As we continue to look at the theology of Tim Keller, we’ll look at some of the people he has endorsed, promoted and otherwise been associated with. A lot of times we are able to tell more about a pastor by who he associates with and endorses than by what he’s actually willing to say publicly.Ron Choong (pronounced “Chung”), is a man with whom Tim Keller has been closely associated over the years. For many years Ron taught Sunday classes at Redeemer. Ron now has a ministry called ACT (Academy for Christian Thought). And Tim Keller has sat on the board of this ministry. So Keller, while being fully aware of Choong’s heretical teachings, has enthusiastically promoted and endorsed him over the years. Choong is also an ordained Presbyterian (PCA) minister.
In a minute we’ll look at some of Choong’s disturbing beliefs and ask how Tim Keller could endorse and enthusiastically promote him and work so closely with him for so many years and yet still claim to be a Biblically-orthodox Christian pastor. The question that can’t help but be asked is how could a Biblically-orthodox pastor promote someone whose teachings are designed to cast considerable doubt upon the veracity and credibility of the Bible?
Daniel Mann is a teacher at the New York School of the Bible and runs an outdoor evangelism ministry here in New York City. He is also a seminary graduate and despite that, he has remained true to the faith! Daniel has attended many of Ron’s classes and has had several email conversations with Ron on points where they disagree.
Following is an email conversation Mann had with Choong, that has been previously published online. I post it here because it reveals so much about the man who has had a prominent teaching position at Tim Keller’s Redeemer for many years. And he continues to influence many of Redeemer’s young up and coming leaders who attend his ACT classes in large numbers.
There are three emails here. The first one is from Daniel Mann to Ron Choong asking Choong if he would like to comment on an article Mann was going to publish in response to Choong’s teachings. The second is Choong’s response and the third is Daniel’s final response. Note that this class was taught by Choong at Redeemer Presbyterian Church NYC. In other words, this class was approved by Tim Keller.
DANIEL MANN’S ORIGINAL EMAIL (2010)
I was glad to be able to sit in your class several weeks ago. Below, I attached a mini-essay written in response. Before I send it out, I wanted to give you an opportunity to respond.
Your Brother in Christ,
Choose You this Day
In February 2010, my wife and I attended a Ron Choong (Academy for Christian Thought) seminar at Redeemer Presbyterian Church, NYC, on the doctrine of humanity. Choong concluded:
“Adam and Eve were probably collective names describing a community of hominids [pre-humans] selected by God for moral cognition.”
As innocuous to the Christian faith as this statement might sound, it contradicts NT teaching and consequently, the credibility of the entire Bible.
In opposition to Choong’s thesis, Luke regarded Adam as a single actual individual – “son of God” – according to the genealogy that he recounts (3:38). As all the other people in Luke’s genealogy were actual individuals, we should assume that this also pertains to Adam. (Through its genealogies, the OT also identifies Adam as an historic individual.) Jude 1:14 also suggests that Adam was a single man from whom all others descended.
Although Jesus didn’t mention Adam and Eve by name, He indisputably made reference to them as individuals, not a “community of hominids”: “…at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh'” (Matthew 19:4-6 quoting Gen. 1:27 and then Gen. 2:24). Jesus then states that because God had joined man and woman together, they should not be separated. This couldn’t possibly refer to not separating a “community of hominids.” Nevertheless, according to Choong, God had separated them from their ape-like brethren to make them human.
Paul literally identifies Adam as “one man” (Romans 5:12, 15, 17). He also identifies Jesus as his corollary, the One who will correct the chaos created by the other man. As Jesus isn’t a “community,” so too Adam isn’t!
Furthermore, in both this passage and also 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, Paul validates the account of the Fall (Genesis 3) in which sin and death entered into the world entered the world through one man. In contrast to this, according to Choong, death, and perhaps sin also, had already been in the world for millions of years.
Once again, in 1 Corinthians 15:45-49, Paul affirms the Genesis 2 account, where God breathed into Adam who then became a single “living soul” – singular! He also corroborates the fact that, while Eve succumbed to the temptation, the single individual Adam, not a community, had not been deceived (1 Tim. 2:13-14 quoting Gen. 3).
Paul also attests to the fact that Adam was formed before Eve (1 Tim. 2:13). If “Adam and Eve” had been “collective names” for a tribe of hominids, it would be impossible to say that Adam was formed first.
The biblical evidence is overwhelmingly uniform that “Adam and Eve” were two individuals and not a collection of hominids. The choice is very straight-forward. Either we allow evolution to determine what the Bible is teaching or we embrace the Bible as pre-eminent and allow it to determine how we should think (2 Cor. 10:4-5).
We can’t have it both ways (Matthew 6:23-24). We can’t add to the Word interpretations that just aren’t there (Deut. 4:2; 12:32; Rev 22:18-19). Paul warns that the stakes are indeed high:
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8).
RON CHOONG’S (Redeemer Presbyterian Church New York City, 2010) RESPONSE TO DANIEL MANN’S ORIGINAL EMAIL:
Thank you for your response. I remember answering your questions with reasons for my conclusions but again, your ‘response’ here did not engage with my thoughts. I can only conclude that you are not really serious about an intelligent and mutually respectful engagement among fellow believers but rather, seek a name-calling polemic. Unfortunately, as a missionary, I have to be accountable to the time I spend on such encounters.
You have followed my seminars for years now with the same questions to which I have always answered in a civil fashion. This is then followed by public writings denouncing my conclusions. If by copying Tim Keller and Terry Gyger, you hope to draw their attention to my views, I can save you a lot of trouble. All my views about Adam and Eve have been published for more than 10 years and Redeemer as a church as well as Dr Keller as a minister have never had any objections to my non-doctrinal interpretations.
This means that while I hold to a certain view of who Adam might mean, no church doctrine in the history of the church has ever made this a litmus test of faith. No one should get their knickers in a twist over whether Adam was a collective or a singularity. We simply have no idea, so we go with evidence from as broad a compass as possible. To cite ‘biblical evidence’ is naive. The Bible does not offer evidence. It offers trustworthy ‘accounts’ by those who believe and should not be degenerated to become ‘evidence. This cheapens the high view of scriptures that we ought to hold. Ironically, to make the bible proof of God is to reduce its status to that of mere historical or scientific values.
This is an unworthy and feeble attempt at apologetics. Both historical analyses and scientific inferences are second-order cognitive operations that we are learning to use as we decipher God’s general revelation to us. Spiritual accounts need not bow down to any adjudication by either history or the sciences. Rather, these fields of inquiry are useful in helping us weed our our false premises and biased judgments.
For me, that Adam is a collective name is so satisfying because it explains a great deal about the loving God whose mightiness science is only just beginning to appreciate. I hope one day, you too will marvel at the greatness and goodness of God. (Note the personal insults throughout this email).
Indeed, anyone who has attended any seminary will soon learn that no creedal statements about the specific identity of Adam exists. The name is not mentioned in any ancient creed and Paul uses the word metaphorically (it is a good idea to do some real, reputable reading of the NT commentaries).
Since you have already made this a public statement in your copies to others, I can only assume that it is not in fact, a pre-publication invitation to respond.
Let me close by assuring you that the reason I remain a very committed biblical christian because – science in itself is merely an explanatory evidence of data, it has no competence to adjudicate the existence of God. The Bible, on the other hand, is a marvelous account of God’s encounter with human ancestors and gives us so much data that it draws us to the sciences to explain much of that data. Science cannot add data. It only explains data we receive from our 5 senses.
E.g., the telescope did not invent the size of the universe to undermine our early beliefs that the stars are attached to a fixed cloth ‘above’ a flat Earth and the microscope did not invent germs to undermine many of our beliefs that all illnesses were caused by demons. They change our understanding of what we already observe with our eyes. So evolutionary [sic] by natural selection did not create the specific shapes of the tortoise shells on the Galapagos Islands. The animals were already there long before Darwin saw and measured them.
Like philosophy, Christians should not avoid science, but rather do good science because there is so much bad science around – as when Richard Dawkins use his incredible talents to force biology to make a theological statement.
We should also beware not to do this ourselves, i.e., by using theology to make scientific statements.
Daniel, my brother in the Lord, I wish you well in your endeavors for the Lord.
DANIEL MANN’S RESPONSE TO THE ABOVE EMAIL
Thanks for your response. These issues regarding what the Bible teaches – whether just spiritual or both spiritual and physical – go far beyond the two of us, to the very heart of the Gospel, the Church, and the Christian faith. The ideas with which we wrestle are powerful, able to penetrate so deeply that they can transform many of the other things that we believe and hold sacred. Regarding this, I like what the Christian evolutionist Karl Giberson wrote in his book Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution. Borrowing from Daniel Dennett, he talked about the corrosive power of Darwin’s theory as an acid, dissolving away many other beliefs in its path:
“Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science…[Darwin’s] acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, “Christ as the second Adam,” the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.” (9-10)
I mention this because I think that the Church needs to be cognizant of the corrosive effects of this theory upon everything that we hold sacred. You responded,
“No one should get their knickers in a twist over whether Adam was a collective or a singularity. We simply have no idea, so we go with evidence from as broad a compass as possible. To cite ‘biblical evidence’ is naive. The Bible does not offer evidence. It offers trustworthy ‘accounts’ by those who believe and should not be degenerated to become ‘evidence. This cheapens the high view of scriptures that we ought to hold. Ironically, to make the bible proof of God is to reduce its status to that of mere historical or scientific values.”
While I’m glad that you’re willing to go with the evidence regarding Adam and Eve, it seems that you’re only willing to go with some of it, because you claim that “The Bible does not offer evidence.” I’m therefore assuming that you are going with the “evidence” provided by the theory of evolution to the exclusion of the “non-existent” Biblical evidence.
In excluding the Biblical evidence, because it allegedly “cheapens the high view of scriptures to which we ought to hold,” you seem to be committing the “either-or” fallacy. Either the Bible is evidence or it’s something far more transcendent. Why limit Scripture to one or the other? Why not both?
Clearly, Scripture is multi-layered and shouldn’t be limited to one perspective. Rather, it is more than wholistic. It nurtures both spirit and also intellect, in that it provides evidences – and many of them. It gives testimony to miracles performed before nations, prophecies which have found fulfillment even before the unbelieving disciples:
• Acts 1:3 After his suffering, he showed himself to these men and gave many convincing proofs that he was alive. He appeared to them over a period of forty days and spoke about the kingdom of God.
• Deut. 4:35-39 You were shown these things so that you might know that the LORD is God; besides him there is no other. From heaven he made you hear his voice to discipline you. On earth he showed you his great fire, and you heard his words from out of the fire… Acknowledge and take to heart this day that the LORD is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other.
Our Lord never intended faith to be a leap into the darkness, but rather a step out into the manifest light of supportive evidences that He has made apparent to His people. Faith was never intended as something that would just warm the heart, but also as a gift that would illuminate the mind. When John sent his disciples to Jesus to confirm that He was the Messiah, Jesus didn’t send them back to the imprisoned John with the message, “Just tell Him to believe,” but instead satisfied his legitimate rational yearnings with the evidences of His miracles (Matthew 11).
After God had encountered Moses in the desert, Moses asked Him why the Israelites should believe that he had had an encounter with God. God didn’t tell Moses, “Just tell the Israelites to believe.” Instead, he equipped Moses with a set of miraculous evidences to prove that God was truly with them (Exodus 3-4).
In contrast, you refuse to regard the Biblical evidence consisting of what the NT says about Adam and Eve. Instead, you assert:
“To cite ‘biblical evidence’ is naive. The Bible does not offer evidence. It offers trustworthy ‘accounts’ by those who believe and should not be degenerated to become ‘evidence. This cheapens the high view of scriptures…”
How does this “cheapen Scriptures?” Did the NT writers “cheapen Scripture” by quoting the OT as evidence in support of their teachings?
By denying proofs and the verifying physical-world evidences, theistic (Christian) evolutionists are undermining the very cognitive foundations of the Christian faith that have contributed to our confidence since the first century. They attempt to illegitimately divide the world into its physical (science) and spiritual (Scripture) in order to make peace with Darwin, thereby seemingly to confine Darwin to the physical world and Scripture to the spiritual.
However, there is nothing, either in science or in Scripture that gives warrant to this separation. Science attempts to say a lot about the spiritual world of prayer, ecstatic experience, and even the origins of morality, while Scripture says a lot about the physical/historical world. They are inseparable. As we can’t separate the history of the Cross from the theology of the Cross, we also can’t separate Adam and Eve from the bundles of intersecting theological teachings derived from their lives. Nor can we deny their historicity without doing damage to the rest of the Bible, which builds its theology from their real and historical lives.
While neither of us wants to eliminate either Scripture or science from our worldview considerations, you seem to have placed the contemporary scientific consensus in the drivers’ seat to lord-it over Scripture. Therefore, “Adam and Eve” have become collective terms for groupings of pre-human hominids against everything that Scripture affirms about them. In positing this, you have undermined the confidence of your students regarding the clear meaning and unity of Scripture. If we can’t believe what Paul and Jesus said about Adam and Eve, how can we believe their theological formulations? If we can’t believe what the Bible says about the physical world, how should we even begin to believe what it teaches about the spiritual?
In this, you have given us a poignant example of what happens when we try to serve two masters (Matthew 6:23-24). One must prevail! And it always seems to be Darwin over Jesus. However, for the Christian, the Word of God must prevail (2 Cor. 10:4-5) over all rivals. (Although I agree with you that science can play an interpretive role as can all scholarship and experience, properly understood.)
Once again, thank you for responding. These issues are just too important to not be aired. The Church needs to know the profound implications of the doctrinal turns it takes. I look forward to any further communication.
Your Brother in Christ, Daniel
“See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Col. 2:8).
Ron Choong lists Redeemer Presbyterian Church NYC as a “Sponsor of ACT” on his website. And he lists Tim Keller as a member of his “Board of Reference”: http://www.actministry.org/content.php?navid=2&cid=28
10 Replies to “Ron Choong’s Ties to Tim Keller and Choong’s Heretical Teachings”
I received a Ron Choong book titled “World’s Oldest Bible”from my sister-in-law, who is acquainted with him. As I read through various sections, my concerns mounted. For example, quoting from his Introduction, “They evolved a larynx capable of vibrating air precisely enough to form acoustic waves with a hearing system to detect and transform the waves into electrical signals for a brain wired to decipher the neurological perception of sound.” He refers to this as a “co-evolution”, to which I would ask Mr. Choong, “were you there?”
Not to be dismissive, but this book seems more a defense of his own cosmology that a treatise on the Dead Sea Scrolls and his worldview does not include a historical Adam, this without apology to Biblical authors and the Lord Jesus, who considered otherwise.
Mr. Choong, your theology is not validated by who is cognizant of it, for how many years, or how long it’s been published.
Jonathan, I’ve heard and read from more than one person that Martin Luther wanted to (or did) throw the NT book of James into a river. I do not think that is faithful to the Bible that I believe and trust. Also I’ve seen the word heretic used referring to Ron Choong.
Martin Luther was wrong about some things, and he was considered to be a heretic by the well established Church in his time. The Lord made him to be a useful vessel for His purpose.
That’s true Neal. God used Luther as a useful vessel because Luther’s teachings were faithful to the Bible. Choong’s aren’t.
And in today’s environment, Choong isn’t considered a heretic! So, according to your theory that being considered a heretic by the establishment makes you useful, then if you follow that logic, you’d have to conclude that Choong isn’t useful.
Excellent defense of the literal understanding of Adam and Eve. I agree that the Genesis creation story is indisputably key to Christianity and the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It seems to me that creation has, in so many christian minds, been relegated to the “disputable issues” arena and should not be considered in defining true Christian faith. So many Christians are willing to sacrifice Truth to maintain peace or unity within the Church. Jeremiah 6:14 “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.” (NIV)
Tim Keller’s flier about “Tasting God”, posted on John Piper’s Desiring God website, is sacrilegious and the antithesis of fearing the Lord, which is the beginning of wisdom…and the opposite of “mortifying the deeds of the flesh.” But what ultimately dooms Keller is his collaboration and speaking a Rick Warren’s church. Piper is also a Warren collaborator, but worse, has accused good Berean authors of slander for exposing the false teachings in Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life book which also promotes mysticism and emergent authors. Keller also works with Mark Dever who touts Rick Warren. For more information see: http://www.perfectpeaceplan.com.
That’s how the snake talked to Eve in the garden. Choong’s voice drips with sarcasm, pride, insolence, love of lies and high blasphemy against the God of heaven. If you think we are disgusted by such evil, think of how patient and loving God is not to strike this man dead instantly and cast his soul into the lake that burns with fire and brimstone. Thank you LORD for all your mercies in Jesus Christ out Lord.
Choong is not a brother in Christ. He is a false teacher. John MacArthur says that the greatest problem in the church in the last one hundred years is our inability to discern a true christian from a false christian. God help us, how are we ever going to know who to evangelize and who to fellowship with if we can’t tell the difference?
Geoff, you summed it up well. I completely agree with your assessment.
So then were BB Warfield, and Charles Spurgeon both Satanic teachers to whom God’s mercies should be praised for not striking them down instantly and sending them into Hell considering that the former was a theistic evolution and the latter an Old Earther who believed death existed before the Fall?
I was a regular at Ron’s classes for a few years. I gave him a fair shot. I do not recall exactly the things he said this one lecture, but I do remember that he made me so concerned that immediately after class I approached him to ask a question, “Is there any reason why you should believe in the Bible?” His response was like this, “I don’t know why I should believe in the Bible.” Its so disturbing because I can’t understand how he can arrive at the Gospel without viewing the accounts in the Bible as reliable. At the same time, he justifies his own belief by calling it “faith”. I can only wonder what he means by faith. I think it must be faith heavily imbued by his own creative imaginings and theories.