The Peterson Predicament and LifeWay’s Peculiar Policies

Last week, the news broke that Eugene Peterson, author of The Message, (a popular mutilation paraphrase of the Bible) has, for quite some time, held the position that there’s nothing wrong with homosexuality, that he was on staff at a church that considered hiring a homosexual minister of music, and that he would perform a homosexual wedding if asked. (It was quite the kerfuffle. Play by play at the end of this article if you’re interested.)

LifeWay quickly – and rightly – released a statement saying that if they could verify that these are, in fact, Peterson’s beliefs, they would pull “The Message” and all of his other materials from their stores.

The next day, Peterson publicly retracted his statement about being willing to perform a same sex wedding – saying he affirms the biblical view of marriage – and LifeWay said they’d keep his materials on the shelf.

I commend LifeWay for pulling authors who support homosexuality. That’s a good and right thing and I don’t want to minimize it. This is absolutely something they should do, and I’m glad this is their policy.

However, what about the fact that The Message is such a poor and misleading paraphrase that, as many have said, it should never have been on the shelves at LifeWay in the first place?

What about the fact that Eugene Peterson wrote a front cover endorsement for The Shack– a book that teaches the heresies of universalism, patripassianism, and blasphemies regarding the Trinity? Why was that sin not grievous enough, but his endorsement of homosexuality was?

When LifeWay only makes a splash in the media about removing books whose authors endorse homosexuality, they’re sending two very important messages:

1. Things like false doctrine, female authors/celebrities who defy Scripture by preaching to men, and teachers and authors who disobey God’s word by partnering with false teachers, don’t matter. All that matters is if you’re on the right side of homosexuality.

2. It sends the message to homosexuals and the rest of the world – not to mention members of our own SBC churches – that Southern Baptists think homosexuality is the worst sin out there and the only one we really care about people repenting from.

How hypocritical that LifeWay will turn a blind eye to Beth Moore’s sins of teaching false doctrine, preaching to men, and partnering with false teachers, and make her a wealthy celebrity, but will take a stand against other authors (whose materials don’t sell as well as Moore’s) for the sin of endorsing homosexuality.

Sin is sin in God’s eyes, but not in LifeWay’s, apparently.

Play by Play of the Peterson Predicament

Wednesday, July 12:
News breaks that Eugene Peterson has “changed his mind” regarding the biblical view of marriage.
LifeWay announces that if Peterson’s remarks can be confirmed, they will cease selling all of his materials including The Message.

Thursday, July 13:
Peterson retracts his original comments about same sex marriage and says he “affirms a biblical view of marriage.”
LifeWay announces that, due to the retraction, they will continue to carry Peterson’s materials.
♦ The reporter (Jonathan Merritt) who originally broke the Peterson story offers his take and behind the scenes insights on the retraction.
♦ In an additional article, Merritt offers evidence that Peterson made statements affirming homosexuality as recently as 2014.