Tim Keller in The Atlantic

Posted on 22 February, 2011

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Eleanor Barkhorn gave Tim Keller a nice interview in The Atlantic yesterday (“How Timothy Keller Spreads the Gospel in New York City, and Beyond”). The occasion? Tim’s latest book, King’s Cross: The Story of the World in the Life of Jesus, is released today.

My favorite part of the interview? Pastor Keller’s easy and natural deference to the glory of God.

As you were writing King’s Cross, was there anything you learned about the Gospel of Mark that you hadn’t noticed before?

No one thing. I’ll tell you, the thing I struggle with is doing justice to it. When I’m preaching I don’t quite get the same— When you’re writing a book, you feel like you’re putting something down. It’s a little more permanent. And therefore I actually struggled just with a feeling like I’m not doing justice to the material, which is the Gospel of Mark, or more directly, Jesus himself. There’s a true story, evidently, of [Arturo] Toscanini. He was director of the NBC Symphony Orchestra years ago, here in New York. And there was some place where he had just conducted—actually it was just a rehearsal. He conducted a Beethoven symphony. And he did such an incredible job with it that when it was all done, the musicians gave him a standing ovation. And he started to cry. He literally started to cry, and he actually had them sit down, and he wouldn’t let them applaud, and then he said, “It’s not me, it wasn’t me, it was Beethoven.”

Now, what he’s getting across there is a feeling like, “I’m just trying to do justice to the material.” And usually I don’t. And if occasionally I do ok, you shouldn’t be applauding me. It’s just, I got out of the way. I just got out of the way and we actually heard how great the music was. And I feel the same struggle. I’m just trying to get out of the way. And you can’t. In other words, when you’re actually reading, and you’re getting directly a sense of the greatness and the attractiveness of Jesus—and by the way, to say he’s attractive doesn’t mean he’s warm and toasty all the time. I mean, sometimes he’s scary, but he’s still attractive. I just want to say, I want other people to have the same experience I’ve had as I’ve read. And I never quite get there. So I struggled with that, a lot. And it was a huge struggle to write. It’s a lot harder to write than it is to speak. There’s something about speaking that’s impermanent. You think, “Well, I can do it again next time.” But with a book, I didn’t feel that way.

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