Archive for July, 2017

UK: GAFCON bishop loses permission to officiate

Monday, July 31st, 2017

UK: GAFCON bishop loses permission to officiate
Bishop of Southwark blocks Bishop Andy Lines from ministry

July 28, 2017

GAFCON’s appointment of a missionary bishop to Europe suffered a setback this week after the man they consecrated last month has his permission to officiate in the Diocese of Southwark withdrawn.

Such permission is necessary for a priest to undertake any duties in a Church of England parish.

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Southwark told The Church of England Newspaper this week: “All PTOs in the Diocese of Southwark fall due for renewal on 30 June each year. Andy Lines wrote to explain that he had moved his canonical residence to the Anglican Church in North American and in view of this change in circumstance his PTO has not been renewed.

“This is a Provincial matter and would need to be dealt with at a Provincial level.”

Supporters of GAFCON in the UK expressed their surprise this week at the move, and it likely to inflame still further the discontent conservative evangelicals feel with the leadership of the Church.

Many are unhappy at two recent votes on General Synod — one on so-called conversion therapy for people with “unwanted same-sex attraction” and a second authorizing liturgies to mark a person’s gender transition.

The vote last month by the Scottish Episcopal Church to permit same-sex weddings in churches had been anticipated by the GAFCON group, who moments after the vote announced that Andy Lines would be consecrated as their missionary bishop for Anglicans in Scotland, the UK and Europe.

He was duly consecrated as a bishop by the Anglican Church in North America’s (ACNA) College of Bishops.

This week the director of REFORM, Susie Leafe, commented: “It is extraordinary that the Bishop of Southwark would with to prevent a godly, mission-minded man like Andy Lines from ministering in the diocese.”

Questions are being raised by conservatives because the Church of England recognises the ministry of the Anglican Church in North American as well as The Episcopal Church.

Prior to the news about the removal of Andy Lines’ permission to officiate, a number of conservative evangelicals wrote to The Daily Telegraph to express their unhappiness and to suggest that new arrangements would be considered later in the year.

The developments will prove uncomfortable for Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, who as an evangelical will find himself at odds with those in his own constituency in the Church.

This issue of human sexuality had dogged the Church for decades but after a General Synod rebuff to the House of Bishops’ statement in February a new Teaching Document on the subject was promised. Conservatives fear that the Church of England is now on a more liberal trajectory than they will accept.

Comments after the February Synod by Archbishop Justin Welby and John Sentamu signalling a new policy of “radical inclusion” has also angered conservatives who view traditional views on marriage as a defining point of the Christian faith.

Fundamental shifts in the General Synod

Monday, July 24th, 2017

The decisions taken in the February and July 2017 sessions of the General Synod crossed a line never before reached. Its failure to take note of the definition of marriage as that between ‘one man and one woman in lifelong commitment’, and its embrace of key LGBT agenda (banning so-called ‘conversion therapy’ for unwanted same-sex attraction, liturgy to mark a person’s gender transition) has caused serious consternation, anger and anxiety in the Church of England, and beyond. It was the scale of defeat of orthodoxy in the July sessions that is most shocking. The following is my reflection on some of the significant shifts in the character and workings of the General Synod over my last 12 years as a member of General Synod:

From theology to experience

The quality of debate has fallen sharply in recent years. The vogue is to vocalise experience and ‘tell stories’. In particular, the victimisation and injustice narrative holds sway. Any serious theological input is viewed with growing impatience and embarrassment. Theology is seen to get in the way of real life. The little theological context there is focuses on love, acceptance, equality and justice. These issues have trumped any references to the holiness of God and the need for purity and obedience in His church. The two debates on sexuality in the July sessions consisted of stories of ‘victims’ of church teachings and actions. What little there was of serious theology came from the lips of conservative evangelicals.

The LGBT agenda and constituency firmly entrenched

12 years ago when I first joined Synod, the LGBT lobby consisted of a little stand with a few people handing out leaflets. Many Synod members subtly changed the direction of movement away from them and politely avoided any conversation with LGBT activists. 12 years on, they are the all-winning victorious juggernaut, crushing all in its path. Not only is the LGBT constituency well and truly embedded in the organisational structure of the Church of England, its agenda for change dominates proceedings.

Loss of the fear of God and reverence for His word

There is no fear of God or reverence for His word anymore. Scripture has been twisted, misinterpreted, misused, or avoided to support ideologies that are completely at odds with God’s word. Theological illiteracy reigns. A Synod member speaking in support of transgender liturgy quoted a transgender friend who said to her that Genesis says ‘… and He made them man and woman’ and the not ‘man or woman’. The implication is that God did not create man distinct from woman but created ‘man’ in the nebulous ‘man and woman mixed sexuality’. Linguistically, hermeneutically and theologically this was as example of a descent into theological balderdash. Every opportunity to proclaim the uniqueness of Christ and Biblical teachings, by way of amendments, was comprehensively defeated in vote after vote. Oftentimes, what is left unsaid and untaught is that which leads to errors and sin rather than outright heretical statements.

Demise of socially conservative Anglo-Catholics

There was a time when the Anglo-Catholics reigned supreme in the Church of England. Although sacramental in their theological approach, they were at least largely socially conservative. Their sad demise since the ordination of women clergy and bishops, and their apparent loss of cohesion in General Synod, is to be lamented. That constituency’s voice on sexuality is becoming less and less clear.

The loss of any meaningful understanding of evangelicalism

The so-called ‘evangelicals’ form the largest bloc of Synod members. Despite there being more ‘evangelicals’ than ever, its weakness has never been more obvious. The word ‘evangelical’ has lost its distinctive meaning and Synod ‘evangelicals’ range from openly practising homosexuals who take the lead in promoting the LGBT agenda to conservative evangelicals who believe that ‘God’s Word (the Bible) is God’s word in His own words’. Despite the EGGS (Evangelical Group in General Synod) leadership’s valiant effort to steer the evangelical group in Synod towards Biblical orthodoxy, it is clear from the voting records that many members vote for revision.

Presence of women bishops

Whatever position evangelicals take on complementarian theology, the admission of women into the House and College of Bishops have moved the church and Synod towards a more revisionist position. Even a senior evangelical bishop in favour of women bishops privately admitted that to me. With the increasing tendency to appoint women (almost exclusively drawn from the liberal constituency) to episcopal vacancies, the trajectory is ominous for the General Synod and for the Church of England.

Loss of giants in the House of Bishops

I respect the faithful orthodox bishops who are quietly working behind the scene to ensure Biblical teachings are adhered to. Yet I lament the loss of some of the true giants that I had the privilege to know when I first entered Synod. One can immediately think of Bishops Michael Scott-Joynt and Michael Nazir-Ali. A present bold figure and rising star is Julian Henderson of Blackburn but we need more orthodox prophet-bishops to speak to our times.

Not without sympathy, I think there are now many Christians, Synod members included, who have chosen the path of self-censorship. It is increasingly difficult to be counter-cultural and it is telling that our own church leaders are avoiding making any statements that will cause conflict with the LGBT lobby in society, and even within Synod itself. Who are the prophets of our times in the Church of England? Where are the Elijahs? Certainly not our archbishops, one of whom was conspicuous by the absence of any contribution in the two major debates on sexuality and the other notable by his support of the LGBT-inspired motions. This has raised serious concerns about the future of our beloved church.

What of the future?

In the U.S., the secularists are fighting to separate church from state. In the UK, the church (of England) is fighting to be like the state. Recent actions and statements by General Synod, except for the perfunctory use of words like ‘God’, ‘Jesus’ and ‘church’, are indistinguishable from statements made by secular and state organisations.

Within the next 3-7 years I anticipate three tumultuous and tragic events:

  1. There will be a major split in the Church of England over sexuality issues. Even the Archbishop of Canterbury is, apparently, willing and ready to accept that.
  2. There will be deep division between the orthodox who choose to remain in the Church of England and those who choose to leave (whilst remaining Anglican within the Anglican Communion or leaving the denomination entirely)
  3. There will be a more formalised split in the global Anglican Communion, along with the continuing re-alignment between the orthodox across all Christian denominations.

It is time for deep reflection and prayer and we need to prepare for the evil days ahead. But for the faithful, whatever the tribulations, we can confidently trust in the God who is ‘from everlasting to everlasting.’

Chik Kaw Tan (Dr.)
General Synod member

Is general Synod competent?

Sunday, July 23rd, 2017

The General Synod of the Church of England (of which I am a member) met last week in York, and there were many good things about it. We spend most of Saturday afternoon exploring some exciting developments from the ‘centre’ offering resources to dioceses and churches in the task of evangelism and the making of disciples. There was a motion allowing the flexible use of vestments, bringing canon law into line with the reality of variety of practice on the ground. A private member’s motion (PMM) (by Tiffer Robinson) proposed making a sensible change to the allocation of school places, so that clergy moving into tied accommodation are not unfairly penalised. I co-presented the report of the Archbishops’ Council (AC), and it was notable that both suspicion of the Council and reluctance to engage with Renewal and Reform had mostly dissipated.But there were two other items of business that consumed disproportionate amounts of emotional energy and which have sparked debate ever since, and they tested the competence of Synod. I am not sure that the test was passed.The first was another PMM, this time from Jayne Ozanne, asking for Synod to agree with psychiatric medical opinion on the harm done by ‘conversion therapy‘ and requesting the AC to take further action. Many viewed this as a ‘Trojan horse’, since the particular resolution we were being asked to endorse also made references to transgender issues, and Synod cannot actually ask AC to do anything, since AC does not report to Synod. The second motion was from Blackburn Diocese proposed by Chris Newlands asking that the Church affirm their welcome of transgender people, and that the House of Bishops ‘consider whether it might prepare liturgy’ for such a welcome.

There are several reasons why these two motions should never have been debated. The first and most obvious is that both issues will certainly be addressed in the teaching document that the Archbishops have commissioned, so the motions are trying to short-circuit a wider discussion. The second is that both take the form of false binaries; essentially they say ‘Do you agree with me—or do you hate gay and transgender people?’ No matter how faulty the wording, failing to pass either motion would not have looked like good PR, and there would have been howls of protest from various quarters. In the voting, it was evident that the bishops were acutely aware of this, and taking both motions by a vote of houses (so that they had to pass separately in each of the bishops, clergy and laity) which would normally make it harder for a motion to pass, in fact made it easier, since the bishops could not afford to be seen to be the ones who were blocking.

The third reason was the poor wording of both motions. The PMM talked of ‘conversion therapy’ but used this as an ill-defined catch-all which made proper debate very difficult. Every single speaker, including those who proposed and supported significant amendments, agreed that any form of forced or coercive treatment of people who are same-sex attracted (whether they are happy with that or not) is abusive and must be rejected. But another part of Jayne Ozanne’s agenda is to have significant movements in the Church, including New Wine, Soul Survivor, HTB and Spring Harvest labelled as ‘spiritual abusive’ and therefore illegal. This is why the motion was seen as a Trojan horse. Her motion was also asking Synod to ‘endorse’ a medical opinion, and a controverted one at that, which is simply not within Synod’s competence to do so. But suggesting that Synod ‘does not have the competence’ to express a view is like holding up a red rag to a bull (or any colour rag—bulls are colour blind). In the end we passed an amended motion that ‘endorsed’ a different medical view—but few had read the details, still less understood the issues within it, and such endorsement is meaningless except as tokenism.

The transgender motion asked for the bishops to ‘consider whether’ they should formulate some new liturgy, and in one sense that is an empty statement; they might well ‘consider’ it for five minutes and decide not. But to even raised the question of liturgy, before we have any consensus of understanding on the issue, is putting the cart so far before the horse that the horse has lost sight of it. And for both motions, the briefing papers we had ahead of the meeting were wholly inadequate, lacking proper detached assessment (Ozanne ended up bombarding us with a series of papers in response to counter-evidence) and without any real theological input at all. The worst things is that, after all the heat and energy that have gone into the debate, and though the votes might ‘signal’ something, neither motion makes any formal difference at all. The Church’s position has not changed one iota on either issue—not least since the motions were carefully worded so as to formally change nothing.

But three issues were highlighted by means of the debate, and they are ones that seriously undermine the standing of Synod.

The first is the almost complete absence of any theological thinking, and the lack of purchase of whatever decent theology was there. David Baker eloquently lamented:

So why, then, do I feel rather bleak? The answer is simple: the apparent absence at synod of real theology – in other words, the ability to reflect on complex issues with calmness, depth and clarity from an explicitly Christian perspective.

The absence of theological reflection is disturbing. The Rev Mark Lucas – a usually mild-mannered and irenic evangelical Synod member – was moved to thunder on his blog: ‘The debating chamber has been, almost solely, a pink fluffy, theology-free, Bible-mocking, sin-affirming, solipsism of multitudinous, anthropocentric anecdote!’

Stephen Lynas from Bath and Wells made a similar observation:

A number of discussions I’ve been in (in the bar and in committees) bewailed the fact that much of the debate  (on both motions) was personalised and story-driven. There was little theological reflection (apart from a few nods to Scripture, Tradition and Reason). While we were intensely pastoral, then, we were not as analytical as befits a major Synod with carefully-designed processes of scrutiny and decision-making.

There were two low points for me which both occurred in the transgender debate. The first was a retelling of the Genesis creation narrative:

Genesis tells us that humanity was made male and female, in a clear binary. But we are also told that there are similar binaries of day and night, and of land and sea. Of course, we know in reality that there is such a thing as twilight, and that there are liminal places between land and sea, such as wetlands and marshes—and God is in them all.

I find it astonishing that anyone could imagine this offers us any insight whatever into a biblical theology of sex difference or sex identity. It is treating the Bible as an adult colouring book, in which we can use the lines to paint whatever picture we want. The serious theological issue here is that, in treating it like this, we are simply silencing God, and remaking the text of Scripture in our own image.

The second low point was Tim Hind’s comment, when he described any pause for theological reflection as ‘dotting i’s and crossing t’s, and we spend far too much time doing that. We just need to act.’ What have we come to when there is so little tolerance for actually thinking? Synod appears to have been completely sucked into the trivialisation of the social media age, the ‘shallows’ of the age of the internet.

The second issue was the widespread use of personal attacks and ad hominem arguments within the debate. Adrian Hilton has also catalogued some of the abusive language surrounding the debate, including that of Andrew Foreshew-Cain who tweeted in the chamber as I was sharing my experience of transgender people in my own family, amongst friends and in church:

Ian Paul now. If you can watch. ‘See how he loves himself’ to paraphrase a famous saying.

This is certainly a breach of draft guidelines on conduct within Synod, if nothing else.

But even more serious was the emphasising of false binaries to dismiss, rather than engage in, debate. Chris Newlands dismissed any debate about his motion with the phrase:

There are two views on gender dysphoria, those who believe it is real and those who believe it is a fiction.

So no-one is allowed to question his own approach? I wonder how that would look in the close parallel of how we deal with those with anorexia—for both conditions are a kind of body dysphoria, where the person’s perception and their bodily biological reality are at odds. Do we welcome anorexics into our churches? If you don’t believe an anorexic’s account of their physical state, does that mean you don’t welcome them? Or that you don’t believe anorexia is a serious and challenging pastoral issue? How should you respond if an anorexic asked for your support for surgical intervention to make their body conform to their anxiety about it? Is refusing to do this a rejection of them or a trivialising of their condition? This just illustrates how damaging the false binary of debate is.

In Jayne Ozanne’s response to Sean Doherty’s (in my view very good amendment), she objected to the idea that we should ‘note’ (rather than endorse) the professional evaluation, and believed that the House of Bishops’ Pastoral Advisory group were already dealing with the question of guidelines for prayer. But she also included these two comments:

The strength of opposition and the views expressed in communications you received in the run up to synod show the mindset of those who want this practice to continue, (and we have heard it also in speeches), and why therefore my PMM is so urgently needed…

Sadly, this is a very sincere, well-meant wrecking motion from those who still don’t seem to understand the deep trauma that Conversion Therapy causes is behind this and I do urge you to resist it please.

Describing Sean’s proposal as a ‘wrecking motion’ is, I think, an unfair impugning of Sean’s motives. And she appears to claim that Sean is a puppet for those who wish ‘conversion therapy’ to continue, when Sean made clear in his speech that he opposes this practice, and has stated his opposition publicly on the Living Out website. This represents a very unfortunate ad hominem criticism, and it felt like a failure of chairing that this, and other comments, were not picked up.

[In the original post, I had made a shorter summary comment about Jayne’s rejection of Sean’s amendment. Jayne wrote to me to complain, believing it was a misrepresentation, and I am very happy to replace my summary with a quotation from her own notes which she supplied.]

This leads to the third issue: the role of the House of Bishops and the Presidents of Synod (the two archbishops) in the framing and content of the debate. On both motions, the Archbishop of York used his privilege to speak last and advocate acceptance, which many thought was a misuse of his position. And generally the bishops did not contribute much to the debate—except those advocating change. So Paul Bayes, the Bishop of Liverpool, stood to declare that ‘we believe that LGBTI identity is God-given’, contradicting all agreed Church of England statements on the question. Stephen Lynas comments on this:

Where were the Bishops? There are more than 50 of them on Synod, but we heard very little from them on either of these motions. Some will still be nursing bruises from February, but the suspicion is that they are keeping their heads down. Apart from Archbishop Sentamu and the Bishop of Liverpool, they largely remained quiet.

In fact, several bishops did stand to speak but were not called—inexplicably in the case of James Newcombe, Bishop of Carlisle, who is the Church of England spokesman in the area of the debate. David Walker, Bishop of Manchester, made an extraordinary statement following Synod:

What the [House of Bishops’ February] document failed to deliver, the Synod itself immediately began to put in place. Many of the speeches in the debate that rejected the paper exemplified what a new and distinctly more welcoming tone would sound like…

We follow a God whose ultimate revelation of himself was not in words on a page, or in commandments inscribed on stone tablets, but in a fully human person…Our answers to crucial questions of belief and practice, both then and now, must be grounded in scripture and consistent with its overarching messages. But they cannot ultimately be determined purely by the choices we make of how to interpret a small number of specific texts.

What happened to the connection between the person of Jesus and the gospels which testify to him? Are the gospels mere ‘words on a page’? What does Walker then make of the consistent Anglican commitment to the authority of Scripture? And did he not notice that lack of theological engagement, so that this ‘tone’ of emotionalism is what is needed? And does he really think that those who disagree with him are merely following a ‘small number of texts’? Has he not read Hays, Loader, Brooten, Gagnon, Wes Hill, or any of the others who have set out the over-arching message of Scripture? How can such a view do anything to be a centre of unity, let alone sound teaching, when other views are so casually dismissed? And he really thinks that the Shared Conversations process succeeded in enabling us to listen to one another, even whilst it failed to engage properly in the Church’s current teaching position?

For me, all these factors show very clearly why this issue is worth contending. The change that is wanted, and which is welcomed by David Walker, is a change that can only come if the Church of England decisively detaches itself from its historic roots, and from its commitment to Scripture as a reformed part of the church catholic. More than that, it is a change that will only come by means of the oppressive illiberalism of revisionist thinking which silences and dismisses alternative views without any real listening or engagement.

If Synod is not going to be dysfunctional and divisive, we are going to need a better way forward. Action is needed by the Business Committee, by the House of Bishops, and by the Presidents of Synod. The superficial binaries might work fine in the zero-sum debates of Synod. But they won’t wash in the careful process of reflection towards the teaching document. We need to avoid jumping the gun on the teaching document; we need motions that are clear and not enmeshed in false binaries; we need some theology; we need the basics of respect in debate. And, I venture to suggest, we need better episcopal leadership here. I don’t say that as a criticism of the House of Bishops—it is easy for anyone to criticise, and it is easy for them to feel got at. But I say it as a plea: those undermining the teaching of the Church are not shy to speak up. We need to hear some other voices, and we need to hear them very soon.

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The Importance of Being Right: Comments on Eugene Peterson’s The Message

Wednesday, July 19th, 2017

the message

rollinBy Rollin Grams July 18, 2017


Oscar Wilde’s hilarious play, ‘The Importance of Being Earnest,’ focuses our attention on a particular virtue.  But being earnest does not hold a candle to being right!  Being sincere counts for nothing if one is sincerely wrong.  This, in a word, captures the problem with Eugene Peterson’s The Message.  Personal perspectives on Scripture simply cannot replace careful Bible translation and interpretation any more than they should guide pastoral care based on the truth.

Eugene Peterson has been in the news this past week about a flip-flop on his views on homosexuality, and then a simple wave of his hand at the issue—a major embarrassment for anyone in either pastoral ministry or theological education, let alone both.[1]  Yet his error goes deeper—even to altering the Scriptures themselves.  His opinion on homosexuality is actually not important to the Church, though his ramblings will, no doubt, injure some people’s faith.  An individual scholar’s opinions, though, are simply not relevant to the Church’s unchanging witness through the centuries to the truth or the authoritative teaching of Scripture on an issue.  Consider how Peterson’s Biblical paraphrase, The Message, handled key New Testament texts that deal with homosexuality.

Romans 1:26-27

The Message

  • Romans 1.26 Worse followed. Refusing to know God, they soon didn’t know how to be human either – women didn’t know how to be women, men didn’t know how to be men.  27 Sexually confused, they abused and defiled one another, women with women, men with men – all lust, no love. And then they paid for it, oh, how they paid for it – emptied of God and love, godless and loveless wretches.

The New Revised Standard Version

  • Romans 1:26-27 For this reason God gave them up to degrading passions. Their women exchanged natural intercourse for unnatural,  27 and in the same way also the men, giving up natural intercourse with women, were consumed with passion for one another. Men committed shameless acts with men and received in their own persons the due penalty for their error.

Peterson’s rendering of the text obscures the issue of lesbianism in verse 26.  In verse 27, he focuses the problem on abuse and lust rather than the acts themselves.  Even the NRSV’s more literal translation is not as helpful as it might have been.  It translates ‘natural use’ with ‘natural intercourse.’  This is a decent translation, to be sure, but the word ‘use’ is actually an important part of Paul’s point, since he is talking about the use of sexual organs according to their natural purpose.  Whether or not we might believe that the NRSV needs improvement, Peterson’s paraphrase totally misses the point.

1 Corinthians 6:9

The Message

  • 1 Corinthians 6.9 Don’t you realize that this is not the way to live? Unjust people who don’t care about God will not be joining in his kingdom. Those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex….

New Revised Standard Version

  • 1 Corinthians 6.9 Do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived! Fornicators, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitutes, sodomites….

The two words that address homosexuality in 1 Corinthians 6.9 are ‘malakoi’—‘soft men’—and ‘arsenokoitai’—‘men going to bed with men’.  The first word, ‘malakoi’, fits into a major discussion in ancient philosophy about people who lack self-control, particularly in sexual matters.  It was also further used in reference to men with a homosexual, feminine orientation.[2]  This is how Paul uses the word in a list of three sexual sins: adultery, soft men, and men having sex with men.

The second word appears to have been Paul’s own creation—a compound of the words ‘men’ and ‘bed’ (a euphemism for sex in Greek as in English).  The word essentially means ‘men bedders’ and focusses on the act of homosexual intercourse rather than, as malakoi, on the orientation and its consequences for a person’s whole disposition in life.  The correct translation of these words has escaped translators far too often, sadly.  The English Standard Version, for example, simply collapses the two terms into ‘men who practice homosexuality’.  The New Revised Standard Version limits ‘malakoi’ far too much.  It is possible to understand one example of ‘soft men’ as those men who receive sex from another man, and some of these people were male prostitutes.  Yet the word is far broader than this single category, and it could lead some people to think that the issue is really about prostitution when ‘prostitute’ is not in the Greek text at all!

The second term, ‘arsenokoitai,’ is translated as ‘sodomites’ in the New Revised Standard Version.  ‘Sodomites’ is a term for homosexuals with a lengthy history, since the men of Sodom in Genesis 19 sought to engage in homosexual sex with Lot’s visitors.  The problem with this translation in 1 Corinthians 6.9 is that it brings Genesis 19 into focus, whereas this is not the case.  Moreover, some interpreters of Genesis 19 have tried to understand the passage to mean anything but homosexuality!  While these alternative understandings are certainly wrong, use of ‘Sodomites’ in 1 Corinthians 6.9 could lead a reader who is familiar with these mistaken views on Genesis 19 to think Paul is talking about something other than homosexuality.  Again, he does not say ‘Sodomites’ but ‘men having sex with other men’ (with no distinction between those receiving or those giving the sex, as some interpreters have suggested for these two words in this passage).

These problems with translations pale, however, when one turns to The Message.  The rendering of the verse is completely botched.  The two words under discussion that capture aspects of homosexuality are totally obscured: the reader does not even know the subject of homosexuality is in view.
1 Timothy 1:10

The Message

  • 1 Timothy 1.10 sex, truth, whatever!

The New Revised Standard Version

  • 1 Timothy 1:10 fornicators, sodomites, slave traders, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to the sound teaching…

As with Peterson’s rendering of 1 Corinthians 6.9, one is not aware in 1 Timothy 1.10 that Paul is presenting a sin list.  Persons needing to see that the early Church and New Testament authors opposed the slave trade will not see this in The Message’s paraphrase of the verse.  Nor will they see that this verse affirms what was said in the sin list of 1 Corinthians 1.9 about homosexual men going to bed with one another.  Paul uses the same complex word, arsenokoitai, as in 1 Corinthians 6.9.
Jude 7 

The Message

  • Jude 7 Sodom and Gomorrah, which went to sexual rack and ruin along with the surrounding cities that acted just like them, are another example. Burning and burning and never burning up, they serve still as a stock warning.

The New Revised Standard Version

  • Jude 7 Likewise, Sodom and Gomorrah and the surrounding cities, which, in the same manner as they, indulged in sexual immorality and pursued unnatural lust, serve as an example by undergoing a punishment of eternal fire.

As with his handling of Romans 1.26-27, Peterson focuses on sexual excess in his rendering of Jude 7: ‘burning and burning’.  He catches the connection between Sodom and sexual immorality, but he misses the ‘unnatural lust’ picked up by the New Revised Standard Version.  The word ‘lust’ is not in the Greek, but the New Revised Standard Version does point the reader to the issue of the unnatural act of homosexuality by its translation of ‘other flesh’ in the Greek.[3]


Thus, we see a consistent re-interpretation of New Testament texts on homosexuality by Peterson in the New Testament.  The problem begins already with the choice to produce a paraphrase rather than encourage people to use a translation.  One of the most distressing things to see is a ‘seasoned’ Christian walking around with a paraphrase like The Message.  This suggests an ignorance of the difference between Bible translations and paraphrases.  The Message is not a Bible translation and should not be used for Bible reading or Bible study.  A paraphrase is closer to being a commentary.

Even so, Peterson’s handling of key New Testament texts on homosexuality suggest that his personal views come out in his paraphrase.  It is very difficult to avoid the conclusion that Peterson intended to undermine the meaning of the text in his paraphrase and, perhaps, thereby indicate his rejection of the text of Scripture.

[1] See, e.g., Jake Meador, ‘Eugene Peterson Shrugs: Why Theological Indifference is Worse Than Progressivism,’ Christianity Today (July 13, 2017); online: (accessed 18 July, 2017).  Meador’s article points out another aspect of the importance of being right.

[2] S. Donald Fortson and Rollin G. Grams, Unchanging Witness: The Consistent Christian Teaching on Homosexuality in Scripture and Tradition (Nashville, TN: B&H Pub., 2016).  See ch. 15.

[3] To his credit, Peterson does capture the focus of the parallel text of Jude 7 in 2 Peter 2.  He does not opt to focus on sexual excess in this passage but renders verse 7’s reference to Sodom as ‘sexual filth and perversity’.  (The New Revised Standard Version has ‘the licentiousness of the lawless’.)