Eugene Peterson Flips, then Flops on Gay “Marriage”

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

It was the latest defection from biblical orthodoxy by a prominent Evangelical Christian leader. When columnist Jonathan Merritt asked Eugene Peterson whether he would perform a same-sex “wedding” for a Christian couple of “good faith,” The Message bible author answered, “yes.”

Peterson’s flip on gay pseudotrimony created an immediate firestorm in the Christian blogosphere, prompting the former pastor to “flop” the next day, telling Christianity Today,

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.

Peterson’s abrupt flip-flop raises some legitimate questions, especially, as Merritt claims, he made “no attempt to clarify or change his answer” in the week prior to publication of their interview. For instance,

Was his “flip” the result of a lack of conviction in the biblical standard or a lack of courage defending it?

Was his “flop” the result of market pressure from threats to ban and boycott his books, or in the realization that he had experienced an unfortunate “senior moment”?

Most importantly, what does Eugene Peterson really believe about marriage and homosexuality?

According to Merritt, “several prominent pastors, authors and theologians” he had talked to beforehand, “intimated that Peterson had told them privately that he was affirming of same-sex relationships.” Their intimation was confirmed not only by Peterson’s unqualified, three letter response, but also by his praise of his former congregation for hiring an openly gay man as music director, suggesting his approval of non-celibate gays as church members and leaders.

Perhaps, most telling is what Peterson has to say in the popular version of the bible he authored, The Message. In contrast to standard bible versions in which injunctions against homosexuality in Romans 1:26-271Timothy 1:10-11, and 1 Corinthians 6:9-11are plain-stated and unambiguous, The Message wags at those who “use and abuse sex,” live irresponsibly, and are “all lust, no love.”

Peterson does not give a rationale for these positions, other than say:

“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… but [as to homosexuality and same-sex marriage] it’s not a right or wrong thing as far as I’m concerned.” I wonder if that applies to non-marital heterosexual relationships, as far as he’s concerned.

Peterson’s comments remind me of Seventh-Gay Adventists, a documentary about homosexuals in the Seventh Day Adventist community. Like the gays of Peterson’s acquaintance, the film’s homosexuals are all “good” people... Continue reading here. 

Originally published July 17, 2017.

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