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My Dear Confessional Lutherans, Please Be Careful When Quoting Eugene Peterson In Response To The FiveTwo/Wiki14 Crowd

A humble word of caution to my Confessional Lutheran brethren (specifically, those who have taken to quoting Eugene Peterson in response to the false doctrine being spewed by the FiveTwo/Wiki14 folks that we highlighted just yesterday).

Here's what I wrote to one of them on Facebook recently in response to a widely circulated post that cited Peterson.

Let me start by admitting that I am a wretched sinner (Romans 7:24). I'm a sinner who has been wrong before. In fact, I have been so wrong when it comes to doctrine/theology many times in my short life! I'm not proud of that and have certainly repented for those sins. So, it's quite possible that I am completely wrong when it comes to what I'm about to write. If so, then please let me know since I am open to being corrected so that I can repent for my sinful belief, confession, and claims against another Christian. 
Today, I’m seeing a lot of the Confessional Lutheran acquaintances, friends, and Pastors I’m connected to here on Facebook and Twitter (who I greatly respect) referencing a quote by Eugene Peterson that’s, admittedly, an excellent response to the “FiveTwo/Wiki14” group, which we all know by now is one that's made up of our erring brothers and sisters. Yes, we should all rejoice whenever different denominations/confessions of "the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints" (Jude 1:3) can agree on matters of doctrine and practice and thus find true unity of faith (Ephesians 4). I'm down with that. 
However, I feel I would be a hypocrite of the worst kind if, after all we’ve said and written in recent days, I didn’t also warn you to please be very careful when it comes to Mr. Eugene Peterson. I get that I’m probably flirting with breaking the 8th Commandment and ignoring Matthew 18 here (at least, according to some), but what is a mere laymen like me to do? I mean, it’s not like I have Mr. Peterson on speed dial or anything. 
To reiterate, and just so that there’s absolutely no misunderstanding, it’s certainly an appropriate quote in regards to the FiveTwo/Wiki14 crowd, but a little disingenuous/hypocritical coming from a man who himself has also perverted God's Word when he wrote and published The Message (one man’s "paraphrase" as opposed to a "translation"), and then somehow seduced congregations -- across all denominations -- to use it as a Bible (if not their Bible of preference). 
In my humble opinion, Mr. Peterson is guilty of doing THE VERY SAME THINGS that we all saw our erring brothers and sisters doing in TX (brothers and sisters in Christ who we’re now calling to repent so they can be forgiven and restored), and we need to be very careful when it comes to positioning Peterson as some kind of "Biblical authority" in response to the current doctrinal crises within the LCMS or we risk losing credibility when it comes to this necessary debate within the LCMS. 
Again, as previously mentioned, it's definitely an appropriate quote in regards to the "FiveTwo/Wiki14" crowd. Still, I just want to urge a little caution here b/c we're all (rightfully) criticizing FiveTwo/Wiki14 for their "sacramental entrepreneurs" nonsense (as well as all the other cases where they've decided to make up new words, new phrases, and new definitions that don't appear anywhere in Scripture), and yet, Peterson himself has also played fast-and-loose with the text when he wrote his paraphrase of the Holy Bible published as The Message
Issues, Etc even featured a segment on this: http://issuesetc.org/2012/08/06/3-a-reviewcritique-of-eugene-petersons-bible-paraphrase-the-message-dr-andrew-steinmann-8612/  
Criticism of The Message aside, Peterson has also called U2 a "prophetic voice" and even came right out and said that U2's frontman, Bono, is like John The Baptist! In the foreword to Raewynne J. Whiteley and Beth Maynard’s "Get Up Off Your Knees, Preaching The U2 Catalog" Peterson wrote: "Is U2 a prophetic voice? I rather think so. And many of my friends think so. If they do not explicitly proclaim the Kingdom, they certainly prepare the way for that proclamation in much the same way that John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus ... Amos crafted poems, Jeremiah wept sermons, Isaiah alternately rebuked and comforted, Ezekiel did street theater. U2 writes songs and goes on tour, singing them." Now, I don't know about you, but that seems DANGEROUSLY CLOSE to this whole "sacramental entrepreneurship" mentality that we've all been criticizing for days now, and that's precisely why I just want to issue a little word of caution here, because I know how easy it is to give the appearance to others that because we're all liking and sharing a quote from Eugene Peterson (again, admittedly a good one in relation to the current controversy), then that must mean we agree with anything and everything he's ever believed, taught, and confessed himself...which is completely at odds with our Confessional Lutheran faith. 
So, not so much a "criticism" from me about the many Confessional Lutheran acquaintances, friends, and Pastors I’m connected to who likely may not even know any of this stuff about Mr. Peterson (people who I love dearly, and who I have been blessed by, and who I have learned a lot from, by the way!), and I'm sorry if this comes across that way b/c it’s not my intention at all. 
No, this is mainly intended to be a friendly reminder for us to be consistent in our "calling a spade a spade" and a friendly word of "caution" from an ex-Evangelical who's now a "Newtheran" or from someone who knows firsthand how someone like Eugene Peterson and something like The Message can potentially lead one to make "shipwreck of their faith" (1 Timothy 1:19) if one’s not careful and not rooted in the TRUE Word of God. 
I know what you fine, faithful folks are all about, but I also don’t want to be a hypocrite by not saying anything in this case, let alone allow anyone else to assume that you yourselves are hypocrites by perhaps making it seem like you tacitly approve of someone who did the very same things you’re criticizing, but you’re willing to ignore that only because a quote from him serves your purposes in rebuking others who are actually guilty of the very same thing. 
Ok I'm done now. Sorry, this was much longer than I anticipated. I hope this rant of mine was received in the very same spirit with which it was written ("truth in love" Ephesians 4:15). Grace and peace, my dear friends!

Is such a warning warranted? Well, I'll let you be the judge.

This post is a great quote from a Presbyterian pastor admired by many clergy and pastors around the world. Eugene Peterson is one of the best writers who comes at the that task from the perspective of a working pastor. You can read just about any of his books and learn something from them -- even though he is Presbyterian. Watching his literacy gifts at work reminds us that our Lord distributed his gifts not only to Lutherans. The quote definitely hits the target of the mega-church-growth-crowd, no matter what denomination. I don’t know how many of those folks are in the LCMS, but there are enough to make life miserable. I don’t think that we have had the mass "sell-out" in the LCMS to this way of thinking and "doing church" as is found in American Evangelicalism. 
*- Pastor Martin R. Noland

I don't mean to pick on Pastor Noland here (it's certainly not just him), but his words are a great example of what I'm talking about.

I agree with his entire response, but I'm concerned that there was absolutely no mention whatsoever of our need to be careful not to think that Eugene Peterson is a voice of orthodoxy that we should now turn to for advice on how to deal with the FiveTwo/Wiki14 shenanigans.

Yes, I also realize that it was made quite clear that Eugene Peterson is a Presbyterian, and that we all agree that a person can be saved even if you're not a Lutheran, but I worry that many Confessional Lutherans (primarily the more popular Confessional Lutheran Pastors who we've come to rely on for their steadfast discernment) are dropping the ball whenever they reference Peterson as an appropriate rebuttal in this circumstance with our erring brothers and sisters within the Synod.

Trust me, I've had in-depth conversations with others over the years and performed extensive research on the man, his ministry, and his beliefs, and I can tell you that Biblically sound quotes like this widely circulated one from Peterson are the exception, not the norm.

I'm sorry, but "this is most certainly true" and we must not run from it.

With that in mind, "here I stand" by my original assertion and warning -- Eugene Peterson’s The Message DOES NOT revere God’s Word enough to leave it alone, and DOES NOT acknowledge that the Word is the heart and mind of God Himself that we are supposed to leave alone and to believe, teach, and confess.

Instead, he often decides to play god himself and CHANGES and MISINTERPRETS things so dramatically to say whatever it is that he would rather it say.

How is that any different from what the FiveTwo/Wiki14 folks are doing when they create new definitions, words, phrases, and terminology with their "Sacramental Entrepreneurs" nonsense?

In a Lutheran layman's terms, it's not any different, which is why Eugene Peterson is guilty of doing the very same things we're all upset at the FiveTwo/Wiki14 folks for doing, and we must be consistent in our criticism and calls to repentance.

NOTE: As you know, I am a newly converted Confessional Lutheran who recently escaped American Evangelicalism. That being said, please contact me ASAP if you believe that any of my "old beliefs" seem to have crept their way into any of the material you see published here, and especially if any of the content is not consistent with our Confessions and Lutheran doctrine (in other words, if it's not consistent with God's Word, which our Confessions merely summarize and point us back to) so that I can correct those errors immediately and not lead any of His little ones astray (James 3:1). Finally, please be aware that you might also discover that some of the earlier pieces I wrote on this blog back in 2013 definitely fall into that category since I was a "Lutheran-In-Name-Only" at the time and was completely oblivious to the fact that a "Book of Concord" containing our Confessions even existed. In addition, there are some entries that are a little "out there" so-to-speak since the subject matter was also heavy influenced by common Evangelical concerns/criticisms that aren't that big a deal for us Lutherans. I know that now and I'm still learning. Anyway, I decided to leave those published posts up on this website and in cyberspace only because we now have this disclaimer and only to demonstrate the continuing work of Christ and the Holy Spirit in my life (Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 1:6). Finally, please know that any time we engage in commenting on and/or interpreting a specific portion of the holy Scriptures, it will always follow the verse-by-verse notes from my Lutheran Study Bible unless otherwise noted. Thank you for stopping by and thank you in advance for your time, help, and understanding. Grace and peace to you and yours!


About JKR

Christian. Husband. Father. Friend.

1 comment

  1. Eugene Peterson never intended churches to use The Message. Please read more about his intent from those who have actually met with him and asked. http://www.flcronan.org/blog/my-meeting-with-eugene-peterson


Thank you for visiting A Lutheran Layman! Please feel free to leave a comment or a question since we do not exercise censorship. We've seen a similar policy with other blogs and it's worth repeating: Please act as if you're a guest in my home, and we'll get along just fine. I think anyone would agree that the kind of back-and-forth that is characteristic of blogs/chat forums and social media is becoming tiresome for all of us. Still, we should confess, edify, and love (and contend and defend when needed). Bottom line? Search the Scriptures! Apply Acts 17:11 to anything and everything you find here and, if you do happen to disagree with something you find here (which is certainly ok), or think I'm "irresponsible" and "wrong" for writing it, then please refute my position by supporting yours with Scripture and/or the Confessions. I don't think that's an unreasonable request, especially for those who identify themselves as "Christians" here, right? Besides, Proverbs 27:17 tells us "Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another" and 2 Timothy 3:16 says, "all Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness." If you have an opinion that's great, I welcome it, but try to support it using God's Word. I mean, if the goal here is to help us all arrive at the truth of God's Word (myself included), then it should be easy to follow through on this one simple request (I'm talking to all you "Anonymous" visitors out there). Grace and peace to you and yours!

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