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Friday, 18 January 2013

Grieve for Steve

On remembering the past
CARE / Steve Chalke - late 80s
A few decades ago I admired Steve Chalke and the pioneering work he did among young people. He undertook a mission at our church and spent a whole day speaking to young people at Alexandra High School, Tipton, where my wife was a teacher. We used his video series Lessons in Love with our youth group (I have scanned this image from my own well-worn copy).

Back then Steve preached a faithful Gospel.

The two drifts
But over the years something has happened to Steve Chalke - and all of us need to take heed. First, he drifted theologically, enchanted by the New Gospel of the Kingdom, preached by the neo-orthodox NT Wright - a Gospel different from the one in the Scriptures, a gospel which says "The Kingdom has come, everyone join in". That's it. No repentance, no faith, just join in. The Kingdom is like a fair come to town, the moment you come through the entrance gate, your in.

Although Christ does welcome into his kingdom everyone - repentance and sanctification demand change both before and after conversion.

Steve Chalke
Having drifted theologically, he then naturally drifted morally.  I don't mean he has personally drifted morally, I mean he has now taken the view that practicing homosexual relationships are OK.

It is worth pausing here and pondering the connection between these two drifts and their order. If you drift theologically, you will always drift morally. Why? Because you have no moorings to pin your morality to anymore. The moment you question Scripture, you can go absolutely anywhere in your morality, fitting Scripture around your own thinking, or the thinking of the world.

Why the drift?
Why has Chalke drifted?  In one of his previous books, he said that many years ago he became fed up with doing missions at churches who did not really care for the outsider, but used missions as a means to salve their evangelistic consciences. Shame on those who do not really love, but evangelize only to salve a conscience. As a reaction, perhaps, he has set himself to meaningfully engage with the lost world and culture of our nation. This is laudable. But he has become so absorbed with the world, in my opinion he's become conformed to the thinking of that world. Words like "inclusion, reconciliation and justice", buzzwords in the world of charitable enterprises, have taken the place of "righteousness, repentance and faith".

At root Steve has allowed the world to squeeze him into its mould. Perhaps the motive was to get into the thinking of the world to help them, but instead of being just in the world, he has become a part of it.

Our response
I can think of four responses....

First, we must allow Christ and his Spirit through his Word to mould our thinking, our philosophy, our theology. Even though the world drifts, we must not drift with it. Interestingly enough Chalke draws a direct parallel with "the church" drifting towards women in ministry and accepting practicing homosexual relationships: if "the church" has abandoned men-only ministry views derived from Genesis, why not abandon man-woman only views of marriage drawn from Genesis?

But why should we be so enchanted with the passing thought forms of the world?  Did you know, for example,  that according to the atheist philosopher Thomas Nagel, it is likely that the whole of the scientific enterprise, which says that mind came from matter is wrong? (We believers already knew that this was impossible, but they didn't; but now they'll have to accept that mind can't come from matter.)  The point is this: the thinking of the world changes like the seasons. And anyway, who cares a monkeys what the world thinks? It is all passing away. Let us remain faithful to Christ and preach repentance and faith as the requirements to enter the kingdom of God.

Secondly, let us ensure we love and welcome all the lost, including those from the gay community - yes even the practicing gay community. Let there never be a hint of homophobia about us. We must do that old fashioned thing, love the sinner, but hate his sin.

Thirdly, we should grieve for a brother who has drifted so far from truth.

Fourthly, though, some would argue, grieving is the wrong response. Anger and rebuke is the right way now. Jesus responded to ignorant sin with gentleness (John 4) but to stubborn knowing arrogance with stinging rebuke (Matthew 23). Has Steve Chalke now become like the religious leaders of Jesus' day who need a stern rebuke, not a gentle warning? At what point do we recognise that a brother has passed from light into darkness? It's  a tough call.

By not exhorting practicing gay people to repent, Chalke has now become, to them, a hindrance to the Kingdom of Christ rather than a help. Because one of Christ's apostles said this (and remember, when an apostle writes, his Master speaks):

Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (I Corinthians 6)

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