'The Message' author reneges SSM support, claims 'put on spot'

Saturday, July 15, 2017
Michael F. Haverluck (OneNewsNow.com)

Two dudes on wedding cakeEugene Peterson, the author of the popular and controversial loose paraphrase of the Bible, The Message, retracted his newly declared position of supporting same-sex “marriage” and homosexuality, contending on Thursday that he was “put on the spot” when asked about the issue – insisting that he actually believes in traditional marriage as only being between one man and one woman.

"To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman,” Peterson told The Washington Post Thursday. “I affirm a biblical view of everything."

The renowned author then attempted to explain what made him show his backing for homosexual behavior that he gave in an interview earlier in the week with Religion News Service’s (CNS) Jonathan Merritt, who asked him if he would perform a same-sex marriage.

“Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years,” Peterson recounted to the Post. “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.’”


"Regardless of the question – something expected or unexpected – knowledge of the scriptures is knowledge of Christ; and knowledge of God's Word will tell us where to stand, the positions to take, and what does or does not constitute Christian obedience."

"If the Word of God had the authority that it ought to have in all of our lives and all of our churches, there would be no ambiguity such as there was when Pastor Peterson was asked this question."

Dr. Alex McFarland
Director for Christian worldview and apologetics
North Greenville University (South Carolina)


He went on to excuse himself from his previously declared support of same-sex marriage by saying that he has been out of the loop for some time.

“It’s worth noting that in my 29-year career as a pastor, and in the years since then, I’ve never performed a same-sex wedding,” Peterson continued in his lengthy retraction to the Post. “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. It was an awkward question for me because I don’t do many interviews at this stage in my life at 84, and I am no longer able to travel as I once did or accept speaking requests.”

The ex-pastor also justified his rash response by contending that he is used to pondering and writing out his responses when answering questions.

“With most interviews I’ve done, I generally ask for questions in advance and respond in writing – that’s where I am most comfortable,” Paterson added. “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.”

The controversial author then attempted to backtrack on another statement he made about many homosexuals having a strong spiritual walks with God.

“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,” Peterson affirmed. “But then again, the goodness of a spiritual life is functionally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things. We are saved by faith through grace that operates independent of our resolve or our good behavior. 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.”

Avoiding the issue about whether he told the LGBT community that the Bible teaches that homosexuality is a sin in the eyes of God, the liberal “theologian” spoke about his general interaction with those attracted to the same sex while he served as a Presbyterian pastor.

“There have been gay people in a variety of congregations, campuses and communities where I have served,” Paterson recollected in his recanting interview. “My responsibility to them was the work of a pastor – to visit them, to care for their souls, to pray for them, to preach the Scriptures for them.”

Walking on the fence?

Even though Peterson readjusted his position on homosexuality to embrace a more biblical view, it was noted that he is of the belief that the Church is evolving on its view of homosexuality – similar to former President Barack Obama during his terms in office.

“In the interview released this week, the 84-year-old Presbyterian pastor and author of more than 30 books, including The Message, said that the Christian Church was in ‘transition’ on the issue,” The Christian Post (CP) reported on Peterson’s CNS interview.

Peterson’s attempt to walk the fence on the issue has received a great deal of concern and conjecture from the Christian community.

“His change in stance on marriage and homosexuality drew a flurry of comments from both evangelicals and LGBT persons,” CP’s Brandon Showalter noted. “Some evangelicals expressed disappointment, while others were not surprised.”

Whatever motivation Peterson had for changing his mind, it has been confirmed by a number of reports that LifeWay Christian Stores was ready to remove the author’s books and resources from its store shelves after his declared support for the homosexual lifestyle. After the retraction, LifeWay Spokesman Carol Pipes indicated that the Christian company reversed its initial reaction to Peterson’s statement, and will continue selling his books.

"Based upon Eugene Peterson's retraction, we will continue to sell his resources," Pipes announced to CP in an email.

Had Peterson stuck to his initial statement on homosexuality, he would have likely suffered a similar fate as another Christian author who proclaimed support of the LGBT.

“The retail giant previously discontinued selling the books of speaker and author Jen Hatmaker when she came out in support of same-sex marriage – also in an interview with Religion News Service, last October,” Showalter recounted. “She said she believed that same-sex unions could be ‘holy.’"

Nothing new

It is argued that Peterson’s Left-leaning on homosexuality is nothing new – especially when looking at his past works.

Boyce College Biblical Studies professor Denny Burk pointed out that Peterson did much more than leave out the word “homosexual” in the author’s very loose translation of the Bible, which many conservative Christians contend is not a translation at all.

"[I]n the three New Testament passages that deal explicitly with homosexuality, Peterson obscures and conceals the Bible's meaning altogether (see Rom. 1:26-27, 1 Cor. 6:9-11, 1 Tim. 1:10 in The Message)," Burk expressed on his blog, stressing that Peterson’s brief support of homosexuality earlier in the week was less than surprising.

Another orthodox evangelical, Colin Smothers, who is with the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood (CBMW), commented after Peterson’s initial support of SSM after the CNS interview, using 1 Corinthians 6:9 to back his objection to homosexual behavior.

"We have to be at least thankful for Peterson's honesty when he ends his answer with 'as far as I'm concerned,' but therein lies the problem,” Smothers wrote on CBMW’s website. “He's not the only one who's concerned. There is One who is infinitely more important than Peterson, who is also infinitely more concerned and has made Himself clear on this issue."

Southern Baptist pastor James Merritt, who formerly served as the denomination’s president, took to social media to impress the point that Christians should not lean on man’s wavering position on the issue of homosexuality – only God’s.

“I'll change my mind when God changes his,” Merritt posted on Twitter Wednesday. “His is the only opinion that matters, and on this issue, God neither stammers or stutters.”

7/18/2017 - McFarland's comments added.

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