UPDATE: Eugene Peterson has since retracted the comments he made in the RNS interview that is linked to below.
You may soon not be able to purchase The Message Bible from LifeWay Christian Stores.
The acclaimed book is written by Eugene Peterson, and puts the original text of scripture into contemporary language and has sold more than 16 million copies. However, following a recent interview with Religion News Service senior columnist Jonathan Merritt, the LifeWay chain may soon drop it from its shelves.
In the interview, Peterson was asked how his own views on homosexuality had changed in recent years. After telling stories of knowing several gay and lesbian congregants during his time as a pastor, he said, “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.” He was then asked if he’d officiate a same-sex wedding, and he said yes.
A spokesperson for the Southern Baptist Convention—which is affiliated with LifeWay—told Christianity Today, “We are attempting to confirm with Eugene Peterson or his representatives that his recent interview on same-sex marriage accurately reflects his views. If he confirms he does not hold to a biblical view of marriage, LifeWay will no longer sell any resources by him, including The Message.” As CT notes, LifeWay’s online store carries at least 135 different titles by the 84-year-old theologian and writer.
LifeWay regularly pulls books and albums from writers and artists that it does not agree with (even the views in question don’t appear in the books), including Jen Hatmaker, Joel Osteen, Mark Driscoll and even albums from rapper Sho Baraka because one of his songs contain the word “penis” when discussing lust.
In a post today on The Gospel Coalition website, the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention president Russell Moore, wrote a piece titled “Should We Still Read Eugene Peterson?” Moore concluded that though he disagreed with Peterson’s comments, his entire body of work shouldn’t be discounted.
He wrote (in part):
I probably wouldn’t now give his books to a brand-new believer, seeking to find a starting place in discipleship, for fear the new brother or sister might embrace the whole package—as some of us did with whomever it was that was influential in our early Christian lives, whether C. S. Lewis or J. I. Packer or John Stott or John Piper …
But that doesn’t mean we should throw away our Peterson [books] …
We never read anyone who is right on everything, except within the covers of our Bibles. Everything else we ought to read with a certain level of skepticism and discernment, including (maybe especially?) the things we write ourselves.