progessive Christianity

The Lost Message of Steve Chalke

Steve Chalke

Steve Chalke

Movements move into Decline when they drift from their Identity in Christ — Word, Spirit and Mission. Declining institutions move into Decay when they repudiate their Identity.

Steve Chalke’s latest book is a case study on Decay. Here’s a review from David Robertson:

In 2004, Steve Chalke discovered 'The Lost Message of Jesus' and published his book with that name. Fifteen years later he has discovered 'The Lost Message of Paul', and this month publishes a book with that title.

This is an easy to read, and well-written book – much better stylistically than the earlier work. As always with Chalke the book will be described as 'controversial' and will delight some (like Rob Bell and Brian McLaren) and appall others. From a personal perspective I found that The Lost Message of Paul contained some interesting information, provocative arguments, challenging questions and old heresies.

Steve argues that 'all the old narratives are dead' and that we need a 'new story'. He blames Augustine, Luther and Calvin for getting Paul's message wrong. But his new story suffers from some major defects.

read the whole thing

UPDATE: In an interview with the Anglican Church Times. Steve Chalke denies that we are saved by faith in Christ—Luther got it wrong. Instead, all are saved by the faithfulness of Christ. His book is promoted by the Church Times and sold in the Anglican Church Bookshop. He’s an ordained Baptist minister. The book is published by the once evangelical SPCK.

Universalism — opiate of thought leaders and the clergy

Michael McClymond

Michael McClymond

Christianity Today interviewed Michael McClymond about the rising popularity of an idea Christians have rejected for most of church history. Universalism is the doctrine that all human beings will come to final salvation and spend an eternity in heaven with God.

About twelve years ago McClymond had “an unnerving encounter in which I saw God’s coming judgment arriving in the form of an overpowering storm; people in the path of the storm were pleasantly chit-chatting when they ought to have been seeking cover. The dream left a lasting impression. It suggested to me that we’re unprepared—both inside and outside of the church—for the return of Christ.”

McClymond continues,

“Universalism isn’t just a theological mistake. It’s also a symptom of deeper problems. In a culture characterized by moralistic therapeutic deism, universalism fits the age we inhabit. As I argue in the book, universalism is the opiate of the theologians. It’s the way we would want the world to be. Some imagine that a more loving and less judgmental church would be better positioned to win new adherents. Yet perfect love appeared in history—and he was crucified.

Universalism seems, then, to be fundamentally out of sync with the New Testament narrative of God’s loving initiative in Christ provoking some to faith and others to offense and even hatred. Because of its incongruence with the gospel narrative, universalism is, to my mind, not the first step off the path of orthodoxy, but perhaps—in Kevin DeYoung’s words—“the last rung for evangelicals falling off the ladder.”

Movements rise and fall depending on their alignment with the life and ministry of Jesus. Once dynamic movements are often led into error by thought leaders and clergy seeking a more socially acceptable faith. Obviously, the reality of a God who is both loving and holy is an uncomfortable truth for us all. But it is true.

If universalism is true, we’ll need to redefine what mission is — if no-one is lost we will have to save society or the planet instead. Universalism is the end of the evangelism.

McClymond asks,

“Where are the universalist evangelists, going to the ends of the earth, painstakingly learning and transcribing hitherto unknown languages and suffering opposition, up to and including the prospect of martyrdom, so that they can deliver their message of final salvation for all? Among the non-universalists, there are tens of thousands of such laborers.

He finishes with this challenge:

In light of past history and experience, I wonder whether the evangelical church of the 21st century will truly recover its spiritual, ethical, and missional urgency without first renewing its preaching (and awareness) of Christ’s return and the awesome reality of God’s final judgment of each individual”

 

It seems God can be outvoted

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Matthew Parris, a gay atheist, pleads with Christians to stand up for what the Bible teaches on sex and marriage:

I see. So now we have the result of the Irish referendum on gay marriage, and now we’ve heard the Roman Catholic Church’s chastened response, we shall have to rewrite Exodus 32, which (you may remember) reports Moses’ (and God’s) furious reaction to the nude dancing and heretical worship of Moloch in the form of a golden calf: the Sin of the Calf in the Hebrew literature. Moses had come down from Mount Sinai bringing God’s commandments written on two tablets of stone.

And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the calf, and the dancing: and Moses’ anger waxed hot…

And he took the calf which they had made, and burnt it in the fire, and ground it to powder, and strawed it upon the water, and made the children of Israel drink of it.

Let me have a crack at the revised version right away:

And it came to pass, as soon as he came nigh unto the camp, that he saw the Irish referendum’s huge majority for gay marriage, and the dancing: and Moses’ alarm was palpable…

And he took a copy of the Pink Paper and, flourishing it, said, ‘We have to stop and have a reality check, not move into denial of the realities.

‘I appreciate how these naked revellers feel on this day. That they feel this is something that is enriching the way they live. I think it is a social revolution.

‘We need to find a new language to connect with a whole generation of young people,’ the prophet concluded; then, casting off his garments, Moses said, ‘Hey, lead me to the coolest gay bar in the camp.’

keep reading…

Movements die when no one is committed to the cause anymore.

UPDATE: At least one Australian campaigner is saying the battle over same sex-marriage is just the beginning. The real fight will not be over until marriage as we know it is destroyed. Now let’s see if we can conjure up support from Scripture and the teaching of Jesus for polyamorous relationships.

UPDATE: The Prospects for Polygamy.

The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols

Idolatry 608x462

Andrew Wilson bravely goes public about his natural attraction to idolatry.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to worship idols. It’s not that my parents raised me that way, because they didn’t; I was brought up in a loving, secure, Christian home. But from childhood until today, my heart has been drawn to idolatry. In fact, if I’m honest, one of the defining features of my identity has been my desire to put something else – popularity, money, influence, sex, success – in place of God.

That’s just who I am.

For many years, I was taught that idolatry was sinful. As a good Christian, I fought the desire to commit idolatry, and repented when I got it wrong. But the desire to worship idols never went away.

I wanted it to, but it didn’t.

So it has been such a blessing to discover that worshipping one God, and him alone, isn’t for everyone. There are thousands of Christians out there who have found faithful, loving ways of expressing worship both to God and to idols, without compromising either their faith or their view of Scripture. In recent years, I have finally summoned the courage to admit that I am one of them. Let me give you a few reasons why I believe that idolatry and Christianity are compatible.

read on

Yes it’s a parody of the argument that progressive Christians make in support of same sex relationships.

Samuel James has a few thoughts to add.

 

The Case for Idolatry: Why Evangelical Christians Can Worship Idols

Idolatry 608x462

Andrew Wilson bravely goes public about his natural attraction to idolatry.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve wanted to worship idols. It’s not that my parents raised me that way, because they didn’t; I was brought up in a loving, secure, Christian home. But from childhood until today, my heart has been drawn to idolatry. In fact, if I’m honest, one of the defining features of my identity has been my desire to put something else – popularity, money, influence, sex, success – in place of God.

That’s just who I am.

For many years, I was taught that idolatry was sinful. As a good Christian, I fought the desire to commit idolatry, and repented when I got it wrong. But the desire to worship idols never went away.

I wanted it to, but it didn’t.

So it has been such a blessing to discover that worshipping one God, and him alone, isn’t for everyone. There are thousands of Christians out there who have found faithful, loving ways of expressing worship both to God and to idols, without compromising either their faith or their view of Scripture. In recent years, I have finally summoned the courage to admit that I am one of them. Let me give you a few reasons why I believe that idolatry and Christianity are compatible.

read on

Yes it’s a parody of the argument that progressive Christians make in support of same sex relationships.

Samuel James has a few thoughts to add.

 

A first time for everything

There is a first time for everything. A report of a declining mainline theological seminary that has turned away from theological liberalism and returned to a high view of scripture and the historic Christian faith.

Not long ago, United Theological Seminary (UTS) in the Dayton, Ohio area was just another declining, has-been mainline seminary, facing ominous financial hardships, dominated by Scripture-demoting theological liberalism, and reflective of so much of what was wrong with its shrinking sponsoring denomination, the United Methodist Church. 

Today, the school is a very different place than what many alumni experienced. It is now explicitly committed to a high view of biblical authority, “the historic Christian faith,” “the cultivation of holiness,” and “the renewal of the church.” 

Applicants for faculty positions must be explicitly committed “to the historic Christian faith.”

God has clearly been blessing this new direction under the leadership of President Deichmann. A recent headline from the Dayton Daily News summed up the seminary’s new situation: “Rebounding from Crisis, United is Among Fastest-Growing Theological Schools in U.S.” United’s tripling of its enrollment in the last four years, with now over 600 students, along with the rapid expansion of its faculty, is all the more remarkable in light of the decline at other official United Methodist seminaries.

Dr. Deichmann describes the turnaround as “a miracle.” But it is also important to note her own impressive administrative leadership of making tough financial decisions in the face of a budget crisis she inherited, guiding the school through a nearly complete turnover in faculty, and being a clear, articulate voice for the biblical, historic Christianity to which the seminary is now committed. 

What's the lesson? It took a crisis and an exceptional leader to turn a declining institution around.

Movements are renewed by making an innovative return to tradition. Well done Wendy Deichmann, you beat the odds.