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They were beginning to think that Eugene was out of his mind. They stood in the passage talking about it in whispers. The result was the next morning they decided to tell the whole thing to the Professor. “He’ll write something up if he thinks there is really something wrong with Eugene. It’s getting beyond us.”

So they met with the Professor, and he sat listening to them with the tips of his fingers pressed together and never interrupting, till they had finished the whole story. After that he said nothing for quite a long time.

Then he cleared his throat and said the last thing either of them expected:

“How do you know that Eugene is wrong?” Anyone could see that the old man was perfectly serious.

“But prominent leaders are denouncing him, saying he is wrong.”

“That is a point,” said the Professor, “which certainly deserves consideration; very careful consideration. For instance—if you will excuse me for asking—does your experience lead you to regard these leaders or Eugene as more reliable? I mean, who has been the more trustworthy guide?”

“That’s the funny thing about it, sir. Up till now, I’d have said Eugene every time. But this couldn’t be right—all this about performing marriages.”

“That’s more than I know,” said the Professor, “and a charge of untrustworthiness against someone you have always found reliable is a very serious thing indeed.”

“We were afraid it might be more than that . . . . We thought there might be something wrong with him. He is getting older and we’re afraid he’s not up to the task of discerning truth. His entire faith seems to be unravelling before our eyes.”

“Oh, you can make your minds easy about that,” said the Professor coolly. “One has only to listen to him speak and read what he writes to see that is not the case at all.”

“But do you really mean, sir, that Eugene is just fine, that he doesn’t need to be publicly scrutinized and judged? Is that even a possible conclusion to draw?”

“Nothing is more probable. <I wonder what they do teach them in these schools.>”

“But then what are we to do?”

“My dears,” said the Professor, suddenly looking up with a very sharp expression, “there is one plan which no one has yet suggested and which is well worth trying.”

What’s that?”

“We might all try minding our own business,” said he. And that was the end of that conversation.

[Comments could take as long as 24 hours to moderate, so please be patient. Disagreement is welcome, but mean and nasty Edmunds among you will need to experience inner-transformation by the forgiveness of Aslan before being allowed to post.]

 

 

Pete Enns, Ph.D.

Peter Enns (Ph.D., Harvard University) is Abram S. Clemens professor of biblical studies at Eastern University in St. Davids, Pennsylvania. He has written numerous books, including The Bible Tells Me So, The Sin of Certainty, and How the Bible Actually Works. Tweets at @peteenns.

19 Comments

  • SG12 says:

    Brilliant!

  • Zachary Rose says:

    Alternate ending:
    “We might all try minding our own business,” said he.
    “But Professor!” they exclaimed. “Someone is WRONG on the Internet!” And before the Professor could utter another word, each rushed to their tablets, their social-media echo chambers, into those rectangular pools of light to a world quite unreal, such that the children were never heard from again.

    I read this and loved it to death. Sadly though, how many of the people who need to see this are either not going to see it, not going to get it, or just see it shared by someone in their feed and, seeing just the title or the author, dismiss the sharer as a heretic? (Also, as an aside, how much does it say about me, thinking, ‘others need to see this’… Given a different subject or author, would I act the same?)

  • Donald Johnson says:

    In other news, Lifeway has just removed all of Peterson’s books from being for sale.

    P.S. I agree with the Professor.

  • catalinakel says:

    I can hear the argument already…..Love does not mind one’s own business. This is the antithesis of the gospel. And, yet…love is love is love is love is love (the contemporary theologian Lin-Manuel Miranda. I choose love, though I know not the way entirely.

  • Phil Britton says:

    Brilliant. Eugene has since retracted, but the prof’s advice still stands.

    • Iryssa says:

      Literally someone posted that yesterday in my FB feed with the words, “the world makes sense again.” They’re young in spiritual life, so I do understand in a sense…but I do NOT miss those days, when the world was so easily rocked by a faith teacher’s stance on something.

  • Monte Harmon says:

    Lewis apparently forgot to include the followup where Lucy admitted that she got a bit confused and said something she should not have.

  • Ross says:

    It took me a little bit of time to work out what was going on here, but the trusty interweb sorted me out. It didn’t take long to see comments from those who now regard Peterson as a heretic and hit the “clearly against the clear teaching of scripture” button.

    A number of years ago I held more traditional views around this area, but still saw more angles to the argument so could never be sure. Today I still don’t know where to stand regarding same sex relationships and marriage. I remember having a discussion with a gay friend over 20 years ago, they were Christian and I never felt that I should condemn them, but said that I held traditional views which was as far as I went. There was a nagging doubt as to whether I should be stronger and show them the error of their ways, “out of love”.

    If the discussion was to happen again I would have to say I don’t know where I stand as there are so many different angles to this thing. Would I attend a same-sex marriage, yes, would I be troubled, maybe yes. Which is a shame if it detracts from the joy of the happy couple or enjoying their special day. In terms of guiding people in the paths of righteousness and condoning error, I’d be very unpopular if I pointed out where I thought everyone I knew might be going wrong, no-one would be safe about almost anything.

    When it comes to the clear truth of scripture, I will be satisfied maybe the day someone explains if it’s okay for me to eat prawns and wear poly-cotton shirts, without leaving the slightest trace of doubt (and the many thousand of other ambiguities and obscurities).

  • mjk says:

    Oddly, with the rest of the events in the last 24 hours, this blog post has aged quite well. Quite well, indeed.

  • sanctusivo says:

    You’ve got a knack for this sort of soft parody; a entirely delightful gift. Please don’t lose it.

  • RevJan says:

    Bravo! I love this! Thank you! Thank you!

    I hope someone sends this to Dr. Peterson!

  • JaceM says:

    “We might all try minding our own business,” said he.

    Thanks Pete. I just came from reading comments about the Eugene Peterson story on a fundamentalist Charismatic news site. Coming from those comments to your post is like walking from a bunkhouse of bean-eating cowboys into the cool evening air. I think it’s safe to inhale again.

  • Veritas says:

    What I find most interesting in this entire subject, and the polarizing debate it evokes is that it simply uncovers a deep disagreement that the world, it’s cultures and its religions have over the definition of one simple word that means so many different things to so many different people. It is, in large part, a separation caused by the imprecision of language.

  • James says:

    I know I should mind my own business, but I kind of feel sorry for Eugene. Do I detect a bit of sarcasm in his retraction: “To clarify, I affirm a biblical view of marriage: one man to one woman. I affirm a biblical view of everything.” Who doesn’t?

    • Jeff Gardner says:

      Which version of biblical marriage do you affirm? Polygamy? Biblical. Concubines? Biblical. Marrying your sister-in-law if your brother dies? Biblical. When will the idol of “biblical marriage” stop being the ultimate end-all?

  • hoosier_bob says:

    I doubt Peterson’s follow-up statement is necessarily a retraction.

    After all, one can simultaneously say that one affirms a biblical view of [conjugal] marriage, and simultaneously have no objection to a same-sex [civil] marriage. It seems like much of the confusion about this topic in English-language cultures is that we use the term “marriage” to refer both to conjugal unions centered around procreation and to pragmatic unions centered around any number of other things.

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