Peterson and Homosexuality: Just What is the Message?
Retired Presbyterian pastor, best-selling author, and the creator of the Bible paraphrase The Message Eugene Peterson has caused a big stir by saying he is happy with homosexuality and homosexual marriage. And he has caused another stir by soon thereafter “retracting” what he said.
It is confusing to say the least, and one has to ask a few hard questions. When book deals, book income, speaking gigs and so on come under threat, one can suspect that a “retraction” may have been done for less than ideal motives. This seems to be the case when one reads what he said in his original interview.
It can be found in its entirety, including the two main questions about this, in the first link below. The first question was this: “You are Presbyterian, and your denomination has really been grappling with some of the hot-button issues. I think particularly of homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Has your view on that changed over the years?”
He talked about there not being too much homosexual activity in his churches when he was pastoring, and then went on to say this, which was the real point of controversy:
In my own congregation — when I left, we had about 500 people — I don’t think we ever really made a big deal out of it. When I left, the minister of music left. She’d been there ever since I had been there. There we were, looking for a new minister of music. 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.
The second question was this: “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?” And his reply: “Yes.”
Hmm, sounds pretty straightforward to me. And as expected, a great uproar broke out over these remarks. And rightly so. But now, just a day later, after a huge backlash, he seems to be in major damage control. Now in a released statement he says this: “To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.”
He also said this:
I’ve never performed a same-sex wedding. I’ve never been asked and, frankly, I hope I never am asked. This reporter, however, asked a hypothetical question: if I were pastoring today and if a gay couple were Christians of good faith and if they asked me to perform their wedding ceremony—if, if, if. Pastors don’t have the luxury of indulging in hypotheticals. And to be honest, no is not a word I typically use.
When put on the spot by this particular interviewer, I said yes in the moment. But on further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that. That’s not something I would do out of respect to the congregation, the larger church body, and the historic biblical Christian view and teaching on marriage. That said, I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.
So which is it? What is the real message here Mr Peterson? Sorry, but I and others find the so-called retraction a bit suspect. The idea that he was caught off guard in the original interview and just blurted out a reply he had never really thought about before just does not cut it.
He would have been reflecting on these matters for years of course, so the answers he gave in his interview would have been a faithful reflection of where he was at on these matters. Indeed, in the second article I link to below the guy who interviewed him said Peterson had said three years ago that he “started to change my mind” on the homosexuality issue.
So his retraction rings a bit hollow here to be honest. A big backlash has obviously shook him up, and now he seems to want to put out some of the flames caused by his initial remarks. Well, I hope he does want to affirm biblical truth on this issue. But even in this retraction he has said things which are still very worrying indeed.
Recall that he said this: “I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.” Um, really? Allowing an unrepentant homosexual couple at the Lord’s Table? That can only mean one thing in my books: a pastoral blessing on this sinful union if not this sinful lifestyle.
So confusion still seems to reign here. And I am not alone in thinking this. One biblical scholar and expert on homosexuality, Robert Gagnon, posted on his Facebook page his own concerns about this supposed retraction. He began with these words:
Really? Not so fast: How does one in a single day go from dismissing something as foundational as a male-female prerequisite for sexual unions to (allegedly) embracing such a prerequisite, with the only thing occurring in between being a major threat to a massive loss of influence in the evangelical community along with income from book sales? Read carefully both Peterson’s RNS interview by Merritt and his subsequent “retraction” and decide for yourself which is the “real” view of EP. I have been actively engaged in the discussion of homosexuality in mainline churches (and now evangelical churches) for over two decades. If there is one thing that I have learned about assessing a person’s actual view, it is that you have to read and listen very carefully to what is (and what is not) written and spoken. On this issue the “dodge” is common.
And he concludes:
The focus of Peterson’s regret is on generating controversy (“It has never been my intention to participate in the kind of lightless heat”) rather than on violating a foundational Christian standard for sexual ethics.
What kind of credibility would there be to such a “retraction” (again: Precisely what has he retracted?) if, instead of commenting on homosexual relations, he had commented on there being “no right or wrong” about adult-consensual incestuous unions or adult-polyamorous unions, had expressed the desire that there be no further controversies over such relationships in the church, spoke of welcoming them to church and to his table without any mention of the need for repentance, expressed his willingness to perform a marriage ceremony for such and then subsequently retracted (after a huge controversy endangering income) only the willingness to perform a ceremony and the use of the name “marriage”? Would such a “retraction” really give one assurance of his complete rejection of such unions?
At the end of the day, we may never fully know where Peterson stands. He seems to be all over the place. But as always we must pray for folks like Peterson. He certainly needs our prayers during this time, and we can pray that he gets back to the biblical message on this, not the world’s message.
Sadly, none of this is all that surprising. Christian leaders are dropping like flies in the West when it comes to all things homosexual. One after another is compromising and capitulating on these sorts of issues. Thus when I first heard the story I was not inclined to write about it.
I just thought that such sell-outs to the gospel on this issue are a dime-a-dozen. But with his quick back-tracking, the story gets even more bizarre. Of interest, in the second article he says he will now no longer make any public comments. That might be a good thing indeed.
If Christian leaders are going to speak publicly, they had better ensure what they say fully lines up with the Word of God, and not with the latest trendy leftist political causes. The message we share is vitally important, and we had better make sure we are proclaiming the one true message.
52 Replies to “Peterson and Homosexuality: Just What is the Message?”
Thanks Bill…as always you have honed right into the critical point. Does he or does he not endorse a homosexual union? And if he does, he is clearly not endorsing the teachings of the Word of God. This needs to be made abundantly clear for the sake of those who are not themselves clear on what a Biblical stance must be. It is not loving to cloak the truth in order to protect the feelings of gay people sitting in the pews. We who hold fast to the teachings of the living Word must speak out though of course we know we will be labelled ‘judgmental’ as I was indirectly on my post on this issue today. Isn’t it better to tread on toes if it may well lead someone to repentance and salvation?
Hi Bill, thank you so much for the BALANCED assessment on Eugene Peterson. I like many others had been receiving very disturbing reports about his theological position on homosexuality. I was not aware that he had printed a retraction. Methinks it should never have got to that, as the old saying goes “the stable door is shut, but the horse has already bolted”. Paraphrasing that classic verse in Proverbs “There is sometimes great wisdom in keeping one’s big mouth firmly shut”. I sincerely hope that Peterson will think VERY VERY CAREFULLY before making any further public comment. Good one Bill, is it possible for you at this time to get back to commenting on some of those “juicy” theological issues that I enjoy studying and learning from? Blessings, Kel.
He has retracted his comments …for more info see
Thanks Rob. But you obviously have not read my article! My entire piece is all about his so-called retraction! And I of course speak to the link you shared, and I feature it at the bottom of my article!
Great little phrase Bill! “The one true message” John 1:1-5, 14. Pastor Peterson needs a re-newer course in that Message. The One True God.
“How does one in a single day go from dismissing something as foundational as a male-female prerequisite for sexual unions to (allegedly) embracing such a prerequisite, with the only thing occurring in between being a major threat to a massive loss of influence in the evangelical community along with income from book sales?”
Wishy washy, making it up as he goes along. These should be thought-through conclusions.
I am NOT impressed with Eugene Peterson here.
Yes Phil, there is not a pastor worth his salt anywhere in the West who would not have carefully and deliberately thought about such issues long and hard for years now. They would know exactly what their position is and what their answer would be on such questions. Yet I have had so many clueless and compromising Christians defending him, claiming he was tricked, he was duped, he was put on the spot, etc. Good grief! They need to stop defending the indefensible here!
I have as much of a problem with his retraction (at the above provided link) as I do with his original statement where he says:
“When I told this reporter that there are gay and lesbian people who ‘seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do,’ I meant it,” he stated. “But then again, the goodness of a spiritual life is functionally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.”
This is a basic failing of loving the creation more than the Creator. According to Jesus, obedience is primarily how we display our love toward God. Homosexuality is an ultimate rebellion against YHWH, being clearly defined as such in the scriptures and being against the natural order.
I cannot understand how any bible-affirming pastor would confuse this issue theologically, and also confuse the difference between “reaching out and ministering to homosexuals”, with a “stated acceptance of their sinful lifestyle”.
The fact that EP considers that it is possible that someone who lives in a life of perpetual sin (whether that be homosexuality, unlawful remarriage/adultery, lust/pornography, greed/avarice, gluttony etc.) according to the dictates of their flesh could possibly “‘seem to have as good a spiritual life…” as a supposedly Word-grounded obedient pastor of many decades, greatly concerns me, and should greatly concern him.
Surely the ‘goodness of a spiritual life’ is effectively represented by the level of holiness in which we walk with God, a reflection of the transformation in sanctification from glory to glory through Christ Jesus. If he considers that the attainment of holiness “is functionally irrelevant in the whole scheme of things” then I have interpreted the scriptures very differently than he.
Then saying that
“We are saved by faith through grace that operates independent of our resolve or our good behavior,” he stated. “It operates by the hand of a loving God who desires for us to live in grace and truth and who does not tire of turning us toward both grace and truth.”
as though this covers the intentional disobedience of perpetuating a sinful lifestyle, pretty much sums up the lack of insight shown by EP and where EP he stands on the issue and importance of holiness. A cursory reading of Eph 6, Hebrews 12, 1 Pet 1 details how this must be an ever-increasing part of our life as we walk as followers of Christ.
This retraction from EP is clearly disingenuous, and the possible reason behind it in itself very troublesome, and greatly concerning given his “weight” in Christian circles.
I have never been comfortable with the Message bible but now I would consider it likely to be dangerous turf if it contains the same prevarication that he has displayed.
Thanks Bill, Yes there is a timely and sad warning in this story.
I really do wonder though, how much, many even really “salty” pastors have thought about this. It is one thing to openly declare where one stands on gay relationships and SS Marriage, and it is another to be able to pastor such people.
It seems too easy to fall into the trap of welcoming “the musician”, in a moment of need.
It is all too easy to avoid the hard truth now, by wanting to be gracious and nice now, hoping that sometime in the future the grace of God will lead to repentance.
There are also the traps of “presuming the best” and of ignorance about the true nature of a person, especially of those who have sins following them.
The choice of leadership in a church is a solemn responsibility and does have far-reaching consequences.
There are three things here that all pastors need to give much thought to, besides their basic stand about homosexuality and indeed sex outside of marriage.
They need to work out in the fear of God;
-for the progress of the Kingdom and for the good of the church;
-as a matter of principle and practice;
-& before the issues arise;
-& probably obtain prior agreement with the church leadership;
1a. When they will address any new arising indication or allegation of such misconduct, face to face with the people so troubled.
1b. How will they address those people.
1c. What demands, requirements, advice, guidelines, they will give to those people.
2. To what degree such people will be able to participate in the Lord’s Table, and other sacraments.
3. To what extent any service or leadership to the church such people may be allowed to perform while;
b. Genuinely repentant but struggling with lifestyle and attitudes.
c. Genuinely repentant and successful at beating that demon in their lives.
Unless all this is in place and firmly adhered to, there is little else but a slippery slope into regret, sorrow, tears, and problems.
It is the first words of challenge and the first requirements are the hardest to present.
Once these are done and the pain of them borne, then the expectations of the pastor, the church and the people in trouble, should be clear, and progress in peace (we hope) may be made.
Hi Bill, if one positive can come out of this whole Eugene Peterson saga, it is the need to reach out to the LGBT community. From my own limited theological understanding, breaking the spiritual bondage of homosexuality is ranked amongst the hardest to achieve. In my own limited experience in fellowshipping with them, you have to be constantly on your emotional & spiritual guard. Bill have you written any articles that give STRICT Biblical Guidlines in building bridges to the LGBT community and then leading them to accept Christ? I’ve had a look through your search engine, and couldn’t find any articles within those parameters. (Probably searching in the wrong place, or asking the wrong questions) Blessings, Kel.
Thanks Kelvin. The second half of this bibliography contains nearly 40 titles that deal with the matters who seek more information on:
Bill, I agree with your overall assessment of Eugene Peterson’s statement and retraction. I also agree with the insights of your readers. However, I did wonder if E.P. meant his own table at home or the Lord’s Table?
Thanks Graham. There is a slight possibility of that, but the entire context of his remarks does not really support that view. The discussion all along was about homosexuals in the church and his role as a pastor. And even if your option is right, a passage like 1 Corinthians 5:11 certainly would come into play.
As a person who was taught that you always start with the Word and then measure everything up against it, I am totally phased by people like him who bring into question the validity of scripture and try and make it fit his take on things.
The last words of one of my mentors, when he died, were “Stay true to the Word.”
What is so difficult about that? Why do so many leaders who should know better, shoot themselves in the foot when they open their mouths?
Why are they afraid of the truth? Why can’t they handle it? Why is the truth negotiable? Why are leaders so wishy washy? Why does the word seem to be an optional extra for them?
Perhaps we need a clear the decks of church leaders to be replaced with people that are totally dedicated to the scriptures.
Kelvin…why should Peterson have to think “very, very carefully” about making any public comments? I would have thought that being a pastor was a very, very public profession…especially in preaching God’s word…and that whether in private or in public, his answers to difficult questions would be the same. Also, why should the homosexual “community” be treated any differently than any other unrepentant sinner, actively engaged in any other sin? And I’m concerned that referring to it as such, gives it a certain legitimacy that it doesn’t deserve. The adulteress community, the murderous community, the blaspheming community, anyone? It seems just another way to use mushy language to compromise and camouflage the true Gospel message warnings against homosexual practice. Which I happen to believe Peterson’s “The Message” may do too.
Bonnie, Eugene Peterson’s remarks concerning homosexuality were published several days ago, and then his retraction was published in the last 48 hours. Bill also noted at the conclusion of his article, that Peterson had stated that he would not be making anymore public comments. Based on Bill’s article, I think that Eugene Peterson has done himself a tremendous disservice through his personal comments. Hence my response, that if he does choose in future to make public comments, he should think “very, very, carefully” on what he is going to say. Now concerning your comments regarding homosexuality being just as bad as any other sin e.g Adultery, Murder etc. well I’m not going to disagree with that. I am not a highly trained theologian, however, I do attempt to share the Love of God wherever I can. Be it in street ministry, or the work place. As I mentioned in my second contribution (when seeking Bill’s assistance for Biblical Resources on this issue) “many thanks for the response Bill”, I have spent a lot of time chatting with members of the LGBT community. For those dear folk that wanted to accept The Lord Jesus into their lives, it has been a MAJOR, MAJOR, BATTLE. Many of those I’ve worked and prayed with have gone through many relapses back into homosexual behaviour before they have finally got their victory. Others I’ve prayed & shared with did not succeed, and have gone back into their old way of life. However, it has not deterred me from sharing Jesus with whoever will listen. Hopefully Bonnie, that answers your questions, Blessings, Kel.
Roger, you asked “Why are they afraid of the truth? Why can’t they handle it? Why is the truth negotiable? Why are leaders so wishy washy? Why does the word seem to be an optional extra for them?”
In my experience for many it comes down to money. Offended sheep don’t fill the offering plate and the church mortgage and salaries must be paid.
Concerning whether homosexuality is as bad or worse than other sins: I have never heard of a thief, a robber, an adulterer, a murderer, etc. mounting a campaign to force anyone to accept those sins. I have not heard of those other sinners putting people in jail for refusing to endorse those sins. Homosexuality is a complete different category of sin. It affects everyone. It affects children (who should be allowed to grow up without exposure to deviancy in their formative years). We are guilty for allowing this to happen. Homosexuality must be removed from the public sphere.
I could be wrong, but I think when he said “welcome at my table”, he meant as a guest in his home, not for Communion. Otherwise, I agree with everything else you said.
Thanks Suzanne. Graham above raised that possibility. See my reply to him, also above. Even if that were the case (but it seems unlikely), we still are not out of trouble. Numerous New Testament passages warn about not even sharing in fellowship with those who are unrepentant and living in known sin. Here are just a few of them: Matthew 10:14; Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 5:11; 2 Thessalonians. 3:6; 2 Thessalonians. 3:14-15; 2 Timothy 3:1-5; Titus 3:9-10; and 2 John 10-11.
Roger Marks… Why are leaders so easily bumped off their scriptural foundation? Here are some possibilities,,
1. The devil does not resist weaker-founded people becoming pastors.
2. Leaders are attacked harder than non-leaders, so they require more prayer to survive.
3. People do tend to get the leaders they deserve.
Thanks for that Paul. it never entered my head, although there is plenty of room there.
I keep hearing “30 pieces of silver.”
Your comment suggests to me that the quicker we get back to the biblical pattern and appoint a plurality of unpaid Elders who have already proved themselves from within the congregation the better it will be for everyone.
Bringing one person from outside the congregation is wrought with problems because no one is going to tell you that three churches ago he had an affair with his secretary.
What a great comment page with no personal vitriol, yet clear though firm objective fair statements. Many other such columns degenerate into personal attacks, so we'll done to all. Thanks Bill for the qualifying scriptures too. One of which will support my comment. Justin Adam makes uses good of what I call 'bush logic' which you don'the have to be a theologian to understand, yet which is valid, to which may I add that It is too often said that there is no differentiation in sinfulness. Murder and homosexuality is no worse in God'speaks sight than a lie or petty theft. Firstly it is obvious that our civil courts would begin to differ. More importantly 1 Cor 6:18-20 makes a distinction too tying sexuality purity to the sacredness of the human body, having illustrated this so graphically in verses 15-17.
The importance of a believers body being the temple of the Holy Spirit is of profound yet humbling significance as is the fact that corporatively believers are in fact the Fulness of Christ, and in reality are meant to be through the Holy Spirit, the expression of Christ to the world as He was of the Father. Ephesians 1:23. What wonderfully gracious yet very sobering position the church is found to be in.
Perhaps a little paradoxically, in the context of this blog, the Message translation of the above verse is appealing.
Finally, am I correct in thinking that Bill M also has articles in the publication Life News in Western Australia
Poor Eugene, all he was trying to do was explain to to his benighted, bigoted, fundamentalist brethren that the Jews have been wrong for 3000 years, the Church for 2000 years, the Old and the New testaments are wrong and the teachings of Jesus re marriage are incorrect. What a guy! No wonder people are wary of clergy. His groveling apology gave me a warm fuzzy feeling though.
Thanks Paul Gunn. We here in the Bathurst diocese recenty acknowledged Aboriginal Sunday. There were no aborigines in the church but we continue to persist with this myth. Most aborigines don’t want or need the catholic church so why continue to pretend. Actually many catholics no longer need or want the catholic church either – count the numbers. The reason the truth is not setting us free is that we are not telling it. Thanks Bill for telling the truth.
Thanks Bill. I was going to join the Baptists until I heard a baptist preacher on radio welcoming homosexual couples into the community. The catholics in the Bathurst diocese did the same thing at an Assembly a few years ago and Bishop Mc Kenna did not object.. I am tempted to think I must be wrong but the temptation is easily resisted.
There are a lot of erroneous assumptions made by Peterson and others of his ilk. For one thing, to “pastor gay couples” seems to be an overwhelmingly meaningless statement. Yes, people come to the church with sin inclinations. But, as A.W. Tozer once said, it is incomprehensible to live in a saving relationship to God while being in open rebellion to Him. We don’t, we can’t “pastor” unbelievers. Not even the Prodigal Son was under his father’s roof UNTIL he came to his senses.
I think the purpose of the church body has been twisted and perverted for quite some time. That is why there are so many advertised “welcoming” churches. What they mean is they welcome every form of sin as acceptable.
B.T Walters, you’ll find that there are people on both sides of the “gay marriage” issue who are Baptists, Presbyterians, Catholics and so on. However, there are entire Baptist and Presbyterian denominations (as well as the Roman Catholic church) who are on record recently taking the traditional, biblical, man-plus-woman stance.
The Roman Catholics are officially correct on this issue, but if you read your Bible carefully and study what the official beliefs are, you’ll find several other reasons to avoid being a part of the Roman Catholic church.
Quite a thought Keith, quite a thought.
Keith Wilson, I fully understand that the main focus of this discussion is on Eugene Peterson and wether he “coulda”,” woulda”, “shoulda”. However, I do disagree with your statement that a Competent Pastor is unable to pastor a gay couple who feels so inclined to come to his/her church. According to my understanding, isn’t a church like a hospital? Isn’t it the churches job to welcome all ???? Any working pastor worth their salt is going to place “loving boundaries” around that gay couple, but still go all out to encourage them to keep on coming. And Keith, I’ll share a little secret with you. It’s not the Pastor’s job to save them, it’s his/her job to create the environment where The Spirit Of God can speak into their hearts. We can talk with, fellowship with that gay couple or anyone else for that matter until we are blue in the face, but at the end of the day WE CAN’T SAVE THEM. IT IS THE SOLE DOMAIN OF THE HOLY SPIRIT, DOING WHAT ONLY HE CAN DO. Along with the Pastor, it is our responsibility to assist The Holy Spirit as He guides and directs. Keith, I would like to pose you a question, The Book of Acts records that after the disciples received the Baptism of The Holy Spirit, Peter preached to a large crowd, and thousands accepted Christ as their Saviour. Was it Peter who convinced them to accept Christ, or was it the Work of The Holy Spirit ministering to the spirits of those folk who accepted Christ. “Interesting question”. Regards, Kelvin.
Thanks Kelvin. You may have misread or misunderstood what Keith said, in terms of the first part of your comment. I assume he means what I have long tried to argue for. That is, any sinner is welcome to visit a church and hear the gospel, but if one becomes involved in a church in a much more committed fashion – as a member, eg. – then much more is expected. If one claims to be part of a Christian fellowship but continues in known and unrepented of sin, then church discipline is called for – which may include expulsion. But see this piece for a much more detailed explanation of this:
Hi Bill, thank you for the clarification, that’s why in my last response, I noted that a Pastor should place “loving boundaries ” around a gay couple. I agree with you totally, there are areas of church life such as membership, The Lord’s Table, or ministry functions that are no go areas for people living in open sin. In my previous posting, I’m sorry if I didn’t make that clear. What I was trying to argue for, was the necessity to keep on encouraging them to attend church services, to show them love, and to give The Holy Spirit every opportunity to do His work in their lives. Obviously, it goes without saying, that if their continued behaviour jeopardises the function or operation of the church, then under prayerful guidance, you may have to ask them to leave. The main aim from my point of view is to allow the Holy Spirit every opportunity to Minister to them, and to keep claiming them for The Kingdom in prayer. As we say here in Australia, “to give it your best shot”. Bill, thank you for your referral to the article “Church visitors versus Church member” , I’ll certainly spend some time going through it. Regards, Kel.
I know little or nothing about A.W.Tozer but his comment ‘…it is incomprehensible …’ is a classic. Thank you for that Keith Wilson. I appreciate your comments Jim Swindle. Perhaps people depart from the truth in respect of gay marriage because they dont believe what they read in the bible – if they read it at all. As to you other comment I would need further study but at the moment I lack the resources. Could you recomment a good reference on the subject? I have studied and prayed the bible for many years and I am a bible christian not a Catholic christian. I often quote a former parish priest who says he believes in Catholic morality not biblical morality. Therein lies the problem I believe. Thanks Bill for the platform. Blessings.
Thanks BT. More on Tozer can be found here:
B. T Walters, you’re right that there’s a problem when a priest or pastor bases morality on what his peers believe instead of on what the Bible says. I believe some, but not all, Roman Catholics and Baptists and Presbyterians are really Christians. I see lots more problems with Roman Catholic theology than with the others. For information about Roman Catholicism and evangelical beliefs (which I believe are basically biblical beliefs), here are a couple of places to start.
Keith, regarding “welcoming” churches, once again I will suggest following the money will provide insight in some instances. Financial pressures can have a way of inspiring choices with finances in mind. The typical church in the US is a legal corporation with liabilities and expenses that require tending and buckling to the culture in the effort to fill the pews is a tempting path.
Paul Gunn, your comments remind me of a famous saying by C.T. Studd, an evangelist from over a century ago. If my memory serves me correctly, he said; “I don’t want to live with the sound of mission bells. I want to set up a mission within a yard of hell” . For me, this saying, puts church back in its real context. Blessings Kel.
Thanks Bill, thanks Jim. Lots of good stuff there which I will follow up in due course. I appreciate your taking the time to provide it. Blessings.
Paul to follow up your comment I read an article about a conversation between a pastor and a parishioner. He was suggesting to the pastor that they make some changes to their way of doing things to make the church more youth friendly.
The pastor got back to him eventually and said that he was not going to change anything as the parishioners pay his wages and the denomination provides his superannuation so he wasn’t going to rock the boat.
Roger, unfortunately I’ve been part of similar conversations. And like this article starts out I wonder what influence book sales had on Petersons ‘retraction’. Again just following the money to see where it leads. The awkward blend of religion and finance is of course nothing new.
So true Paul, so true.
Thanks, Bill. The Bible is either right or wrong and it is not subject to any private interpretation. We must either belief and accept or doubt and reject. There is no middle way, or sitting on the fence. Eugene Peterson’s stand is loud and clear, and unfortunately so. He is for same sex marriage, period. He spoke his mind as he believed. People wanted him to be evangelically correct, so he obliged us and retracted. But that does not affect his personal belief. The retraction is immaterial. It is like politicians retracting their comments so they can align with popular opinion. They retract because they were caught, not because they are really sorry.
But I believe the bible is correct and I accept it. The bible clearly and unambiguously says No to homosexuality, whether in friendship or in marriage. That too is my stand. I refuse to deliberately reach out to the LGBTs. I will pray for anyone I know in that community. But I will love them from afar. I will not pretend I want to socialize with any of them. I must safeguard my salvation.
I think, and unfortunately didn’t read what all of you had to say, that Dr Petersons didn’t think about or has read 1 Corinthians 5 :9-13 for some time.
He is welcome to eat with with whomsoever he wants as long as they are non-Christian. But if they profess to be Christian he has to be obedient to the Word that says, with these don’t even eat with them. And why would that be? Tradition, Jesus says, nullifies the power of the Word of God, and if you start eating and mixing with them (the so called Christians)you are starting a tradition against God’s wishes and nullifies the Word of God, setting an example of this is ok even if the Word says different. In other words God’s Word is interpreted from the world’s opinion instead of judging the Christians from the Bible. Why have the Bible then at all? Why did he waste his time interpreting the Bible, if it is not to be used and life is to be judged according to what feels right or makes me ok with what I want to do
You said this:
‘Recall that he said this: “I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.” Um, really? Allowing an unrepentant homosexual couple at the Lord’s Table? That can only mean one thing in my books: a pastoral blessing on this sinful union if not this sinful lifestyle.’
Is that not exactly what Jesus did? Ate with sinners and tax collectors? BEFORE they repented? This can mean ONLY 1 THING!!!!!! A holy blessing on their sin! Better not read the Bible…
Thanks Jacob, but let me call your bluff. Twisting Scripture and mixing apples and oranges helps no one – but it does cause great mischief. Of course Jesus ate and drank with sinners. Unless he lived alone in a cave, he could not but help do that, since everyone is a sinner. So obviously he had meals with sinners. Tell us something we don’t know. And to partake in common activities with sinful humans does NOT mean any sort of divine blessing on those activities. Far from it.
But that is NOT what the Lord’s table or the Lord’s supper is all about. That is the special, holy commemoration of the Lord’s death and resurrection that only Christians can partake in. The only reference to the Lord’s supper as the Lord’s table is found in 1 Corinthians 10. And there Paul makes it pretty clear that believers should not have anything to do with pagan religion and pagan practices. As it says in verse 21: “You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and the cup of demons too; you cannot have a part in both the Lord’s table and the table of demons.”
But even more damning to your bogus rendering of the biblical data is the very next chapter. In 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 Paul speaks in great detail about the Lord’s supper. And he makes it perfectly clear that this is restricted for believers only. And even Christians must be very careful here, or they will face strong judgment from God. Consider verses 27-34:
That is hardcore stuff. Even those Christians who approach this carelessly and with unconfessed sin face major judgment from God – even death. And Paul NEVER calls non-Christians “brothers” or “sisters”. This can mean ONLY 1 THING!!!!!! You could not be more wrong here. Better luck next time.
Oh, and one more thing: Better not read the Bible…
Well, I was thinking of buying one of these bibles, to kind of make the Bible more of an easy read, but, you know what…maybe it is NOT supposed to be an EASY read! I will get back to it…the old fashioned way….the right way. Thank you for writing this article…years ago…it helped me…TODAY!!
As a newer Christian that is just beginning to really study and follow the Word, I came across this triple while researching “The Message” and trying to find a version of the Bible that’s easier to understand. However, reading this has prompted a question that I hope you all can help me with? If the Church’s stance towards homosexuality should be one of clear rebuke, not allowing that segment of the population to join us at God’s table due to continual sin without repentance- does that same rule apply to all people that live in perpetual sin Without repentance? For instance, people that smoke cigarettes? If God’s Word says all sin is equal, is there a difference in how we should deal with an unrepentant alcoholic, smoker, abusive spouse- or any other sin that’s a continual part of a persons day to day life? Please know that I’m not arguing for homosexuality, or against the author’s points in this article. I’m just trying to genuinely understand where the line is for the church.
Thanks Rebecca. The short answer to your question is yes: all those who claim to be Christians but are living in known, persistent unconfessed sin should not join in the Lord’s table. Only when they have acknowledged it is sinful, have repented, and are seeking – with God’s help – to no longer live in that sin can they be readmitted not just to the Lord’s supper but to church membership. Thus a Christian living in continual and unrepented of adultery or fornication or whatever sin would be in the same boat. So in that sense, the sin of homosexuality is on a par with these other sins.
As to cigarette smoking, Scripture nowhere calls that a sin, although any devout Christian will want to cut out any habits that are clearly unhealthy.
And as to all sins being equal, yes and no is the short answer. But for the longer answer, see here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/11/12/are-all-sins-equal-part-one/
And here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2010/11/12/are-all-sins-equal-part-two/
Rebecca, Neither drinking alcohol nor smoking cigarettes is sinful. Smoking is stupid. After all, why would anyone want to kill themselves by slow death? I smoked three cigarettes when I was 14 and thought, this is stupid and have never smoked since.
As to alcohol, Paul told Timothy to take a little wine for his stomach’s sake and told us not to be drunk with wine because that is excess. So it is a case of a little is OK but a lot is not.
Some people have to shy off alcohol altogether because they can’t discipline themselves with a little. They always drink to excess.
Wow! We should have learned BY NOW where this dysphoria originated from. It is a Pandoras Box of rebellion and insanity for those caught in the web. A couple of my grandkids have worked their way thru, thankfully back to reality.