Ian Paul on how Steve Chalke reads the Bible

Great stuff.

Theology, Peanuts StyleWhen trying to make sense of any text in relation to our knowledge of God, there are at least four levels of thinking we need to engage with:

1. The text itself—what it says, and what it means in its context. (This is usually called exegesis.)

2. The whole range of issues about the text’s interpretation, that is, how we as 21st-century readers might understand it from our very different social and historical context. (This is usually called hermeneutics.)

3. How, once we have understood the text and how we make sense of it, this text contributes to our understanding of who God is and what we might try to say about God. (This is called theology.)

4. What the implications of all this are for how we try and live our lives as disciples. (This is called ethics).

The real difficulty with Steve Chalke’s approach is that he appears to be unaware of the distinction between these different stages, and in the conversation he was constantly collapsing them down into one process—you read a text in your Bible, and this immediately tells you something about God, right or wrong. The key moment in video 2 came at about 13 mins 30 s:

Chalke: Did God say ‘You should kill him’?

Wilson: Yes he did

Chalke: I think that is an appalling misrepresentation of who God is.

Chalke seems to think that Wilson, in answering his question, is dealing with level 3: what can we say about God? In fact, Wilson was answering a level 1 question: what can we say about this text? Wilson does go on quite quickly, perhaps too quickly, to do the level 3 stuff, in commenting ‘When God does things, no-one has the right to shake their fist at him…’ (at which point he is interrupted by Chalke). But he certainly does not express the extreme end of the spectrum in view 1, as Chalke appears to accuse him of.

Now this raises some key questions about ‘ordinary’ and ‘expert’ reading of Scripture. Chalke is no academic, as is made clear by his constant mispronunciation of ‘Hammurabi’, ‘cuneiform’ and ‘Codex Sinaiticus.’ (This is, perhaps, a reminder that a little knowledge is a dangerous thing.) But does that mean he does not have something to say? Are academics and scholars the only ones allowed to comment on these issues? Surely not—but those who do get involved in the debate need to be aware (as Steve Holmes highlights) that there has been a long discussion happening for many years.

If reading the Bible is like driving a car, then the academics are like the mechanics who have been doing maintenance work understanding how the thing is running. Anyone who is concerned that the car is not running well has the right to pull over and open the bonnet—but if you ignore the manual or the mechanic, then don’t be surprised if the process is a bit confusing or frustrating. For me, the problem with Steve Chalke’s approach is that he is asking Sunday School questions—and expecting them to be resolved by Sunday School-type answers. A classic case was when he mentioned the contradiction in the account of David’s taking a census in 1 Chronicles 21 and 2 Samuel 24. ‘You see? It just shows that the Bible writers are inconsistent!’ as if that proved his case. At this point Wilson looked like he was about to explode!

The end of this discussion was the most revealing. If the writer of Numbers was mistaken, asked Wilson, then what about the other writers of the Bible? What about Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5? If God does not strike people down, what was going on there? Yes, said Chalke, the author of Acts was also mistaken. As of course was Paul (or whoever) in 1 Timothy 2. So it is not just a case of ‘progressive revelation’; any and all of the Bible authors can be mistaken. On what basis? On the basis of the revelation of Jesus as the personification of the love of God. The big question, then (which was not asked in these terms) is: If any of the New Testament writers could also be mistaken, on what basis can we know anything about this Jesus?

I am not here attempting to offer a value judgement about what Steve is doing, just locating him on the map. When he says ‘The Bible is mistaken in attributing the actions to God that it does’, he really is saying that the Bible is an unreliable witness to the truth about God’s will, actions and intentions, much in the same way that Strauss, Schleiermacher and Harnack did. To that extent, he represents a position that most evangelicals have been working against for the last 200 years.

Sounds about right. Steve Chalke, like Rob Bell, asks all the right questions but gets the wrong answers because, ironically, he actually wants to dumb down theology and avoid grappling with tough issues.

56 Comments on “Ian Paul on how Steve Chalke reads the Bible

  1. I found this really interesting. There seems to me though to be a level missing from Ian’s approach. Surely we are also called to ask ‘What is the Holy Spirit revealing to this generation about these words’ or similar. To approach these issues without the witness of the Spirit today is to commit as great a sin as to dismiss the text ‘cos we don’t like what it says. It reduces God’s work to a static 1st-3rd century worldview and testimony. The spirit was given to reveal God in and through and to each generation. Now that may or may not change our approach to how we understand some key passages and teaching. But it’s as important a question as Ian Paul’s other observations.

    • Kneewax, that presupposes that there is new revelation beyond the Scriptures, which is not a position that has ever been considered orthodox, at least in Protestantism; and even the Catholics and Eastern churches talk about the faith “once delivered to the saints.”

      The “leading into all truth” aspect of the Holy Spirit’s work has always been understood as a work of illumation, enabling us to properly understand the revelation already given; not as one of revelation, providing new and as yet unrevealed truth.

      That work of the Holy Spirit is what makes Ian’s points 2,3, and 4 possible and fruitful, but it does not result in new revelation that contradicts what God has said before.

      Again, as Ian says, it’s not my place to judge you, but if you assume that the Holy Spirit reveals new truth to each generation, then you are placing yourself on the map well outside the boundaries of historic Evangelicalism, and quite possibly outside the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy.

      • Quite a few in the Catholic and Eastern churches would consider evangelicalism to be outside the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy!

        It’s by turns farcical and depressing to see Chalke answered not with argument, but with barely-veiled threats of bell, book and candle. How about setting aside the unchurching & engaging with his arguments?

        If Chalke’s shown anything, it’s that the opening in open evangelicalism is pretty darn narrow.

        • James, as many have pointed out, Steve Chalke’s positions and arguments on these matters are not really new, and have been engaged with and dealt with in numerous books. A blog post like Ian’s isn’t really long enough to do this, and even less my reply to Kneewax.

          The only thing that’s new about Steve Chalke as well as some others in movements like the so-called “emerging church” and “open evangelicals”, is that they argue their positions while claiming to be evangelicals. That, as well as people arguing for an ongoing revelation of new truth like Kneewax, represents a “truth in advertising” problem because their positions are contrary to some major defining doctrines of classical evangelicalism.

          When I say that Kneewax is outside the boundaries of evangelicalism I am not unchurching him but simply pointing out fact, and the same is true about Ian’s post about Steve Chalke. I don’t see how that represents a “barely veiled threat” with anything.

          As far as the Catholics go, they have their own “truth in advertising” problem, with lots of people claiming to be Roman Catholic while dissenting from major, defining, Roman Catholic teachings. When it comes to the Catholic position on evangelicals, I will stick with recent popes who all considered evangelicals to be within the bounds of orthodoxy, albeit mistaken on a number of issues.

          • Boundary-policing is inherently threatening: telling a Christian that they’re “quite possibly outside the boundaries of Christian orthodoxy” is a threat to their in-group status.

            You don’t see liberal theologians accuse one another of straying from orthodoxy, certainly not for something as mild as suggesting that the Holy Spirit might be revealing something new.

            How can any free discussion be had under these conditions? Answer: it can’t. That’s why they’re usually deployed, either to shut-down the debate, or to keep it defined within narrow parameters.

            Good on Chalke for not being intimidated by all this.

            • “You don’t see liberal theologians accuse one another of straying from orthodoxy”

              Have you any idea how hilariously ironic that is? Like saying “You don’t hear Japanese Whalers complaining about the near extinction of the Blue Whale”.

              “certainly not for something as mild as suggesting that the Holy Spirit might be revealing something new. ”

              Oh, I think if you tried to suggest the Holy Spirit is revealing something the liberals don’t like they’ll get a bit uppity. Child sacrifice to Molech anyone? Bit of polygamy? They’re all “Biblical”…

              • OK, I admit, I laughed at the whaler comment! (“Chicken and cow?!”/South Park flashback*)

                Point about free discussion stands. Liberals are able to discuss these issues a heckuva lot more thoroughly thanks to their not having to look over their shoulder for cries of apostasy.

                I’m sure liberals would get uppity if you suggested that the Spirt was moving you to do an Isaac; just as conservatives get uppity if it’s suggested that God approves of polygamy and slavery. Says more about the content of the message than its source.

                • “Liberals are able to discuss these issues a heckuva lot more thoroughly thanks to their not having to look over their shoulder for cries of apostasy.”

                  On the contrary, some conservatives can discuss issues like this quite openly and thoroughly. We just do that from a different starting point.
                  One of the main problems with the revisionist approach is that they attempt to put facts on the ground before a consensus is agreed. That’s provocative and divisive.

                • The point about “truth in advertising” also stands. Perhaps people who grew up in Christian home would be able to make sense of all of the boundaries and overlaps between the various labels but a fair proportion of the general public are now completely unchurched. If Christian growth is going to happen again in this country, some of it will come from this unchurched group and they will need a reliable guide/map.

                • Only personal experience, but I’ve found the opposite. In many very conservative churches they’re quite happy to discuss other points of view. Stray from liberal orthodoxy in a liberal church and people get very upset that this ignorant and offensive person is suggesting something evil and dangerous and oppressive. Perhaps I’ve just had bad experiences, but if you don’t want to get burnt, I’ve found staying away from liberals is generally a good idea.

            • James, Steve Chalke is grown-up and intelligent enough to know full well where his current theological positions put him on the map, and what it does to his in-group status. Our saying so is not for his benefit but for that of others who may be misled by his still claiming the evangelical label.

              And as politically incorrect as that may be: free-ranging, unrestricted discussion is fine in the academy, where the only participants are academics who know their stuff. In a public or church-wide setting, pastoral concern for the theologically less astute and less well-read requires responsible leaders to make clear where the boundaries are so no-one crosses them inadvertently or without deliberation.That is one of the responsibility of shepherds, and good for Tom Wright that he discharges that responsibility – I wish more of his fellow bishops would do the same.

              • Interestingly, I’ve seen this “different rules for scholars” approach a lot among liberals. John Robinson got in trouble for making Honest to God mass-market. Bart Ehrman has, likewise, just popularized the academic mainstream.

                I don’t buy it for a second. Academia is just a vocational skill to be shared, not a gnostic clubhouse. How ironic to see it from evangelical protestants, when the reformation was founded on the empowerment of individuals before God, against the paternalism of priest and church.

                There is no objective measure of theological positions, no map agreed by all. Chalke has every right to argue that he’s in-line with open evangelicalism. I believe he’s got a strong case.

                  • Expected that one. :D

                    If you could make a case for you being a liberal within the generally accepted definition, I wouldn’t have a problem with you applying the term. If you couldn’t, you’re of course welcome to call yourself one, but it’d be … idiosyncratic, to say the least!

                    Chalke’s not just said “the Bible’s wrong,” and, as I said over at Ian Paul’s blog, he’s defended the Bible’s authority and historical accuracy. If open evangelicals who ignore the verses on divorce and women’s ministry can wear the evangelical label, Chalke certainly can.

                    • If I preach socialism, claim to be a Conservative but all Tories say I’m not a Conservative in any meaningful sense, am I a Conservative?

                    • Again, if you could make a convincing case for it, it might be applicable. It can’t simply be set by majority vote.

                      You could look at how “conservative” is commonly used. “Evangelical” encompasses people who believe that Genesis and the flood never happened, & set aside what the Bible says about polygamy, slavery, obeying all government, and women in authority. Why is Chalke outside it?

                    • Ian Paul demonstrates no such thing: he doesn’t show how Chalke’s skepticism is different in kind to the other kinds that are widespread in evangelicalism. (Genesis never having happened, for instance: Chalke doesn’t claim that the events he refers to never occurred, so in terms of historical reliability, he’s more evangelical than the Genesis folks.)

                      What this is really about is Chalke extending the logic of open evangelicalism past the point where most of its adherents are comfortable. He’s exposed their inconsistency, and they don’t like that, at all.

                    • No James, you misunderstand. It is not about the conclusions one reaches, it is about *how* you reach those conclusions under what assumptions.

                      Chalke is no longer an Evangelical because he rejects the notion that Scripture is inspired. Try getting him to agree publicly that *all* the Bible is inspired and intended by God to be what it is.

                    • My point has been that Chalke does use evangelical means to his ends. He emphasizes biblical authority and historical reliability. A liberal wouldn’t go to all that trouble, they’d just say, “This bit didn’t happen,” and move on.

                      Chalke’s “mistake” has been excess honesty: in real terms, biblical inspiration is meaningless if you invent a “hermeneutic” that allows you to disregard verses you don’t like (as open evangelicals routinely do with slavery, gender, divorce etc). Do that, and an OE don’t practice what they preach.

                    • “He emphasizes biblical authority and historical reliability”

                      This is just the point. He says he does but he continually in his actions doesn’t. Just look at the example Ian Paul gives – a complete and utter denial of the historicity of the Bible and of the inspiration of a particular passage.

                      Look, what you’re arguing is that if I stand up holding a kitten and say “I love kittens and wouldn’t do anything to harm them” whilst continually slapping this kitten and throwing it against walls, you would say “Oh look, Peter says he loves kittens so obviously he does – just ignore his brutal abuse of Mittens, that isn’t happening”.

                    • I’ve just watched a video of your bro (with an Aussie accent!) being interviewed by Kevin Kallsen, in which he says something very similar – he uses the example of the Chairman of Pepsico always drinking from a glass labelled ‘Coke’ while saying that of course Pepsi is the best cola.

                      I think it’s called ‘having your cake and eating it’.

                    • More like, “I love tabby kittens (*splat*) he loves siamese kittens (*squish*) … hey, he can’t do that! Oh, I know I splatted a tabby, but that’s so different from squishing a siamese.”

                      (Of all the things I never thought I’d type, that ranks.)

                      Back from this grisly analogy (you a dog person? ;-), the question is how Chalke is different in kind from evangelicals who disregard other parts of the Bible.

                    • Open evangelicals say they don’t; I’m sure they believe it, too. Problem is, their hermeneutics allow them to disregard individual verses just fine, in the name of the “overall message.”

                      It’s all a choice. They could choose to use a different hermenutic. They don’t.

                    • Gave several, above: remarriage after no-fault divorce (contravenes even Matthew’s exemption) and women in ministry (contravenes Pastorals, Corinthians, Ephesians et al).

                      Open evangelicals say they don’t disregard the Bible: by which they mean “our interpretation of its overall message,” which isn’t functionally different from liberals.

                    • Remarriage after no-fault divorce is not an automatic right or assumption. You’ll find that almost all Evangelicals will explore the breakdown of relationships with a couple before agreeing to marry them. Usually there *is* fault in no-fault divorces and so repentance and forgiveness / absolution is normal pastoral practice in this area.

                      Women in ministry is another matter. There is no prohibition in Scripture on women in ministry and indeed there are several positive examples of Paul commending women who are key ministry leaders. Not really sure what your issue is here, unless of course you *don’t* want to do proper hermeneutic study of the relevant passages and would rather prefer a simplistic straw man.
                      The key thing though about both these issues is that Evangelicals try to work out exactly what Scripture is saying rather than saying, like Chalke, “Well that doesn’t feel like the God I believe in so I don’t think that bit of the Bible was inspired by him”.

                    • I think you’ve hit the nail on the head. It works like this.

                      Since there are hermeneutic studies that led the church to reverse its position on women in the three orders of ordained ministry and slavery, we can now dispense with intermediate sums, or worse still, use the Countdown numbers game method in order to subtract explicit scriptural prohibitions and extra-biblical historical sources needed to achieve the answer.

                      Galatians 3:28 – Genesis 2:24 gender references – Genesis 19 – Leviticus 18 – Romans 1 – Jude 7 – (1 Cor. 6) – (1 Tim. 1:10) – Josephus – Philo = affirm gay marriage.
                      Hmm…

                    • That’s stretching the spirit & letter of Matthew’s exemption past breaking point: it wasn’t merely fault, but adultery/sexual immorality. And, of course, there’s no exemption in Mark and Paul.

                      No prohibition on women in ministry? Bans on women preaching in church & holding authority over men don’t count? I’ll readily accept that the Bible is contradictory on this point, which has far wider implications about its consistency and authority.

                      Scripture, of course, doesn’t say anything. There’s no party line. It speaks with many voices. Evangelicals only have to craft these complex hermeneutics ’cause they try to force harmony where none exists. Those hermeneutics are a product of a particular time & culture. It’s fanciful to claim that culture & desire don’t shape them.

                    • “Bans on women preaching in church & holding authority over men don’t count”
                      Well let’s have a look at them shall we? Oh no wait, you said “Evangelicals only have to craft these complex hermeneutics ’cause they try to force harmony where none exists”.

                      Always good to reach your conclusion before examining the evidence.

                    • By complex hermeneutics, I was referring to meta-narratives that allow the canon to be harmonized. Analysis of the texts’ meaning is exegesis.

                      What purpose is there in examining them? There’s an industry devoted to proving that the Bible doesn’t ban women from holding authority.

                      That’s my wider point: you can’t prove the meaning of a text, let alone a text written two millennia ago & translated from a dead language.

                    • Apologies James for jumping into the conversation. I also follow Ian Paul’s blog, and I happened to notice a little while ago (assuming you are the same James Byron who commented there) you take a postmodern approach to reading the Bible, i.e. I don’t think you would put much store on authorial intent, etc.

                      I find it ironic that when it comes to criticising Open Evangelicals you seem to know *exactly* what the Bible says or doesn’t say.

                      I used to be of the opinion that the Bible prohibited women in positions of leadership, however I have changed my mind after much reflection and study of the relevant passages. Similarly, you make divorce out to be much more black and white than it actually is – see, for example, David Instone-Brewer’s work on this, amongst others.

                      The difference between people like him and Steve Chalke is that of methodology: Steve Chalke seems to start out by assuming he knows what Jesus would say, and then filtering out everything based on his assumptions, rather than letting the text speak on its own terms. Andrew Wilson, who has been debating Chalke, blogged about this: “The Jesus Lens, or the Jesus Tea Strainer?” http://thinktheology.co.uk/blog/article/the_jesus_lens_or_the_jesus_tea_strainer

                    • Yep, none but he. :-)

                      I don’t claim the Bible has a definite meaning: just the opposite, all meaning is uncertain. That’s not an excuse for anything goes. There are probable meanings. Given the ban on divorce in Mark & Paul, the narrow exception in Matthew, the contrast with easy divorce, & Jesus’ moral perfectionism, it makes sense to read the exception a lot more narrowly than the Church of England does.

                      Divorce rates have skyrocketed in the past half century. What better example could you have of the Church capitulating to culture?

                      My main point is that “biblical authority” is unsustainable, since we project meaning into texts as much as we extract it. Reading isn’t a passive process. Even if the canon of Christian scripture is revealed, it’s an imperfect revelation. Has to be, thanks to how we function.

                    • Hmm, I just find it strange that you on the one hand would argue against Biblical authority because of “projected meaning”, but on the other hand tell me what the Bible says about divorce.

                      I think saying that the Bible is an imperfect revelation because we are imperfect is denying the role that the Holy Spirit plays in the process. i.e. 2 Peter 1:21, “For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.” If God is indeed the God the Bible claims he is, I think he is a competent communicator and able to make himself understood.

                    • Projection isn’t insurmountable: we can overcome our biases.

                      I’ve confidence in my reading of the divorce pericope as it’s both in-line with the synoptic portrayal of Jesus, and is against interest (I’d love to be able to say, “Yes, Jesus approved!”).

                      If the Holy Spirit produced perfect revelation, you’d expect the original autographs to be preserved. In any case, as John Macquarrie noted, the limits of human perception can’t be magicked away.

                    • “Projection isn’t insurmountable: we can overcome our biases.”

                      But doesn’t that contradict what you said about Biblical authority?

                      “If the Holy Spirit produced perfect revelation, you’d expect the original autographs to be preserved.”

                      Why? Doesn’t follow to me. In fact, I think if God had done that there would be a chance people would start worshipping the manuscript rather than God, which would serve as (at best) a distraction from the truth.

                      And if the Holy Spirit produces flawed revelation, that has all sorts of implications for our understanding of God.

                      “In any case, as John Macquarrie noted, the limits of human perception can’t be magicked away.”

                      Even by God? So you’re saying that God isn’t capable of speaking truly to humans?

                    • Our limitations are inherent to our being: texts will always be ambiguous signifiers, our perceptions limited.

                      You can believe in perfect revelation on faith (by its nature, it’s not something that can be proven) but it’s not a convincing argument.

                      And no, I don’t see any contradiction between overcoming bias and biblical authority.

                    • Your whole understanding of Scripture seems to ignore any action of God in either inspiring or helping us understand it. You’re focussed entirely on our imperfection and not at all on God’s perfection.

                      But, if we are imperfect and our understanding is imperfect, how do you know that God is speaking to us with respect to changing the church’s opinion on gay relationships, for example? Could it not be misunderstanding God? It seems that if God is unable to inspire Scripture which can speak to us in any unambiguous sense, he is also unable to speak in other ways.

                      In terms of the contradiction, I meant that you are saying on the one hand “texts will always be ambiguous signifiers” (therefore Biblical authority is meaningless, there is no right interpretation), and on the other hand you’re saying about divorce that you think you know what the text means – and claiming that people who have a different view on divorce are essentially ignoring Scripture. Which indicates to me that you do think that Scripture can have a right interpretation.

                      Jesus does seem to think that some Scripture interpretations are valid whereas others aren’t. E.g. his reply to the Sadducees in Mark 12:24, “Jesus replied, ‘Are you not in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God?” Also he seemed to use the whole Hebrew Bible to talk about himself, e.g. Luke 24:27 “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” (See also the whole book of Hebrews, for example).

                      You say that believing in perfect revelation by faith is not convincing. I say it’s much more convincing and logical than all other options, especially given what the Bible says about itself and in particular our understanding of God.

                    • I make no claim that God is speaking to us about gay relationships. As I don’t jive authoritarianism, I believe equal marriage to be right on its merits, not the claimed say-so of the almighty.

                      You miss shades of probability: just because a reading isn’t certain doesn’t mean it can’t be likely. I accept I may be wrong about the gospels.

                      The “logic” of biblical authority is circular: the Bible’s inspired because it says so; and we can trust the Bible ’cause it’s inspired. Since “scripture” at the time of authorship meant “Jewish scriptures,” biblical claims fail even on their own terms.

                      Whatever the state of God’s perfection, it has to work via our imperfection. Your approach ends up treating imperfect human opinion as the Word of the Lord. Mine is far more humble.

                    • I’m not sure whether I “jive” authoritarianism either ;) But I do believe that God is creator and, as such, God gets to make the rules, God knows what is best for us, and God knows how to communicate with us.

                      If God is not speaking to us about things like same-sex marriage in any sense… how do you know he is for it? Unless God can actually speak to us and even, dare I say it, disagree with us – we end up creating God in our own image.

                      I still think your two lines of argument about not being able to prove the meaning of a text and understanding what it probably means are in tension. When you criticised the open evangelicals you didn’t say “but of course, I may be wrong” or something like that. Your argument sounded to me like you were saying they were clearly ignoring Scripture.

                      In a sense the Scriptural argument is circular, this is true, but that doesn’t mean it’s invalid. If Scripture is ‘God-breathed’, how else could you validate it? In particular, I’d say if we claim to be followers of Christ then we must take its claims seriously, because the Scriptures are how we know about Christ. I find it difficult to comprehend a mindset which says, “I am a follower of Jesus” but then goes on to doubt quite a lot of what the gospels claim that he said. Especially given what I said before about Jesus’ view of Scripture etc.

                      Regarding your approach being far more humble – ultimately, doesn’t it just set up *your* opinion to be the Word of God? Or at least it strips God of the power to actually disagree with our opinions and express his own. That doesn’t sound humble to me, it sounds like putting oneself in the place that God should rightly be. To my mind the attempt to throw doubt on the Scriptures is an exercise in trying to validate our own opinions so we don’t actually have to listen to God.

            • ‘Boundary-policing is inherently threatening’

              I find people in our current society disturbingly ready to portray themselves as victims. It’s very passive aggressive. So Chalke is quite welcome to argue that he is an evangelical and perhaps he’ll succeed and the boundaries will change. What’s the problem? Life has conflict in it. Things get challenged, people counter-challenge, somebody come out stronger the other side – not necessarily the right person. Nobody’s planning on burning him at the stake.

                  • The one we saw above: alleging that such-and-such view puts one outside the bounds of evangelicalism/Christianity.

                    • So why not explain why it doesn’t instead of side-stepping the question to get us onto this fruitless thread about tactics?

                    • Tactics are inherent to the explanation: people are only unchurches if Christianity is defined in a definite way, and the boundaries policed.

                    • And yellow only becomes green when you add blue if the boundaries of ‘yellow’ are defined in a definite way and the boundaries are policed by the sinister colour police.

    • “Tom” Wright, Nicky Gumbel … roll out Bill Hybels & we’d have us the holy trinity of mass-market evangelicalism. ;-)

      How about another article that quotes theologians who answer the questions asked?

  2. Whilst I agree with Chalke, I do find his debate and essay frustrating not least because others have said it far far better…Peter Enns, Kenton Sparks to name but two Old Testament scholars who have been wrestling with these questions, have published widely, yet are unmentioned by Chalke’s reading list.

  3. I’ve read Steve Chalke’s bases for a new dialogue about scripture .

    So, let’s try applying them to John 5. It’s a story about a lame man healed in Bethsaida on the Sabbath. Chalke would see this healing as we all do: God at work, inclusive, restorative and loving.

    The real problem arises when Jesus, having slipped away in the commotion, encounters the healed cripple again only to deliver a stern warning: ‘Later Jesus found him at the temple and said to him, “See, you are well again. Stop sinning or something worse may happen to you.”‘ John 5:14.

    This threat of greater harm as a consequence of impenitence comes from the loving mouth of Christ himself. The same Christ whom Chalke distinguishes to be the authentic Word of God.

    So, was it an idle threat? A complete fabrication that a God of love would be incapable of carrying out? Perhaps, the apostles heard what they wanted to hear..,like the rest of the gospel? Perhaps this Word of God was simply unable to transcend the retributive beliefs of His time? A prophet like all the rest, nothing more.

    At some point, Steve Chalke will have to invent a non-apostolic Christ who is incapable of promising retribution to even Adolf Hitler.

    I suspect he’s started already, but he also needs a God who is not all-powerful: one who was simply helpless to intervene when evil and suffering came into existence. Chalke needs a demiurge to take responsibility for evil in the world.

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