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Eugene Peterson

‘Message’ Bible Creator Eugene Peterson Says Homosexuality Is Not Wrong — and Then Backtracks


Eugene Peterson, who is best known as the creator of “The Message,” a reading Bible that uses contemporary language, has come out in support of homosexual “marriage,” saying that he would officiate a same-sex “wedding” if asked.

Peterson has been widely admired across the theological spectrum, and his move was seen as an important shift. Now 84, Peterson spent decades as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which allows same-sex “marriage” and openly gay clergy. Polls show a dramatic divide between younger evangelicals and older evangelicals on the question of gay “marriage.”

But after a firestorm, including possible boycotts from large bookstores and publishing houses, Peterson backtracked and said he would never perform a same-sex wedding.

HOW THE FIRESTORM BEGAN. In an interview with Jonathan Merritt at Religion News Service on July 12, 2017, the author of more than 30 books described how his views on homosexuality have changed over his pastoral career.

Merritt said of the interview:

It’s one of the hottest topics in the church today, and given Peterson’s vast influence among both pastors and laypeople, I knew his opinion would impact the conversation. Though he has had a long career, I couldn’t find his position on the matter either online or in print. I did discover that “The Message,” Peterson’s popular paraphrase of the Bible, doesn’t use the word “homosexual” and “homosexuality” in key texts. But this wasn’t definitive proof of anything. After all, those words never appear in any English translation of the Bible until 1946.

Then Merritt asked Peterson:

You are Presbyterian, and your denomination has really been grappling with some of the hot button issues that we face as a culture. I think particularly of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Has your view on that changed over the years? What’s your position on the morality of same-sex relationships?

Peterson, who formerly pastored a PCUSA church, answered:

I have been in churches when I was an associate pastor where there were several [homosexuals]… They just assumed that they were as Christian as everybody else in the church.

One of the young people that had grown up under my pastorship, he was a high school teacher and a musician. When he found out about the opening, he showed up in church one day and stood up and said, “I’d like to apply for the job of music director here, and I’m gay.” We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation. Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any questions about it. And he was a really good musician.

I wouldn’t have said this 20 years ago, but now 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 think that kind of debate about lesbians and gays might be over. People who disapprove of it, they’ll probably just go to another church. So we’re in a transition and I think it’s a transition for the best, for the good. 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.

Peterson was a founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church (PCUSA) in Bel Air, Maryland, where he served for 29 years before retiring in 1991.

Finally, Merritt asked Peterson:

A follow-up: If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?

Peterson’s forceful answer was “Yes.”

His answer contradicted God’s Word. It contradicted even his own Bible version, “The Message,” which says,

“Don’t have sex with a man as one does with a woman. That is abhorrent.” (Leviticus 18:22 Message)

“They pretended to know it all, but were illiterate regarding life. They traded the glory of God who holds the whole world in his hands for cheap figurines you can buy at any roadside stand. So God said, in effect, ‘If that’s what you want, that’s what you get.’ It wasn’t long before they were living in a pigpen, smeared with filth, filthy inside and out. And all this because they traded the true God for a fake god, and worshiped the god they made instead of the God who made them—the God we bless, the God who blesses us. Oh, yes! Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either—women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men. Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men—all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it—emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.” (Romans 1:22-27 Message)

These two “Message” passages are clear: sex between men is abhorrent. And only sexually confused people abuse and defile one another, women with women, men with men — all for lust.

It is hard to understand how Peterson could betray these solid stances on the homosexual sin.

HOW PETERSON BACKTRACKED. After the firestorm, in a statement to The Washington Post on July 13, 2017, he said:

Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I “haven’t had a lot of experience with it.”

To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.

He was clear in his retraction.

Yet, considering that the evangelical world is discussing his controversial interview and retraction, let us look at how The Message was vague in one classical Bible passage against the homosexual sin:

“Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Message)

Perhaps because the English version of this passage in “The Message” is so ambiguous the producers of the Brazilian version made it longer:

“Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex, use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t qualify as citizens in God’s kingdom. I’m talking about heterosexual debauchery, homosexual immorality, idolatry, greed and destructive vices.”  (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 Message)

The English version does not have: “I’m talking about heterosexual debauchery, homosexual immorality, idolatry, greed and destructive vices.” Yet, even in this case, there are problems. Homosexual immorality (orgy of men with men) is sin as heterosexual debauchery (orgy of men with women) is sin. So if marriage between a man and a woman (without immorality and debauchery) is not a sin, why should (by following the logic of this longer ambiguous Brazilian passage) “marriage” between a man and another man (without immorality and debauchery) be a sin?

The English version condemns vague sex abuses, and the Brazilian version tries to correct the vague condemnation by adding a condemnation that hits immorality and debauchery, not homosexuality. While serious versions of the Bible directly condemn homosexuality — regardless if it is involved in immorality and debauchery — The Message, in English and Portuguese, leaves in some way the door open for homosexuality not involved in immorality and debauchery.

The English version left problems that the Brazilian version was unable to solve and clarify. Instead, it created larger ambiguities and problems. Sex between man and woman is sin only when involved in immorality and debauchery. Is homosexual sex similarly sin only when involved in immorality and debauchery? The American and Brazilian Message did not answer this question and this ambiguity is consistent with Peterson’s ill-fated interview.

Yet, other Bible versions are much clearer:

“Do you not know that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor male prostitutes nor homosexual offenders nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NIV)

“Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God.” (1 Corinthians 6:9-10 NKJV)

Peterson’s interview with the Religion News Service, just as the PCUSA is already doing, followed “demonic illusions,” as warned by his own “The Message”:

“The Spirit makes it clear that as time goes on, some are going to give up on the faith and chase after demonic illusions put forth by professional liars.” (1 Timothy 4:1 Message)

Other Bible versions say,

“The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1 NIV)

“Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons.” (1 Timothy 4:1 NKJV)

Only the Holy Spirit can prevail against “demonic illusions,” “deceiving spirits” and “doctrines of demons.”

The same Bible that warns that in the last days there would be an explosion of apostasy also informs about a powerful outpouring of the Holy Spirit — an “explosion” of the Holy Spirit and his supernatural gifts.

“‘In the Last Days,’ God says, ‘I will pour out my Spirit on every kind of people: Your sons will prophesy, also your daughters; Your young men will see visions, your old men dream dreams. When the time comes, I’ll pour out my Spirit On those who serve me, men and women both, and they’ll prophesy.’” (Acts 2:17-18 Message)

PCUSA is a so liberal environment that even a Pentecostal or charismatic Presbyterian could be ensnared by its liberal stances on homosexuality. Often the best advice for Christians in such environment is to leave Babylon or face spiritual decadence and apostasy. To remain is to run the risk of serious spiritual contamination.

Perhaps this is Peterson’s case.

A church guided by Christ is a place where Christians are empowered by the Holy Spirit to preach the Gospel to homosexual sinners, heal their wounds and diseases and expel their demons. But PCUSA is filled of “demonic illusions,” “deceiving spirits” and “doctrines of demons” regarding the homosexual sin and other sins. People open or filled with the Holy Spirit and his supernatural gifts should, for their own survival, leave this environment of apostasy as soon as possible.

It is just a pity that Peterson did not leave Babylon in time.

On Trump, Peterson said to Merritt, “I think we’re in a bad situation. I really do. Donald Trump is the enemy as far as I’m concerned.”

Not that Trump is an enemy of the homosexual agenda. His State Department has proved to be pro-sodomy and America under Trump continues making sodomy great. But apparently Peterson’s interview showed displeasure that the Trump administration is not as virulently pro-sodomy as the Obama administration was. Has Peterson become a “discreet” hard-core liberal?

Has PCUSA, the largest Presbyterian denomination in the United States, in its liberalism produced such feelings and ambiguities in Eugene Peterson?

Peterson explained his complaint about Trump, saying, “He has no morals. He has no integrity.” What did Peterson expect? Trump is a member of PCUSA. But at least he has been open to prayers from Spirit-filled Christians.

If no firestorm had happened, would Peterson have backtracked? What will happen when there are no conservative firestorms?

It is just a pity that Peterson did not leave Babylon in time.

With information from the Religion News Service, Charisma News and The Washington Post.

Portuguese version of this article: Eugene Peterson, criador da Bíblia “A Mensagem,” diz que a homossexualidade não é errada — e então volta atrás


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