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566: Tim Keller, American Poverty, & the Legacy of Rich Mullins with James Bryan Smith

Influential pastor, author, and apologist, Tim Keller, passed away last week. We reflect on Keller’s ministry and wonder who is filling the shoes of the Christian giants we’ve lost. A new book about poverty says that the U.S. spends more on welfare than any other country except France, but the majority goes to help the wealthy and middle-class rather than the poor. Why aren’t we doing more to end poverty, and is our view of the Bible to blame? Then, it’s been 25 years since Rich Mullins died. Skye talks to Mullins’ friend James Bryan Smith about the songwriter’s inspiring life and legacy. Plus, Matthew Soerens shares some good news from the Southern border.

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0:00 - Sponsor - World Relief

0:49 - Intro

3:08 - Show Starts

3:51 - Theme Song

4:12 - Remembering Tim Keller

25:51 - News of the Good

36:01- American Poverty


1:03:06 - Sponsor: Wheaton Grad School

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1:04:11 - Sponsor: Faithful Counseling

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1:05:17 - Interview Intro - James Bryan Smith

1:07:09 - How Rich and Bryan became friends

1:13:07 - Rich’s uniqueness and authenticity

1:25:53 - Rich’s reliance on God

1:35:20 - End Credits

Links mentioned in news segment:

Tim Keller Practiced the Grace He Preached

Title 42 has ended. Here’s what it did, and how US immigration policy is changing

Support World Relief

How America Manufactures Poverty

Other resources:

Rich Mullins (25th Anniversary Edition): An Arrow Pointing to Heaven by James Bryan Smith

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TJ MacDougall
TJ MacDougall
May 28, 2023

I agree that proof-texting is a bad way to use scripture, but the thing is you could easily find dozens of texts talking about support for the poor (Deut 15 is one example). The problem in this case is not a lack of specific textual support, but a very selective reading of the text that conveniently ignores large portions of it.


A little late, but I wonder if you ever heard the story of the evangelical pastor in South Dakota who teamed up with a former Obama advisor to severely curtail payloan loans?

It killed the industry there, it ended a massive business Tourist Trap/Pawn Shop built with payday profits, a new music arena, it killed a radio station (now Catholic) paid for with profits, and ended with a loan shark facing lawsuits and being driven out of the state.

Jun 23, 2023
Replying to

Here is an excellent documentary about churches partnering against Pay Day Loan companies in Texas -


Loved the segment on Tim Keller. I deeply appreciated his thoughtful, intellectual & compassionate approach to both interpreting and presenting the Gospel. A little bit disappointed in the discussion on poverty. It was pretty clear none of you have an economics background. The big problem with this topic is it's very nuanced with some truth on all sides. Advocates and politicians alike have become expert at just talking about the "truths" that support their point of view. There's not unlimited money. And you can't solve poverty just by reallocating what we already have. That said, you can do a lot better than we're doing, but that requires acknowledging tradeoffs and making compromises instead of pretending one side is right and…

Replying to

I am curious specifically around the economic drawbacks of providing financial help to people living in poverty. Please note that I am coming at this topic completely from the viewpoint of a physician and not an economist. There is starting to be a surge in research that ties providing cash to the poor with improving health outcomes. I can provide one of many such studies below. The creativity around providing cash has also been interesting - some hospitals and clinics provide financial counselors who help patients and families apply for things like child tax credits which is an indirect way of ensuring that more money stays in a family’s pocket. This study shows that cash transfer decreased child and maternal…


I was pleasantly surprised to see Rich Mullins' name pop up in the title when I was looking through my podcast feed, and I very much enjoyed listening to this interview about him. My parents were acquaintances (I will say friends, though perhaps not quite among the very intimate friends you describe) of Rich going back to the Cincinnati Bible College days, as my parents both studied there for some time in the mid-late 70s. While I didn't meet him in person as far as I recall, and I was only 10 when he passed, his music was a presence in my home throughout my childhood, and I still listen to it often as adult. It has always stood out…


Lauren Patrus
Lauren Patrus
May 24, 2023

Always so grateful for y’all’s conversations. But as you discussed Keller and his legacy, there was some pretty significant mischaracterization with what happened with the award from PTS. It was said the award was retracted due to “outrage“. That’s not what happened.

When it was announced that Keller was the recipient, a group of students and alumni wrote a letter explaining their disappointment that someone who denied their ordination would be awarded by the seminary, and asking the committee to take their concern into consideration in the future. The students/alumni did not formally request a retraction.

The letter led to Keller and then President Craig Barnes having a conversation, and they together came up with the compromise that Keller would…

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