Princeton Theological Seminary Writes Its Own Epitaph

Although Princeton Theological Seminary departed from biblical Orthodoxy many decades ago, this once venerable institution has crossed a new, shameful line, thereby writing its own epitaph. It may still have brilliant scholars on its faculty and some truly Christian students in its midst, and it may continue to function for years to come. But by revoking its decision to honor Rev. Tim Keller with a special award, it has announced to the world that it worships at the altar of political correctness, showing more allegiance to the prevailing culture than to the timeless Word of God.

First, a short history of the school.

The seminary was founded in 1812 and was led by Dr. Archibald Alexander, who would hardly recognize the institution today, so far has it departed from its roots.

Through the rest of the 19th century and into the early 20th century, Princeton was graced with the presence of top biblical scholars and theologians such as Charles Hodge, J. A. Alexander, B.B. Warfield, J. Gresham Machen and Geerhardus Vos. But in 1929, when the seminary went in an anti-fundamentalist (anti-evangelical) direction, embracing "modernism" instead, Machen resigned, along with Oswald T. Allis, Robert Dick Wilson and Cornelius Van Til—all great luminaries in evangelical Christian scholarship—and together they founded Westminster Theological Seminary.

So, as stated, the seminary has not been a bastion of orthodoxy for nearly a century, but it has never before stooped this low in exalting the opinions of people over the truth of Scripture (or, to be charitable, over historic Christian positions), and in the name of progressive Christianity, it has further announced its departure from the faith.

Rev. Timothy Keller, longtime leader of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, and one of the most respected and irenic pastors in America, was scheduled to speak at the seminary and receive the Kuyper Prize, named after Dutch Christian leader Abraham Kuyper (more on Kuyper at the end of the article).

However, the announcement that Keller would be receiving this award created an uproar at the school, prompting the school's president, Prof. Craig Barnes, to write a letter to the seminary community on March 10. He explained, "The focus of the concerns that have come to me is that Rev. Keller is a leader of the Presbyterian Church in America, which prevents women and LGBTQ+ persons from full participation in the ordained ministry to Word and Sacrament."

He continued, "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."

So, it is not just an issue of the PCA not ordaining women (where there have been different views among Christian conservatives, who can point to women serving in various leadership capacities in the Church from New Testament times until today); it is an issue of the PCA not ordaining practicing gays, lesbians and others (where there have been virtually no differences among Christian conservatives from New Testament times until today in light of the categorical teaching of Scripture and the unanimous verdict of Church history until recent years). And note that the seminary stands in "prophetic opposition" to these positions, finding the battle to be a "critical issue of justice."

Nonetheless, Barnes wrote, because it is a "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," he hoped that Keller would be welcomed in "a spirit of grace and academic freedom" when he received his award and gave a lecture to the school.

Twelve days later, on March 22, Barnes wrote again. The outcry was too great. Keller would not receive the award (although, remarkably, Keller agreed to deliver his lecture as planned; I question if he will be received in "a spirit of grace and academic freedom").

Yes, Barnes explained, "In order to communicate that the invitation to speak at the upcoming conference does not imply an endorsement of the Presbyterian Church in America's views about ordination, we have agreed not to award the Kuyper Prize this year."

Ironically (really, that is too weak a description), Barnes stated that, "We are a community that does not silence voices in the church. [You might want to pause for a moment and read that again. He actually wrote they do "not silence voices in the church."] In this spirit, we are a school that can welcome a church leader to address one of its centers about his subject, even if we strongly disagree with his theology on ordination to ministry. Reverend Keller will be lecturing on Lesslie Newbigin and the mission of the church—not on ordination"

Is this not outright professorial double-talk? We don't silence other voices; no, we welcome leaders with other views. We just dishonor them by revoking a promised award, and we effectively muzzle them by having them speak on a non-controversial subject.

No wonder Rod Dreher said that, "If I were Tim Keller, I would let the dying Mainline bury the dying Mainline, and not bother with them. Mainline Protestantism in most places has become a suicide cult."

Dreher has not overstated his case.

In a further stroke of irony, Barnes closed his letter saying, "In the grace and love of Jesus Christ, we strive to be a community that can engage with generosity and respect those with whom we disagree about important issues."

Generosity and respect indeed.

And who is this Abraham Kuyper after whom the award is named? He was a Dutch theologian, journalist and political leader, serving as Holland's Prime Minister from 1901-1905. And Kuyper was a staunch opponent of theological liberalism who believed in the absolute lordship of Christ, famously writing, "Oh, no single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: 'Mine!'"

That applies to Princeton Theological Seminary as well, and if this school does not fully reverse its course, repent, and go back to its foundations, it will become increasingly irrelevant and impotent—again, despite some of the brilliant scholars who teach there and despite the presence of some fine Christians who attend there.

And what would Kuyper say to each of us today?

I leave you with his resounding words. May we take them to heart and put them into practice: "When principles that run against your deepest convictions begin to win the day, then battle is your calling, and peace has become sin; you must, at the price of dearest peace, lay your convictions bare before friend and enemy, with all the fire of your faith."

The time is now. {eoa}

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How Is It Fair When a Male Weightlifter Competes Against Women?

The performance was stunning, as New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard absolutely smoked the competition, beating her nearest competitor, a Samoan woman, by nearly 20 kilograms. The only problem is that Laurel is a biological male, born Gavin, which is why a number of the competitors felt the competition was unfair.

But of course it's unfair. Hubbard is a male, not a female, and even after months of hormone treatments, he still has unfair advantages over the other women, who sacrificed for years to make it to this elite level, only to lose to a man. How is that right?

As one woman tweeted in response to this news, "Imagine training for this your whole life, as a woman, only to have a known leader in men's weightlifting take your title."

Gavin Hubbard had "previously competed at a national level in men's weightlifting," making it all the more absurd that he would now be competing against women, which is why his presence was "met with criticism from Australian competitors who believe a transgender athlete in the female weightlifting category was not an equal playing field."

Not an equal playing field indeed—no more than it was an equal playing field when a female high school wrestler taking testosterone defeated all the other girls she wrestled against (she's on hormone treatments as part of her "transitioning" to male) and no more than it was an equal playing field when a male-to-female mixed martial artist manhandled (literally) her female opponents.

After the wrestling competition, Patti Overstreet, the mother of another wrestler, said, "She's standing there holding her head high like she's the winner. She's not winning. She's cheating. It's not equal. It's never going to be equal."

In response to this, cultural commentator Bill Muehlenberg wrote, "Nope, it sure ain't equality, and it sure never will be. Trying to treat unequal things equally will always result in blatant, appalling inequality. And in the case of sports, it will result in more women being taken to hospital—if not the morgue."

When it comes to the weightlifting competition, one of the other lifters said, "We all deserve to be on an even playing field. It's difficult when you believe that you're not. If it's not even, why are we doing the sport?"

Exactly? Why compete at all? Why have men compete against men and women compete against women? Why have weight classes? Why not just throw everyone into the same competition and have the world's strongest (or fastest) human—of either sex, in any weight class, at any distance, in any event? Why not blur all distinctions, if a man can now compete side by side with women?

Ridiculously, Phil Gifford, described as a prominent sports writer, "said Hubbard had every right to compete with the women after passing 'straightforward' hormone regulations."

Specifically, he argued, "It's testosterone levels which is a much more scientific way of measuring male gender, female gender than anything else that is currently known. And Lauren has passed all of those tests over the last 12 months."

So, then, a man who had lowered testosterone levels but all the other physical advantages a male would have over other women should be allowed to compete with the ladies? Just a glance at the picture in the news report, in which Hubbard, the fourth from the left, dwarfs his competitors, would tell you something is not fair here. 

But no, the whole world must revolve around the perceptions of those who identify as transgender, regardless of how it hurts others, regardless of how it inconveniences others, regardless of what new inequities it causes. As one trans activist asked me after a lengthy twitter interaction, "So where are we supposed to go to the bathroom?"—meaning, that the social issue that mattered was the convenience of trans individuals. Any consideration of the needs of others was immaterial.

Not surprisingly, David Mills recently shared this report from a distressed mother who encountered a man in the ladies' room at Disneyland: "He wasn't even peeing, washing his hands or doing anything else that you'd do in a restroom. He was just standing off to the side looking smug ... untouchable ... doing absolutely nothing."

As described by Kristin Quintrail, this man "did a lap around the restroom walking by all the stalls. You know, the stalls that have 1-inch gaps by all the doors hinges so you can most definitely see everyone with their pants around their ankles and [female body parts] clear as day."

As Mills explains, "The man, apparently a fairly large man, wasn't a man 'transitioning' to try to be a woman. The 'very progressive' Quintrail would have been fine with that. He was a predator. His way of being a predator was to transgress a boundary—the women's room door—so that he could intimidate women and their children."

So, this was apparently a heterosexual predator, not a transgender male-to-female, yet none of the women had the courage to ask him to leave, fearing if they did "he might respond by claiming to identify as a woman."

As some of us have warned for some time now, and as an increasing number of cases confirms as a real danger, when the law says that you can use the bathroom of your perceived gender, that opens the door to abuses such as this. After all, if the only criterion is who I perceive myself to be, who can argue with it?

Quintrail rightly exclaimed at the [end] of her blog article, "Gender just can't be a feeling. There has to be science to it. DNA, genitals, amount of Sephora makeup on your face, pick your poison. ... I'm sorry it can't just be a feeling when there's but a mere suggestion of a door with a peep hole separating your eyes from [female body parts].

And the science needs to be better than the "science" being used in Olympic sports worldwide, which allowed for the totally unfair results in the recent, aforementioned weightlifting competition.

Speaking of unfair, Neil Munro reported last week that, "Two women were kicked out of a homeless shelter to make room for a man because he said he is a transgender woman, according to a Canadian news report.

"The women objected when they were told they would have to share a bedroom and live in the shelter with the man, and so 'both were asked to leave the shelter for good,' said the TV reporter."

One of the women, named Tracey, said, "I was uncomfortable with my roommate being transgender. He wants to become a woman, I mean that is his choice, but when a man comes into a women's shelter who still has [male body parts], he has more rights than we do."

And that says it all: This man who identifies as a woman has more rights than the other women, and they have to leave to make room for him.

Can you join me in saying "Enough!"?

Let's continue to look for ways to help those struggling with gender identity confusion while protecting the rights of the rest of society. If enough of us raise our voices, positive change will come. {eoa}

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Don’t Put Your Light Under a Basket!

Whenever I hear Christian leaders talk about the inevitable collapse of the church of America (or elsewhere) I ask myself, "But hasn't Jesus risen from the dead? Didn't He ascend to the right hand of the Father? Hasn't all authority in heaven and earth been given to Him? And aren't we commanded to go and make disciples in His name and by His authority?"

If so, how then we can speak of any inevitable collapse of the church (or, specifically, of Christian society), regardless of how inevitable that collapse appears to human eyes?

I therefore differ strongly with conservative journalist Rod Dreher, who has written that, "The culture war that began with the Sexual Revolution in the 1960s has now ended in defeat for Christian conservatives. ... Don't be fooled: the upset presidential victory of Donald Trump has at best given us a bit more time to prepare for the inevitable" (from his new book The Benedict Option: A Strategy for Christians in a Post-Christian Nation).

The culture war has hardly "ended," and there is nothing "inevitable" about the collapse of Christian society in America, although, without question, the patient is mortally ill and in need of radical surgery and rehabilitation. But the heart is still beating, there are millions of committed believers throughout the land, prayers are ascending to heaven 24/7 for another great awakening, and it's actually possible that America's best days are still ahead, regardless of how bleak things look right now (and without a doubt, they look very, very bleak). Are not all things possible to the one who believes?

What makes today's spiritual pessimism all the more galling is that, in my view, the biggest reason for America's current moral and spiritual decline is the backslidden, un-engaged, carnal state of the much of the church. In other words, America is messed up because the church has been messed up, because we who profess faith in Jesus have all too often been superficial in our commitment, as a result of which, the world has changed us rather than us changing the world.

When it comes to the mainline denominations, in many instances, there has been a wholesale departure from the authority of Scripture and the lordship of Jesus, leading to the abandonment of our moral compass.

When it comes to evangelical Christians, we have often preached a narcissistic, "what's in it for me" gospel, a self-centered message that bypasses the cross and calls for virtually no sacrifice or service, a message that empowers the sinner rather than transforms the sinner, leading to "Christian" rappers who talk about Jesus in the midst of profanity-laced rants (all while still getting high, going to strip clubs and partying), and to "Christian" models and actresses who strip down in the most seductive poses, simply because it's part of their job—and I assure you they can find big churches in America who will welcome them with open arms and celebrate their "liberty" in Jesus. (It's one thing to welcome the worst of sinners into our midst with open arms and without condemnation; it's another thing to celebrate carnality and compromise.)

Little wonder that the rest of the public is so confused. After all, the church is supposed to function as the conscience of the nation.

When it comes to social issues like abortion and homosexuality, the vast majority of Christian conservatives in our country have no almost regular engagement with women having abortions and engage in very little compassionate outreach to those who identify as LGBT. As for those of us who do get involved in social issues, we tend to do it politically, looking to the government (especially the Republican Party) to fix things, as if passing a law alone would "fix" the desecration of life or reverse the breakdown of the family.

In that regard, Dreher is quite right in urging us not to put our trust in the political system, and I wholeheartedly affirm his conclusion: "We are going to have to change our lives, and our approach to life, in radical ways. In short, we are going to have to be the church, without compromise, no matter what it costs."

But being the church means heeding the words of Jesus, who calls us out of the world when it comes to participating in sin but into the world when it comes to fulfilling our mission, which is to shine like lights in dark places, to boldly proclaim the message of redemption, to reach out to hurting and suffering sinners, to make a difference in the communities in which we are planted and to stand for truth and righteousness "without compromise, no matter what it costs."

After all, we're here as the Lord's ambassadors, declaring the gospel to a dying world, and if we back down and retreat, who will reach this generation with the good news?

But to say, "We've failed so far, so let's concede the war" is like a coach saying to his team at halftime, "We hardly played at all in that first half, which is why we're way behind; so let's quit now before it gets worse." To the contrary, he sounds a loud wake-up call, urging his team to play as never before, since the rest of the game is still ahead.

As theologian Douglas Wilson said, "I am against surrendering in any case, but I am really against surrendering before the battle is really joined."

The solution, then, is not to retreat into some kind of monastic refuge but rather to repent of our sins, to give ourselves afresh to the Lord, and to let our light shine before an onlooking, skeptical, and mocking world. That is the gospel way.

In the words of Jesus, "You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick. And it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16; for further scriptural exhortations, see here).

I'm all for separating ourselves from the pollution of the world as much as possible. (At one point, 95 percent of the families in my home congregation homeschooled their children, and for many years of our marriage, Nancy and I chose not to have a TV in our house; I have other friends who live in shared community, while still others have left business and careers to serve and live among the poorest of the poor.) At the same time, I am not for withdrawing from our calling to go into the world and touch the lost.

By all means, then, let us live with a sense of holy urgency (after all, we're here for a moment and then gone, with eternity ahead of us), and let us make a fresh, complete and uncompromising commitment to our Lord. But let us stand up, not shrink back, raising our voices for the world to hear and living our lives for the world to see. And if America is determined to go to hell, then let it go to hell over our dead bodies.

As Charles H. Spurgeon famously said, "If sinners be damned, at least let them leap to Hell over our dead bodies. And if they perish, let them perish with our arms wrapped about their knees, imploring them to stay. If Hell must be filled, let it be filled in the teeth of our exertions, and let not one go unwarned and unprayed for."

To our knees, then, in holistic repentance, and to our feet, in wholehearted obedience. This generation desperately needs the message of new life in Jesus—the message you and I have. Don't hide it under a basket! {eoa}

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Why I Have Mixed Feelings About Rod Dreher’s Benedict Option

I'm thrilled that the The Benedict Option, the new book by the well-known conservative journalist Rod Dreher, is getting an immediate national hearing, and deservedly so. Dreher brings an urgent word at an urgent time, stating in no uncertain terms that we are in a spiritual and cultural crisis of monumental, historic proportions. Let the wake-up call be sounded! At the same time, Dreher conveys a spiritual pessimism that seems to deny the possibility of an imminent, culture-shaking revival, as if there can be no great awakening in this generation. Says who?

To be sure, Dreher's book is filled with godly wisdom and Christian challenge, calling on believers to reassess what it means to be followers of Jesus in a very worldly world and encouraging all of us who live in America to recognize the great differences that often exist between biblical faith and political conservatism.

And, to repeat, his warnings to American (and European) Christians are urgent and necessary, as he writes, "There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization. By God's mercy, the faith may continue to flourish in the Global South and China, but barring a dramatic reversal of current trends, it will all but disappear entirely from Europe and North America. This may not be the end of the world, but it is the end of a world, and only the willfully blind would deny it. For a long time we have downplayed or ignored the signs. Now the floodwaters are upon us—and we are not ready."

Yes, he continues, "The storm clouds have been gathering for decades, but most of us believers have operated under the illusion that they would blow over. The breakdown of the natural family, the loss of traditional moral values, and the fragmenting of communities—we were troubled by these developments but believed they were reversible and didn't reflect anything fundamentally wrong with our approach to faith. Our religious leaders told us that strengthening the levees of law and politics would keep the flood of secularism at bay. The sense one had was: There's nothing here that can't be fixed by continuing to do what Christians have been doing for decades—especially voting for Republicans."

Certainly, this needs to be said, and we must feel the weight of these words. Indeed, if we had been listening carefully, we would have heard Christian leaders like Francis Schaeffer telling us decades ago (even in the late '70s) that we had become a post-Christian society, prompting him to write his Christian Manifesto, among other relevant works.

From my perspective, though, the problem remains the same now as then; it has just become more acute. That also means that the solution remains the same; it is just more desperately needed.

That solution is a massive spiritual awakening that produces a gospel-based moral and cultural revolution, and it is for that awakening and revolution that I live every day of my life.

So I differ with Dreher when he states that, "Nobody but the most deluded of the old-school religious right believes that this cultural revolution can be turned back. The wave cannot be stopped, only ridden."

Actually, I know many thousands of fervent young people—they are anything but "the old-school Religious Right"—who are praying and fasting and believing and striving for a massive turning in their generation, like  16-year-old Autumn, who joined me on the radio this week to explain why her generation is "the pro-life generation."

And there is a whole generation of homeschooled kids who are growing up today with a strong counter-culture mentality, not easily swayed by their peers, and their numbers are growing, not declining. Will they have no discernible impact in the days ahead?

And what of the fact that the left keeps getting more extreme, from the latest examples of transanity to the latest examples of college campus PC madness? Will not this produce a cultural pushback?

Dreher asks, "Could it be that the best way to fight the flood is to ... stop fighting the flood? That is, to quit piling up sandbags and to build an ark in which to shelter until the water recedes and we can put our feet on dry land again? Rather than wasting energy and resources fighting unwinnable political battles, we should instead work on building communities, institutions, and networks of resistance that can outwit, outlast, and eventually overcome the occupation."

But who can really live like this? When the moral confrontation comes to your place of business, to your school, to your family, to your life, to your church, do you simply retreat and say, "I surrender my convictions and capitulate, seeing that there's no way to turn the cultural tide"? God forbid.

I understand, of course, that Dreher is focusing on political battles and on political solutions to society's deeper problems, and I concur with him that our energies must not primarily be spent there. But surely, if we don't let our lights shine brightly and clearly in the culture, we will be held responsible by God for our nation's even more rapid collapse. And how do we explain to our children that, due to our spiritual pessimism, we gave way to the flood, which has now swallowed their future as well?

I have been reminded by pro-life champions that things looked much worse for their movement in the aftermath of Roe v. Wade than they look for the pro-family movement in the aftermath of the 2015 Obergefell decision redefining marriage. Yet they didn't throw in the towel, and despite the horrible loss of more than 55 million babies, we continue to see pro-life gains to this day, with the possibility of the reversal of Roe v. Wade on the horizon.

Just as importantly, countless thousands of babies have been saved since 1973 because these pro-life warriors did not throw in the towel or drop out of the battle. Try telling the men and women and children who are alive today because of pro-life tenacity that it would have been better if these pro-lifers decided not to fight the abortion flood.

Again, I absolutely affirm Dreher's call for a return to a deeper biblical faith (after all, I wrote a book called How Saved Are We? in 1990) and the exhortation to build a real, at times hidden, counterculture society (after all, I've been preaching about a gospel-based revolution—hardly a light concept—since the late 1990s, saying that it must begin in the church).

Thus I embrace the strong challenges put forth in The Benedict Option, and I affirm many of the strategies. At the same time, I feel that now, more than ever, is the time for us to engage—meaning, engaging in personal repentance, engaging in prayer for awakening, engaging in unashamed evangelism, and engaging in confronting the culture, with pastors and Christian leaders taking the lead.

Later this year, Thomas Nelson will be publishing my newest book, Saving a Sick America: A Prescription for Moral and Cultural Transformation. In this book, I also lay out clearly the dire condition of our nation—in graphic and stark terms—but rather than seeing the current darkness as irreversible for the moment, I see it as the backdrop against which our light can shine even more clearly.

That's why the last chapter of the book is titled "The Church's Great Opportunity." In it, I point back to past times in our national history, such as immediately before the Great Awakening in the 1700s, when Rev. Samuel Blair explained that, "Religion lay as it were dying, and ready to expire its last breath of life in this part of the visible church ..."

Then the awakening came, and the rest, as they say, is history.

So, while Dreher is writing about the rise and fall of America, I feel stirred to write about the fall and rise of America.

Am I wrong? {eoa}

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Dr. Michael Brown: What Does Jesus Think About Disney’s Gay Fairy Tale?

Parents across the United States are debating if they should take their young ones to see Disney's latest live-action film, Beauty and the Beast. 

Ninety-five percent of Faith-Driven Consumers say the presence of a gay character made them less interested in the film.

A theater in Alabama refuses to show the movie because "If we cannot take our 11-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie, we have no business watching it," the owners said in a now-deleted Facebook post. "If I can't sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me, then we have no business showing it." 

But what does Jesus really think of the movie? Dr. Michael Brown weighs in.

Watch the video to see. 

{eoa}

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