When Dorothy awoke in the Land of Oz, she experienced a world completely different from what she knew. In a similar way, if B. B. Warfield, Charles Hodge, and Gresham Machen were transported to 21st century Princeton, NJ, they wouldn’t recognize the place. I’m not speaking of the modern conveniences and technological wonders that would assault their senses. No, I’m speaking of the dramatic theological change that has corrupted their beloved Princeton Theological Seminary. It would be like waking up in Oz, only not nearly so nice.
In an email to faculty and students on March 22, Princeton decided to rescind its decision to honor Tim Keller with the Kuyper Prize for Excellence in Reformed Theology and Public Witness. The reason Princeton Seminary withdrew the honor is because of their fear that it “imply an endorsement” of Keller’s views against the ordination of women and LGBTQ people. Sadly, they agreed to award Keller with the prize (even praising him!) before the vitriolic responses from its constituents persuaded them to vacate the prize. One critic went so far as to say that Keller has “championed toxic theology for decades.” I know, I know…you can’t make this stuff up.
The fact that Princeton Seminary has become theologically liberal (in the extreme) since the days of Warfield and Hodge is no secret. But the reason for their withdrawal is so disingenuous that it is more sad than anything else. Princeton is acting as if the views of Tim Keller on ordination of women and LGBTQ people is some radical, freakish viewpoint from the heart and mind of a Neanderthal. They fail to realize that his views were the views of the founders of their very institution, not to mention 2000 years of church history. It is Princeton that has moved away from their biblical moorings and abandoned the faith of the apostles, not Tim Keller.
Keller roots his views on ordination of women, not on shifting cultural winds, but on the Greek text of the New Testament which prohibits women from teaching or exercising authority over men. Paul gave theological reasons and not cultural ones for the prohibition. For Paul and Keller, the explanation is given when Paul says “for” (γάρ – 1 Timothy 2:13). The prohibition is rooted in two theological truths: God’s order of creation and the order of the fall. The prohibition has nothing to do with culture but divine decree. As for why Keller also is against the ordination of LGBTQ people, it’s almost embarrassing to have to comment. Suffice to say that such behavior falls outside of biblical Christianity.
Keller’s response to all this is so Keller: gracious. He has agreed to still deliver his address, which, interestingly enough, is on Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church and not ordination issues. Princeton has decided simply not to award the Kuyper prize this year. We may all be thankful that Keller’s security is in Jesus Christ and not man nor his fallen institutions.
Princeton’s slide away from biblical Christianity is a barometer of where the culture and some who claim to be part of Christianity are today. And clearly we are not in Kansas anymore.