Thursday, July 13, 2017

Peterson, double-minded flip-flopper or just a plain old Calvinist

Coming to terms with Patterson on Same-Sex marriage.

Opinion One:

Two articles have come out regarding Eugene Peterson in the past two days that are getting a lot of social-media traction, so I might as well give them a little myself and put in my two cents. The first was an article by Jonathan Merritt and published by the Religion News Service entitled "Eugene Peterson on changing his mind about same-sex issues and marriage." In it, it seems that, as the title would imply, that Eugene Peterson changed his mind about same sex marriage, would perform a same sex marriage and quoted him saying:
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.
You can think what you want to about Rev. Peterson's's opinion, but it seems to be pretty clear. Homosexuality and the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman are outside the realm of argument. It's "not a right or wrong thing" as far as he's concerned. So, that's that. If you disagree with him you should just "go to another church." It's all pretty cut and  dry.

Opinion Two:

Except it isn't. Today another article came out that completely contradicted the first one. That article was written by Kate Shelllnut, was published in Christianity Today and was titled "Actually, Eugene Peterson Does Not Support Same-Sex Marriage." In it, it seems that, as the title would imply, Eugene Peterson does not support same-sex marriage. When it comes to marriage between two people of the same sex, Peterson is quoted in the article as saying "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." He claims that he affirms "a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything."

That is the exact opposite of what he said in the other article isn't it?


James, who most of protestants believe is Jesus' flesh and blood little brother, had some negative things to say about being double-minded. He said
"If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:5-8).
That doesn't seem to be a good thing and I sense a lot of double-mindedness regarding this issue in the two interviews with Peterson. The man seems to be of two opinions. However, I am not sure that means that he "is unstable in all his ways" or that "he will not receive anything from God."

James says that we ask God for wisdom if we lack it. Sometimes, we don't lack it.

We're coming up on a new semester here. I don't really need to ask God if it would be wise to start doing some lesson planning. I've been teaching for 17 years. I know that if I don't go into next week with every class period planned for every class between the first class of the semester and the last, it is going to catch up with me. I also know that by midterm my plans will be adjusted many times. I don't need to ask God for wisdom about whether or not I should plan. I do need wisdom and ask for it (In Jesus' Name) for how to plan each day. And even though God will give me that wisdom, it might be within His sovereign will for me to plan classes I don't get to teach or to be met with obstacles that He wants me to deal with at the time, not in advance. He's totally God and I am totally happy with that.

The areas where I need wisdom are these: should I do a class on the classical rhetorical canon of memory in my public speaking class? If I don't it will be the only canon I neglect. If I do, I will have to take something else out that I also want to teach. Should I talk about the narrative paradigm in my Persuasion class? If I do, I'm going to have to get some outside readings. What are some that 200 level students can  handle? Maybe it is too complicated for that level who are just now learning about the syllogism.

In other words, the only areas where we should ask for wisdom is in areas where we are double-minded. Those are the areas in which we lack wisdom. When we do, we shouldn't be double-minded about whether or not we're getting it.

Maybe he should have asked for wisdom first.

The second article says that he came to this conclusion that Peterson would not do a same-sex wedding after praying for wisdom: "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." Maybe he should have reflected and prayed before the interview, but maybe he had no idea that this kind of question would be asked.

It seems strange to me that any person within Christendom in the 21st century hasn't reflected on the issues of same-sex marriage and homosexuality, but maybe Peterson legitimately had not asked himself these questions. How could he get away with not asking them?


In the Christianity Today article there is a really interesting statement:
“When I told this reporter that there are gay and lesbian people who ‘seem to have as good a spiritual life as I do,’ I meant it,” he [Peterson] stated. “But then again, the goodness of a spiritual life is functionally irrelevant in the grand scheme of things.

“We are saved by faith through grace that operates independent of our resolve or our good behavior,” he stated. “It operates by the hand of a loving God who desires for us to live in grace and truth and who does not tire of turning us toward both grace and truth.”
 If we look at this statement, we can see why Peterson could have lived his entire Christian life not really thinking much about one of the biggest clashes between traditional Christianity and our culture.

Calvinists espouse what they call the TULIP doctrine. TULIP is an acrostic for Total Depravity, Unconditional Election, Limited Atonement, Irresistible Grace, and Preservation of the Saints. A good explanation for these can be found by googling TULIP and Calvinism, which is what I did to get this site.

Although there are many different branches of Calvinism and some of them might be as surprised by Peterson's confused position as those of us who don't consider ourselves Calvinist, I think by looking at this basic doctrine we can understand. All human behavior is totally depraved, so people living in homosexual sin are depraved but so is everyone else. This sinful behavior is irrelevant because God's election is unconditional and irresistible. People who have faith, which comes as an arbitrarily assigned gift have it regardless of how they live their lives.

Some Calvinists I know would call this a perversion of the doctrine and they might be right. I am not qualified to argue. Still, I can see how you can get from point A to point C through point B.

And it's kind of right.

We have grace. We have grace to fall back on over and over. Thank God for His grace, his unmerited favor, his everlasting love, because you know what, I sin every single day. I am 100% sure that there will be people in Heaven that struggled with their homosexual desires every single day of their Christian lives. Some days they did better than others, but maybe, on the day they died, it was a bad day.

But to arrive from that to the point of view that behavior doesn't matter is crossing all kinds of lines. Behavior does matter. God will forgive us, but that doesn't mean there's nothing to forgive us for. And words matter; words like "marriage" have a religious context that either does or doesn't make sense. Either it means a lifetime commitment between a man and a woman with God or it means something else.

Our culture says it means something else, and I gotta be honest, there are a lot of times when I question the religious meaning of even heterosexual marriage. I question whether it's something I can continue to live up to. I question whether or not it's worth fighting for. I question whether or not I should even try. And if I do ever give up, what does it mean? The people who point out that those whose heterosexual marriages fail have done more to disrupt the sanctity of marriage than any gay person getting married are dead right.

And so he answered the wrong question.

The question isn't really about gay people or gay marriage. The question is: is sex between two people of the same sex a sin? He hasn't been pegged down on this one in either of the two articles. He seems to say, "It doesn't matter because God can forgive sin." But it does matter, even if God can forgive sin because we need to know what is forgiven and we need to struggle against behavior that does not live up to the high calling to which we are called. If gay sex is a sin, there are consequences, even if God forgives sin. If gay sex is not a sin, there are consequences, even if God forgives sin. 

No comments:

Post a Comment