Well-known Christian author and pastor Eugene Peterson made headlines when he expressed his support for sodomite marriage, reversing his previous position.
Peterson has now made a reversal of his reversal and claims that he actually does believe in the Biblical definition of marriage and would not personally perform a sodomite “wedding” ceremony.
However, Peterson’s statement re-affirming his original position is just about the weakest defense of Biblical marriage that I’ve ever seen:
To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.
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. 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…
With most interviews I’ve done, I generally ask for questions in advance and respond in writing. That’s where I am most comfortable. 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.
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. 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.
I quote from Peterson’s statement at length because it encapsulates so much of what is wrong with the Church today. His statement is timid, uncertain, confusing, dishonest, and wants to be acceptable both to the degenerate world and the Christian tradition.
How can we abstain from using the word “no” boldly and frequently when the culture is so degenerate? If being an open sodomite is not grounds for excommunication, then what is? If a “married” homosexual couple would be welcome at the Lord’s table, then what grounds would a pastor have for refusing to “marry” them in the first place? How can you claim to be respecting the historical Biblical position on sexuality when all churches prior to the 20th century would have immediately excommunicated (and probably lynched) anyone bold enough to openly admit to committing sodomy?
Peterson’s most dishonest move is his distortion of the Protestant doctrine that we are saved by faith through grace. He argues that because we are saved by grace, therefore the goodness of our personal “spiritual lives” is completely divorced from our salvation, and further that the goodness of someone’s spiritual life has nothing at all to do with whether or not we follow God’s commandments. This is nonsense. The Bible tells us that good works and a good spiritual life are the inevitable fruits that are manifested in all those who have a saving faith. Good works and a good spiritual life do not earn us salvation, but they are the marks of regeneration, which means that having a “good spiritual life” must be synonymous with having been born again in the Spirit. Peterson must not have a very clear understanding of what a good spiritual life is if he thinks it can exist in people who do not have a genuine relationship with Christ.
A church with the mind of Eugene Peterson is well on its way to irrelevance and death. If the American church wants to thrive in the future it must repudiate Peterson’s weak, compromising faith.