Tim Keller on Changing the Culture without Being Colonized by It

Editors’ note: 

To learn more about evangelistic engagement with our culture and to hear more from Tim Keller, join us on April 1 to 3 for our 2019 national conference, “Conversations with Jesus.”

In this video, Tim Keller suggests that the danger of the post-Christian culture is that it has co-opted Christian ideas and taken them to an extreme. He articulates the pitfalls of both the liberal and the conservative individualism and the necessity of worldview education and apologetics in discipleship.


In a post-Christian Western society, whether that’s in North America, or Europe, or Australia, or elsewhere, there is a great danger that in your interaction, trying to reach out and engage your “non-Christian culture,” that the culture ends up colonizing you.

And, the reason this colonization happens is that a post-Christian culture is quite different than a non-Christian or pre-Christian culture. The post-Christian culture has co-opted a lot of Christian ideas. It has, for example, adopted ideas like taking care of the poor, and human rights—things that did not grow up in non-Christian cultures but rather in the West in Christian culture.

The West has taken over a lot of Christian ideas but taken them to an extreme. So, for example, the importance of human rights and doing justice has been turned into an extreme individualism. Because of these overlaps, a Christian can easily fall into getting co-opted by that individualism.

For example, liberal individualism says, “I need to do justice for the poor, and I need to do racial justice, but nobody should tell me what to do sexually.” Conservative individualism says, “I believe in traditional values, but I can do anything I want with my money, and please don’t talk to me about race because I didn’t own any slaves and I don’t think that’s a problem.”

And, it’s extraordinarily easy for Christians to think that they are being Christian but they’re only getting co-opted by either blue-state or red-state individualism. Getting colonized like this is not as likely to happen if you’re a Christian who grew up in India. You’re not likely to just sort of fall into Hinduism. You are not as likely if you’re a Christian growing up in Japan to just fall into Buddhism. But you are very likely to fall into one of these forms of liberal or conservative individualism in the West, thinking it’s Christianity.

We must understand how the biblical worldview differs from all other different worldviews. Worldview education or apologetics is necessary even to disciple people nowadays. It’s not easy to engage the culture, to reach out, and to seek to know and convert people, but we have to do it because the Bible commands us to do it. And, even in Western culture, where we encounter the danger of being colonized by our own culture, we have to make those efforts.