Ruth Jackson vs. Carol Howard Merritt

Ruth Jackson vs. Carol Howard Merritt March 29, 2017


One of Keller’s critics was author Carol Howard Merritt, who has welcomed the withdrawal of the award. She had written on her blog:

“As Princeton Theological Seminary celebrates Tim Keller’s theology, I will be mourning. As he presents his lecture and receives his $10,000 award, I will lament for my sisters who have been maligned and abused. So much of my ministry has been dedicated to aiding the victims of these poisonous beliefs. In these difficult days, when our president says that women’s genitalia is up for grabs by any man with power and influence, I hoped that my denomination would stand up for women, loud and clear. Instead we are honoring and celebrating a man who has championed toxic theology for decades.”

It is a heinous misrepresentation of the church leader’s ministry

Not only is her post grossly hyperbolic by equating Keller with Trump’s womanising, it is also a heinous misrepresentation of the church leader’s ministry which has focused on urban transformation and reaching sceptics, not fighting the culture wars of right wing politics. Her use of words such as ‘maligned’, ‘abused’ and ‘victims’ are incredibly offensive to individuals who have experienced genuine abuse both inside and outside the Church. Likewise, I would rather reserve terms like ‘poisonous beliefs’ and ‘toxic theology’ to those preaching a message antithetical to the gospel. Extremist jihads who kill innocent people in God’s name, harsh task masters who negate grace and oppress individuals through staunch legalism, selfish dictators who refuse to help the poor and downtrodden – these beliefs and practices are poisonous and toxic.

I may not agree with Tim Keller’s theological understanding of women in leadership but that does not stop him being a world class theologian or a powerful evangelist and pastor. His particular views on one theological issue do not cloud his deep understanding of God’s grace, providence and power.

This case draws out everything that is utterly opposed to gospel unity

The furore around this case draws out everything that is utterly opposed to gospel unity. As Christians we need to learn to disagree kindly – to acknowledge that what unites us is so much greater than that which divides. Its not just Keller and conservative Protestant denominations that the critics must take issue with – by the same logic the entire Catholic and Orthodox streams of the global church are also ‘poisonous’ and ‘toxic’. I’m not saying the issues that divide us are unimportant, but we must do better than this. Why on earth are we wasting our time arguing about secondary issues when there is a world out there that needs to be saved?

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