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Princeton Theological Seminary is “Unworthy” of its traditions, says Kuyper Conference alumni

Some say Seminary admin telling everyone that all comment should be withheld from media in favor of a “consolidated” voice

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PTS drops K. Journey illustration


As Princeton Theological Seminary battens down its hatches in the controversy with a stiff control over comments to the media, its actions in taking back the Kuyper Prize from NYC pastor Tim Keller continues to be washed over by criticisms from former prize winners, presenters and participants at the Kuyper Conferences.

The seminary explained its decision to rescind the award of the 2017 Kuyper Prize to Keller because “many regard awarding the Kuyper Prize as an affirmation of Reverend Keller’s belief that women and LGBTQ+ persons should not be ordained.”

Yesterday, fifteen former prize winners, presenters and participants of the conferences issued a joint statement decrying the loss of Princeton Theological Seminary's traditions of  "free academic debate and diversity."  The uproar has become international. Half of the signatories live overseas, teaching or studying at foreign theological faculties. Keller is due to talk on the seminary campus on Thursday, April 6th at 7 pm.

In response, the seminary external relations personnel has "been telling everyone at the seminary" that all administration and academic comment should be withheld from the media in favor of a "consolidated" voice , according to one leader at the university. The public relations effort seems to support the charge that the seminary leadership is squashing the traditions of "free academic debate and diversity."

The declaration says that the seminary has sent out a signal that it will only celebrate people who agree with its ideological views, particularly with its "progressive views on ordination and sexual ethics." The "religious other" cannot be cherished least it diminishes one's own sense of dignity and righteousness. The seminary leaders, the signers say, confine the Kuyper Prize into a cage, a hedge around the hedge of Princeton purity and probity in which no disagreements are allowed to be honored. "Academic institutions should make clear that the conferment of an academic prize is not a declaration of total agreement with the recipient’s views." The tearfulness of the opponents to Keller's reception of the prize is not matched by an empathy to the hurt that they inflict on the conservative "religious other" or to Princeton's tradition as an academic institution as a safe space for disagreement.

Several of the signers of the declaration are hardly conservative in their theology. But they say that they defend the openness of academic institutions to people of differing views. "Although our positions on these distinct issues differ," said the protestants, "we believe that a matter of disagreement over a theological matter should not be a reason to deny someone a prize one would otherwise have given."

The protest concludes, "In this decision, Princeton Theological Seminary gives evidence of a policy unworthy of its history of free academic debate and diversity that characterizes this great institution."

The signatories are:

Dr. James D. Bratt, Professor of History Emeritus, Calvin College. Bratt is author of the definitive biography of Abraham Kuyper.
Dr. Ad de Bruijne, Professor of Ethics and Spirituality, Theologische Universiteit Kampen. De Bruijne was a visiting scholar at Princeton Theological Seminary and brings to bear on this current controversy his scholarship in public and political theology.
Dr. J. Daryl Charles, Affiliated Scholar, John Jay Institute. He most recently published a book with David D. Corey on the just war tradition and
Dr. James Eglinton, Meldrum Lecturer in Reformed Theology, University of Edinburgh. Eglinton has explored how neo-Calvinist theologians responded to America. This year, he explored the Dutch theologian Herman Bavinck's travelouge of his visit to the United States. Bavinck's wonder-filled observations won a Dutch prize for best travel writing. (Who would have guessed after reading Bavinck's heavy theological writing?)
Dr. George Harinck, Professor of History, VU University Amsterdam / Theologische Universiteit Kampen. Harinck was president for many years of the Association of Christian Historians. His public comments that he had no objections to homosexual relationships and the opening of ecclesiastical offices to women caused quite a controversy and entailed an internet campaign against him.
Marinus de Jong MA, PhD candidate, Theologische Universiteit Kampen. De Jong has been publishing work on how the Reformed Christian tradition interacts with the modern world.
Dr. Andrew Kloes, independent scholar. Kloes has written on "the Awakening movement" in Germany and how the Methodist founder John Wesley was influence by German theologians.
Dr. Cornelis van der Kooi, Professor of Systematic Theology, VU University Amsterdam. Van de Kooi has explored what he calls "theology with backbone."
Andrew Ong MDiv, PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh. Ong is charting the theology of Chinese American evangleicals
Dr. Alvin Plantinga, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame / Calvin College. Noted philosopher Plantinga received the  Nicholas Rescher Prize for Systematic Philosophy.
Dr. Stefan Paas, Professor of Missiology, VU University Amsterdam / Theologische Universiteit Kampen. Paas is an expert on church planting and renewal.
Gregory W. Parker Jr. BS, MDiv student, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
Nathaniel Gray Sutanto MAR, PhD candidate, University of Edinburgh. Sutanto is a Chinese-Indonesian Calvinist.
Dr. Nicholas Wolterstorff, Noah Porter Professor Emeritus of Philosophical Theology, Yale University. A much honored philosopher, who endorses same-sex marraige and women ordination, was president of the American Philosophical Association (Central Division) and of the Society of Christian Philosophers and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Dr. John Halsey Wood, Jr., independent scholar. In his Going Dutch in the Modern Age: Abraham Kuyper’s Struggle for a Free Church, Wood cast Kuyper as a theologian of revolution.


For other articles on the controversy:

Upper West Side, Manhattan SOJOURN — Reverend Timothy Keller on how do we remain civil in an uncivil world


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