Kuyper Lecture: “Answering Lesslie Newbigin”

Yesterday, in the midst of a seminar on the life and work of the missiologist Lesslie Newbigin, one of my students directed me to the Kuyper lecture that was recently delivered by the New York City pastor and church planter Tim Keller.  Keller’s selection as this year’s Kuyper award winner had previously generated controversy among sections of Princeton’s constituency on account of his affiliation with the Presbyterian Church in America, which holds opposing views from the seminary’s denomination (PCUSA) on the question of the ordination of women and LGBT people.  (If you missed the controversy when it broke, you can read a couple of takes on it here or here.)

What I didn’t know was that Keller chose to make Lesslie Newbigin’s work the focus of his Kuyper lecture.  In 1984, Newbigin delivered the Warfield lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary.  These lectures would form the basis of his short, but incisive work, Foolishness to the Greeks: The Gospel and Western Civilization.  Particularly dedicated readers of the blog may remember I started a series of posts around this time last year on Newbigin’s “marks of the missional church,” as found within Foolishness to the Greeks.  (You can find the posts in the following locations:  Introduction, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.)

While I cannot claim to have engaged with Keller’s writing at any depth and am only peripherally aware of his dynamic ministry in New York City, the irenic and incisive character of this particular address does in many ways resonate with the spirit of Lesslie Newbigin and his work.


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