UPDATED March 6, 2023: The Gospel Coalition (TGC) has pulled the introduction and first chapter of “Beautiful Union” by Josh Butler from its website and issued an apology for promoting Butler’s book. TGC has also announced that Butler has resigned as a fellow at the Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics, will no longer lead an online cohort with the center, and will no longer speak at TGC23.
An excerpt from Josh Butler’s book, published as an article on TGC on March 1, drew widespread criticism online due to Butler’s use of sexual metaphors for believers’ relationship with God. TGC initially responded to the pushback by publishing the book’s introduction and first chapter in order to provide “sufficient context.”
On March 5, TGC pulled the introduction and chapter and posted the following apology from TGC president Julius Kim:
Thank you for your feedback on the Keller Center’s book excerpt from Joshua Butler posted on March 1, 2023. And thank you for your patience while we took the time to listen to our critics and the serious objections from concerned fellows, as well as discuss this matter with our Board of Directors and care for our friend Josh.
Earlier this week, we accepted Josh’s resignation as a Keller Center fellow. He will no longer lead an online cohort with the center nor speak at TGC23. While he will no longer participate in these events, Josh remains a beloved brother and friend whom we respect and care deeply about.
To our fellows and our readers, please forgive us. The Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics is a new effort by TGC, and we are still learning how to work with our directors and our fellows to produce content that will serve our readers in a way that is trusted and wise. To ensure greater accountability with our fellows, we will develop better review systems for our work together. We will also review our publication processes more broadly at TGC and develop plans to ensure greater accountability to you, our readers.
Again, thank you for your patience with us. At TGC, we want to provide a venue for healthy dialogue and robust debate on important matters that affect us all. We want to model grace-filled conversations, and we want to learn from one another. In this case, we failed you and hurt many friends. Thank you in advance for your continued prayers.
Author and podcaster Sheila Gregoire suggested TGC had missed the mark in its apology. “I’m glad they apologized and asked for forgiveness,” she said. “However, to ensure that this doesn’t happen again we need to figure out why such an offensive & harmful work could be published in the first place. Is it simply because, as they state, their ‘review systems’ weren’t adequate?”
Jacob Denhollander and Dr. Anthony Bradley each expressed that TGC had let Butler down. “TGC didn’t cow to a mob,” said Denhollander. “They threw Butler under the bus to (so far) avoid dealing with the fact that multiple people on their editorial and marketing teams saw absolutely nothing wrong with the article because that’s how they also understand sex and gender roles.”
“I feel bad for Josh Butler,” said Bradley. “He was failed by his publisher & TGC. In academic publishing, our books are pre-reviewed by scholars to look for problems. Had Butler’s book been sent to theologians at Westminster, RTS, Wheaton, Taylor, etc. they would’ve caught any errors & fixed it.”
ChurchLeaders original article written on March 3, 2023, below:
After The Gospel Coalition (TGC) faced pushback for posting an excerpt of “Beautiful Union” by Josh Butler, it pulled the article from its website and directed readers to the book’s entire first chapter. Butler, an Arizona pastor and a fellow of TGC’s new Keller Center for Cultural Apologetics, argues that “Sex wasn’t designed to be your salvation but to point you to the One who is.”