If you’ve been around the Evangelical movement in the last 20 years, then you have probably heard of Eugene Peterson. He is the author of the Bible paraphrase: The Message. The problems with this paraphrase are myriad, but that hasn’t stopped Christians from using it, adulating it, and sadly, holding it up as a replacement for reading actual scripture. If you are unfamiliar with the problems with The Message, I refer you to this article by Justin Peters.
Yesterday, Jonathan Merritt published an interview he conducted with Peterson on the Religion News internet website titled: Eugene Peterson on changing his mind about same-sex issues and marriage. Merritt begins his piece by referring to Peterson as a ‘paragon of the Christian faith’. I am sure many share this sentiment, and that is what makes the following a travesty. Even if Peterson were not well known, nor had a world-wide platform and the authority that goes with such, it would still be a tragedy, as going against God’s standard always is. However, given his far reaching influence, the damage will be substantial. The article is brief, so I encourage you to go read it in its entirety. I will deal with a few of the statements here.
Merritt begins the interview with this question:
Has your view on that changed over the years? What’s your position on the morality of same-sex relationships?
Peterson replies in part that he had been on staff in congregations where there were lesbians who didn’t make a big deal about their sexuality, and that they “just assumed that they were as Christian as everybody else in the church.” That was it. No further explanation on whether or not he explained the gospel to them, pleaded with them to repent, or showed them through the scriptures that unrepentant homosexuality is not compatible with Christianity. People, it is not loving to visit those who attend your church and are living in unrepentant sin and not share the gospel with them or lovingly confront their sin. Apparently, Peterson just let them believe they were saved. Unloving in the extreme.
Peterson then goes on to recount a young man who grew up under his pastorship who came out as a gay man and also applied for the music director position at his church. Peterson bragged that his congregation made no qualms about the man’s sinful lifestyle, adding that “he was a really good musician”. Again, it is not a mark in the positive column for your congregation to be so undiscerning, spiritually weak, or unregenerate themselves that they have no issue with an unrepentant sinner applying for a leadership role. It also shows Peterson’s apparent lack of Biblical knowledge on the issue of qualifications for leadership in the church (1 Timothy 3), that for him, the bottom line was that the man was a good musician.
The most grievous statements Peterson made are as follows: I know a lot of people who are gay and lesbian and they seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do. I presume that Peterson meant this as a compliment or affirmation that they were in fact Christians. Sadly, it is actually evidence from Peterson himself that he does not have a ‘good spiritual life’. If your quality of spiritual health and standing before the Lord can be compared equally with an unrepentant, unregenerate sinner, you are saying that you are a unrepentant unregenerate sinner.
Peterson ends his thoughts with the following: I don’t think it’s something that you can parade, but it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned. Well, Mr. Peterson, quite frankly it matters not one bit what you think on the issue. God has spoken and it is final (Genesis 2:18-24; Leviticus 18:22; Romans 1:26-27; 1 Corinthians 6:9-11). A person cannot be living in a state of unrepentant sin, in this case homosexuality, and be a born-again Christian. It is simply impossible. I have written about it here. Peterson went on to say that he would be willing to perform same-sex marriage ceremonies.
Christian, if you have formerly looked to Eugene Peterson as a teacher and leader in the faith, or if you have been allowing him to influence you through his paraphrase The Message, it is time to separate, mark, and avoid. Reading about Peterson’s fall into further apostasy gives me no joy. It is very sad. It especially grieves me, because it is a blight on the name of Christ, and it will harm my weaker brothers and sisters.
We live in a day and age where the western church is under tremendous pressure to compromise with the world, and sadly we are seeing many do so. It is a good thing and a bad thing. Good, because it reveals who is not of us; bad, because it damages Christ’s reputation and discourages the brethren. I know it is hard to stand when everyone around you seems to be falling. I know the frustration and hurt that comes when we lovingly and firmly stand on God’s truth, and people get angry because they think we are hating on them as individuals. I know. We can’t control what other people think. Stand firm, honoring the Lord by remaining uncompromising about His truth. We know it is the most loving thing we can do for our fellow man, even if they never realize it. Pray for your pastors, elders, and leaders to stand strong and not give into societal pressures. Pray for each other and yourself for the same. The battle is just heating up.
Soli Deo Gloria!