Beloved Pastor, Author Eugene Peterson Is Dying, Son Reveals

Pastor and author, Eugene Peterson, 85.
Pastor and author, Eugene Peterson, 85. | (Photo: Creative Commons)

Eugene Peterson, a beloved pastor best known to many for his award-winning book The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language, may have just months left to live, according to his son, Eric.

The 85-year-old pastor was hospitalized last Tuesday, according to an email from Eric sent Oct. 12. The email was shared shared in a Facebook post by Robert Creech, a professor of Christian ministries at Baylor University's Truett Seminary.

"As many of you know Eugene was hospitalized on Tuesday when he took a sudden and dramatic turn in his health caused by an infection. He is now being treated for pneumonia and is responding well to the IV antibiotics. He is eating again, and went for a very short walk this afternoon. He is much improved as of today," Eric wrote.

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After speaking with the medical team that cared for his father, however, Eric said they informed him his father was battling heart failure and dementia, both of which are advanced and progressing.

"Based on their recommendation, he will come under the care of hospice and his medical care will be primarily palliative. As of now it looks like it will be 1-3 more days before he returns home, depending on when all the support systems are in place," he noted.

Eric explained that when he told his father that he was in the final months of his life, Peterson replied, "I feel good about that."

"Today (Friday) he was visited by his brother and sister-in-law (Ken and Polly), Glen, the Presbyterian pastor in Kalispell, and Gary, the former director of the Lutheran Bible Camp. He's tucked into bed now and resting comfortably. I'm not exactly sure what he meant by it, but one of the last things he said to me this evening was, 'It just seems so sacred that they trust me so much.' Every moment in this man's presence is sacred," Eric added.

In his reaction to the news, Creech urged prayers for Peterson.

"Eugene Peterson has encouraged, formed, and often literally saved the ministry of more than one pastor over the years through his writing and thinking (I would include myself in that list). He has refreshed Scripture for many through his thoughtful paraphrase of the Bible published as The Message. He has taught us to pray. It is time for those who have benefited from his ministry to return the favor to him and his family with prayer over the next several weeks," Creech said.

Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, also encouraged prayer for Peterson in a tweet Sunday.

"Let's everyone of us who have benefited much from this great man's writing all stop and pray for him right now. And then let's thank God for the model of a long obedience in the right direction," he wrote.

Bible teacher and author Beth Moore also saluted Peterson in a tweet Monday morning with a nod to The Message.

"Don't you just sorta hope when Eugene Peterson finally sees the gorgeous, glorious face of the Savior he has so long loved and served, that Jesus is the type that might greet him with something from The Message translation? Like, maybe John 21:12? 'Breakfast is ready.' MSG," she wrote.

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