A few years ago leading English evangelical Steve Chalke described the idea that God’s judgment on sin, was borne by Christ in our place, as “cosmic child abuse”.
For thousands of years, God’s people have affirmed this teaching. Steve and others, have fallen into line with the current social trends, and walked away from God’s intention for marriage. His denomination has a different official position on marriage, but will not censure him. The Baptist Union of Great Britain calls on us to respect “Steve’s desire to stimulate wholesome and sensitive debate on this important matter.”
What’s this got to do with disciple making movements?
Discipleship means teaching people to obey Christ’s commands. Movements are counter cultural. They follow Christ, not social trends.
Typically, in the decline of a movement it is religious professionals who lead the way. They seek to lower the tension with the cultural elites.
They seek a place at the table in mainstream society. Uncomfortable doctrines of the authority of scripture, the lostness of humanity, the horror and shame of the Cross, the uniqueness of Christ, are neglected and rejected.
First in private. To come out publicly would be to alienate ordinary believers who are faithful to Scripture. Eventually, in public as McLaren and Chalke have now done.
Disciple making movements always raise the tension with the surrounding culture. They are both radically engaged, and radically different. Fundamentalists are radically different, but radically disconnected. Progressives, like Steve, are connected with the culture, but not radically different.
Leaders such as Steve Chalke in England and Brian McLaren in the US, are leading progressive evangelicals into decline and decay. For the last 100 years evangelicals in the West have been on a recurring cycle of rise, plateau, decline and decay. That’s how the Student Volunteer Movement for world missions morphed into the World Council of Churches. It’s how Protestant liberalism reached its zenith in the 1960s before collapsing and decaying.
Now a new generation of progressive evangelicals is treading that wide path.
Westerners have been redefining “mission” and “the gospel.” for a century. Nothing has changed. Abandon the authority and teaching of Scripture, drift from the proclamation of salvation through Christ alone, surrender to the spirit of the age, and God will raise up these dead stones as a living witness to the glory of his Son. Always on the fringe, away from the camera lights, away from the comfort of social acceptance, away from established institutions. God will raise up a people for his name.
Let Paul’s words, which are also the words of the living God, serve as a warning to us all, and an encouragement to stand firm in the faith we have received.
For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw—each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.
UPDATE: Steve Clifford of the Evangelical Alliance responds to Steve Chalke.