Eugene Peterson’s Predicament: The Unintended Consequences Of Compromise

Two facedSo Eugene Peterson, author of The Message paraphrase of the Bible, finally admitted his support of same sex marriage, only to backpeddle the following day after LifeWay announced they would no longer sell The Message. There are so many directions we could go with this story, most of which my fellow bloggers have already covered. I’ve come late to the party, it seems, and therefore have nothing new to bring to the table.

Yes and no. Agreed: The Message already betrayed Peterson’s sympathies toward LBGTQ concerns years ago, softening key passages on homosexuality so much that people in the Gay Christian Movement have embraced this version  as a legitimate translation. But look at his rendering of 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 as just one example:

9-11 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. A number of you know from experience what I’m talking about, for not so long ago you were on that list. Since then, you’ve been cleaned up and given a fresh start by Jesus, our Master, our Messiah, and by our God present in us, the Spirit.

Compare that to the English Standard Version, which is an actual word-for-word translation done by a board of Biblical scholars:

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, 10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

Again, many other bloggers have pointed out how Peterson’s watered down rendition leaves wiggle room for committed same sex relationships. Peterson can assure us that he believes marriage should be heterosexual and monogamous all he wants, but clearly he has no intention of condemning homosexuality as sinful. He needs to straddle between appealing to his ultra liberal denomination (PCUSA) and keeping LifeWay happy so they will sell The Message.

Compromise does catch up with people, doesn’t it? And in Peterson’s case, he’s now lost credibility on both sides. As LifeWay pulls his books, gay Christian Matthew Vines tweets:

Matthew Vines tweet

Either way, Eugene Peterson’s attempts to placate both sides has indeed cost him plenty. Admittedly, taking a  firm stand on either side of the issue would also have drawn criticism, but at least he would have retained some allies. Of course, his liberal theology and his shabby misrepresentation of God’s Word still would have given him much to answer for on Judgment Day, but now he faces judgment from both liberal and conservative Christians.

We must view Eugene Peterson’s predicament with fear and trembling rather than with self-righteous glee. Whether we admit it or not, each of us faces the temptation to compromise the truth. As time progresses,  each of us will have to take a stand specifically on homosexuality and transsexuality. Any attempts we make to please both camps will ultimately result in displeasing everyone. Just ask Eugene Peterson.

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