Sorry, LifeWay, None of Your Authors Hold to “the Biblical View of Marriage”

Jacob and Rachel
Image credit: “Jacob Encountering Rachel with her Father’s Herds,” Joseph von Führich, Wikimedia Commons.

The past week has been abuzz with the news of Eugene Peterson, who publicly stated his affirmation of same-sex marriage (having already given his affirmation in smaller settings for at least two years). He then retracted his statement, saying, “I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.” His retraction came after LifeWay threatened to pull his books, claiming, “LifeWay only carries resources in our stores by authors who hold to the biblical view of marriage.” Less than a year ago, LifeWay did the same to Jen Hatmaker, who did not recant her views. (Emphases in the above quotes mine.)

With LifeWay placing so much weight on “the biblical view of marriage,” it is important to realize that that there is no single biblical view of marriage.

I can’t say whether it was intentional on Peterson’s part, but did you notice the different article he used from LifeWay? While LifeWay claims to accept only authors who affirm “the biblical view of marriage,” Peterson said he holds to “a biblical view.” This tiny distinction makes all the difference. While “one man to one woman” may indeed be “a biblical view of marriage,” it is quite far from being the only one.

Abram was simultaneously partnered to both his wife, Sarai, and her slave-girl, Hagar; and he is later said to have had other concubines as well. His grandson, Jacob, was married to both Leah and Rachel, and he was also partnered to their slave-girls, Zilpah and Bilhah; and from this polygamy descends the entire nation of Israel. Moving on to the kings of Israel, Saul, David, and Solomon were all polygamous. Solomon is even said to have had 700 wives and 300 concubines! And according to biblical claims of authorship, it is his marital advice that fills Proverbs and The Song of Songs.

“Descriptive, not prescriptive!” the conservative scholars cry. And true enough, the Bible does not explicitly affirm these polygamous relationships. However, we’re talking about the patriarchs and kings (including the good ones) of the Hebrew people, not just minor side characters. We’re talking about David, the “man after God’s own heart,” of whom scripture claims that he never disobeyed God except in the matter of Uriah the Hittite. And while scripture may include no explicit affirmation of polygamy, there’s also no condemnation for it. The best conservative scholars can do is point to the problems polygamy caused.

The only possible scriptural prohibition against polygamy comes centuries later as a minor phrase in the Pastoral Epistles. It states that elders and deacons should be “husband of one wife.” But the interpretation of that phrase—whether it means they must be married, could only be married to one wife at a time, or were forbidden from remarrying—is up for debate. Most likely, it simply means that one should be faithful to one’s spouse.

But let’s go back and look at a few biblical decrees about marriage that actually were prescriptive. For example, while the Bible may not offer a broad affirmation of polygamy, Deuteronomy 25:5 actually commands it in certain specific cases. And then there’s Deuteronomy 22:28–29, which gives us the shocking command that a victim of rape must marry her attacker. And perhaps just as shocking, Deuteronomy 21:10–14 directly affirms the right to capture female slaves for one’s wife. Also affirmed in Exodus 21:7–9 is a father’s right to sell his daughters as slaves.

Prescriptive! Not merely descriptive. But mostly just deplorable.

Let’s recap. The many different biblical views of marriage include:

  • The possibility of polygamy.
  • Allowance for concubines.
  • Certain instances of commanded polygamy.
  • The command to marry one’s rapist.
  • The right to capture slaves as wives.
  • The right to sell one’s daughters as slaves.

If LifeWay is going to honestly insist on “the biblical view of marriage,” they will have to include all the above points. But not a single LifeWay author would affirm them.

This concept of “the biblical view of marriage” is a sham. It doesn’t exist. Those who restrict marriage to being only between one man and one woman must do so in spite of the Bible, not because of it.

And for the record, I have no problem with cherry-picking scripture. We’re all forced to cherry-pick scripture at times because scripture does not always agree with itself. But let’s just be honest about that and stop pretending we hold to “the biblical view” on such matters.

[See also my follow-up conversation with Preston Sprinkle about this post.]

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  • Jim Redman

    I agree with the basic premise and 99% of the details of the article.
    One, I do not – the supposed requirement to marry one’s rapist. Here’s why.

    First, let’s look at the situation. You have a middle-eastern culture
    around 1400 BC, and women were treated often as monetary commodities,
    despite the fact that whenever people bothered to ask God about whether
    women should be regarded as equal in a certain area, property inheritance for example, God always upheld their right. Why didn’t He go farther? They weren’t ready to handle that. In the New Testament, we find Christ speaking to women (a taboo), speaking to a Samaritan woman who was something of an outcast among her own people, defending the right of Mary Magdalene to sit at His feet which was understood to be the position of a DISCIPLE, refusing to banish her to the kitchen, and giving her the first message of His resurrection. But they weren’t
    there yet. No, they were part of their times, when men had taken the dowry that was supposed to be what the suitor presented to the father of the bride to be HERS in case she needed to leave, and instead made it the “bride price”, an amount payable to the father for him to release his virgin daughter to be given in marriage, besides anything she MIGHT get as a dowry. So her virginity was a saleable commodity and failure to deliver what was expected was fraud. Therefore if a daughter’s virginity was compromised, it was a theft by taking. If tempted to apply that standard to modern society, consider the pitfalls there.

    Add to this, that in the New Testament, multiple times Christ said things
    concerning the social laws like, “MOSES gave you…”, not putting God in
    there at all. But I’ll just open that can of worms and let it be for
    now.

    With these things in mind, let’s look at the text, the context and the Hebrew words. Deuteronomy chapter 22 covers a number of social laws. The Biblical meaning of adultery is made clear here in that if two people were known to have had sex and one or both were married or engaged to other people, it was considered a crime and a stoning offense, verses 22 through 27.

    Verses 28 and 29 deal with a couple who were unmarried and unbetrothed being similarly caught, and notice the vast difference: here it is treated as a civil damages case. The man or boy was to present fifty shekels of silver to the
    father to compensate him for the value taken, and then offer to marry
    her. The father had the option to accept his proposal (if he didn’t
    accept, he’d probably end up supporting her the rest of his life since
    her virgin value was gone), and if accepted the man could not divorce
    her. However, if he took another wife, we find elsewhere in the law that
    if he failed to provide sufficient food, clothing and/or sexual
    attention, SHE, like any other wife, could divorce HIM (Exodus 21:10).

    In other Jewish writings, it is stated that the man or boy was expected
    to publicly humiliate himself by jumping naked into a pile of coins on a
    large cloth, and then present it to the father and ask for her in
    marriage, since he had humiliated her and the family.

    So what does it actually say? Does it refer to rape? The NIV thinks so:

    28 “If a man happens to meet a virgin who is not pledged to be married and rapes her and they are discovered, 29 he
    shall pay her father fifty shekels[c] of silver. He must marry the
    young woman, for he has violated her. He can never divorce her as long
    as he lives.”

    The New King James Version and Amplified
    Version both say “seizes her and lies with her”. Which sounds an awfully
    lot like rape. But is it?

    The King James Version says, “…and
    lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found…” and the
    Douay-Rheims American Version says “…and taking her, lie with her, and
    the matter come to judgment…”

    The Orthodox Jewish Bible: “…and lay hold on her, and lie with her, and they be found…

    So: What does it mean to “lay hold”, take, in this passage?

    First there is a fundamental difference in culture that many Westerners
    don’t get, even if they know the words. In the East, in most
    traditional societies one does not simply “lay hands on” a woman without
    a good reason and usually not without some form of invitation. In some
    cultures, if that deliberate touch is accepted without protest or
    withdrawal, the lady is perceived to be saying Yes to more. This
    difference would have been far more pronounced in 1400 BC, when
    discretion in such things was critical.

    The KJV and OJB term “lay hold” comes from Hebrew “taphas” which can be translated “capture” and more often “take”, but also over a dozen other expressions, including 8 times as “handle” (in verb role) referring to musical
    instruments, tools, or swords for example.

    Compare that to verse 25: “But if a man find a betrothed damsel in the field, and the man force her, and lie with her, then the man only that lay with her shall
    die.” – KJV

    The next two verses confirm this is speaking of an attack, a sexual assault against her will.

    What is the word translated “force” here in verse 25?

    The Hebrew word “chazaq” has a long list of meanings, including “take
    hold”, but there are reasons it is used in this context. It conveys the
    exercise of strength – translated “be strong” 40 times, “strengthen” 21
    times, “prevail” 9 times, and “fasten” and “take fast hold”.

    So I ask you to consider this: When in verse 25 the writer of
    Deuteronomy speaks of what is clearly a rape case using the word
    “chazaq” which is about using strength and force and prevailing over the
    woman’s protests, WHY WHY WHY would they use a different word,
    “taphas”, in verse 28 that did NOT express force well if that is what
    was meant? Did the writer suddenly become incompetent to say what they
    had JUST said in verse 25? Or did the writer say what was intended in
    both cases and those two expressions do NOT mean the same thing?

    I believe the text and the context support the last view.

    One more point. The text does not say, “…and it be found out…”

    It says, “…and THEY be found…” – implying mutual consent.

    If an unmarried, unbetrothed couple in the middle eastern world of 1400
    BC among the Hebrews were caught having sex, under Mosaic law the boy
    was required to pay the girl’s father the “bride price” of fifty shekels
    and sincerely offer to marry the girl.

    That is what this passage is about. That is all it is about.

  • Canbuhay

    A man who is caught raping a woman who is committed to someone else, is actually condemned to death (but not the woman). The verse in Deuteronomy is a bit ambiguous about unbetrothed women. But the word used gives a hint that the sex might include consensual and nonconsensual sex. As well, the cultural practices of the day meant that a rape victim would not likely be marriageable because she was no longer a virgin. The marriage then would be seen as a way to punish the rapist, not the woman because he would be forced to take care of her.

    https://www.gotquestions.org/Deuteronomy-22-28-29-marry-rapist.html

    A man who is having sex with someone other than his wife is also condemned to death to there is no biblically sanction for sex outside of the marriage of a man and wife. The passages you mention about marriage responsibility would have referred to single men (see the story of Boaz and Ruth as an example).

    And if you don’t buy the prescriptive vs descriptive argument, then simply answer this question: of all the polygamous marriages in the Bible, which one turned out alright? None of them had happy endings which is why the practice was not only discouraged by the early church, it was unheard for a Christian to practice by the time of the apostles.

  • Mc Kingdom

    What Chuck (and Lifeway) fail to realize is that we don’t resort to any “biblical” model… we appeal to the Christ model.
    ———————————
    It’s because of the hardness of men’s hearts, where man had multiple wives, and deviated from the the One Man and One woman Model, that Christ had to declare:

    Mat 19:4 — Mat 19:6

    And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made
    them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, “For this
    reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his
    wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer
    two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man
    separate.”

    Everything else, including all that you cited in the OT, and bible, is based on hardness of heart and a false perception of who God the Father is.
    ——-

    People who are Believers who argue that Christ never said anything
    about homosexuality and use this to declare same sex marriages are OK
    and holy under Grace are foolish…

    The reason why same sex
    marriage is wrong because anything that is not of faith is sin. Faith is
    not subjective. Faith is hearing and obeying His voice not your own.

    ******It must be a reflection of Christ and His divine pattern*****

    What was Christ’s divine pattern?

    Marriage is the reflection of the Son of Man, a declared male.. Married to His Bride, a corporate Female.

    Marriage is a reflection of Christ and the church.

    ******Anything that does not reflect this pattern is not of Christ.******

    And people are foolish to think Christ never said anything about this.

    God only puts males and females together.

    Once again…

    Mat 19:4 — Mat 19:6

    And He answered and said to them, “Have you not read that He who made
    them at the beginning ‘made them male and female,’ and said, “For this
    reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his
    wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So then, they are no longer
    two but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let not man
    separate.”

    God ONLY PUTS MALES AND FEMALES Together. Any other joining, He did not out together. Somebody else did.

    Here is a great God given testimony on an exgay activist.

    https://www.christiantoday.com/article/i.gave.my.homosexuality.to.god.former.gay.activist.met.jesus.and.his.life.was.completely.changed/104473.htm

    He got the Revelation.

    He is still gay but realized that same sex marriage do not reflect Christ.

    We still love gays as Christ loved us. But don’t be so foolish to
    assume that same sex marriage or other type of marriage, is a reflection
    of Christ and His Bride.

    • jh

      oh yeah, blame the men for this. God never had a problem changing Pharaoh’s heart (he hardened it) or Jonah (was willing to kill everybody on the ship if that idiot didn’t get to Ninevah). It’s a poor cop out for the creator of the universe. God didn’t have a problem firebombing the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah. (God’s sort of like Trump with his “let’s make a deal” nonsense)

      You can tell what kind of creature your God is on the things he is inflexible about (say working on the Sabbath) and what he is flexible about (say slavery or multiple sex partners).

      BTW – in one of the judeo-christian myths, God doesn’t bother to make a “mate” for Adam until Adam has to request it. It makes you wonder if God designed Adam for bestiality. (It makes sense. Men are far more likely to sexually abuse animals than women. Every couple of years, you hear about some guy who raped some cow or sheep or goat.)

      • Neil Aitchison

        The examples you give of Pharaoh and Jonah are not caused by God as you incorrectly state….. Pharaoh’s pride caused him to resist God’s will and his heart was hardened by God’s will being inevitable and Pharaoh’s proud resistance. God therefore caused ten plagues, each plague attacking a false god of Egypt, right up to the false belief that Pharaoh himself was a god whereby the son of Pharaoh was killed and Pharaoh got drowned trying to chase down the Israelites. Blaming God for Pharaoh’s false gods and pride is like you blaming God for your own ungodly beliefs and then getting the inevitable punishment you deserve which is ultimately eternity in the lake of fire – you get what you deserve and it isn’t God”s fault. The same with Jonah, he didn’t want God to show mercy on Nineveh which is why he sulked when God spared Nineveh – it was Jonah’s lack of compassion that was the problem and not God. In the same way, your lack of compassion for God is blinding you to salvation and having eternal life…..you would rather criticise God in the hope of others being turned off God (like Jonah was doing) instead of sharing God’s compassion leading to salvation in Jesus Christ. What you are doing is an example of why anti-Christian ideology will lead to destruction.

        • Taco Verhoef

          And what you just said to jh helped in what way?

          • Neil Aitchison

            Thank you for asking – it helps because the author of the article blames God for bad things that God didn’t do. The author should therefore place the blame for bad things at human sin and commend God for being so loving that He is trying to remedy our foolishness and sinful rebellion by giving us a way of salvation thru Jesus Christ. We should be grateful for God’s unlimited grace and mercy. Those who die in their sin without salvation in Jesus Christ quite literally have hell to pay.

    • wullaj

      He was talking about divorce, nothing else.

      • Mc Kingdom

        And to have a divorce you need a marriage… and he defined marriage as one man, one woman…. and that is the only “putting together” God is involved in. And yes, what God put together (one man and one woman), let no man pull asunder.

        And yes, all believers who divorce beyond the reasons of adultery, fornication, abuse, one person becoming an unbeliever and request a divorce are just as fallen.

        And yes, God can still redeem and restore, gay or non gay.

        • wullaj

          He was responding to a Pharisee who was trying to entrap him. He was not specifying who can marry and who cannot. Stop adding to the bible.

          • Mc Kingdom

            Are you that myopic? Of course he was not responding to homosexual orientation. Does he have to be asked a direct question “What happens to a man and a man”, to give the same answer, and then you would accept it? In fact the Pharisees and Christ had no thought for a man with a man. The answer he gave contain the principles that applies to ALL sexual orientation.

            He narrowed it to a Man and a Woman. If you don’t agree with that then don’t marry. If you think it is too narrow, don’t marry. If you think it is impossible, to once you are marry, the only reasons for divorce is adultery etc., then leave it alone.

            “His disciples replied “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.””

            And Christ agreed. So the alternative to a man and woman not marrying is NOT a man with a man, or a woman with a woman, but to remain celibate.

            So if you were an eunuch from birth, or a eunuch made from another man (because they cut off your junk) or you decide to become a eunuch for the Kingdom, then don’t get married.

            If you think you were born gay, and you think your sexual orientation is gay, remain unmarried. Remain celibate for the Kingdom.

            In fact whether heterosexual or not, most people should not marry. They are not mature.

            —-
            His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.”

            11
            But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to
            whom it has been given: 12 For there are eunuchs who were born thus
            from their
            mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and
            there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of
            heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it, let him accept it.” [Matt 19:10-12]

          • wullaj

            Wow. You really have made your own doctrine out of a reference to divorce. Sad.

          • ChrisDACase95

            Jesus had absolutley no problem with the sexual relationship between the gay centurion and his pais. He blessed them and sent them on their way.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2014/05/02/jesus-clobber-texts-and-the-centurions-companion/

          • Ruth Ann Cook

            WHAT????

          • ChrisDACase95

            A little history and culture lesson; in Greek/Roman culture, it wasn’t uncommon for centurion’s or other men in power to take men as their lovers, essentially a homosexual version of conqubinage, which is also a Biblical practice.

            This history lesson will also tell you the meaning of the word “Pais”, of which “Young Male Lover” was one of them. Historical evidence points to Jesus healing the same sex lover of a centurion and afforming the centurion’s faith.

            http://www.gaychristian101.com/Gay-Centurion.html

            http://wouldjesusdiscriminate.org/biblical_evidence/gay_couple.html

          • jh

            He’s right. There’s even evidence of gay marriage in the early church. We have artwork that depicts a marriage ceremony with two men.

        • jh

          Is it adultery for a man to sleep with his widowed sister in law? remember – according to the jewish customs of that day, that man would have married his widowed sister in law.

        • Alan Christensen

          Since there was no such thing as same-sex marriage at the time, what sense would it have made to Jesus’ hearers to state that two men or two women cannot get divorced?

    • Alan Christensen

      News flash: the Church as the Bride of Christ is a METAPHOR. If you take it to its (maybe absurd) logical conclusion, about half of the Church (men) are in a same-sex marriage to Jesus.

      • Neil Aitchison

        incorrect – The men and women are part of the Church Institution….and the Church Institution is the “Bride of Christ”. The church is what is called “The Bride” and not the individual men and women that belong to the Church. An honest person would quite logically work this out and there is no METAPHOR involved. We use the word “She” to describe things like “Mother Nature, the Earth” which has men involved and don’t see anything absurd or illogical about it, and yet when the Church is mentioned in this way, you depart from common sense and come up with a twisted idea of the Church. Sorry, but some of us aren’t so gullible. Only a dishonest person who doesn’t want to realise God’s truth about the Church being the Bride, but rather try to twist scripture to support their own sinful agenda contrary to God’s holy ways would try to make out that the Church is a METAPHOR and pretend that the men in the Church is a same sex marriage to Jesus – such attacks on the Bible is illogical, dishonest and untrue.

  • Commenter

    The word you’re looking for is “article,” not “pronoun.”

    • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight

      Ha! Typos happen to the best of us. Good catch!

  • Steve03

    In the words of the Prophet W. H. Vanstone (1923-99): “The Church is like a swimming pool . . . all the noise comes from the shallow end.”

  • Neil Aitchison

    There is only one “Biblical view” and that is the one that God intends. Marriage is solely between a man and a woman until death. Any other view is false and misinterprets the Bible.

    God has prophesied a “falling away” (ie. 2 Thessalonians 2:3 “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition;) as the world is deceived by a massive lie to temporarily ignore the Bible and follow ungodly ways?…the “falling away” only lasts a short time because humans cause such chaos that all life nearly gets destroyed (including humans) except for divine intervention. I can already see the world heading headlong into massive chaos and destruction already fulfilling Bible prophecies. So you can now see that I don’t need to pray as you are suggesting me to because such a prayer is contrary to His Plan. Knowing the Bible give me a huge headstart on understanding current world events (including the rise of homosexuality). We are at the beginning of the “falling away” stage and if you want to know the results of where homosexuality leads to, please read Romans 1:18-32 (it’s not a pretty outcome). This is where the world is heading and already Christians are being targeted in ways not thought of even a decade ago. This temporary ungodliness results in a world Government ruled by one man and all life on earth would get destroyed except for the return of Jesus Christ. I see everything happening exactly as God predicted and so I see no need to pray in a way that contradicts God’s prophecies – He will not answer such an ignorant and self-serving prayer….God is not in the vanity business to “prove me right” like you expect Him to be. In fact, the rise of homosexuality proves the Bible 100% correct…..so why would I doubt God’s power, listening ability, existence, will or intentions?….He has laid it all out in detailed prophecies through-out the Bible in clear detail (over 800 prophecies in the Bible have already been fulfilled to the letter).

    • ChrisDACase95

      You haven’t read a word of this post haven’t you. There is no single definition of marriage in the Bible. Monogamy is never required or normative, except for bishops.

  • JH

    A ‘Biblical view’ of marriage doesn’t refer to what people do in the Bible. The Bible includes examples of both positive and negative behaviour, and one of the key points is that no human being is perfect or good.

    In essence, we are not to simply do something because a person in the Bible did it. The Biblical view is to do what God teaches.

    What constitutes a ‘Biblical view’ is what God spells out in the Bible. The message is that we are far from God, and the ways of this world are broken: “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” (Isaiah 55:9).

    For example here, the author of the blog cites Solomon and his 700 wives and 300 concubines as if this makes polygamy acceptable in the Biblical view.

    He leaves out that the Bible warns kings that they, “must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray” (Dt 17:17)… and this is what happens to Solomon: “As Solomon grew old, his wives turned his heart after other god…” (1 Kings 11:4).

    McKnight goes on to say that “Deuteronomy 25:5 actually commands (polygamy) in certain specific cases.” The problem is that Deuteronomy 25:5 doesn’t talk about polygamy. It talks about what is to occur if an Israelite’s brother dies.

    If you want to make the argument that conservatives have misread/misinterpreted the Bible, then you need to treat the Biblical view seriously and actually understand what it says.

    This blog doesn’t.

    —————–

    As to Eugene Peterson, instead of guessing and implying what happened, perhaps it is better to simply read what Peterson himself states:

    Recently a reporter asked me whether my personal opinions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage have changed over the years. I presume I was asked this question because of my former career as a pastor in the Presbyterian Church (USA), which recently affirmed homosexuality and began allowing its clergy to perform same-sex weddings. Having retired from the pastorate more than 25 years ago, I acknowledged to the reporter that I “haven’t had a lot of experience with it.”

    To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.

    It’s worth noting that in my twenty-nine year career as a pastor, and in the years since then, I’ve never performed a same-sex wedding. I’ve never been asked and, frankly, I hope I never am asked. This reporter, however, asked a hypothetical question: if I were pastoring today and if a gay couple were Christians of good faith and if they asked me to perform their wedding ceremony—if, if, if. Pastors don’t have the luxury of indulging in hypotheticals. And to be honest, no is not a word I typically use. It was an awkward question for me because I don’t do many interviews at this stage in my life at 84, and I am no longer able to travel as I once did or accept speaking requests. With most interviews I’ve done, I generally ask for questions in advance and respond in writing. That’s where I am most comfortable. 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. 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. That said, I would still love such a couple as their pastor. They’d be welcome at my table, along with everybody else.

    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. 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. 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.

    There have been gay people in a variety of congregations, campuses, and communities where I have served. My responsibility to them was the work of a pastor—to visit them, to care for their souls, to pray for them, to preach the Scriptures for them. This work of pastoring is extremely and essentially local: Each pastor is responsible to a particular people, a specific congregation. We often lose sight of that in an atmosphere so clouded by controversy and cluttered with loud voices. The people of a congregation are not abstractions, they are people, and a pastor does a disservice to the people in his care when he indulges in treating them as abstractions.

    I regret the confusion and bombast that this interview has fostered. It has never been my intention to participate in the kind of lightless heat that such abstract, hypothetical comments and conversations generate. This is why, as I mentioned during this interview, I so prefer letters and will concentrate in this final season on personal correspondence over public statements.

    Eugene H. Peterson

  • Timothy Weston

    Back in Biblical times, marriage was a business transaction of a man selling his daughter to a groom. The Bible has no solemnization of marriage. I used to be against marriage equality. What brought me in favor of it was “How would granting same-sex couples the legal contract of marriage destroy the state?” It is the state that owns marriage, not any religious institution. When a clergy says “By the power vested in me by the state of..”, they are acknowledging that it is the state giving them that power, not God.

  • Preston

    Hey Chuck,

    Thanks for this intriguing piece. As you know, there is so much you and I agree on in life, ministry, and theology. However, as part of a friendly dialogue–and in no way do I speak for, represent, or even agree with LifeWay’s articulation of their view–I think you’re missing some things in your argument.

    First, you’re atomistically picking out Bible verses on marriage, calling this “evidence for a biblical marriage,” and then putting the pieces together and saying we shouldn’t (and don’t!) follow THAT marriage.

    In some ways, this is helpful. Certainly some conservatives may need to be shown that not every verse on marriage is worthy of emulation. But you’re ignoring the overarching storyline of how marriage is integrated with the creational narrative of redemption. I could explain more of what I mean, but N.T. Wright (as always) does it better: http://www.plough.com/en/topics/life/marriage/what-is-marriage-for

    In short, marriage as a one-flesh union between two sexually different persons is woven into the fabric of the creational story and threaded throughout the entire drama of redemption: Differences coming together in unity without erasing those differences. It’s what drives Gen 1-2, Rev 21-22, and so many themes and passages in between. If you want to pull that thread out, that’s fine. But you’re going to be left with a very different garment. I mean, story. Or both.

    Second, there’s a massive difference between cultural expressions of marriage and God’s intrinsic design of marriage. That is, most statements on marriage you’ve picked on deal with statements in the OT law where God regulated, tolerated, and sometimes later critiques certain cultural views of marriage, sexism, slavery, and a whole host of other ethical issues. You can’t just pick out random statements from the OT law and ignore the question of OT law for Christian ethics as a whole. (Given your level of intellengance, I’m going to assume that you know this to be a very huge issue in Christian ethics and theology, which many scholars have addressed…none of which you mention.) There are few ethical questions that DON’T have the same problem you point out; statements in the Law that need to be interpreted in light of the larger biblical story. As a fellow pacifist, I know that you know this…

    Maybe LifeWay DOES think that “biblical view of marriage” means “thoughtlessly adding up every verse on marriage and saying ‘Let’s do that!'” But this isn’t at all what the phrase “biblical view of marriage” essentially means.

    • ChrisDACase95

      Except monogamy was never stated within scripture to be normative or a requeiment (except for bishops). The approval for monogamy only/disapproval of polygamy comes from the same place; toral silence. I think the trump card for me was God offering David more wives, plus if you read the Adam and Eve account literally, you’d see it is Adam who is ordaining the marriage with Eve, not God. Likewise polygamy also dated back the Genesis as well with Abraham and Jacob.

      All that plus taking the view that Christ is the groom, and the church (as in those who gather to worship him) as his bride, then logically it can be said that God may not have a problem with polygamy since he pretty much practices it.

      Realistically I’d say polygamy was never a moral issue within scripture, just something that fell out of cultural practice over the course of scripture, much like how over the centuries since Christianity was funded, there have been numerous relgious practicss that have disappeared as culture changed.

    • http://hippieheretic.com/ Chuck McKnight
  • Ruth Ann Cook

    Could we go with Jesus’ view?-and Paul did write much of the New Testament.

    • ChrisDACase95

      Jesus gave no view on marriage beyond a statment against divorce.

  • Wheezy1952

    It is sad to hear about Petersen’s about face on this issue, especially if book sales played a part.
    He could have made a real difference.