Comfortable Heresies

By Rob Schwarzwalder Published on July 17, 2017

Eugene Peterson is a renowned Christian writer whose paraphrase of Scripture, The Message, has impacted millions.  

In an interview a few days ago, Peterson said he affirmed same-sex unions and would perform one if still a pastor.  

Now, Rev. Peterson has retracted these statements: “I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything … (A same-sex wedding is) 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.”

Christians can rejoice in Rev. Peterson’s retraction. Endorsing biblical truth is the first duty of every follower of Jesus. That he has done so is refreshing and encouraging.

A number of well-known Evangelical Christians have endorsed same-sex unions (for example, women’s speaker Jen Hatmaker and former Christianity Today editor David Neff). Thankfully, they are in the small minority.

In November 2015, my friend Owen Strachan and I introduced four resolutions affirming Scripture’s teaching on marriage and human sexuality at the annual conference of the Evangelical Theological Society. Both of us are members of ETS, and Owen has leadership positions within it.  

Our resolutions were these:

  1. We affirm that all persons are created in the image and likeness of God and thus possess inherent dignity and worth.
  2. We affirm that marriage is the covenantal union of one man and one woman, for life.
  3. We affirm that Scripture teaches that sexual intimacy is reserved for marriage as defined above. This excludes all other forms of sexual intimacy.
  4. We affirm that God created men and women, imbued with the distinct traits of manhood and womanhood, and that each is an unchangeable gift of God that constitutes personal identity.

These affirmations were endorsed by the members of ETS. The significance of this endorsement is this: ETS is composed of America’s leading Evangelical theologians, seminary and college professors, and others with graduate degrees in theology. For the Society, as a community, to endorse these resolutions speaks to the continued commitment of Evangelical leaders to biblical teaching.

Why Have Some Believers Abandoned Biblical Teaching?

Yet the question remains, why have some professing believers abandoned what the Bible teaches on marriage, sexual intimacy, and same-sex relationships?

The great and tragic irony is that there is nothing loving about affirming sin. 

One reason is a misplaced compassion. They have gotten to know men and women in same-sex marriages or young people struggling with same-sex attraction. The pain of many of these people has caused some Evangelicals to affirm not just the dignity of these men and women but their pattern of life, as well.

The great and tragic irony is that there is nothing loving about affirming sin. As my friend and former practicing lesbian Rosaria Butterfield has written so eloquently:

Calling God’s sexual ethic hate speech does Satan’s bidding. This is Orwellian nonsense or worse. I only know who I really am when the Bible becomes my lens for self-reflection, and when the blood of Christ so powerfully pumps my heart whole that I can deny myself, take up the cross, and follow him … when we advocate for laws and policies that bless the relationships that God calls sin, we are acting as though we think ourselves more merciful than God is.

Another reason for the change of some minds is very simple: The elevation of one’s own will above God’s.

Those professing Evangelicals who now say same-sex unions are honoring to the God of the Bible have gotten a fair amount of approving media attention. In carving-out the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality from the Scripture they proclaim, they hollow-out the Gospel and fill it with the world’s affirmation. 

It is comfortable to be liked by culture’s gatekeepers. It’s also so very dangerous. “Woe unto you,” said Jesus, “when all men speak well of you” (Luke 6:26).

What God Calls For

God is not a democrat. He is uninterested in our approval of His will. He does not stand at the door of heaven, looking down on earth and muttering anxiously, “I hope they like Me!”

Of course, He gives us reasons to believe and follow Him. And what He tells us to do and be is for our good, not harm. Yet His call to us is not that of a being desperate for human acceptance. Christ’s call that every disciple denies himself, takes up his cross, and follows Him (Luke 9:23) implies nothing less than a willingness to die. To die to selfishness. To die to one’s deep desires. To social approval. Even to friendships.

Those struggling with same-sex attraction often have been ill-served by Jesus’s followers. Much too frequently, we have turned our backs on them in disgust. We have failed to be to them the very family of God, a household of faith around whose table they are welcome.

Whether Christians or not, those who experience sexual attraction to their same gender need prayer, counsel and committed friendship. Telling them that fulfilling their sexual desires is acceptable to God is an affront to Him and an eternal disservice to them.

If someone comes into a church demanding that his sin be accepted as morally good, we cannot agree. This applies to anyone who wants to practice sin or follow false teaching.  

The New Testament is packed with warnings against those who would lead believers astray. As Tim Challies writes, “In Matthew 23 alone, Jesus calls the scribes and Pharisees ‘hypocrites’ six times. Besides that, he calls them ‘blind guides,’ ‘blind fools,’ ‘blind men,’ ‘whitewashed tombs,’ ‘sons of those who murdered the prophets,’ ‘serpents,’ and ‘brood of vipers’ … Jesus does not shy away from calling false teachers exactly what they are.”

This is the same Jesus who took children into his lap, who touched lepers, and forgave prostitutes.

Grace and truth. Love without moral compromise. Understanding of fallenness but not affirming of what it produces.

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  • Gary

    People who really believe the Bible won’t accept homosexuality or “same-sex marriage”. Whenever someone claims to be a Christian, but endorses homosexuality or ssm, they are lying about being a Christian. That is why Eugene Peterson told the truth when he endorsed ssm, and why his reversal is phony. If he was a real Christian, he would never have endorsed ssm to start with.

    • Nobody Specific

      Well I’d give some of them the benefit of the doubt. Trouble is a lot people today don’t read their Bible. There was a period between the Protestant reformation and the modern era, where folks read the Bible. They both could read, were encouraged to read the Bible and did not have so much else competing for their interest.

      Today a lot of Christians get the scripture only in drips and drabs and short excerpts in the form of whatever the OT and NT lesson is for that week in Sunday Worship. Now I know the folks who maintain the Lectionary probably work hard; but its not hard to imagine congregation members getting the wrong ideas and drawing some wrong conclusions from only encountering scripture in little parts.

      • Kevin Quillen

        Jer 31:31-34

    • Charles Burge

      I agree with you that there’s good reason to be skeptical in this case. However, you seem to practice a religion that has no room whatsoever for grace or redemption. This is also heresy.

      • Gary

        Anyone who has been a Christian for five minutes knows that homosexuality is immoral, and so is ssm. Spotting infidels who are pretending to be Christians is very easy when they provide the evidence. I do wish that they would recognize reality and really become believers. I would even like to see Eugene Peterson be saved.

        • Charles Burge

          I’m glad to hear you say that. Does this represent a change of heart on your part? You’ve indicated before that you doubt people like Rosaria Butterfield (mentioned above) or Walt Heyer can be saved.

          • Gary

            No change. Most people die without God, which is very sad for them. Some of my friends and relatives never became believers in their lifetime, which I regret.

  • im4truth4all

    Here is a quote from one of the greatest saints ever regarding homosexuality. St. Catherine relays words of Our Lord, about the vice agaisnt nature, which contaminaed part of the clergy in her time. Referrng to sacred ministers, He said: “They not only fail from resisting this frailty [ of fallen human nature]…but do even worse as they commit the cursed sin agains nature. Like the blind and stupid having dimmed the light of the understanding, they do not recoginze the disease and misery in which they find themselves. For this not only causes Me nausea, but displeases even the demons themselves, whom these miserable creatures have chosen as their lords. For Me, this sin against nature is so abominable that , for it alone, five cities were submersed, by virtue of the jugdment of My Divine Justice, which could no longer bear them…It is disagreable to the demon, not because evil displeases them and they find pleasure in good, but because their nature is angelic and thus is repulsed upon seeing such an enormous sin being commited. It is true that it is the demons who hits the sinner with the poisoned arrow of lust, but when a man carries out such a sinful act, the demons leaves.

    St.Catherine of Siena, El diabolo, in Orbas de Santa Catarina de Siena

  • GPS Daddy

    Rob, maybe The Stream needs to consider its own comfort with giving a positive nod to ponography. “Just look away” is not an acceptable solution. How many men “just look away” while watching “The Game of Thrones”?

    • Brian Lineberry

      GPS Daddy, I’m new to the Stream. what do you mean by positive nod to pornography?

      • GPS Daddy

        Look at other articles on The Stream.

  • I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman.

    This guy needs to read his Bible. Polygamy is quite biblical.

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