I have always liked Eugene Peterson. I have met him once, back when he was still at Bel Air Presbyterian church, north of Baltimore, Maryland. One of my best friends and the best man at my wedding went to seminary with Eugene, which sparked my initial interest in him. Most people know him as the “translator” of The Message
In a recent Christianity Today article, Baal culture of the modern American Church, Peterson makes a significant charge.
Do we realize how almost exactly the Baal culture of Canaan is reproduced in American church culture? Baal religion is about what makes you feel good. Baal worship is a total immersion in what I can get out of it. And of course, it was incredibly successful. The Baal priests could gather crowds that outnumbered followers of Yahweh 20 to 1. There was sex, there was excitement, there was music, there was ecstasy, there was dance. “We got girls over here, friends. We got statues, girls, and festivals.” This was great stuff. And what did the Hebrews have to offer in response? The Word. What’s the Word? Well, Hebrews had festivals, at least!
In many ways the things I have been writing on worship in the last year echo a similar theme (i.e. The Church Of The Self). If you think about it, how can Word-based worship compete with Baal-based worship?
In Jesus’ time believer’s were told to beware the leaven of the Pharisees, that it would corrupt their belief. It seems to me that what Peterson is saying to the church today is beware the leaven of the church of Baal; it will corrupt your belief and your worship. Is Peterson being alarmist or is this a real problem? Personally I believe it is a real problem. What do you think?