Thursday, July 13, 2017

Eugene Petersen: Bringing out the God-flavors & God-colors in the world

NOTE: Since this was posted, new information has come out:

Christianity Today: Actually, Eugene Peterson Does Not Support Same-Sex Marriage

My thoughts still stand as I wrote them earlier. And I'm not at all surprised by this quote from the newer piece today:

Peterson’s followup warned against pastors “getting clouded by controversy and cluttered with loud voices” rather than focusing on the specific needs of their congregations.

“I regret the confusion and bombast that this interview has fostered,” he said. “It has never been my intention to participate in the kind of lightless heat that such abstract, hypothetical comments and conversations generate.”
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Eugene Petersen, ever the subversive is once again stirring up the waters around him and forcing believers and seekers to think outside the box. And some Christians would rather reach for the tar and feathers than to welcome the opportunity to stretch their minds.
Among the controversial quotes in the article, Petersen responds to a question about homosexuality and same-sex marriage:
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.
Petersen went on to confirm that, if asked, he would indeed perform a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple.

In response, Petersen's books, including "The Message" may be disappearing off some shelves.

“LifeWay only carries resources in our stores by authors who hold to the biblical view of marriage,” a spokesperson for LifeWay, a Southern Baptist affiliate, said in a statement to CT.

I don't agree with everything Eugene Petersen said in his recent interview with Religion News Service.  Truth is, I've found an increasing number of things with which to quibble in his books of the past decade.

But if I only were to read books written by authors with whom I agree 100%, I would never read another book. I even have some quibbles with some of what I read in the Bible (although I submit to it's Author's wisdom in those matters).

Eugene Petersen has been one of the two two or three authors whose books I have recommended to others, over many years. His books on the Psalms (including Answering God: The Psalms as Tools for Prayer and A Long Obedience in the Same Direction have driven me deeper into the Psalms and enlivened both my teaching and writing.

His books on spiritual life and pastoring (Subversive Spirituality ,The Contemplative Pastor, and The Pastor: A Memoir ) are among my most treasured, even though I've never been either a paid professional preacher nor an elder/pastor.

His book Reversed Thunder taught me to love and appreciate the book of Revelation, rather than avoiding and fearing it.

As for his best known work, The Message, I've never recommended it as a substitute for other actual translations for study and exegesis, but it is a valuable resource as a poetic "commentary" on the Word. His take on Matthew 5:13-16 changed the way I live and teach. And for new believers with limited literacy skills (including many of the prisoners Karen and I work with), The Message is an invaluable entry ramp to faith.

So, I'll continue to enthusiastically recommend Eugene Petersen's works. Almost none of them, by the way, touch on homosexuality or same-sex marriage. They do touch on what it means to be a Christian whose life inhabits both the depths of God's Word and the breadth of God's Mission in the world.