Why Steve Chalke matters

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”.

Recently, Steve came out in support of same sex marriageHe came to this position despite Jesus’ affirmation of the Genesis 2:4 that marriage is between a man and a woman.

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.

1 Corinthians 3:11-15

 UPDATE: Steve Clifford of the Evangelical Alliance responds to Steve Chalke.

 

11 Comments

  1. Posted 8 February, 2013 at 12:34 PM | Permalink

    Hi, Steve, I was not surprised to hear before Christmas that S Chalk has now gone further down the ‘Progressive’ way and accepted same-sex marriage – 4 years ago he denounced Genesis/6 day creation as a myth at Crossway BC. I walked out during his heretical message but sadly, he was given the pulpit again that night.
    I have yet to meet anyone who accepts homosexuality as normal/acceptable that has not already compromised the Creation story.
    That is not to say that everyone who doubts Genesis goes down that path, but once
    a ‘Christian’ ‘leader’ is prepared to openly challenge the Genesis Creation story it is not long before other ‘fundamentals’ are compromised.
    I have a couple of questions about one of your lines above, “Fundamentalists are radically different, but radically disconnected.” What do you mean by that?
    “Fundamentalist’ is a term often misused by those opposed to Biblical Christians – but are we not all meant to align with, and stand for, the fundamentals of the faith?
    Why do you suggest they are [all] radically disconnected.”?

  2. Posted 8 February, 2013 at 1:51 PM | Permalink

    @ Steve Addison

    I felt as though I understood and agreed with everything you said, with the possible exception of exactly the same assertion that bothered Peter, that “fundamentalists” are “radically disconnected”.

    @ Peter Stokes

    What do you mean, when you say that Chalke “denounced Genesis/6 day creation as a myth”?

    As far as I can see, Genesis 1 – 3 rules out what most people believe nowadays, about the origins and development of life on earth, including mankind, but I’d be very loathe to offer any particular doctrinaire explanation as to what the word “day” meant, before the first sunrise and sunset.

  3. Posted 9 February, 2013 at 3:41 AM | Permalink

    Hi John
    I guess having grown up in London (UK) it is not hard for me to imagine a ‘day’ without seeing the sun – or the moon for that matter!!
    But rather than me try to answer your question, I think it is better to let God do that……
    In Exodus 20 v11 God says, “For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.
    And again in Exodus 31:16-18 (NKJV) “Therefore the children of Israel shall keep the Sabbath, to observe the Sabbath throughout their generations as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever; for in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day He rested and was refreshed.
    And to paraphrase the next verse – When God finished speaking he wrote it in stone with his own finger so the suborn people of God could not doubt it.
    I’ve heard it said that when God says the same thing twice it is because we did not listen the first time!!!
    I’m sure better men than me can give you other theological answers but I have been told that no Hebrew scholar would doubt that when written in conjunction with ‘morning and evening’ the word ‘day’ could not mean anything other than a 24 hr day.

  4. Posted 9 February, 2013 at 9:40 PM | Permalink

    I would only argue that it is since the entry of sin that we have been on a cycle of rise, plateau, decline and finally decay. The Old Testament history of Israel is of man’s continued walk away from God, and God’s fervent efforts through men to lead Israel back to God. The characters change, but unfortunately the cycle does not. From a global perspective, this leads only to despair. From an individual level, it leads to a sense of responsibility to remain faithfully, and encourage each other on. Finally, from a truly macro level, we must have faith that God never gives up.

    On a side note, Genesis 1-3 does speak of seven days. Peter is right that the written Hebrew does not allow any other reading. However, is Genesis 1-3 a creation story, a scientific creation analysis or a creation image? I know many faithful Christians who have lived, served, ministered and died who did not agree that the world was created in 7 days but passionately argued otherwise in many public forums.

    I think that linking the two issues clouds the debate.

  5. Posted 11 February, 2013 at 12:43 PM | Permalink

    Hi Raymond,
    I was not suggesting that those who do not accept a literal ‘7 days’ are not Christians, are going to Hell or anything like that.
    What I stated was that everyone I have investigated, and there have been many, who have walked the road that Steve is now walking – arguing for the acceptance of homosexuality and then accepting SS marriage – has, prior to that, thrown out the idea that Genesis 1-3 is literal.
    Once they question Biblical ‘creation’, often because ‘science’ says it is wrong, all too often they start doubting more and more – next comes the ww flood, then the sun stood still then the virgin birth, the miracles, and then substitutionary atonement – In fact anything that today’s ‘science’ says is not possible”.
    Personally, I cannot see why anyone would think that God would tell us, in such a factual, blow by blow, way, how something happened, something that all the rest of the Bible hinges on (first Adam, second Adam, Ten Commandments, etc.), that was not true.
    Dare I say that would be like a Christian telling their children that Father Christmas left the presents on Christmas morning!

  6. Posted 11 February, 2013 at 12:46 PM | Permalink

    Steve
    Still interested to know what you meant by, “Fundamentalists are radically different, but radically disconnected” ?
    What is your definition of a ‘Fundamentalists’

  7. Malcolm Knightley
    Posted 25 February, 2013 at 10:40 PM | Permalink

    Just come across this – thanks for the article.

    I have the thought that the definition of the word ‘evangelical’ has been highjacked in the same way that ‘marriage’ is in process of being redefined. This is giving those with liberal views (nothing new) a new platform that has hitherto not been available – a little like working from inside somebody else’s camp

    It would be better if liberals would declare their colours honestly and not masquerade as a new enlightened voice for evangelicals. There is nothing new or surprising in the liberal position.

  8. Posted 26 February, 2013 at 10:58 AM | Permalink

    The same can be said for the way the term ‘fundamentalist’ has been distorted and highjacked. By the way, Steve, haven’t seen that explanation of your comment in this article – did I miss it?
    Once upon a time being a ‘fundamentalist Christian’ was a very good thing – simply meaning someone who believed the fundamentals of the faith, as opposed to those who compromised (again, nothing new).
    Yet today, few are prepared to use the term, or they use it a derogatory way, often instead of calling someone a Pharisee – simply because they stand solidly on Biblical principles.
    Yet Jesus criticized the Pharisees for making up their own rules – not because they faithfully followed His, and for caring more about power, than truth & love.
    Satan’s agenda has always been to infiltrate and undermine from within – so why are we surprised to see it happening to the ‘evangelical’ church today.
    The ‘emerging’ church, led by Brian McLaren who is a friend of Steve Chalke, is full of liberalism and appeasement, and yet would still consider themselves as ‘evangelicals’ and they have a huge following because they simply want to be ‘nice’ to everyone.
    Take a look at

  9. Posted 12 March, 2013 at 10:15 AM | Permalink

    Peter,

    I’m following Christian Smith here: http://www.movements.net/2005/06/07/engaged-orthodoxy.html

    He’s using the term “fundamenatalist” as someone who is orthodox in belief but disconnected from society. In this sense it’s someone who believes the right things but, like the Pharisees, struggles to connect meaningfully with lost people, as Jesus did.

    In this sense, a “fundamentalist” may be very keen to protect Australia from the threat of Islam, but it not concerned to connect with Muslim people and share Christ.

  10. Posted 12 March, 2013 at 3:42 PM | Permalink

    I guess what concerns me, Steve, is that that statement is a broad brush stroke assumption, as are all three of Christian Smith’s ‘labels’.
    It is also interesting that he wrote them back in 2005, because things are changing fast. In fact I don’t think broad assumptions are ever useful and I would contest that his assumptions are certainly not true of today’s church.
    Firstly, ‘Christian fundamentalist’ has become a derogatory term used AGAINST anyone who continues to stand on Biblical principles – regardless of any actual ‘engagement’ with society.
    Secondly, the definitions are now out of date.
    Smith states, “Evangelicals are “committed to maintaining and promoting confidently traditional, orthodox Protestant theology and belief, while at the same time becoming confidently and proactively engaged in the intellectual, cultural, social and political life of the nation.”
    Is that true today? Not according to your own blog (above). Steve Chalke, and many others including well known names like Brian McLaren and Tim Costello, would still call themselves “evangelicals”, but they have thrown away a number of traditional, orthodox, Protestant theology and beliefs.
    While some Mainline Protestants have “thrown away” traditional, orthodox, Protestant theology and beliefs, some have not and are also engaging with society.
    So is it really true that all ‘fundamentalists’ are “defensively separate from the surrounding culture and can be described as distinction without engagement….” I don’t think so.
    All these terms can be very misleading in today’s post modern society.
    There is a need, especially between Christians, to treat people as individuals rather than do what the ‘world’ does, use labels based on preconceived meanings – even worse to use them as derogatory terms.
    Yes, this makes life more difficult, but (uneducated) labels certainly prevent unity – many parts – one body – called to do/be different parts of Christian Ministry. The key to unity is first and formost adherence to God’s word (fundamentalism), not preconceived ideas that we all have the same roll, the same people group to reach or ‘contend’ earnestly with.

  11. Posted 12 March, 2013 at 5:05 PM | Permalink

    Peter

    Thanks for your thoughts. Good to remind us that while descriptors are helpful that no descriptor is without its limitations — liberal, progressive, orthodox, evangelical, fundamentalist etc.

    My basic point is you can be orthodox in belief but disconnected from lost people.

    I’m flat out training at the moment in Following and Fishing. Unfortunately I won’t be able to give this topic much more time.

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    [...] Bell has lost the plot and has been joined by Brian McLaren, and Steve Chalke, and a host of former evangelicals who cannot stand the heat of society’s pressure to [...]

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