In a recent interview with Religion News Service’s Jonathan Merritt, pastor, theologian, and author Eugene Peterson affirmed same-sex marriage and the spirituality of Christians who identify as gay or lesbian.
The first of Merritt’s two-part interview with Peterson covered the release of his newest book, his walking away from public life, and his thoughts about the fear of death. In the second interview, Merritt asked Peterson, who is best known for his popular paraphrase of the Bible “The Message,” about his stance towards gay and lesbian Christians and same-sex marriage.
Merritt’s first question centered on the morality of same-sex relationships. Peterson answered by talking about gay people he had pastored over the years. Then he added, “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.” He continued, “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.”
Next Merritt asked what he would say if a gay or lesbian couple who were of “Christians of good faith” asked him to do their wedding. He simply responded, “Yes.”
Denny Burk, President of the Council of Biblical Manhood and Womanhood and Professor of Biblical Studies at Boyce College, responded to Peterson’s affirmations by noting his lack of appeal to Scripture. “To say that Peterson’s justification for same-sex relationships is really thin would be an understatement. His is not an argument based on scripture. Rather, it’s an argument based on sentiment. He says that he’s known some nice gay people, therefore he now discards the moral consensus of the entire 2,000-year history of the Christian church. This is not pastoral wisdom. It’s folly of the first order.”
Owen Strachan, Associate Professor of Christian Theology and Director of the Center for Public Theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, began his response to Peterson with an affirmation of the things he has learned from Peterson. Then he registered his disappointment with Peterson’s statements and addressed the division in evangelical circles caused by disagreement of homosexual practice within the church. “The division this trend is causing is awful. We lament it deeply, particularly when we have learned so much from leaders like Peterson. But we must know this: division is not caused by the truth. Division is caused by departure from the truth. Nothing is more loving, therefore, than to rescue those who are pulled away by unbiblical teaching.”
Peterson, a Presbyterian pastor, is the author of over thirty books. He is stepping away from writing and speaking engagements at the age of eighty-four.
Photo courtesy: Wikimedia Commons
Publication date: July 12, 2017