“Instead of making the difference that Keller’s fans think, this impending controversy could indicate that rather than being a church for the Big Apple, Keller should have been thinking about culture more the way Rod Dreher has in his proposal for the Benedict Option.”
Tim Keller, the PCA pastor of Redeemer Church in New York City, likely needs no introduction. Though he has his critics (myself among them), he is generally the darling of evangelical gate keepers, New Calvinists, and PCA church planters. His reputation is that of an apologist who persuades skeptical New Yorkers to give Christianity another chance. Add to that his inspirational exhortation for evangelicals to revitalize the city (read New York City — if Keller were talking about or ministering from Chicago, I doubt he’d be all that in demand).
So impressive has Keller been that even Princeton Theological Seminary has invited him to give the annual Kuyper Lecture and award him its prize of Reformed theology and public life. The oldest mainline (for some read liberal) Presbyterian seminary is bestowing its blessing on what used to be regarded as a sectarian fundamentalist, that is, someone who left the Protestant mainline for a conservative denomination.
But this is where it gets dicey. Keller’s communion, the PCA, does not ordain women, nor does it recognize sexual orientation rights. Over these matters Keller could face the kind of reception that Charles Murray recently did at Middlebury College:
I’ll let others argue finer points of Rev. Keller’s theology (hello, this is Princeton Theological Seminary here, arguing finer points is what we do.). My personal soapbox is much less refined. It boils down to this: an institution designed to train men and women for ministry shouldn’t be awarding fancy prizes to someone who believes half the student body (or is it more than half?) has no business leading churches. It’s offensive and, as I have taught my four and five year olds to express, it hurts my feelings…. This is a giant lecture with a giant whoop-de-doo factor. There’s a place for common ground, but unless Rev. Dr. Tim Keller is prepared to argue for the ordination of all the women students of Princeton Theological Seminary, the The Abraham Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Life is not that place in my opinion.
That reaction to Keller’s planned visit prompted this statement from Princeton’s president:
Our seminary embraces full inclusion for ordained leadership of the church. We clearly stand in prophetic opposition to the PCA and many other Christian denominations that do not extend the full exercise of Spirit filled gifts for women or those of various sexual orientations. We know that many have been hurt by being excluded from ministry, and we have worked hard to be an affirming place of preparation for service to the church.
The seminary has many student organizations and several theological centers that bring speakers to campus. While my office issues the official invitations to campus, I don’t practice censorship over the choices of these organizations, even when I or the seminary disagree with some of the convictions of these speakers. It is also a core conviction of our seminary to be a serious academic institution that will sometimes bring controversial speakers to campus because we refuse to exclude voices within the church. Diversity of theological thought and practice has long been a hallmark of our school. And so we have had a wide variety of featured speakers on campus including others who come from traditions that do not ordain women or LGBTQ+ individuals, such as many wings of the Protestant church, and bishops of the Orthodox and Roman Catholic communions.
Notice that: Princeton Seminary stands in opposition to the PCA. (What happened to love?)