Stoning Stephen: Seminary Rescinds Award for Tim Keller

If Stephen the Martyr from Acts chapters 6 and 7 were to appear before PCUSA and the denizens of Princeton Theological Seminary, they would surely stone him.

Each year, Princeton awards the Kuyper Prize, an award for “Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness,” but they have decided to forgo it in 2017 because of a hue and cry over the fact that one of the best-known theologians in America, Pastor Tim Keller, is part of the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), not the heretic PCUSA.

Princeton pulled the plug on Keller and said it was because of those “who are concerned point to Reverend Keller’s leadership role in the Presbyterian Church in America, a denomination which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained Ministry of Word and Sacrament.”

Inclusivity for me, but not for thee.

My colleague Kira Davis wrote of Keller at RedState:

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.

In other words: Keller affirms that God will meet you where you are, but on His terms, not your inclusive 55-genders-and-counting, I-get-to-define-sin version.

That “me” version is embraced by the PCUSA. Of course, most media don’t know the difference between a Presbyterian and a pentecostal, never mind two different Presbyterian denominations. (If you’re in the media and need a primer, go here.) The PCUSA is part of the dying mainline protestant church in America. They are dying because most of them left God’s house for the wilderness many years ago.

Keller’s PCA broke with the mainline denomination, and is experiencing modest growth. It’s only fitting that Princeton Theological Seminary would give an award for “public witness” to a renowned and respected Reformed theologian who is part of a growing church. But it also makes sense that those who would rather the church meld with the world and not witness Christ (this is why the PCUSA lost 22 percent of its membership between 2000 and 2010) become upset when the actual life-giving Gospel is preached.

It offends their ears and convicts them.

Craig Barnes, the seminary’s president, wrote that Keller will still lecture on “Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church — not on ordination.” Perhaps they will react the same way the Sanhedrin did when Stephen preached.

When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Spirit, gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God, and said, “Look! I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!”

Then they cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord; and they cast him out of the city and stoned him. And the witnesses laid down their clothes at the feet of a young man named Saul. And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, “Lord, do not charge them with this sin.” And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

Acts 7:54-60