Princeton Seminary rescinds award to Tim Keller: What does it mean?

Princeton Theological Seminary was recently embroiled in controversy over its decision to give the Kuyper Award to Pastor Tim Keller. The award is supposed to go to a “scholar or community leader whose outstanding contribution to their chosen sphere reflects the ideas and values characteristic of the Neo-Calvinist vision of religious engagement in matters of social, political and cultural significance” (source).

As an accomplished pastor and missiologist, Keller certainly meets that description. So why the controversy? Members of the Princeton Seminary community and constituency believe that Keller has disqualified himself from receiving this award. So earlier today under pressure from these groups, the President of Princeton Seminary rescinded the award. Here’s how the president explained his decision: Continue Reading →

Top Ten Memories of OneDay 2000

Sarah Zylstra has a really fun piece over at The Gospel Coalition about John Piper’s famous “seashell” sermon from the 2000 Passion Conference called “OneDay.” I was at OneDay, and I had a great time recounting my memories of that event in a brief interview with Sarah several weeks ago. Of course there was a lot that we talked about that did not make it into the article. For that reason, I thought would briefly jot down some of those thoughts here. So here are my top ten memorable memories of the memorable occasion known as OneDay 2000. Continue Reading →

Are You a Scoffer?

Yesterday, we learned from Psalm 1:1-2 that “blessedness” is “happiness.” If you want to be a happy person, you have to avoid being like the wicked, the sinners, and the scoffers (v. 1). The root of blessedness—indeed of true happiness—is knowing God through His word (v. 2).

There is one other item that we need to look at from verse one—the word translated as “scoffers.” Perhaps it is not too difficult to comprehend what David means by “the wicked” and “the sinners,” for in both cases he is talking about law-breakers. But what is a scoffer, and how do we avoid sitting in his seat? We can answer both questions by looking at how the Bible describes the scoffer. Continue Reading →

Where does happiness come from?

Sometimes English translations of Psalm 1:1-2 conceal the real point of the text. I have in mind the words that are commonly translated as “blessed” and “delight.” Take the NASB for example:

1 How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked,
Nor stand in the path of sinners,
Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!
2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
And in His law he meditates day and night.

The NASB has not mistranslated these two terms. It in fact tracks right along with many other major English versions (e.g., ESV, NIV, RSV). The problem is not translation, but tradition. Continue Reading →

A remarkable display of self-unaware inconsistency

The video above is a remarkable display of self-unaware inconsistency.

These students are asked if a creative professional has the freedom to decline work that conflicts with his or her personal beliefs. All of the students said “yes” when the creative professional was the dress designer refusing to make a dress for Melania Trump or a Muslim singer refusing to sing in a Christian Church.

But when they are asked if a Christian photographer should be able to decline to work at a same-sex wedding, they all said “no.”

They favor limiting the freedom of conscientious Christians even though they wouldn’t limit the freedom of other conscientious citizens in analogous situations. The inconsistency seems totally lost on all of these students. And it exemplifies why religious freedom faces perilous challenges right now in our country.

(HT: Andrew Walker)

Cheap grace is no grace at all

In his book The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer describes in vivid terms what he means by cheap grace:

Cheap grace is the deadly enemy of our Church…

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, a principle, a system. It means forgiveness of sins proclaimed as a general truth, the love of God taught as the Christian ‘conception’ of God. An intellectual assent to that idea is held to be of itself sufficient to secure remission of sins… In such a Church the world finds a cheap covering for its sins; no contrition is required, still less any real desire to be delivered from sin. Cheap grace therefore amounts to a denial of the living Word of God, in fact, a denial of the Incarnation of the Word of God.
Continue Reading →

“Beauty and the Beast” to feature an “exclusively gay moment”

If you and your children enjoyed Disney’s live-action version of Cinderella, perhaps you have been looking forward to the March 17 release of the live-action version of Beauty and the Beast. Unfortunately, news has leaked that might temper that enthusiasm.

The director of Beauty and the Beast, Bill Condon, has told a British publication that the new movie will contain an “exclusively gay moment.” According to Condon, Gaston’s sidekick LeFou will be involved in a subplot in which he is wrestling with his sexuality. In director Condon’s own words:

“LeFou is somebody who on one day wants to be Gaston and on another day wants to kiss Gaston… He’s confused about what he wants. It’s somebody who’s just realising that he has these feelings. And Josh [the actor who plays LeFou] makes something really subtle and delicious out of it. And that’s what has its payoff at the end, which I don’t want to give away. But it is a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie.”

Obviously, the precise depiction of this “exclusively gay moment” is not revealed in the interview. But the editor of the magazine publishing the interview says this:

“It may have been a long time coming but this is a watershed moment for Disney… By representing same-sex attraction in this short but explicitly gay scene, the studio is sending out a message that this is normal and natural – and this is a message that will be heard in every country of the world, even countries where it’s still socially unacceptable or even illegal to be gay… It’s only a first step towards creating a cinematic world that reflects the one in which many of us are now proud to live. But it’s a step in the right direction and I applaud Disney for being brave enough to make it – and in doing so hopefully helping to change attitudes and bring about real social progress.” [underline mine]

Some have suggested that perhaps this news is a publicity stunt and that the depiction may not be as explicit as the director suggests. We cannot be sure until the movie is released. Nevertheless, The Washington Post reports that “the live-action ‘Beauty and the Beast’ will bring an overt depiction of a gay man to the big screen.”

This news is not surprising for anyone familiar with Disney’s pro-gay stance in its corporate practices. Increasingly, these themes have been detected in the content of its films. But now, it looks like Disney is poised to do something more explicit than it has in the past—to introduce an “exclusively gay moment” in a film marketed to children.

Even though I’m not surprised by this, I am disappointed by it. My own children were delighted by the live-action Cinderella that came out in 2015. It was really well done. For that reason, we have been looking forward with great anticipation for another well-done production. But if these reports are true, we won’t be seeing this one.

The reason is very simple. I am not going to let a movie studio communicate to my children that sexual immorality is “normal and natural.” This movie will no doubt be packaged in a narrative and a production value designed to capture their imaginations, but it will do so in a way that conceals a false and destructive message. To let them see this material would go against everything that I am trying to teach them about the good, the beautiful, and the true. If these reports are accurate, this movie would powerfully subvert that effort.

We have to be constantly vigilant about what stories capture our children’s imaginations—even stories from places like Disney. In fact, I should stipulate, especially from sources like Disney. As one friend put it to me:

We don’t allow Disney into our house, except for the older stuff. They are wicked engineers of the imagination. The corruption of the best is the worst.

My friend’s point is a simple one. Our minds and our consciences are shaped more by the stories that frame our experience than by anything else. The story-tellers, therefore, are the “engineers of the imagination.” They can influence and shape us for the good or for ill. They can either reflect or deflect our moral imagination from the true story of the world—and there is but one true story. Virtue involves not only knowing that story but also living life within its frame of reference.

Beautiful productions with compelling stories and sympathetic characters are powerful devices for shaping worldview and imagination. If those devices are turned against the true story of the world—the one featuring a Creator who made us, loves us, and provides a way to redeem us—then they are subversive to what is best for us. And that is where we must be vigilant—not only for our children but for ourselves.

Disney has put me and many other parents like me in the position of having to explain to very small children why this movie is bad for them. But we will do it. And we will use it as a teachable moment about the true story of the world—a story in which we are strangers and aliens in a place that is not our home (1 Peter 2:11). Moments like this one bring that truth home in spades, and it is a lesson best learned early before there is more on the line than the screening of a Disney movie.

Gerson Gives away the Farm. Engagement is not acquiescence.

In his most recent editorial, Michael Gerson highlights a new film that celebrates shifting “evangelical” attitudes concerning LGBT issues. Gerson contends that evangelicals should not be confused with fundamentalists and that evangelicals are in fact changing their views on sexuality to fit in with late modernity in the wake of the sexual revolution. It’s a little hard to tell what Michael Gerson intends in this editorial. Is this a thought experiment—a pensive response to a thought-provoking film? Or is this a celebration of those “evangelicals” who believe homosexuality and Christianity are compatible? I’m trying to be generous here, but it really does sound like the latter. Continue Reading →

Pursue God, Not Pornography

Pornography is such a pervasive evil. It is eviscerating our civilization and even our churches. I continue to be burdened that this ubiquitous evil in our culture has become such a ubiquitous evil in our pews. That was the occasion for my message yesterday in the chapel of Southern Seminary and Boyce College. View it above or listen below.

Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything

By now you may have already heard the news that the Washington State Supreme Court has rejected Barronelle Stutzman’s appeal. Here is the report from the Associated Press:

The Washington Supreme Court ruled unanimously Thursday that a florist who refused to provide services for a same-sex wedding broke the state’s antidiscrimination law, even though she claimed doing so would violate her religious beliefs.

Barronelle Stutzman, a florist in Richland, Washington, had been fined by a lower court for denying service to a gay couple in 2013. Stutzman said she was exercising her First Amendment rights.

But the court held that her floral arrangements do not constitute protected free speech, and that providing flowers to a same-sex wedding would not serve as an endorsement of same-sex marriage…

Stutzman’s lawyers immediately said they would ask the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the decision.

Readers of this blog know that I have already written extensively about this case on this site over the last several years. Readers will not be surprised that I find this decision from the Washington Supreme Court to be a fundamental miscarriage of justice—a trampling of religious liberty. As I have written previously for CNN.com, this is what yesterday’s decision means:

The decision against Stutzman sets a dreadful precedent against our first freedom in the Bill of Rights: religious liberty. The court says that she is free to believe what she wants, but not to practice her religious beliefs. The court has ruled that if she wants to run a business in the state of Washington, she must defy her conscience and participate in same-sex weddings. If she does not, then the full coercive power of the state — as well as civil liability — will be brought against her.

Keep in mind that Stutzman does not refuse service to gay people. Indeed she had been selling flowers to this gay couple for nine years. She has also employed gay people in her flower shop. She had a friendship with the man suing her and cared for him personally and wished for her relationship with him to continue. She simply could not defy her conscience and lend her creative talent to help celebrate what her faith says she cannot celebrate. She had no idea that staying true to her faith would end up threatening her entire livelihood and savings.

We are witnessing a shift in our society — a shift which inevitably leads to Christians being treated as pariahs at every level of our national life. Louie Giglio’s Christian views on marriage got him removed from the President’s inauguration. Brendan Eich’s support for traditional marriage got him dismissed as CEO of Mozilla. Kelvin Cochran’s Christian faith got him fired from his position as fire chief of Atlanta. Two bakers in Oregon had to shutter their business and are now facing bankruptcy for refusing to participate in a gay wedding. The stories are mounting. Who will be next?…

Barronelle Stutzman’s case is nothing less than an egregious violation of our first freedom. It is Caesar saying, “Conscience be damned. Submit to the new sexual orthodoxy or risk losing everything.”

This is not tolerance. This is injustice that flies in the face of this nation’s laws and traditions. And if this kind of thing can be done to a 70-year-old grandmother running a small flower shop in rural Washington State, then it can be done to you. No one’s conscience is safe if this precedent becomes the norm.

Ms. Stutzman has appealed her case to the Supreme Court of the United States. I cannot overstate how important SCOTUS’s decision will be. Will they even agree to hear the case? If they do, what will Justice Kennedy decide? I encourage you to read the legal analysis from Constitutional lawyer David French. Among other things, French writes:

Once again, eyes will be fixed on Justice Kennedy. Will he continue to impose his own version of the state religion, the one he so enthusiastically articulated in Obergefell? Or will he remember that words have meaning, orientation doesn’t mean action, and the state can’t compel citizens to condone what they consider immoral. It’s time for the Supreme Court to take a deep breath, abandon its revolutionary crusade, and remember the great wisdom of its predecessors… What say you, Justice Kennedy? Do those who oppose the sexual revolution forfeit that fundamental protection? I suppose we’ll soon find out.

I have a particular interest in this case for a couple of reasons. First, Ms. Stutzman is a fellow Southern Baptist, and she is risking everything to be faithful to what we believe the Bible teaches about marriage.

Second, I offered testimony in the early stages of this case. And that day of testimony has impacted me to this day. When I was first asked to give testimony, I thought my role as an SBC pastor and seminary professor would simply be to enter into the record what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. But that is not at all what it turned out to be.

For an entire day, I sat across the table from attorneys representing the Washington Attorney General and the ACLU (two different attorneys because Ms. Stutzman is being sued by the state and by the gay couple that she was once friends with). These attorneys didn’t merely ask me what Southern Baptist believe. They tried to show that what Southern Baptists believe amounts to invidious discrimination.

I had to defend not only our denomination’s statement of faith (The Baptist Faith and Message) but also resolutions passed by our denomination going back 30 and 40 years. It was hostile questioning intended to discredit what Southern Baptists believe about marriage. They wanted to discredit us so that they could discredit her. And make no mistake, once they succeed in punishing her, others will use this precedent to punish the rest of us—and not just Southern Baptists but any person who dares to act on their belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

My one day of questioning is nothing compared to what Ms. Stutzman has gone through in all of this. Pray for her and her husband. She is happy to serve gay people in her flower shop. She always has been and always will be happy to do that. She is simply asking that the state not coerce her to participate in a gay wedding. If the Supreme Court denies her that simple accommodation, the consequences will be devastating not only for her but for all of us.

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