A Rebuttal to Tim Keller’s Political Third Way

How Christians Should Think About Voting


Written by Pastor Sam Jones

In an article titled “How Do Christians Fit into the Two-Party System? They Don’t” (September 29th, 2018) Tim Keller outlines how Christians should approach politics. Firstly, I will highlight what I agree with in Keller’s article, and then I will provide substantive critique of his claims.

To the surprise of many, I actually agree with Tim Keller in the title of his article. I do not believe that Christians fit into a two-party system; to believe this you must resign to Duverger’s Law [i]. Duverger’s Law always leads to choosing “the lesser of two evils” and I believe it is wrong for a Christian to choose evil. I commend Tim Keller in rightly seeing this issue within the political alliances of Christianity in today’s American culture. I also agree with Keller that it is not enough for Christians to simply just “preach the gospel” and ignore politics, as he is correct in saying “Those who avoid all political discussions and engagement are essentially casting a vote for the social status quo.” Once again, I commend him on seeing the problem within Christianity, but it is not enough to simply see the problem, we must also have the correct solution. As Tim Keller starts to highlight solutions, my view and his view start to dramatically divide.

What one chooses not to say often speaks louder than what one actually says, this certainly is the case for Tim Keller. In his article Keller writes, “Nevertheless, while believers can register under a party affiliation and be active in politics, they should not identify the Christian church or faith with a political party as the only Christian one.” Now I can half-way agree with this statement, but we cannot forget context. The whole premise of the article is toward a two-party system and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that Keller is speaking of the Republican and Democratic parties in our culture. Though I agree we should not call either of these parties a Christian party, biblically, it is impossible to call the Democratic party a “Christian Party” due to their stance on abortion and homosexual marriage. I am not saying that the Republican party doesn’t have its warts; rather, I say this to highlight basic Christian morality. I find it quite telling that throughout his entire article Keller conveniently avoids the topic of abortion and, perhaps, only vaguely refers to homosexuality and it is clear Keller implies it is not only possible but right for a Christian to support the Democratic party despite their rejection of the Bible concerning imago dei[ii]as it relates to murdering babies and the only rightful institution God gave the world for creating lives – Holy Matrimony between one man and one woman. Simply put, Keller is avoiding the two most important issues that face Christians in politics today and is misleading the general public who may have an interest in becoming Christians.

There are a couple of topics that Keller does repeatedly touch on though: wealth redistribution (he refers to it as helping the poor) and racism. As Keller touches on giving relief to the poor he claims that the solution is not found in “biblical command but of practical wisdom”. Keller states

“However, there are many possible ways to help the poor. Should we shrink government and let private capital markets allocate resources, or should we expand the government and give the state more of the power to redistribute wealth? Or is the right path one of the many possibilities in between? The Bible does not give exact answers to these questions for every time, place and culture.”

I disagree that the Bible is silent on this issue, given that it clearly states, “Thou shalt not steal” [iii]. When relieving the poor, it must be done through Christian charity, not by compulsion. If it is done by compulsory means, then it violates the Ten Commandments. This means that to be compatible with the Bible, Christians must vote against giving the state more power to redistribute wealth. After all, a government is just an inanimate function of orders, restrictions, processes, and systems. A government cannot cry. It does not feel. It does not have skin, or bones, or brains. A government is incapable of charity, and certainly incapable of Christian charity. Keller goes on to write about “package-deal ethics”. He states:

“This emphasis on package deals puts pressure on Christians in politics. For example, following both the Bible and the early church, Christians should be committed to racial justice and the poor, but also to the understanding that sex is only for marriage and for nurturing family. One of those views seems liberal and the other looks oppressively conservative. The historical Christian positions on social issues do not fit into contemporary political alignments.”

Keller subtly implies that the Republican Party is against the poor, and that it is racist against non-white people. These accusations are simply untrue. The Republican Party is founded on the tried-and-true belief that capitalism is the best way to alleviate the poor (previously in the article he cited this as a “”Christian liberty). Moreover, the Republican Party doesn’t believe that Critical Race Theory and intersectionality comprise the means to “racial justice”. Keller demonizes the Republican party by calling Republicans oppressive (“oppressively conservative”), and he implies that they are racist. He baselessly asserts that conservatives do not care about the poor.  Readers should note that Tim Keller did not have harsh words toward the Democrat party, as to him, their view just seems “liberal,” but not oppressively liberal.

Keller points out two common conclusions that Christians come to that he rejects, “So Christians are pushed toward two main options. One is to withdraw and try to be apolitical. The second is to assimilate and fully adopt one party’s whole package in order to have your place at the table.” I agree with him that neither of these options are acceptable. To become apolitical is to be a poor steward of what God has given us in this nation, and each person we vote for should be determined on an individual basis. The issue that Keller once again ignores is that, at the foundation of the Democrat party, there is a rejection of our God-given right to life and a corruption of God’s design for marriage. Though voting Republican may not always be an acceptable answer for Christians, unless there is repentance in the Democrat party, voting Democratically is never the answer for Christians.

[i] Duverger’s Law holds that plurality-rule elections structured within single-member districts tend to favor a two-party system.

[ii] Image of God

[iii] Exodus 20:15