‘A Terrible Shame’: Southern Baptist Graduates of Princeton Express Disappointment With Seminary’s Treatment of Tim Keller

(Photo: Redeemer Presbyterian Church)Timothy Keller is the founding pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.

Princeton Theological Seminary’s reversal of its decision to give an award to New York pastor Tim Keller has drawn criticism as shameful and contrary to the seminary’s theological heritage.

Princeton Seminary, the flagship institution of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), had announced Keller as the recipient of its Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness, a $10,000 award. But in a March 22 letter to the seminary community, President Craig Barnes said the decision had been reversed in order to “not imply any endorsement” of Keller’s “belief that women and [lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender] persons should not be ordained.”

Houston Baptist University President Robert Sloan, a 1973 master of divinity graduate from Princeton Seminary, said the decision not to give Keller the Kuyper Prize is “a terrible shame.”

“It seems to be an indication of … pretty narrow and dogmatic thinking first to offer and then under pressure to retract the offer of an award to a theologian and pastor … as distinguished as Tim Keller,” Sloan told Baptist Press. “They knew Tim Keller’s views before they made the offer of the award.”

Keller, a bestselling author and pastor of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, will still lecture at Princeton Seminary April 6 as planned, Barnes said.

In a previous letter to the seminary community, Barnes noted protests of Keller’s scheduled visit and said Princeton Seminary “stand[s] in prophetic opposition” to Keller’s denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), and to “many other Christian denominations that do not extend the full exercise of the Spirit filled gifts for women or those of various sexual orientations.”

While the PCA’s “Book of Church Order” — which all the denomination’s pastors must uphold — limits the office of pastor to men and defines marriage as “between one man and one woman,” Religion News Service noted Keller “is not known for pushing hot-button culture war issues.”

Southern Baptists who hold Princeton Seminary degrees expressed disappointment with the seminary’s action.

According to the seminary’s reasoning, Sloan said, Kuyper himself apparently would be ineligible for the prize bearing his name because he believed in male leadership within churches and homes.

Keller’s “views are not outrageous,” Sloan said. “His views represent very respectable, well thought out views on the nature of personhood, on the nature of marriage, on the nature of family. The attempt to suppress these kinds of views is not representative of clear thinking or argument. It’s just sheer political force and power.”

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SOURCE: Baptist Press
David Roach