Monday, July 17, 2017

"The Message" Author Changes His Mind On Homosexuality--- Again

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Friday I wrote that Eugene Peterson, the author of "The Message" paraphrase of the Bible, denounced the biblical belief regarding homosexuality and same-sex marriage in an interview with Religion News Services.

LifeWay Christian stores, owned by the Southern Baptist Convention, said they were looking into it and if Peterson now embraced same-sex marriage and homosexual behavior they would remove his books---including "The Message" from their national store chain.

Now Peterson has told The Washington Post, "On further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that."

Friday I wrote an article quoting Peterson in his interview with Religion News Services.

In the interview with Religion News Services Peterson said in part:

In my own congregation — when I left, we had about 500 people — I don’t think we ever really made a big deal out of it. When I left, the minister of music left. She’d been there ever since I had been there. There we were, looking for a new minister of music. One of the young people that had grown up under my pastorship, he was a high school teacher and a musician. When he found out about the opening, he showed up in church one day and stood up and said, “I’d like to apply for the job of music director here, and I’m gay.” We didn’t have any gay people in the whole congregation. Well, some of them weren’t openly gay. But I was so pleased with the congregation. Nobody made any questions about it. And he was a really good musician.
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.

His words created a firestorm among evangelicals and the media. Some evangelicals expressed deep disappointment while other evangelical leaders said they weren't surprised.

Now Peterson has reversed his new stance affirming so-called same-sex "marriage" saying he was "put on the spot" and that he really does believe in traditional marriage.

He told the Washington Post, "On further reflection and prayer, I would like to retract that. To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything."

Peterson says he was "put on the spot" by the interviewer at Religion News Services.

LifeWay spokesperson Carol Pipes has now said that "based upon Eugene Peterson's retraction, we will continue to sell his resources."

Some are wondering how Peterson could give such a reasoned, articulate explanation of his 20 year evolving belief change in response to RNS---part of which is noted above--- then after being called out on his statements, reflect, pray and change his mind within hours on such a fundamental issue as marriage and human sexuality in light of what the Bible clearly teaches.

This, from a man who has paraphrased the Bible.

Peterson says although he has retracted his statements to RNS, he would still love such a couple as their pastor..."They'd be welcome at my table just like everybody else."

Owen Strachan, a professor at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, had criticized Peterson sharply when he first heard Peterson's statements on marriage and homosexuality.

After hearing of Peterson's retraction, he posted on Facebook: "Praise the Lord. What ever prompted this, it is a victory for God's truth."

Some are also wondering how much influence the initial statement by LifeWay regarding pulling his books, etc. if indeed he did support same-sex "marriage" had on Peterson's reflections.

Peterson's "The Message" has sold over 19 million copies (not 16 M that I reported earlier). Of the approximately 100 books he has written, 30 of them are or were bestsellers.

Currently, "The Message" at Amazon, which is the most competitive price, is $22.51 hardcover, $7.21 paperback, and $49.00 DVD.

Retailers generally pay 40-50% of retail when purchased from the publisher, and usually charge more for the product than Amazon. Clearly the work of this one author is conservatively upwards of a half billion dollar enterprise, with much to lose by Rev. Peterson, his publisher and the retailers.

I don't know Peterson's motive, nor his true beliefs. Only God knows that.

However, I have observed over a lifetime in the ministry, that one's initial response to important questions is usually closest to their heart and the truth about how they really feel.

To paraphrase: It is from the abundance of the heart that the mouth speaks.

As I mentioned Friday, I have personally not used "The Message." A number of our readers and listeners asked which version I do use.

Most of the Bible verses I have memorized over the years are from the King James version.

I still use the KJV a great deal, and in more recent years have come to use the New King James version as well.

I have not been a fan of individual paraphrasing of the Bible, i.e. "The Message" or the "Living Bible" (although Ken Taylor was a good friend). I am personally more comfortable with translations that involve a number of recognized biblical scholars, rather than an individual.

The issue I have had with "The Message," has not been Peterson's belief about homosexuality, because I didn't (and likely still don't) know what he believes.

My concern with "The Message" is the reoccurring New Age themes and phrases from mysticism used in Peterson's paraphrasing of the Bible.

For Example:

The root of the New Age Movement teaches that during various "ages," teachers or guides arise and are called "Masters."

Helena Blavatsky, the guru of the modern day New Age Movement, wrote extensively about these "enlightened masters."

In his book, "A Crash Course on the New Age Movement," Elliot Miller explains that,  "The New Age Jesus became the 'The Christ' only after purifying himself of 'bad karma' through many incarnations, and even now 'he is only one of several masters'."

Alice Baily also advanced this kind of so-called New Age mysticism through her "Lucifer Trust Publishing" company---later renamed "Lucis Trust Publishing."

Baily advanced the notion that "Christ" is in all of us, as he was in "Master Jesus."

"The Message" calls Jesus "Master" over 400 times and the unique New Age phrase "Master Jesus" appears 76 times.

The only other "version of the Bible" that uses that phrase is the version called, "The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Look at Acts 7:59 in "The Message" where it says, "As the rocks rained down, Stephen prayed 'Master Jesus, take my life'."

Acts 11:20 " them the message of the Master Jesus."

II Corinthians 4:14 "...Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up..."

Revelation 22:20-21"Yes! Come Master Jesus! The grace of the Master Jesus be with all of you..."

The New Age identifies their "Masters" as "divine guardians" and "custodians of the 'Divine Plan'."

The Masters, together forming the Spiritual Hierarchy, the New Age declares, "are the custodians of the Divine Plan for the Planet."

This is clearly seen in "The Message"  version of Deuteronomy 32:8. compared to the biblical text of the same verse.

"The Message" version: "When the High God gave the nations their stake, gave them their place on Earth, He put each of the peoples within boundaries under the care of divine guardians."

King James Version: "When the most High divided the nations their inheritance, when he separated the sons of Adam, he set bounds of the people, according to the number of the children of Israel."

There's much more, but consider this---

The Bible states 13 times that Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus, yet Judas Iscariot never referred to Jesus as "Lord." In Matthew 26:25 KJV, we read, "Then Judas, which betrayed Him , answered and said, Master, is it I?..."

Judas always addressed Jesus as "Master"---never Lord.

"The Message" consistently calls Jesus "Master"---never Lord.

Something to think about.

Be Informed. Be Vigilant. Be Discerning. Be Prayerful. Be Watchful.