An Open Letter to Lifeway Christian Stores

Dear Lifeway,

As your company is clearly aware, Eugene Peterson, Christian theologian and author, has found himself mired in controversy this week for seemingly coming out in support of gay marriage, before retracting and clarifying. Unfortunately, this debacle has not fared well for your company, at least in the eyes of this shopper. Christianity Today has revealed that your stores were standing by to pull Peterson’s books from shelves, one such book being the Message translation of the Bible. What this decision has revealed to me is the foundation upon which your theology is built. If the Message’s (or any of Peterson’s books’, or any merchandise you sell at all’s) credibility hinges upon the author’s spiritual fortitude, then you may as well shut your doors now.

Let me clue you in to a little secret found in the opening moments of the Bible: people are dirty, sinful creatures. If you truly want to exclude all authors who have sinned, Peterson should have been pulled from your shelves years ago, if he was allowed on them at all in the first place. Why? The man has told a lie. He has hated. He has sinned and repented only to sin again. He is a human – a dirty, horrible human whose only redemption is through the sanctified blood of Jesus Christ. If his product’s credibility hinges upon his personal credentials, then why carry anything of his at all?

And while this logic applies to all products you carry, there is a glaring alarm connected to The Message. Is your stance that The Message is only as true as Peterson is pure? If so, I demand you pull it from your shelves now, with or without controversy. Also pull your NIV Bibles, pull the KJV Bibles, pull the NLT Bibles. Pull every translation you have off the shelves. And if you have original texts, original scrolls and original tablets – break and burn those copies too. Why? Every text that a human hand has touched is tainted with sin. This is undeniable. Peter, Matthew, Paul, Abraham, Moses, Adam, Eve, Eugene – all sinners, all with tainted credibility, all mired with controversy and all but one unable to release a statement of retraction. So what is the point of any of it anyway?

Perhaps because even though the human hand has made the text dirty, the Spirit has made it clean. If you believe that the Spirit has affirmed The Message as a medium of which to convey the gospel message of Jesus Christ, then even if homosexuality is a sin and even if Eugene had contested that and even if there was public outcry, the Holy Spirit, a member of the trifold deity, will not, and cannot be overcome by the sins of one or a thousand men. Yes, the Spirit is more powerful than even that of the author of the text himself.

And, Lifeway, if you do not believe that the Holy Spirit has affirmed The Message regardless of Mr. Peterson’s mistakes or successes, then how does your store justify the heresy and idolatry you are committing by placing such a text on a shelf at all, let alone in the section of Bibles?

Upon what foundation is your store’s faith built on? If it is on Christ’s, then any one person cannot undermine it. But if it is on humankind, you cannot ever be a Christian store.



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