Eugene Peterson: RIP

PetersonI never met him or heard him preach live, but I have benefited from the work of this Christian thinker, theologian, pastor, and author.   I am not sure I can say anything about him that has not already been said.

My favorite Eugene Peterson book is Eat This Book: A Conversation in the Art of Spiritual Reading.

Here is a taste of his obituary at Religion News Service:

Eugene Peterson, the best-selling author of “The Message” and longtime pastor praised as a “shepherd’s shepherd,” passed away Monday morning (Oct. 22) at age 85.

Among Peterson’s last words were, “Let’s go,” according to a statement from his family.

“During the previous days, it was apparent that he was navigating the thin and sacred space between earth and heaven,” according to his family. “We overheard him speaking to people we can only presume were welcoming him into paradise. There may have even been a time or two when he accessed his Pentecostal roots and spoke in tongues as well.”

Peterson pastored Christ Our King Presbyterian Churcha Presbyterian Church (USA) congregation he founded in Bel Air, Md., for 30 years while also writing widely to encourage and develop other pastors.

He is best known for “The Message,” his popular paraphrase of the Bible in contemporary language that made the Bible accessible to many Christians. Altogether, he wrote more than 30 books, including his 2011 memoir “The Pastor” and the Christian classic, “A Long Obedience in the Same Direction.”

Read the rest here.

One thought on “Eugene Peterson: RIP

  1. I have no doubt that Eugene Peterson was a very gifted man in the realm of pastoral care. He always impressed me as a kind man. He probably also had reasonably good homiletic skills. All of these talents in one man are in short supply across denominational lines.

    With that being said I think it is a bit of a stretch to call him a scholar as did one or two of his obituary writers. The fact that a person knows or even teaches an ancient language hardly makes him a scholar. According to one writer, Pastor Peterson made the statement that certain Biblical languages were “black and white” (or words to that effect) whereas parish shepherding was far more nuanced. I don’t deny that pastoral work is arguably the most difficult part of ordained ministry but it does not follow that serious translational work can be done according to a cookbook formula. If that were the case, we could simply fire all the world’s translators and use computers to do the job. Furthermore, Eugene Peterson’s Bible paraphrase, while a commercial success, was hardly needed from a spiritual standpoint. With new translations and paraphrases appearing as frequently as new exotically flavored coffee lattes, the Bible market hardly needed another. There are only so many valid ways a source text can be rendered into a receptor language. After that the reader is taken totally into the world of personal interpretation rather than translation. But sadly I don’t expect the evangelical Christian publishing world to stop marketing new paraphrases and translations anytime soon. There’s too much money in it.

    It is sad that the end of Pastor Peterson’s life was marred by the controversy regarding the alleged acceptance of homosexuality which he subsequently “walked back.” Obviously, I did not know the pastor nor was I present at the interview, but I’d like to attribute his initial lapse to the dementia from which he suffered in his final years. In any case I am glad he was able to affirm Biblical standards of marriage before he died.


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