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Friday, March 18, 2011 

Why Eugene Peterson is Wrong on Rob Bell and Love Wins (Among Other Things)

While reading up on the recent controversy over Rob Bell's new book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, I came across several in the larger "evangelical" community who are actively defending Rob Bell against his critics (and even against himself). One of the largest names in that group is Eugene Peterson, author of the most popular paraphrase of the Bible, The Message. Peterson is currently Professor Emeritus of Spiritual Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, BC. He is also an accomplished author, with some of his books winning awards and becoming best sellers.

Peterson's defense of Rob Bell started even before there was a controversy. Peterson supplied Bell's publisher, HarperOne, with the following endorsement blurb for Love Wins:
It isn’t easy to develop a biblical imagination that takes in the comprehensive and eternal work of Christ . . . Rob Bell goes a long way in helping us acquire just such an imagination--without a trace of soft sentimentality and without compromising an inch of evangelical conviction.

Recently Peterson spoke to Timothy Dalrymple of patheos about his endorsement and the controversy that has erupted over the book. When asked why Peterson endorsed the book, he said:
Rob Bell and anyone else who is baptized is my brother or my sister. We have different ways of looking at things, but we are all a part of the kingdom of God. And I don’t think that brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God should fight. I think that’s bad family manners.

I don’t agree with everything Rob Bell says. But I think they’re worth saying. I think he puts a voice into the whole evangelical world which, if people will listen to it, will put you on your guard against judging people too quickly, making rapid dogmatic judgments on people. I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another.

I knew that people would jump on me for writing the endorsement. I wrote the endorsement because I would like people to listen to him. He may not be right. But he’s doing something worth doing. There’s so much polarization in the evangelical church that it’s a true scandal. We’ve got to learn how to talk to each other and listen to each other in a civil way.

There is much in Peterson's statement with which we could disagree. In fact, I would disagree with almost all of it. But I think it reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how we as believers are taught to confront error in the Bible. Before I get there, Peterson was asked the follow-up question, "Do evangelicals need to reexamine our doctrines of hell and damnation?" and he replied:
Yes, I guess I do think they ought to reexamine. They ought to be a good bit more biblical, not taking things out of context.

But the people who are against Rob Bell are not going to reexamine anything. They have a litmus test for who is a Christian and who is not. But that’s not what it means to live in community.

Luther said that we should read the entire Bible in terms of what drives toward Christ. Everything has to be interpreted through Christ. Well, if you do that, you’re going to end up with this religion of grace and forgiveness. The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees. But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment. There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell.

Again, Peterson sounds like a man who both doesn't understand the significance of the Doctrine of Hell and hasn't read the parts of the Bible where false doctrine is confronted and condemned. And interestingly he includes in his defense against arguments in the Church a quote by Martin Luther, a man who saw no small amount of criticism levied against him for his overly sharp tongue.

Let's take a minute here, though, and examine what Peterson actually says about Bell and about the criticism directed towards him. First, he starts out by saying, "Rob Bell and anyone else who is baptized is my brother or my sister." Now, I am going to give Peterson the benefit of the doubt here and assume that he is referring to the "baptism of the Holy Spirit" (i.e., regeneration through the gift of the Holy Spirit). I shudder to think that Peterson would believe that the act of baptism either saves or confirms that one is truly a born-again believer of Jesus Christ.

But then he builds on that statement and claims that he doesn't "think that brothers and sisters in the kingdom of God should fight", that doing so is to practice "bad family manners." I hate to tell Peterson this, but Jesus argued with His disciples. Paul argued with Peter. The Apostles argued with one another at the Council of Jerusalem. Members of the Kingdom argue. And often times it is quite beneficial. In Church History, debate has not always been kind, but very often it has been healthy. To claim that we shouldn't argue over doctrine because it's "bad family manners" is Biblically and historically ignorant.

Peterson adds further down, "I don’t like it when people use hell and the wrath of God as weaponry against one another." I agree wholeheartedly with Peterson here, but is this really what is happening? Are people using the issues over the Doctrine of Hell as weapons against Bell? Of course not! In the ironic words of Billy Joel, "we didn't start the fire". The Doctrine of Hell has invoked heated arguments in the Church for centuries. And Bell threw himself into the line of fire by writing a book which advocates for a position against the one universally agreed upon by the Church for 2000 years. "Hell and the wrath of God" isn't a weapon being wielded against Bell, but rather are the objects of the firestorm that Bell ignited by writing a book on these subjects.

Now, from there I believe Peterson's words better represent a man who hasn't read the Bible, not one who wrote a bestselling paraphrase of the Bible and who taught classes on the Word of God and spirituality for decades. Two statements Peterson makes lead me to this criticism. First, he says, "...the people who are against Rob Bell are not going to reexamine anything. They have a litmus test for who is a Christian and who is not. But that’s not what it means to live in community." Then he says, "The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees. But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment. There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell."

Has Peterson read Galatians lately? How about 1 John? Maybe he needs to reread the Gospels, particularly John 8. And heaven forbid he stumbles upon 1 Corinthians 5 or Matthew 18, where confrontation is not only spoken of, but encouraged by both Paul and Jesus, respectively.

Both Paul and John advocate for litmus tests for Christians. Jesus, Himself, does the same thing. Living in community means precisely that we confront one another for not only sin, but false doctrine as well. Paul tells the Corinthians to cast people out of the community for sin and in Galatians he pronounces curses on those who advocate for a different Gospel. And I'm guessing that all of those he was speaking of were probably thought to have been baptized by the Holy Spirit. The fruit of their actions and beliefs, however, communicated otherwise.

Finally, Peterson saves his most damning words for the end. He claims that that the "only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees" and based on that he concludes that "there's very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell." Not only is Peterson making a huge assumption about the spiritual lives of those "who are fighting Rob Bell" (notice how Peterson personalizes it, instead of relegating it to theological debate), but he is also completely wrong about Jesus.

In John 7:45, prior to the passage on the adulterous woman, we see that Jesus is speaking to the Chief Priests and the Pharisees. After v.11 of Chapter 8, Jesus picks up his conversation with the Jews (many have rightly concluded that 7:52-8:11 is out of place here in John and is not original to this Gospel, but rather represents good oral tradition which eventually found a home here). But in v.21, it appears that Jesus' conversation with the Pharisees is overheard by other Jews and they begin to talk among themselves in v.22. Jesus answers these Jews in v.23. Then further down in v.31, John identifies another group to whom Jesus is speaking as "the Jews who had believed in Him." Peterson identifies these in his Message as, "the Jews who had claimed to believe in Him."

Jesus then begins to speak to these Jews and they don't seem to like what He's saying. By the time the conversation is over, Jesus has told them that they are not children of Abraham or children of God, but rather they are children of their father, the devil. In v.47, Jesus says, "Whoever is of God hears the words of God. The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God." Now, I don't know about you, but it seems clear her that Peterson's claim that "the only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees" is not only terribly incorrect, but a false basis for his further claim that "there’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell."

I've always respected Eugene Peterson, but in this case he's wrong. He's wrong on Rob Bell, he's wrong on the significance of the Doctrine of Hell, he's wrong on how to live in community, and more importantly, he's wrong on Jesus and on what the Bible teaches about confronting those teaching false doctrine. I get why Peterson doesn't like controversy in the Church and why he believes it is "bad family manners". None of us find it comfortable to confront sin or enjoyable to correct false teaching. But unfortunately, Peterson's attitude doesn't line up with the Bible and consequently it is him and not Bell's critics in whom one can find "very little Jesus."

Great articale

Outstanding article - thank you for taking the time to address this. I will be sharing this with others.

Have you read Bell's book?

Ok, wow, too many anonymous folks on here. Can't you guys at least post your first name to differentiate?

Anyway, thanks Anon #1 & #2. And please Anon #2, feel free to share away.

Anon #3, I have not read Bell's book and don't plan on it. I have too many other things to read and I certainly don't want to spend money on it. If I find it for $1.99 in the bargain bin (as you can Brian McLaren books these days), then I might consider it.

Great article and thanks for "earnestly contending" for the faith. I respect your decision to not read the book and not contribute to Bell's coffers. I did read it and I promise you it's not as bad as you think...it's worse.

I respect your honesty in admitting that you have not read the book. My only issue with that is that, although this was a refutation of Eugene Peterson, it's clear where you stand on Rob Bell's book. In a court of law that kind of thing is rejected as "heresay evidence." I respect the fact that you have too many other things you want to read...that you probably are already in agreement with...but if you want to be a true defender of the faith of our fathers, why would you not directly read the material your refuting? Not to mention, making a cute catty remark about maybe when it's in a bin....You may be an apologist but I don't appreciate your lack of integrity.


Thanks for logging on. I've been out of town, so sorry for the delay, but let me address your comments now.

First, you said, "it's clear where you stand on Rob Bell's book." Just in case you aren't 100% sure though, let me say this: Rob Bell is wrong to suggest that anything less than the Biblical, traditional position of exclusivism and eternal conscious torment in Hell is unacceptable. I don't need to read Bell's book to know that he advocates for a position not in keeping with those two views. Would you argue differently?

You add: "In a court of law that kind of thing is rejected as 'heresay evidence.'"

First, we aren't in a court of law. Rob Bell's book isn't on trial here. If anything Peterson's incorrect and even ignorant words are what are in question.

However, the idea of "hearsay evidence" isn't completely accurate. If you actually look at the definition of "hearsay" (for example - this article at Find Law), you would see that it doesn't apply here. I am not going on "hearsay" evidence in my assumptions about Bell's book, but rather on book excerpts, his public statements, eye-witness testimony, and expert analysis from very credible witnesses. I formed my opinion of Bell's book after a careful examination. I don't need to read the book to know its central premise and judge that central premise against the Biblical evidence.

Now, if you'd like to argue that Bell's book doesn't advocate for a position that isn't opposed to exclusivism and eternal conscious torment of those who do not place their faith in Jesus Christ in this life, then I'd be willing to discuss with you. Somehow though, I doubt you disagree with me on what Bell actually disagrees with doctrinally in regard to Hell in his book.

Then you ask: "but if you want to be a true defender of the faith of our fathers, why would you not directly read the material your refuting?"

Well, actually my goal here is not to defend every aspect of the faith against every book or every teaching that emerges. In fact, no one can do that. That is why we are a community of faith. Sometimes we have to rely on our brothers and sisters in Christ in certain areas of doctrinal fidelity.

But again, my focus here isn't on Bell and certainly not on refuting his book. Were it, then you would have a fine point. Rather, it was on refuting Eugene Peterson's comments. And I did read all his comments and I do think I've dealt with them completely. Now, if you would like to disagree with anything I've said about his comments, again I would be open to that discussion.

You added: "Not to mention, making a cute catty remark about maybe when it's in a bin....You may be an apologist but I don't appreciate your lack of integrity."

First, Gary I'm not sure you noticed, but I'm a man (I'm 34! - sorry couldn't resist a OSU FB Coach reference there) - I don't make catty remarks, though I have been known to be snarky at times. And certainly that was one of them.

But snarkiness, last time I checked, doesnt' affect one's integrity. In fact, you even commend me for honesty. So how is it that my snarkiness now translates to a lack of integrity? Have I said something untrue?

Finally, everyone is an apologist, but certainly I don't claim to be on the level of professional apologists (even internet ones like Matt Slick or James R. White). I'm a blogger and a pastor expressing an opinion and presenting Biblical evidence to show that Eugene Peterson's comments were faulty. Again, if you would like to debate that with me, I'd be all ears. And I promise I won't get "catty" or even "snarky".

Thanks again for stopping in Gary. Hope you'll come back some time.

Excuse me, but I had to stop reading your article when I encountered the phrase, "I shuttered to think ---".
One cannot take seriously the theological opinions of a person who is uneducated in common, basic English conventions. Of course the correct phrase is, "shuddered to think". I just wanted to add a scribal, superfluous comment to chide a very Pharisaical brother in Christ.


Thanks for catching that. I will change it. The problem with blogging, or writing at all, is of course spell check doesn't catch English colloquialisms.

As for whether this proves my inability to speak on theological matters, well perhaps you are familiar with the logical fallacy of a red herring, or even possibly that of an ad hominem. I think those are pretty basic to English thought and logic (or for that matter, the thought and logic of any language) - and that is really what is needed for theological discussion. Even a genius can make spelling errors (ever heard of Shakespeare or Thomas Jefferson?). But errors in logic, in my opinion, are much more problematic.

Jay you are welcome back anytime. You might consider providing a reason next time, however, for your labelling of me as a "Pharisaical brother in Christ." I personally don't feel that anything I wrote (at least not here) even come close to being worthy of such an accusation. Since you feel I am in error, I would be open to discussing why you feel this way. But just to throw that out there really doesn't help to drive the discussion now does it?


You may get a little better understanding of what Jay is talking about if you take off the lens you are looking through and read the Gospels of Jesus talking to the Parisees about their totally missing the point and how they are on dangerous ground. Again.. you have to look thru a different lens. See if you see any similarities to you and the soul patrol out there.


I find it so ironic that people such as yourself and Jay come over to my website and instead of actually discussing with me what you see as error, you just engage in name calling. I should expect more from people in the ministry. At least I engaged Peterson's comments. I treated him with enough respect to show clearly where he was wrong. But that makes me a Pharisee. And of course, you who call me names, I guess that makes you like Jesus? Really, you think so?

Look Mr. Anonymous, if you want to actually accuse me of something, go ahead. I can take it. What I can't stand is when people can't back up what they say and therefore they resort to name-calling and assumption-making instead of doing the hard work of defending their views. If I am so wrong, then it should be easy to show why I am such a Pharisee.

And if Jay wants to come back and tell how exactly I am a "Pharisaical brother in Christ", then I welcome him. If you want to defend his assessment by backing it up with some facts, then go right ahead. We will discuss. But if you just want to do the apparently cool thing these days and label anyone who disagrees with you a "Pharisee", then I think you are the one who has the problem, not me.

As for the quest you've challenged me to consider in regard to Jesus, might I pose a similar one to you and ask that you go read the Apostle Paul, who wrote via the same Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke through. He has a lot to say about false doctrine. Go read Galatians and see what he says about his opponents lopping off their private parts. And again go investigate WHO Jesus was actually speaking to in John 8.

Then come back and be willing to reveal yourself and actually contribute to the discussion. Then I will take what you are saying seriously. But I have no desire to deal with people who simply want to throw around pejoratives. After all even Jesus told the Pharisees and the Jews WHY they were wrong. If you are so sure your position is in line with Jesus, the least you could do is imitate Him in criticizing those with whom you disagree.

I couldn't have said it better myself! Great blog.

P.S: I refer to your blog article about Eugene Peterson's interview statements as well as your replies to your critics in their criticisms. Great defense done in an unoffensive, gentle, and persuasive manner.

Good stuff Daniel! I recently jumped into the discussion myself at nathancreitz.net. Not to necessarily confront the issue of hell or Rob Bell's teaching but to give us some guidelines as to HOW to respond when we encounter false teaching. I think you've done a good job of confronting the issue in a Biblical and humble way. Keep it up!

I get that you respect Eugene Peterson, but it seems like you only disagree with him because he supports Rob Bell. I'm not saying that's the case but certainly seems that way.

Secondly I'd say you are being disengenous towards Peterson. I think he is fully aware of confronting incorrect doctrine, and confronting believers in the community of Christ. But slinging mud, and calling people heretics (as most have done to rob bell) is uncalled for. People accuse him of leading people to hell etc etc, and yet if you research and listen to Bell speak he is clearly not doing that.

I just watched a fantastic debate between bell and a guy who I can't remember his name. I'll try to get the link because it's great. This should illuminate many issues you have with Bell and his supposed incorrect theology.

Again I think you are being disengenous with Peterson. He states the people that Jesus threatened were the Pharisees. That is true. Yes the scripture you are referencing says he was talking to people who followed him, but again wouldn't we consider them religious people, (who were the people Jesus took issue with)

I understand where you are coming from in finding things wrong with his statements, and his over generalizing things, but you seem like you just don't want the Bell bashers to be able to use Peterson's words as ammo.
Basically like anyone who supports Bell has to be flawed and wrong even if you personally liked them before they supported Bell.

Sorry this was so long.
-Adam L.


Thanks for you comments, but I am not sure I'm fully tracking with you. If you sense that I am misreading you, please explain more fully.

First, you say that I only seem to disagree with Peterson because he supports Bell. I would say two things in response. First, there are a number of places theologically and practically where I differ with Peterson. Yes, I respect him, but no, I don't just disagree with him regarding his comments about Rob Bell. Secondly, since this post is about Peterson's comments, it seems appropriate for me to deal specifically with my reasons for disagreeing with Peterson over Bell's book. I wasn't trying to offer a complete critique of Eugene Peterson, but rather a critique of his comments regarding Bell and his book.

Secondly, you claim I am "being disengenous towards Peterson" while seeming to indicate that Peterson is criticizing those who have called Bell a "heretic" and accused him of "leading people to hell." First, it was Peterson who lumped all of Bell's critics together. Thus Peterson's premise itself is disingenuous. I sought only to react to it as stated. Many of Bell's critics have not used the label "heretic". Many have not accused Bell of "leading people to Hell." Because Peterson's critique of Bell's critics does not apply to all (or perhaps even the majority) of them, it is fair for me to point out this problem in my response.

As for Peterson's actual words regarding those with whom Jesus disagreed, he understood what he was saying. He was quite clear in his suggestion that Jesus only threatened those who were Pharisees (i.e. staunch unbelievers), not merely those who were religious. Unfortunately, this is not the case. He threatened folks quite often, including His own disciples. The passage I quoted is just one example of Peterson's poor reasoning.

It's just not disingenuous to point out error particularly when the person in error was quite clear in what they were saying. You might disagree that Peterson was clear. But I don't know how exactly you would defend that given his precise words here.

Finally, I think you have a bigger problem with my problems with Bell than you do my response to Eugene Peterson. So let me say this clearly Adam - Rob Bell is a false teacher. I implore you to get away from him. He is not leading you to the truth of God's Word, but rather away from it. Anyone who questions Jesus' own words about Hell with such poor exegesis and historical research is not worth defending. So run - as fast as you can - from Rob Bell.

And instead you might want to check out Francis Chan's new book on the subject, Erasing Hell.

Mr. Randle,

Thank you for your comments on Mr. Peterson’s comments on Mr. Bell’s comments on hell. I am not sure where I stand on this issue. My stance is most likely somewhere between you and Mr. Bell. All I have are questions.

1). Do you think it is possible to elevate doctrine (in this case the doctrine of hell) to a position in which the doctrine itself becomes more important to an individual than actually being Christ like?

2). How do you define being “Christ like”?

“But unfortunately, Peterson's attitude doesn't line up with the Bible and consequently it is him and not Bell's critics in whom one can find "very little Jesus."

3). How exactly does one’s attitude “line up with the Bible”?

4). Does your attitude “line up with the Bible”? If so, does it line up all of the time or just some of the time?

5). Do you get your value and significance as a human being from how right you are in your theology?

Allow me to answer your questions:

1). Do you think it is possible to elevate doctrine (in this case the doctrine of hell) to a position in which the doctrine itself becomes more important to an individual than actually being Christ like?

I believe you can elevate some secondary or tertiary doctrines above or to the same level as others that are more core to Christianity. However, I also think you can depreciate or ignore core doctrines to the detriment of your "Christlikeness". I think the Doctrine of Hell, particularly because of it's corollary doctrines (such as the Doctrine of the Atonement, the Doctrine of Justification by Faith Alone, and the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, among others), is a core doctrine that, if you get wrong, will cause your spiritual life to suffer. History bears that out quite starkly.

But let's not forget that Bell's book isn't just about the Doctrine of Hell - it goes to the core of the question, "What must I do to be saved?" And not only that, if Bell is right and Ghandi is in Heaven, then his salvation came not on the basis of faith (as Ghandi rejected what Jesus claimed about Himself), but on the basis of works, which is a rejection of the Gospel itself (see Galatians 3, which I am currently preaching through). And if you reject the Gospel that Jesus claimed, how can you in any way be called "Christlike"? You might be a good moral person, but if you reject the Gospel, you aren't of Christ.

2). How do you define being “Christ like”?

First, the term "Christ-like" is not a specifically Biblical term. It finds its source in passages such as Romans 8:29; Galatians 3:27; Philippians 2:5; 1 Cor. 1:11; Ephesians 5:1; etc. What's interesting about this is that it seems the authority on what it means to be Christ-like is the Apostle Paul. Paul also harshly attacked those who he believed were false teachers and declared them to be "enemies of the cross of Christ."

So Christlikeness involves not only behaving like Christ, but believing like Him as well. If you don't believe what Jesus taught, you can work all day to heal, serve, and be a "good person", but you aren't being Christlike.

(to be con't...)

(con't from above...)

“But unfortunately, Peterson's attitude doesn't line up with the Bible and consequently it is him and not Bell's critics in whom one can find "very little Jesus."

3). How exactly does one’s attitude “line up with the Bible”?

Here I should not have used the term attitude because it invokes the picture of emotion, which is not what I was trying to communicate. Rather, I should have used the phrase "point of view" or "standpoint". And I think I have defended adequately how his views don't stand up against the Biblical evidence.

4). Does your attitude “line up with the Bible”? If so, does it line up all of the time or just some of the time?

My point of view certainly doesn't line up with the Bible all the time - no one's does. We all make mistakes in how we perceive the Word of God v. how the Holy Spirit intended it to be perceived. However, I do think that on this issue my point of view is correct and Peterson's is not. And I felt this should be pointed out not because it's my point of view v. his, but because he is incorrect on a significant Biblical position.

5). Do you get your value and significance as a human being from how right you are in your theology?

Daniel, since I share your namesake and since you claim to be a brother in Christ, I am going to assume this is an honest question and not an attack on my character hidden in the form of a question (which would certainly not be "Christlike").

Certainly I don't take any significance in anything other than my identity in Christ. But part of my calling as a pastor is to teach truth and expose error. As such I am addressing what I believe to be an important issue of the day. And anything that important deserves an adequate Biblical response.

Sorry I haven't responded to your last post in such a long time. I honestly forgot that I had posted here, and I was searching through my bookmarks, and had a huge wave of memories of how I wanted to engage in conversation with you!

I digress. It's hard for me to address this post accurately because it's been a while since I was in this frame of mind, on these issues.
The way I was reading your article, seemed to me that you disagreed with Peterson only because he supported Bell, you clarified that, this is not the case so great.

On the subject of Bell being a false teacher, that is way off the radar. Not that I haven't heard that many many times, but I have never seen any proof of that statement.

I've read many of Bell's books, listened to his online sermons, watched nooma videos, etc etc. Not one thing in his statements or scripture usage has been blatently false. Perhaps used in unorthodox ways sure, but not with the purpose of leading people from Christ.

Either way, I don't just read Bell, I read a lot of writers. I love Erwin Mcmanus, Frank Viola, and a whole host of others. Granted I'm not as much of a reader as I need to be, but I love reading, and growing, and learning new things. But more importantly than any of them, including Bell, I read the Bible.

I'm not basing my faith on one man's opinion, I'm basing it on one God's love. That I think we can agree on.

I'd love to see some examples you have of Bell's false teaching, again I'm open for discussion and debate.

I'll be sure to remember where I'm having this conversation this time too!

Adam L.

I agree neither with the article completely nor with Eugene Peterson. I'm drawn. What's actually really funny is that you point out that Eugene Peterson saves his most damning point to the end, and then you end your article with "...and consequently it is him and not Bell's critics in whom one can find "very little Jesus." That just makes me laugh. Not much better than Peterson and definitely not learned anything about what Peterson wants to say, even if he might not be completely right about everything he says. Thanks, Matt.


Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I am glad to see that you are thinking through the article and Peterson's comments. I do want to address the issue you have with my comment that "Peterson's attitude doesn't line up with the Bible and consequently it is him and not Bell's critics in whom one can find 'very little Jesus.'"

After re-reading that, I recognize that I may not have said that in the best way. Instead of the term "attitude", I should have chosen a better word such as "viewpoint," since that more accurately describes what I was trying to say.

I didn't intend to attack Peterson's character here, but rather his flawed exegesis and subsequent application with which he expresses with these words:

The only people Jesus threatens are the Pharisees. But everybody else gets pretty generous treatment. There’s very little Christ, very little Jesus, in these people who are fighting Rob Bell.

I hope that offers some clarification that where I disagree with Peterson is on his viewpoint of the critics of Rob Bell and his application of Scripture to them. I have no personal problem with the man. And I should have chosen a different word than "attitude" since that is far too personal for the point I was trying to make.

Again thanks for stopping by and for helping me to rethink my words here.


Sorry, but I posted again with the wrong gmail account. The comment above is indeed from me, the author - D.R. Randle. I have got to stop doing that or finally link my blogspot with my major gmail account.

This comment has been removed by the author.

As I read through these comments I can't help but wonder what some people's conversations with God on judgement day will sound like.

I may not be as "deep" as all of you nor have a vocabulary where I can argue endlessly about semantics but Peterson lost ALL of my respect when he wrote the words, "As above, so below" coming out of MY Savior's mouth instead of the "Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done..." That choice of words and many others are VERY telling of Eugene Peterson's beliefs, perspective, and intentions. No amount of "intellectual" debate is going to convince me otherwise. I'm not saying Eugene has committed the unpardonable sin but he is OFF TRACK.

This article was on point.

I have run your article on My Word Like Fire, and really appreciate that you did this, as the Patheos interview has been taken down.

Please pray for me, as Detour Minsistries is featuring Eugence Peterson as speaker at their Pastors Appreciation Breakfast,and I have tried to warn them about The Message etc.



Somehow I doubt whether any of you have spent time with either Eugene or Rob. This feels like a lot of puffing up ones rooster feathers. Get out of your comfort zone.Give the guys in question at least a few hours of your time before you make your judgments.

Any preacher like Peterson who treats the Scripture so flippantly, writes sloppy, faux-poetic paraphrases, then markets it as a "Bible", does not deserve to be heeded.

Jack-one can hardly call ten years of work treating the Bible flippantly.

Thanks so much for taking the time to write so thoroughly on this topic. You have brilliantly and succinctly stated all the things I was thinking when I read Pertersen's comments. I went searching for his views on hell after reading parts of the message (which I have previously enjoyed using) and realised he was watering down what Jesus said about hell. I feel quite disturbed by it all actually, and very sad to see the unhelpful and small minded comments of those here who have belittled your blog over small things like spelling! Thanks for copping the flack and saying what many of us would also like to say:)

I was reading through some of the comments but had to stop because the bad manners were making it too tough to go on...I realize this comment is late to the game but in the off-chance it gets read by the author, maybe it's worth it.

While Gary at the top seems to have misspoke, possibly using a vocabulary out of his depth (not unique to his comments, see yours on spellcheck and colloquialisms for one example), your response comes in a voice that sounds very un-Matthew 18:4.

Jay's comment about your theological prowess being undermined by your spelling errors was intended as humor, which he utilized as an introduction to his serious comment, that being his perception that you were Pharisaical. Your response seemed to not pick up that cue (One of the faults in the written English language is the lack of appropriate punctuation to overtly denote sarcasm or irony to avoid misunderstanding). Jay probably didn't expand on that last thought because he felt it was evident throughout your post. I would attribute it mainly to your apparent lack of humility in both examining your own views and the positions of others on whom you've made comment. Again I would mention Matthew 18, since you mentioned it in your own post and a huge portion of it (conceptually, not literally, as it's only a few verses) seems to have flown right under your spiritual radar.

As far as your actual blog post, perhaps you could revisit certain assumptions about universally-agreed-upon doctrines for the past 2000 years. Indeed, there have been many debates throughout history regarding various doctrines, and the nature of hell is only one of them. And while the mainstream view that has taken hold most visibly in our culture is the one you align with, there have been many people throughout history who have identified themselves as Christians and held different views. Rob Bell may be one of the newest, but his position is far from new and that is worth noting.

Peterson speaks of community. It's worth recognizing that his definition of community is decidedly different than yours.

Peterson's endorsement also openly advocates debate, examination, and questioning, rather than snap judgment and marginalizing individuals who have something to say that counters the mainstream. Your post, as well as your responses to various comments, seem to serve the purpose of validating and broadcasting your own opinions and my impression in reading all this is that you are not receptive to debate in any form.

It is this reader's opinion that the best speakers are the best listeners, and we must be willing to listen--especially to those we disagree with--if we hope to have meaningful dialogue that can propel us forward in a healthy direction. Truly listening does not require timely retorts, a lengthy list of counterarguments, or snarky jokes. It requires an open ear and a closed mouth, and debate can never be healthy or fruitful if each side is not truly listening to the other.

(On a side note, the misogynistic undertone in your response to Gary's use of the word "catty" was for me, as a female reader, particularly unappreciated. You may have snarky jokes and coach football, but as a 34 year old man who loves Jesus, I would hope you hold women in higher regard than that.)


My first reaction to your comment is to sit down and write a detailed response. But I have decided not to do so. I am glad that you have the time to read and respond to comments on three year-old articles posted on a website that gets maybe 25 hits a day to it. I don't know that such is the best use of the time that God has granted to you, but I guess that is something you will need to pray about and consider for yourself.

As for me, I don't have the time to respond to the ramblings of anonymous posters who don't know me and yet feel based on a few comments that I made to others on the internet that they indeed do know all about my character and believe it is their duty to inform me of my lack of humility or humor, my perceived misogyny, or my faulty view of the Scriptures.

I know, and you do as well, that no amount of defense against your accusations will ever be enough to convince you that I am not the monster you have built me up in your mind to be.

However, I will say this, if you want to debate whether the Bible teaches that Hell is a real place where real people will one day go to suffer for their sins or not, then I would love to engage you on that. I certainly don't want to stifle debate, and other posts on this site are plenty of evidence that such is true. But if you simply want assault my character, then I don't have the time and I wish you well on your way.

I am sure that this response will only cement in your mind exactly how you perceive me to be, but I honestly don't think it would matter either way. You will think what you want no matter what I say and I will continue to do what I believe God has called me to do regardless of what you say about me.

Thanks for the visit and I do sincerely hope that the Lord will open your mind and your heart to His Word and His Truth and that you will take delight in those things and in nothing else by comparison.

Good Day.

Great article. Thank you.

Titus 3. Good read ...

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Titus 3.

Titus 3.


Thanks for stopping by the blog. If you get the time, could you elaborate on your post? I certainly love the book of Titus and would definitely agree with the poster above - if that's not you - that Titus 3 is a good read. In fact, I would say that the entire book of Titus is great. I taught through it last year on Wednesday nights at our Church. We have been looking at calling a plurality of pastors (elders) and one of the most important passages in Titus is found in the first chapter when Paul calls Titus to appoint elders in every city. This seems to be particularly important to Paul (especially since it is his first instructions to Titus in the letter) because he feels that sound elders are needed to confront false teaching. Notice what Paul says in vv.9-16, as he lays out the task for the elders and gives the reason why taking on this task was so vitally important in Crete (and by extension, every Church community):

He [the elder] must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it. 10 For there are many rebellious people, full of meaningless talk and deception, especially those of the circumcision group. 11 They must be silenced, because they are disrupting whole households by teaching things they ought not to teach—and that for the sake of dishonest gain. 12 One of Crete’s own prophets has said it: 'Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons.' 13 This saying is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, so that they will be sound in the faith 14 and will pay no attention to Jewish myths or to the merely human commands of those who reject the truth. 15 To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are corrupted and do not believe, nothing is pure. In fact, both their minds and consciences are corrupted. 16 They claim to know God, but by their actions they deny him. They are detestable, disobedient and unfit for doing anything good.

That's some pretty harsh stuff from the Apostle Paul and certainly it reflects the heart of God to oppose those who would teach false things about His character and His Word. What I find interesting in Chapter 3 is that Paul doesn't change his tone in regard to confronting false doctrine. Instead, he wants Titus to be sure that his mission is still focused on being gentle towards those outside of the Church, and to not engage in slander against the civil authorities (I personally see that as a prohibition about being too caught up in the political realm, leading to the Church failing to impact the culture with Gospel and expecting that politics will lead to better morality in society - a few of my fellow Republicans need to hear that these days).


Then in those final instructions of Chapter 3, I see Paul wanting Titus to teach the elders and the Church members to clearly delineate between being passionate about solid doctrine and speculating and dividing over tertiary issues like genealogies and "arguments over the law" (which most scholars past and present take together and interpret as petty arguments by Jews over ancestral rights of authority and whether or not the food laws still applies - things which indicate that there was some influence in Crete by the Judaizers, whom Paul had publicly rebuked elsewhere about more significant issues of the Gospel and salvation). Of course, Paul has already told Titus in Chapter 1 (above) to teach the elders to rebuke those who focus on Jewish myths, and so here he is clear that Titus and the elders shouldn't argue with these folks and thus distract from the Gospel. Instead, they should simply rebuke these Jews who are stirring up trouble by acting like Judaizers and then cast them out of the Church should they refuse to do so.

This harsh truth was something that I was reminded of last night when a fellow Pastor called me to tell me about some strife at his Church that was being caused by gossip and infighting over music and silly things like that. Paul's call to rebuke and engage in Church discipline is difficult, but necessary. And the wisdom of God will always be foolishness to the world and even to Christians who lack discernment. Certainly a good word for pastors like myself to remember when we begin to falter in our courage to confront. I have to remind myself at times that Jesus' promise that "where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them" is the foundational truth that helps us to have the courage to accept and inact His teaching on how to discipline those who refuse to repent of sin in Matthew 18.

So, I say all that to say, YES and AMEN - Titus 3 and the whole of Paul's letter to Titus is a good read and, as Paul says elsewhere, worthy of full acceptance. Hope that was helpful to you in your study of Titus. Thanks for the encouragement to reflect on it again.

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About me

Paul was not interested merely in the ethical principles of religion or of ethics. On the contrary, he was interested in the redeeming work of Christ and its effect upon us. His primary interest was in Christian doctrine, and Christian doctrine not merely in its presuppositions but at its centre. -- J. Greshem Machen.

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