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Eugene Peterson and the Message
August 30, 2017 (first published February 2, 2005)
David Cloud, Way of Life Literature, P.O. Box 610368, Port Huron, MI 48061
866-295-4143,
fbns@wayoflife.org
The following is excerpted from CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND. See end of this report for details.

Eugene Peterson Photo
Eugene Peterson (b. 1932), author of The Message, was for many years James M. Houston Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, British Columbia. He also served for almost 30 years as founding pastor of Christ Our King Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Maryland. Today he is retired and lives in Montana.

The New Testament portion of
The Message was published in 1993 and the complete Bible in 2002. It is called a “translational-paraphrase” and is said to “unfold like a gripping novel.” In fact, it IS a novel!

It was “translated” by Peterson and reviewed by 21 “consultants” from the following schools: Denver Seminary (Robert Alden), Dallas Theological Seminary (Darrell Bock and Donald Glenn), Fuller Theological Seminary (Donald Hagner), Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Trinity Episcopal School, North Park Theological Seminary, Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Richard Averbeck). Columbia Bible College, Criswell College (Lamar Cooper), Westminster Theological Seminary (Peter Enns), Bethel Seminary (Duane Garrett), Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Paul R. House), Covenant Theological Seminary, Westmont College, Wesley Biblical Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, Moody Bible Institute (John H. Walton), Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary, and Gordon College (Marvin Wilson).

The Message is widely recommended by well-known Christian leaders. In keeping with his love for every new translation and paraphrase to appear since the Revised Standard Version, Billy Graham printed his own edition of “The Message: New Testament.” Warren Wiersbe says, “The Message is the boldest and most provocative rendering of the New Testament I’ve ever read.” Jack Hayford says, “The Message is certainly destined to become a devotional classic -- not to mention a powerful pastoral tool.” Rick Warren loves The Message and quotes it frequently, five times in the first chapter of The Purpose-Driven Life. J.I. Packer says, “In this crowded world of Bible versions Eugene Peterson’s blend of accurate scholarship and vivid idiom make this rendering both distinctive and distinguished. The Message catches the logical flow, personal energy, and imaginative overtones of the original very well indeed.” CCM artist Michael Card says, “Peterson’s translation transforms the eye into an ear, opening the door of the New Testament wider than perhaps it has ever been opened.” Leighton Ford says, “The Message will help many to transfer God’s eternal truths to their contemporary lives.” Joni Earckson Tada says, “WOW! What a treasure The Message is. I am going to carry it with me. This is a treasure that I will want to use wherever I am.” The Message is also recommended by Amy Grant, Benny Hinn, Bill Hybels, Bill and Gloria Gaither, Chuck Swindoll, Toby of DC Talk, Gary Smalley, Gordon Fee, Gordon MacDonald, Jerry Jenkins, John Maxwell, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Max Lucado, Michael W. Smith, Newsboys, Phil Driscoll, Rebecca St. James, Rod Parsley, Stuart and Jill Briscoe, Tony Campolo, Bono of U2, Vernon Grounds, to name a few. (This information was gathered from the NAVPress web site.).

Peterson told
Christianity Today that a major turning point in his ministry was a lecture by Paul Tournier sponsored by the liberal Christian Century magazine and held at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore (“Books & Culture Corner: The Contemplative Christian,” by Nathan Bierma, Christianity Today web site, Sept. 29, 2003). In a 1973 masters thesis entitled “Paul Tournier’s Universalism,” Daniel Musick warned:

“Paul Tournier was an unrestricted universalist. His writings, personal correspondence with him, and interviews with many who knew him support this conclusion. An analysis of his soteriology over 35 years of writing reveals a transition from reformed roots to an unbiblical, neo-orthodox perspective influenced by Emil Brunner and Karl Barth.”

Peterson has recommended
The Shack. Though fictional, this book’s objective is the redefinition of God. It is about a man who becomes bitter at God after his daughter is murdered and has a life-changing experience in the very shack where the murder occurred; but the God he encounters is most definitely not the God of the Bible. Young’s depicts God the Father as a black woman who loves rock & roll, and well as a man with gray hair and a pony tail. Young’s male/female god/goddess is the god of the emerging church. He is cool, loves rock & roll, is non-judgmental, does not exercise wrath toward sin, does not send unbelievers to an eternal fiery hell, does not require repentance and the new birth, and puts no obligations on people. (For documentation see “The Shack’s Cool God” at the Way of Life web site, www.wayoflife.org.)

Peterson has also recommended Rob Bell’s universalistic book
Love Wins. Bell says hell is in this life and most men will eventually be saved. He writes: “This insistence that God will be united and reconciled with all people is a theme the writers and prophets return to again and again. ... The God that Jesus teaches us about doesn’t give up until everything that was lost is found. This God simply doesn’t give up. Ever” (Love Wins, Kindle location 1259-1287). Bell calls the preaching of eternal hell “misguided and toxic,” a “cheap view of God,” and “lethal” (location 47-60, 2154-2180). He says there is something wrong with this God and calls Him “terrifying and traumatizing and unbearable” (location 1273-1287, 2098-2113).

That kind of talk apparently resonates deeply with Peterson. No wonder he loves the non-judgmental god/goddess of
The Shack.

Peterson is a big promoter of Catholic contemplative mysticism. He is on the Board of Reference for the international ecumenical contemplative organization Renovaré (pronounced Ren-o-var-ay, which is Latin, meaning “to make new spiritually”), founded by Richard Foster. At the October 1991 Renovaré meeting in Pasadena, Foster praised Pope John Paul II and called for unity in the Body of Christ through the “five streams of Christianity: the contemplative, holiness, charismatic, social justice and evangelical” (CIB Bulletin, December 1991). Foster advocates the practices of Catholic mystics and “the integration of psychology and theology.” In his book entitled Prayer Foster draws material from Julian of Norwich, Thomas Merton, Bernard of Clairvaux, Madame Guyon, Teresa of Avila, even St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. Renovaré promotes guided imagery, visualization, centering prayer, astral projection, Zen meditation, and Jungian psychology (Calvary Contender, Feb. 15, 1998).

Along the same line, notice the heroes of the faith that Peterson quotes in the article “Spirit Quest” (which is a Native American term for seeking intimacy with and revelation from pagan spirits):

“Single-minded, persevering faithfulness confirms the authenticity of our spirituality. The ancestors we look to for encouragement in this business -- Augustine of Hippo and Julian of Norwich, ... Teresa of Avila -- didn’t flit. They stayed” (Christianity Today, Nov. 8, 1993).

Augustine, Julian, and Teresa had authentic spirituality? Not when tested by Scripture. Julian of Norwich said, “God showed me that sin need be no shame to man but can even be worthwhile” (quoted by Kenneth Leech,
Soul Friend, p. 146). She also said, “God is really our Mother as he is our Father” and called Christ “Mother Jesus.” Augustine taught that the sacraments are the means of saving grace, was one of the fathers of infant baptism, claiming that baptism takes away the child’s sin, taught that Mary did not commit sin and promoted prayers to her, believed in purgatory and the veneration of relics, accepted the doctrine of celibacy for “priests,” and laid the foundation for the inquisition, to name a few of his heresies. Teresa of Avila was probably demon possessed; she levitated and made strange noises deep in her throat, experienced terrifying visions and voices, and held to Rome’s sacramental gospel that works are required for salvation.

Peterson was Professor of Spiritual Theology at Regent College, and it is obvious that he has been influenced deeply by the Catholic and modernistic Protestant “spirituality” in which he has immersed himself for so many decades. Regent College’s bookstore features many works by Catholic mystics, such as those already named, and by theological modernists. I have visited this bookstore many times, and there is no warning whatsoever in regard to these books.

The mystical “spirituality” that is so popular in evangelical and charismatic circles today is a yearning for an experiential relationship with God that downplays the role of faith and Scripture and that exalts “transcendental” experiences that lift the individual from the earthly mundane into a higher “spiritual” plane. Biblical prayer is talking with God; mystical prayer is silent meditation and “centering” and other such things. Biblical Christianity is a patient walk of faith; mystical spirituality is a flight of fancy. Biblical study is analyzing and meditating upon the literal truth of the Scripture; mystical spirituality focuses on a “deeper meaning”; it is more allegorical and “transcendental” than literal.

It is not surprising that Peterson’s Bible translation has a New Agey flavor to it. He even uses the term “as above, so below,” which is a New Age expression for the unity of God and man, heaven and earth. In the book
As Above, So Below, the editors of the New Age Journal say: “This maxim implies that the transcendent God beyond the physical universe and the immanent God within ourselves are one. Heaven and Earth, spirit and matter, the invisible and the visible worlds form a unity to which we are intimately linked” (quoted from Warren Smith, Deceived on Purpose: The New Age Implications of the Purpose-Driven Church, Ravenna, Ohio: Conscience Press, 2004).

The Message is an environmental Bible, as well. In Romans 15:13, The Message says, “May the God of green hope fill you up with joy...” and in 1 Corinthians 6:9-10, it says that those who “use and abuse the earth and everything in it, don’t quality as citizens in God’s kingdom.”

The Message is also pro-homosexual, playing right into the hands of those who teach that homosexuality is a natural condition that God can bless instead of a sin that needs to be repented of. Every passage that condemns homosexuality is tampered with in The Message. For example, 1 Corinthians 6:9-11 in the KJV warns that “effeminate, nor abusers themselves with mankind” will not inherit the kingdom of God without being born again. In The Message this becomes the vapid and almost meaningless “those who use and abuse each other, use and abuse sex.” In 1 Timothy 1:10, “them that defile themselves with mankind” is changed to “the irresponsible, who defy all authority, riding roughshod over God, life, sex, truth, whatever.”

It is not surprising that Peterson told Religion News Service on July 12, 2017, that he does not believe that homosexuality is sinful. 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. 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.” Peterson told the RNS that the church he pastored hired a homosexual minister of music. He said that in churches where he served as associate pastor, “There were several women who were lesbians.”

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The following is excerpted from CONTEMPLATIVE MYSTICISM: A POWERFUL ECUMENICAL BOND. ISBN 978-1-58318-113-3. Contemplative mysticism, which originated with Roman Catholic and Greek Orthodox monasticism, is permeating every branch of Christianity today, including the Southern Baptist Convention. In this book we document the fact that Catholic mysticism leads inevitably to a broadminded ecumenical philosophy and to capitulation to heresies. For many, this path has led to interfaith dialogue, Buddhism, Hinduism, universalism, pantheism, panentheism, even goddess theology. One chapter is dedicated to exposing the heresies of Richard Foster: “Evangelicalism’s Mystical Sparkplug.” We describe major contemplative practices, such as centering prayer, visualizing prayer, the Jesus Prayer, Lectio Divina, and the labyrinth. We look at the history of Roman Catholic monasticism which birthed contemplative prayer, and we examine the errors of contemplative mysticism. In the Biographical Catalog of Contemplative Mystics we look at the lives and beliefs of 60 of the major figures in the contemplative movement, including Francis of Assisi, Ignatius of Loyola, John of the Cross, Brennan Manning, Thomas Merton, Teresa of Avila, Richard Foster, and Dallas Willard. The book contains an extensive index. 482 pages. Available in print and eBook editions, www.wayoflife.org



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