Keith Miller Goes Home

Keith Miller, the author of The Taste of New Wine, a revolutionary Christian book, has died at the age of 84. His book has sold millions of copies and has been continuously in print since its publication in 1965. Here is his family blog, where news of his passing is posted.

I remember when I became a Christian in 1968, just as I was going into college. I had little Christian background and had not spent spent more than a few dozen hours inside a church in my life. Most of church life seemed stale then, but there was a new Christian counterculture arising in America, in bits and pieces, which, when examined, had far more exciting ideas than the other new ideas coming into popular culture (and there were many in those days).

Large numbers of excited Christians were talking about Keith's book and quoting it. It shook up a pretty starched church world of the '60s and got people to question themselves and seek a real relationship with a real God, on totally honest terms. It was all about transparency when transparency was not cool with most people. And it was about a real transparency -- which Keith modelled to the end of his life.

As William and Randy Peterson say in 100 Christian Books That Changed The Century, Miller challenged people to "a new honesty." They continue: "This idea of Christianity as a relationship rather than a religion may seem hackneyed to you now. But in 1965 it was revolutionary. . . . It was a time of pretense, both inside and outside the church. People were taught to pretend everything was okay when it wasn’t. This had to change, Miller said. 'We must realize that our fellowship is incurably crippled until and unless we recognize and face squarely the nature and extent of our deceitfulness with God, with each other, and with ourselves.'"

I could relate well, because one of the things that had kept me away from church in my youth was a perceived feeling of artificiality. Keith was real and he was a pioneer -- and he went far beyond the secular call of the age to be "REAL, man." In his book, he showed me and many others that our Age-of-Aquarius utopian vision of true identity and transparency could only be realized in a "real" relationship with God and with oneself.

Years later I would get to meet Keith, and do a little writing work with him and his wife, Andrea. (Andrea grew up in the same neighborhood I did, and we knew her family). Keith showed a lot of interest in a book I was working on about codependency and dysfunctionality within the church. It was about how even there, people can become very damaged and hurt. It was also to be a book about healing, but I was so broken myself at the time that it ended up sounding far too angry. Keith understood that, but still encouraged me and even got an editor lined up at NavPress who was really interested in the book.

As things turned out, I never sent the manuscript (and today am glad I didn't). It was too full of pain and pretty immature. But I will never forget how Keith Miller treated both the subject and me. He saw pain and hurt as something God could and would work through. He saw it as a path to healing -- in the grace of God and the power of His Spirit. A person just felt okay around Keith and sensed that there was a lot of hope and strength in being purely honest with God, and humbly honest with oneself.

I feel like an era is passing -- and I feel this generation needs someone like Keith Miller. I am sure God will again provide.


New Wine
I sill have my copy and was blessed to hear Keith Miller along with Elton Trueblood, a mutual mentor, at a Festival of Hope in the 70s.

"This idea of Christianity as a relationship rather than a religion ..."
makes a classic mistake. This is a sad state of mind for those who cannot handle “the holy conjunction”=AND.

Over a half century ago, Elton Trueblood described our culture as a cut-flower society. Cut off from its roots, it withers and dies. Anyone who is rooted in the history of the first two millenia of Christianity knows that those from Augustine to Wesley to Trueblood, wrote of true religion versus false religion. But today, many have abandoned truth and smothered it with experience.

This points to a major ‘disease’ of our day. C.S. Lewis provided an antidote for the spirit of our times, for any who wish to take the medicine, with his rule for reading:
“…after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one…keep the clean sea breeze of the centuries blowing through our minds…”
Keith Miller
I came to Christ in the early 70's. I remember reading Keith's book and finding it to be eye opening at the time. Interestingly enough, as loving and accepting as he was, he did believe in an external reality and in right and wrong. I had a Christian friend who had drifted from the faith but liked his book. I told her he was speaking at a well known church in Pasadena. She went to the talk and said she really liked him but, "He mentioned sin a little too much for me".
What a wonderful tribute, Alan. I look forward to reading his material.

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