Wednesday, July 19, 2017
Eugene H. Peterson
Another Fallen Hero? Not So Fast!
While I’m just scratching the surface of my relationship with Jesus,
I’m scratching; and compelled to move increasingly away from
the egocentric, sociocentric, congregationally and
denominationally distracting and discouraging
to bridge-builders and alliances
focused on and filtered through
Jesus by the book.
I must join hands with them for Him to
Did you miss the course on original sin?
Then why are you so surprised when
everyone but Jesus falls, fails, and
proves to be sooooooo human?
Jesus came to save us from our sins
not applaud our idolatries.
Until you become a Psalm 62 kinda believer,
you will never find peace in community.
Preceding quotes from RRK not EHP
Whenever the Yankees lose, I get calls, texts, and e-mails from people who expect me to be devastated.
Whenever the Presbyterian Church (USA) does something stupid – not an infrequent occurrence – I’m on the receiving end of smug, sarcastic, and demeaning commentary by self-congratulatory amigos that have left for islands of theological, ideological, and socioeconomic homogeneity.
Because my politics are not nearly as neat and important as praying and trying to follow Jesus by the book, mindless drones that identify themselves as Democrats and Republicans and think I’m not one of ‘em will let me know when Republicans make Pharisees blush and Democrats prove they have no identifiable faith or morality.
I can’t count the number of times that folks have felt obligated to tell me about somebody who just died in an iron pony accident; especially if she/he was helmetless.
It reminds me of a big reason why Jesus was crucified.
Too many people like bad news more than good news.
So my world wasn’t rocked when I read the headlines about Eugene sent to me by righties who know I like him but know he leans left and lefties who know I like him and know I bow to Jesus by the book and others who know he has played a really big part in my life and evolving relationship with Jesus since October 2011:
“Eugene Peterson’s New Message”
“Message Bible Creator Eugene Peterson
Changes Mind on Homosexuality;
Would Perform a Same-Sex
Marriage If Asked”
“Eugene Peterson on Changing His Mind
About Same-Sex Issues and Marriage”
“Lifeway Prepared to Stop Selling the Message
Over Eugene Peterson’s LGBT Comments”
“Eugene Peterson’s Theological Sigh”
I can’t bring myself to print the furiously celebratory and condemning headlines, bylines, texts, and tweets that would make even President Trump wince.
Because I didn’t miss the course on original sin and still hold credentials in one of those mainline denominations increasingly notorious for thumbing their noses at over 2K years for Biblical, confessional, constitutional, historical, traditional, and common sense Christianity, I don’t expect anyone, especially me, to be pure and perfect in every way when compared to Jesus by the book.
Besides, when I spent one of the most significant weeks of my life with Jan and Eugene along with a few brothers back in October 2011, I spotted an autographed picture of President Obama on their refrigerator.
Now that the dust is settling a bit, I’m glad I didn’t knee-jerk and lament another fallen hero.
While Eugene is not as guiltless as his idolaters pretend, he’s not as off the wall as those who’ve been looking for a way to get back at him for making the Bible more accessible suggest.
When I made a fool of myself and asked if he used The Message during his devotions, he smiled so disarmingly and humbly and revealed, “I use my Hebrew and Greek texts.”
I remembered my absurd moment before jumping on the bandwagon of those who are so quick to celebrate and condemn; for it’s hard for me to imagine a man of such primary source and reverence for Holy Scripture could ever fit neatly into the idiosyncrasies, eisegesis, and hysteria of the extremes ruining so many churches.
He got into this mess when a reporter for RNS asked, “If you were pastoring today and a gay couple in your church who were Christians of good faith asked you to perform their same-sex wedding ceremony, is that something you would do?”
The left celebrated.
The right condemned.
Those re-imagining, re-inventing, eisegeting, and putting words into God’s mouth to contradict the clarity of revelation in Jesus by the book had found a hero.
Those still believing in Jesus by the book prepared their barbecue pits for another book-burning to lament another fallen hero to join Achtemeier, Barnes, Campolo, Rogers, et.al.
But in less than 24 hours, Peterson recanted: “To clarify, I affirm a Biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a Biblical view of everything.”
The right celebrated.
The left condemned.
Peterson went on to confuse his lionizers and demonizers: “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…I’ve never performed a same-sex wedding. I’ve never been asked and, frankly, I hope I never am asked.”
Just before or after his yes to the RNS reporter’s interrogative, he admitted, “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.”
The right cringed.
The left saw an opening.
My guess is the phone is ringing in Lakeside, Montana.
Then the man who has been used by God to bring me closer to Him, His, and the world in a John 3 kinda way said what I consider to be consistent with the Eugene that I know as a man of primary source with a reverence for Holy Scripture not distracted, plagued, or polluted by left or right but guided by the Holy Spirit: “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.”
Thank you, Eugene.
Thank You, God, for keeping Eugene in my life as a catalyst for getting closer to You.
Thank You, God, for using Eugene to open the Bible to people who can’t relate to Elizabethan English and other truncated tongues.
Thank You, God, for Eugene who reminds us that You invite, welcome, include, and agape: “Come to Me, all of you, everyone, anyone, and I will take care of you.”
You can read more about how God continues to use Eugene in the lives of people like me in the May 1, 2016 edition of www.koppdisclosure.com.
Yet, for now, maybe a word from his wife Jan during our time together sums up the problem with the celebrating, condemning, lionizing, demonizing, and other dolts who’ve missed the first few of the big ten, Psalms like the 62nd, Beatitudes, and countless parallel textual revelations on the dangers of idolatry and blessings of increasing intimacy with Jesus by the book: “Some people are like farts in the elevator. It takes just one. Everyone suffers. Nobody escapes.”
Behind every good man is…
Blessings and Love!