not pictured: Adele and Doug Calhoun.

Westminster Faculty (1984)

Tim (back row, third from left) joined the Westminster faculty in 1984 and took over his mentor Edmund Clowney’s courses on preaching and pastoral leadership. Clowney had wanted the seminary to shift its mentality from the "clenched first" to the "bowed head." Back in 1969, during the school's 40th commencement, he captured the spirit of the age when he exhorted students to preach a gospel that challenges old reactionaries as much as young revolutionaries.

Harvie Conn

Harvie Conn, who joined the Westminster faculty in 1972, served as Tim’s department chair in practical theology. Keller showed up 15 minutes early to department meetings so he could ask Conn questions about urban ministry and systemic injustice. After 12 years as a missionary in Korea, Conn returned to the United States convinced by the same urgency that drove his contemporary Lesslie Newbigin to plead for a new missionary encounter in the West. Conn’s emphasis on contextualization paved the way for his colleague to plant a city center church in New York. While most Westminster faculty lived in the Philadelphia suburbs, Conn settled in the city, where he saw America’s post-Christian future.

Jack Miller

Jack Miller was Tim and Kathy’s pastor for five years, from 1984 to 1989, at New Life Presbyterian Church in Glenside, Pennsylvania. Before the Kellers planted Redeemer in New York, New Life showed them how a culture of gospel renewal applied to social justice, worship, evangelism, and missions. Thanks to Keller, references to “gospel-centered” ministry exploded between 2005 and 2010. But as early as 1988, Jack Miller spoke about grace- and gospel-centered living in his sermons at New Life Glenside and the associated World Harvest Mission.

Planting Redeemer Presbyterian

Overseen by Kathy Keller, the fundraising brochure for what would become Redeemer Presbyterian Church touted the opportunity for ministry in this capital of finance, education, politics, and art. “No other single city in the world excels in all these areas together!” the brochure exclaimed. The brochure envisioned a church not just for white Presbyterians but also for New York’s Asian population, estimated to double from 400,000 to 800,000 by 1995. And the vision extended far beyond just one church. This new work would become a hub to help reach immigrants from the West Indies and Central and South America in their own languages and styles. The Kellers foresaw the Presbyterian Church in America as a church-plating engine through which Christians in the South could help evangelize the rest of the country.

Roosevelt Island

In June 1989, the Kellers moved to Roosevelt Island in the East River and have never changed their conjoined apartments. They found on the island a relatively quiet place in the city to raise their family. Books are scattered in every room in both apartments. Even when Redeemer rented space Keller kept his study at home and wrote his sermons there.

David Midwood

David Midwood (left) joined fellow first-year students Tim and Kathy in founding the Edmund P. Clowney Fan Club at Gordon-Conwell. Among Tim’s closest friends, David died of colon cancer in 2014. His widow, Louise, keeps a birthday card to David from Tim: “We have no greater friends than the Midwoods, and I have no greater friend than you. And friends are up there with life’s greatest blessings.”

The Girl Nobody Wanted

Yvonne Sawyer (bride in white) served as the first leader of Hope for New York, Redeemer’s mercy ministry. In the only wedding ceremony Tim ever included in a regular worship service, he preached “The Girl Nobody Wanted.” Contrary to what you might expect about family values, Keller said, the Bible offers little sentimentality about marriage.

The Gospel Coalition (2007)

As cofounder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition, Tim drafted its theological vision for ministry, which was debated and adopted by the full council of pastors at a 2007 meeting on the campus of Trinity Evangelical Divinity School north of Chicago.

Gospel-Centered Ministry

During The Gospel Coalition’s inaugural 2007 national conference, Tim delivered a message on “gospel-centered ministry” in which he extolled Jesus Christ as the “true and better” fulfillment of God’s redemptive plan. This talk helped inspire a new generation to preach the way he’d been taught by Ed Clowney.

Charles Taylor

Charles Taylor became a staple influence on Tim’s thinking, writing, and teaching after 2013. Keller read Taylor’s monumental book A Secular Age twice, line by line, in two years. Alasdair MacIntyre, Philip Rieff, and Robert Bellah likewise provoked Keller to deeper analysis of the problems besetting the post-Christendom West. The West wants to be relativistic and moralistic at the same time. And it’s not working, as these four critics have argued for decades. Much of Christian apologetics, including The Reason for God, still operates within the confines of the Enlightenment. Christians offer rational explanations and provide empirical evidence for biblical events and claims. But what if the Enlightenment has failed? What if it’s a dead end for Western culture?

W83 Building

When Redeemer Presbyterian Church opened the $50 million W83 facility in 2012, it was the first new Manhattan church building in forty years. In 2011, Redeemer looked back and assessed the growth in evangelical church attendance since 1990. They found that it had tripled from 1 percent to 3 percent of the city.

Tim and Kathy

Tim and Kathy share a lighthearted moment as they participate in a panel about the roles and gifts of men and women during The Gospel Coalition’s 2014 women’s conference in Orlando, Florida.

Spring Convocation Address (2016)

Tim returned to his alma mater of Gordon-Conwell to deliver the 2016 spring convocation address. By this time, he had become a world-renowned church leader, in contrast to his days as an intelligent but overlooked student. This same year Tim published his forward-looking apologetics work Making Sense of God.

Pancreatic Cancer and COVID-19 Pandemic

Tim’s diagnosis of pancreatic cancer in 2020, along with the COVID-19 pandemic, has kept him largely confined to his Roosevelt Island home with Kathy. Not since seminary have the Kellers spent so much time together, and Tim continues to recommend his favorite books, new and old.