Steve Chalke, the God of the bible writers & Jesus

7 March 2014

In case you were wondering, the title of this post refers to 3 different people, which will be made clear as you read this post. Steve Chalke and Andrew Wilson have been having some debates on, and in the second of those, for all his elusiveness in answering questions, Steve Chalke makes it very clear what he thinks about the bible. You can watch it HERE, but if you want to save 30 minutes I’ll summarise his view.

According to Steve Chalke – When looking at biblical narrative (I can’t comment on other genres for Chalke), what we find in our bibles is the human author’s interpretation of history. And, particularly in passages related to God’s judgment (as an example Num 15 – man being killed for gathering sticks on the Sabbath), the bible writers consistently give a wrong view of the Living God.

What brings Chalke to this conclusion? His (flawed) Jesus hermeneutic. The God presented to us in the OT is different than Jesus. Jesus certainly would not condone the actions attributed to God in the OT.

I’m not sure what this says for the Spirit’s role in the writing of scripture. Chalke repeatedly refers to the bible as a library full of a variety of stories and contradictions.

But for my purposes here, I want to consider Jesus’ view of judgment, and his reference to an OT instance of judgment and let’s see if Chalke’s hermeneutic stands.

Numbers 21.4-9 – the bronze serpent. The account is familiar enough: the people rebel, they are judged, but God provides a way of salvation for them.

From Mount Hor they set out by the way to the Red Sea, to go around the land of Edom. And the people became impatient on the way. And the people spoke against God and against Moses, “Why have you brought us up out of Egypt to die in the wilderness? For there is no food and no water, and we loathe this worthless food.” Then the Lord sent fiery serpents among the people, and they bit the people, so that many people of Israel died. And the people came to Moses and said, “We have sinned, for we have spoken against the Lord and against you. Pray to the Lord, that he take away the serpents from us.” So Moses prayed for the people. And theLord said to Moses, “Make a fiery serpent and set it on a pole, and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.” So Moses made a bronzeserpent and set it on a pole. And if a serpent bit anyone, he would look at the bronze serpent and live. (Numbers 21.4-9)

Now, if Chalke keeps a consistent hermeneutic to what he says in the video, the death of the people (and the presence of fiery serpents among them) has nothing to do with God’s judgment. Maybe low immune systems, heart trouble, fear of snakes, poor medicinal practice,  unusually cool temperatures inviting snakes out of their holes, or whatever – but not the judgment of God. So the people are dying for a variety of reasons, Moses prays, and the Lord gives him instructions on a bronze serpent.

If the people look to the serpent with faith in the promise of God, they will be saved. They will live. I wonder, was God involved in their salvation, or was the bronze serpent merely a placebo and the people just had mental problems? Or to say it another way, what did the bronze serpent actually save them from? Did it save them from natural law, or divine wrath? Is Moses (though I don’t think Chalke would grant Mosaic authorship), or whoever, wrong in attributing the presence of the snakes to God but right in attributing salvation to God? If so, then God saves the people from the consequences of playing with snakes, but their salvation has nothing to do with their relationship and position before the Living God. They are only saved from being incompetent snake handlers.

Well, what does Jesus think of this episode? He tells us in John 3. Like the bronze serpent was lifted for all to look to in faith for salvation, so Jesus will be lifted on the cross for all to look to in faith for salvation. If Jesus draws this parallel, I wonder what exactly it is that Jesus saves people from? The bronze serpent in the desert (in Chalke’s hermeneutic) had nothing to do with salvation from God’s wrath, just the coincidental present of venomous snakes in the camp and a magical cure. So salvation in Numbers 21 has nothing to do with the people’s relationship to God, only with snake bites. No judgment. No wrath. God has no problem with the people. It is just these blasted snakes that are everywhere!

If Jesus compares himself to the bronze serpent, then we must say that the salvation he offers has nothing to do with salvation from God’s judgment or that it is in any way concerned with restoring our relationship with God. If we did say that, then we’d be attributing to Jesus that he thought the fiery serpents were judgment from God. But, of course, we know better and that can’t be the case. The bible writer offered that as his interpretation, but he was wrong, and Jesus knew it. So Jesus speaks about a salvation which is…well, I’m not really sure. It isn’t salvation from God’s wrath against our sin and rebellion. It isn’t salvation and eternal life in the restoration of a relationship with God as our heavenly Father through his Son Jesus. Maybe it means we’ll live longer? Or maybe it just means that God doesn’t really judge anyone. We may suffer the consequences of natural law (you play with snakes, you’ll get bitten), but that is all we need fear in this world and the next. Hang in there, and make sure you have medical insurance.

One other problem Jesus text is Luke 13.1-5.

There were some present at that very time who told him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And he answered them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because they suffered in this way? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them: do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who lived in Jerusalem? No, I tell you; but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.”

I don’t know how Chalke would explain this text, other than saying it doesn’t sound like the Jesus he has created. Or perhaps Luke is interpreting what Jesus really said. After all, Luke also gets the whole Ananias and Saphira explanation wrong too (so says Chalke in the video).

Off to have lunch and to read Machen’s Christianity and Liberalism.


Year End Letter

26 December 2013

It’s been quiet here for some time, so for all my readers, here is a letter sharing a bit about this last year. Enjoy!


A perfect match

15 June 2012

We are getting ready to paint our bedroom (actually my mother is getting ready to paint our bedroom). So we are looking at paint swatches and such. With all of the different hues and tones sometimes it seems almost impossible to get a perfect match. But, particularly in the bright natural light, that is precisely what is needed. A perfect match.

Painting a room is in the grand scheme of things of very little consequence. What the apostle Paul deals with in Romans 3, however, is of very substantial consequence. Here he thoroughly lays out the human dilemma, the human need.

  • vs 10 – we are not righteous
  • vs 11 – we are without understanding
  • vs 11 – we do not seek God
  • vs 12 – we are worthless
  • vs 12 – we do not do good
  • vs 13 – our words are death
  • vs 13 – we speak lies
  • vs 13 – our speech poisons
  • vs 14 – we curse and are bitter
  • vs 15 – we steal life
  • vs 16 – our road is ruin and misery
  • vs 17 – we do not know peace

That’s pretty bleak, not a very nice colour, as it were. And it is into this desperate situation that God brings a perfect match to our misery. God’s grace is always supplied in the colour our experience needs. And it is with our fundamental need of righteousness that God supplies all our needs (and more!) in his Son Jesus. Consider how Jesus is exactly who we need.

  • vs 10 – we are not righteous – he is the righteous one
  • vs 11 – we are without understanding – he knows all things
  • vs 11 – we do not seek God – he is God seeking us
  • vs 12 – we are worthless – he is of infinite value
  • vs 12 – we do not do good – he always does good
  • vs 13 – our words are death – his word gives life
  • vs 13 – we speak lies – he speaks truth
  • vs 13 – our speech poisons – his speech heals
  • vs 14 – we curse and are bitter – he blesses
  • vs 15 – we steal life – he gives life
  • vs 16 – our road is ruin and misery – he brings victory and joy
  • vs 17 – we do not know peace – he makes us at peace with God

Praise God for the righteousness of God that is through faith in Jesus Christ.

Praying is criminal

13 January 2012

This is quite a story (particularly in the wake of all the occupy protests…which, I haven’t heard much of lately, must be the cold winter). Over 40 folks arrested for praying as part of a protest. I realise some folks were arrested during different occupy movements, but that’s because they were involved in criminal activity (like breaking into buildings, destroying public and private property, etc.).

Story HERE.

Do pray for the churches in New York who may loose their use of schools to meet in at the weekend.

How to waste 2012

3 January 2012

Here are 4 easy ways to waste 2012:

1. Refuse Jesus

2. Forget Jesus

3. Ignore Jesus

4. Isolate Jesus

To refuse Jesus is to think that you don’t need him at all. To think that life makes sense and has meaning without him. To think that you can manage life, and death, on your own.

To forget Jesus is to think that you only need him at the start of the christian life rather than the whole way through. To fail to preach the gospel to yourself each day looking to Christ in faith to meet all of your needs.

To ignore Jesus is to starve yourself and hold your breath. To neglect meeting and communion with Jesus in the word (food) and prayer (breathing).

To isolate Jesus is to not make the local church a priority. To amputate, as it were, parts of Christ’s body by not being a part of, accountable to, and involved in the local church.

So…don’t waste 2012. Look to Christ in faith, daily find all your needs met in him in the gospel, commune with him in the word and prayer each day, and crack on in your local church.

Union with Christ

2 December 2011

An historically underemphasised, yet crucial, topic is union with Christ. Just try to explain any aspect of the christian life (conversion through to glory) apart from union. So, it is with great enthusiasm that over the last week I received two books, both titled ‘Union with Christ’. The first is by Robert Letham and the second by Todd Billings. Now it is time to dig in. I’d also recommend Edward Donnelly’s Life in Christ, which is probably more accessible if someone is looking for a place to start.

While you are waiting for yours to arrive, read and meditate on Colossians 2 and 3. Paul grounds the whole of the christian life in union as well. Enjoy!

What is the mission of the church?

18 November 2011

I’m about a third of the way through DeYoung and Gilbert’s book. In short, making disciples is their answer. Should we be surprised? It is curious however, if not frustrating, how many people take issue with that answer. Apparently DeYoung and Gilbert (both pastors of CHURCHES) are not qualified to speak on the mission of the CHURCH? I guess that is for other folks to figure out rather than those leading churches. Just be sure to let us know what to do guys, OK?

As usual, Trueman has some helpful thoughts on the topic, as does Horton in his contribution to the debate.

It is interesting how many people in church want the question answered, ‘What’s the church’s purpose?’ Part may be due to poor communication, but I imagine part (the bigger part) is symptomatic of the tilt within evangelicalism. Something hip, something new, something that is a game changer for the church and society in this world. Those aren’t necessarily wrong desires, but neither are they the mission of the church, or, I guess, that’s the question being debated. Neither are they things promised to God’s people. BUT, there is the promise of a city that is unshakable who’s builder and architect is God.

I’d like to think I’m too young to be old fashion, but then, my hairline condemns me each day. Guess I’ll stick to the old paths.

Reformation Day

31 October 2011

HERE is a good wee interview with Mike Reeves on the reformation.

If you have a bit more time, then tackle THIS article on the reformation as well.

Want more?

HERE is a video interview with Michael Haykin.

HERE is a free download of RC Sproul’s children’s book on Luther.


Not everyone can be this lucky

21 October 2011

Maybe one day I’ll get to participate in an activity like this. A large library could be a means of staying fit. All kinds of perks!

The vocabulary of grace

19 October 2011

We’ve just finished a series in the book of Job at church. Many are familiar with the story of Job, but probably less have waded through the waters step by step with Job and his friends. If you were to take an hour or so and read all of the speeches of Job’s friends you’d find a mixed bag. Some wonderful things said, some confusion things said, and some awful things said. But one thing that would be missing from start to finish in these speeches is grace. Job’s friends had no vocabulary for grace, it was foreign to them and they were unfamiliar with it. In fact, the reason they were so oppressive to Job is because they kept throwing a graceless God at him. In their graceless worldview situations such as Job’s didn’t exist, hence their mistaken accusations of Job’s sin.

A wonderful old hymn that’s been given new life is Jesus, I my cross have taken.  There are 4 lines in the fifth verse of this hymn that would, I think, have been a wonderful balm for Job to hear rather than the drivel of his friends. Henry Lyte writes:

Think what Spirit dwells within thee,
Think what Father’s smiles are thine,
Think that Jesus died to win thee,
Child of heaven, canst thou repine (fret).

Those are words filled with grace, because they bring Jesus to the suffering (Job in this case).

Anyhow, what is fascinating at the end of the book is the vocabulary lesson Job’s friends get. Thankfully, for them, God is not like they imagined him to be. He is a God of grace.

Job 42.7   After the LORD had spoken these words to Job, the LORD said to Eliphaz the Temanite: “My anger burns against you and against your two friends, for you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has. 8 Now therefore take seven bulls and seven rams and go to my servant Job and offer up a burnt offering for yourselves. And my servant Job shall pray for you, for I will accept his prayer not to deal with you according to your folly. For you have not spoken of me what is right, as my servant Job has.” 9 So Eliphaz the Temanite and Bildad the Shuhite and Zophar the Naamathite went and did what the LORD had told them, and the LORD accepted Job’s prayer.

They’ve witnessed the innocent suffering of Job and could not make sense of it, and now they witness the innocent suffering of these animals. And I imagine through this vocabulary lesson in grace they understood, ‘unless I have a substitute I am doomed’. And they look in faith to the one whom Job so clearly pictures, the truly innocent sufferer, the Lord Jesus Christ. In one life only is Job excelled, in innocence and in grief. That is, of course, life of our Lord and Saviour Jesus. In is in Jesus’ perfection and in Jesus’ suffering that the questions of Job ultimately find their answer. And what is that answer? In a word, grace.