CRC Scholars Among Those Who Oppose Decision to Rescind 2017 Kuyper Prize

Some prominent academics, philosophers, and theologians of the Christian Reformed Church recently signed a statement in opposition to the decision by Princeton Theological Seminary to rescind the 2017 Kuyper Prize designated to Rev. Dr. Tim Keller.

The prize is awarded at the seminary’s annual Kuyper Conference to honor the recipient’s academic and active work in theology and public witness. Members of the Princeton Seminary community were concerned over the fact that Keller and his denomination, the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), hold the view that women and LGBTQ+ individuals should not be ordained. This is contrary to the position held by the Presbyterian Church (USA), with which the seminary is affiliated.

In a letter issued on March 22, seminary president Craig Barnes said, “In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the [PCA’s] views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year.”

“Keller has done remarkable work in New York City as head pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church,” said Nicholas Wolterstorff, recipient of the 2014 Kuyper Prize, former Calvin College professor of philosophy and professor emeritus of philosophical theology at Yale University. “I think he deserves to be honored for that despite the fact that I disagree [with his views on ordination].”

In response to the Princeton Seminary decision, Wolterstorff and 14 other participants of past Kuyper Conferences signed a statement of opposition. Part of the statement reads: “Academic institutions should make clear that the conferment of an academic prize is not a declaration of total agreement with the recipient’s views.” It goes on to say, “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 statement was signed by individuals across the U.S., the Netherlands, and England. Along with Wolterstorff, two other CRC leaders signed: Alvin Plantinga, 2009 Kuyper Prize recipient and professor emeritus of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame and Calvin College; and James Bratt, professor emeritus of history at Calvin College.

The seminary let stand its invitation to Keller to give a lecture on April 6 for the Kuyper Conference. Keller accepted the invitation and spoke on the British theologian and missionary Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church—not on ordination. Considering the topic of the lecture and the work Keller has done as an influential theologian and pastor, Wolterstorff believes it to be a “strange compromise,” but applauds Keller for accepting the invitation to give the lecture.

About the Author

Lori Dykstra is a freelance writer.