The question seems as ignorant and dubious as rhetorically asking whether Palestrina invented total serialism but the Christian blogosphere being what it is ... someone (of course) has claimed that Tim Keller embraces cultural Marxism.
I can't recall hearing a single Tim Keller sermon in my life where he ever name-dropped Gramsci or Adorno or Horkheimer or Walter Benjamin or Marcuse or anyone associated with the Frankfurt school or Marx, even, but it may be a sign of what an outlandish shibboleth 'cultural Marxism' has become that Tim Keller can be accused of somehow endorsing it. Now I could see actual leftists proclaiming that Keller embraces a transformationalist neoliberal praxis of assimilation or something like that, but no actual post-Marxist thinkers I can think of would ever identify Keller as on their team.
While we should initially assume for the sake of charity that those making this accusation at him actually know what the terms means, that may not be the case for many of the readers of this post, so a few preliminary definitions-of-terms are therefore in order.
Marxism is notoriously hard to define with precision. If there is one group in the world which can match Christians in its ability to fragment indefinitely and anathematize those who claim its label while deviating on fine points of dogma, it is the Marxists. If we take the term in a narrow, historical sense, we could argue that it refers to those who think (1) that economic relationships are fundamentally constitutive of human identities, and (2) that capitalism as a system of economic organization is doomed at some point in the future to collapse under its own contradictions.
Over the years, many Marxists have accepted the basic idea that capitalism is a stage in history which will pass, but have articulated this in the context of philosophies which have different emphases. Thus, postcolonial theorists have tended to develop Marx’s thought in relation to patterns of political life connected to imperialism, colonialism and the like. For such, categories of race have come to the fore. Classic texts in this area are Frantz Fanon’s The Wretched of the Earth and the late Edward Said’s Orientalism. These provide classic examples of how Marx and the Marxist tradition were placed in service of unmasking the ways and means that those with power have maintained their status through various means—cultural, economic, political. Closely related to these are the sexual liberators like Wilhelm Reich and Herbert Marcuse who fused Marx with Freud. This approach found its logical conclusion in the pansexual political theory of a feminist like Shulamith Firestone whose 1970 book, The Dialectic of Sex, is an unabashed application of Marxist and Freudian thought to the matter of revolutionary sexual liberation.
Is Tim Keller a Marxist in how he defines these things? While I have not had the pleasure of asking him personally, I have read statements by him that indicate he believes human beings are made in the image of God. That presumably grounds his ethics. It also places him outside of the Marxist camp, belief in God being somewhat problematic in that school of thought, as (incidentally) is his Christian belief that human beings have a nature which can be defined in metaphysical, rather than contingent, historical terms.
If he is not a Marxist, it does not take a postgraduate qualification in logic to deduce that he can scarcely be a cultural Marxist. Even so, let’s indulge the critics and ask this question: Does Tim Keller’s view of the culture have parallels with the Gramscian tradition? Yes, it does in that he is a cultural transformationalist who believes that the world can be dramatically benefited by—schools, universities etc. So do the Acton Institute, Marvin Olasky and the team at World Magazine and numerous friends and colleagues in First Things circles. I hardly think they would appreciate being given the label of cultural Marxists. To want to change the culture is a desire of anyone who is dissatisfied with the status quo, not a necessary sign of commitment to dialectical materialism or a diabolical hatred of free markets.
Let me be clear—while respecting him as a brother in Christ, I am not an acolyte of Rev. Keller. I disagree at points with both his theology and philosophy of ministry. Nor do I share his love of the city. For me, cities are a necessary evil whose sole purpose is to provide country boys like me somewhere to go to the theatre once in a while. And I am definitely not an optimistic transformationalist as he is—trust me, things are going to get worse before, well, they get even worse than that. But he is no cultural Marxist, and to call him such is to reveal not the politics of the good doctor but the ignorance of the troll. It is to indulge in the spirit of this age, which eschews thoughtful argument about difficult issues for moronic and often malicious soundbites. It is not a helpful way of locating him in current debates in order to further the discussion, but rather a cheap way of pre-emptively delegitimizing him and his opinions. It is an unwarranted slur on his character, for we all know that cultural Marxism is not intended as a morally neutral term. And—I almost forgot—it is to break the Ninth Commandment about a Christian brother. And that’s a sin—not so much a sin against Tim Keller as against the God he serves.
A call out from Pulpit and Pen that Keller is a Marxist is not quite enough to convince me of Keller actually being a Marxist. I mean, come on, did not David Martyn Lloyd-Jones say in his sermon studies in the Sermon on the Mount that the communist needs Christ as much as the capitalist and that merely being anti-communist (which tends to implicitly read at an informal level as "anti-Marxist") bring no meaningful assurance that someone being anti-communist has the least bit of faith in Jesus Christ? Go read "The Salt of the Earth" sermon from Studies in the Sermon on the Mount, pages 135-136 in ISBN 978-0-8028-0036-7.
It's starting to reach a point where when I read socially conservative Christian bloggers talk about 'cultural Marxism' they often seem to think they have scored an epic win against what they regard as the cultural Marxism of more or less any Social Gospel whose socio-economic goals they dissent from but it ends up kind of being like the Mighty Monarch having a grand entrance attacking the wrong address like ... (this is a Venture Bros clip so be mindful of slightly inept Adult Swim level violence ... )
but instead of the Quicktime video of the minty-fresh entrance there's some kind of publicly accessible essay.
Since I'm pretty much against both Christian postmillenialism and Marxism for the same reason (my strong disagreement with their philosophy of history as implemented in real world terms) I find it baffling when people who say they're Reformed or "optimillenialists" rant about Marxists because as millenarian utopian readings of history go the theonomistic Dominionist "is" different from a Marxist but not necessarily always in ways that matter with respect to military history.
Trueman, if anything, soft-pedaled how similar polemical Christians and Marxists can be in hair-splitting debates about points of dogma. :)