Princeton Theological Seminary has decided to rescind an award in Reformed theology because the recipient is too conservative.
Tim Keller is a popular Reformed preacher well-known for bringing traditional Christianity to the heart of one of America’s most liberal, irreligious places – Manhattan. Christ Redeemer church has grown astronomically during Keller’s time as lead pastor, a shocking fact considering Keller is known for refusing to water down the Gospel to appeal to the increasingly agnostic millennial and upper-class New Yorkers. His no-nonsense, biblically faithful approach to the church and apologetics has resulted in several satellite campuses, books, speaking engagements and a large following.
Keller is the anti-Osteen. Quiet, thoughtful and publicly humble almost to a fault, Keller’s appeal seems to be in his sincere belief that the Gospel is not here for our interpretation but rather for our fulfillment. Rather than run from some of the hard truths of the Bible, Keller steers congregants and listeners towards the idea that reconciliation with God requires unpopular sacrifice on the part of every person searching for contentment.
The NYC pastor is a part of the Presbyterian Church of America (PCA) and was slated to receive the prestigious Abraham Kuyper Award in the Princeton Theological Seminary, but the decision as reversed after students and alumni protested Keller’s “conservative” views.
The Presbyterian church has long been in turmoil over many of their western congregations drifting away from biblical foundations to focus on social justice and issues of sexuality. The denomination in America is now split, with the PCA (Keller’s denomination) remaining faithful to biblical authority and while the Presbyterian Church USA (the Seminary College’s denomination) has gone on to embrace LGBT issues and ordain homosexual ministers.
In recent weeks, some Princeton alumni voiced concerns that, as a PCA pastor and complementarian, Keller’s beliefs conflict with the seminary’s embrace of “full inclusion for ordained leadership of the church.” A Christian Century post described his belief in male headship as “baptized abuse” and “toxic theology.” Barnes’ letter rescinding the prize referenced this critique.
The Kuyper Award goes 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 in one or more of the ‘spheres’ of society.”
Princeton’s about face can only be seen as yet another sign that the liberal wing of the Presbyterian church has all but completely fallen away from any connection with Christianity. Keller fulfills every stated requirement for said award but has still been rejected for embracing the Bible ahead of culture wars. When a “church” rejects those preaching the Gospel of Christ in favor of a movement that elevates sexuality above all other qualities can it even be taken seriously anymore?
To Princeton’s credit they are standing by a speaking invitation for Keller at an upcoming conference saying that they do not wish squash dissenting or conflicting opinions. To his credit, Keller has graciously agreed to accept the invitation and has made no public attempts to shame Princeton or the PCU for their decision.
Of course, that is Keller’s M.O. When your focus is Jesus, the petty politics of human religiosity are not an excuse for self-pity but an opportunity for grace.
When the end of the world finally comes around (I’m looking at you, 2012) it is far more likely Keller’s faithfulness to his Savior will be far more valuable in his life and the lives of others than some outdated Christian award from a non-Christian christian church.