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 So earlier today under pressure from these groups, the President of Princeton Seminary rescinded the award.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:
Many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained. This conflicts with the stance of the Presbyterian Church (USA)… In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America’s views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year.
The bottom line is this. Tim Keller believes what the vast majority of Christians have always believed about gender and sexuality. The Princeton Seminary community rejects what the vast majority of Christians have always believed about gender and sexuality. Because of that, the Seminary wants to clarify its rejection of what the vast majority of Christians have always believed about gender and sexuality. In short, the Seminary does not agree with Jesus and the apostles about sexual morality. Keller does. And therein is the conflict.
None of this is surprising for anyone familiar with Princeton Seminary. Although they were once a bastion of reformed orthodoxy, they have become a bastion of theological liberalism. This abandonment of Christian principle is made clear by the President’s very own words of affirmation of LGBTQ identities.
What does this mean? On the standard articulated by the President, it means that Abraham Kuyper himself would not be qualified to win this award. It means that the giants of Princeton’s past like Charles Hodge and B. B. Warfield would not be qualified for this award. It means that no faithful Christian would ever be qualified to win this award. Why? Because it is impossible to be a faithful follower of Christ while rejecting what Christ teaches about sexual immorality. And rejecting Christ’s teaching on this point is apparently a prerequisite of the award.
Here we have before us a seminary that is taking a very public stand against what Christ teaches about sexual immorality. In what sense can such a school or institution be considered in any meaningful sense Christian? Fostering “theologically diverse” communities is not a Christian virtue, but a secular one. In any case, this community isn’t valuing diversity in rescinding this award. On the contrary, it’s enforcing a new orthodoxy that is an affront to the faith once for all delivered to the saints (Jude 3).
Tim Keller stands for that faith. Princeton Seminary doesn’t. And this is what happens when darkness encounters light.
“For everyone who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who practices the truth comes to the light, that his deeds may be manifested as having been wrought in God” (John 3:20-21).
In this situation, who is running from the light and who is running to it? The answer to that question tells you everything that you need to know about this decision.
UPDATE: Some relevant tweets.
There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which theological liberalism will not take offense.
— challies (@challies) March 22, 2017
@between2worlds Totally agree. Having said that, previous winners include Plantinga, O’Donovan, and Mouw. Those are surprising too.
— Denny Burk (@DennyBurk) March 22, 2017