For those who don't know, Tim Keller (a pastor I generally enjoy) spoke at the Gospel Coalition Conference and, well, his comment below made the headlines, summarized beneath.
Keller illustrated the point by talking about a tactic, one that he admittedly said was almost too cruel to use, that an old college pastor associate of his used when catching up with college students who were home from school. He’d ask them to grab coffee with him to catch up on life. When he’d come to the state of their spiritual lives, they’d often hem and haw, talking about the difficulties and doubts now that they’d taken a little philosophy, or maybe a science class or two, and how it all started to shake the foundations. At that point, he’d look at them and ask one question, “So who have you been sleeping with?” Shocked, their faces would inevitably fall and say something along the lines of, “How did you know?” or a real conversation would ensue. Keller pointed out that it’s a pretty easy bet that when you have a kid coming home with questions about evolution or philosophy, or some such issue, the prior issue is a troubled conscience. Honestly, as a Millennial and college director myself, I’ve seen it with a number of my friends and students—the Bible unsurprisingly starts to become a lot more “doubtful” for some of them once they’d had sex.For the source, here it is.
I admire Keller's honesty so I will be equally as honest. I come from a conservative background and didn't really learn much about the "art" of sex until Bill Clinton made his way into the glad rags at the grocery store. From there, it was much ado about something. Sex became a staunch preoccupation and I soon became an agnostic. However, the sequence is far removed from Keller's suggestion in that I was already on my way to deistic agnosticism when I was roughly 13. For doubt preceeded sexual exploration at that time.
The very interesting thing is that I'm still a virgin, having been with Allison for almost four years. To many people I know, this is odd. To others, I deserve a medal from the President. What I find interesting is the idea of doubt playing a key role in how we doubt or how we find difficulties in the text.
Within the past year, I've discovered textual criticism and found numerous discrepancies in the text of the New Testament. I've found that we don't have the original copies and the Gospels are difficult to harmonize. This happened after I'd made a point of staying faithful to Allison and keeping myself as faithful as possible. Though sex itself is on the mind, doubt and difficulties arose from simple and honest exploration of the text of the New Testament.
I didn't doubt traditional gender roles because I was sleeping around I didn't doubt the nature of eternal punishment because I was sleeping around (I wasn't in case that was abundantly clear).
I doubted them because I found them textually and exegetically inadequate.
The same for the nature of eternal punishment and the same for varying theories of the atonement.
I doubted simply because I was as honest as I could be with the text. There are many of us who simply arrive at the text, shake our heads and change our minds. This allows nuance and perspective and doubt to spur us on.
Tim Keller is a generous individual, and I doubt that he expects this comment to be universally applicable. In fact, I would be surprised if he did. However, I do worry that his comment may spur on other theologians and pastors to exercise the same type of confrontation, and if this could lead to more problems.
Sex could certainly be a factor for some. But in my personal experience, it has little to do with it.
For those interested in a similar but more in-depth perspective, enjoy Micah's post.