Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Lost Message of Jesus - Steve Chalke

As many of you know, I am in the middle of concluding some academic work in the area of theology, and more narrowly, hermeneutics. Hence, I am writing my dissertation, entitled, "The Evolution of Jesus: Hermeneutical Foundations of the Emergent Church [EC]." To that end, I am engrossed in a variety of the materials from those who are associated with the EC movement. Steve Chalke just happens to be one of those EC associates. Mr. Chalke wrote a book in 2003, entitled "The Lost Message of Jesus." I will be making some epigrammatic and some not so epigrammatic comments concerning the contents of Mr. Chalke's work and the reasoning he employs to arrive at some of his conclusions. Without further ado, I wish to point out a fascinating contradiction at the very outset of "The Lost Message of Jesus." Due to my research load, my comments regarding the EC over the next several months will be more pithy than not, and certainly more pithy than usual. In his book, Chalke makes this assertion:
"It has been said that every great leader or teacher has one core message that permeates everything they do and say.....And it's equally true of Jesus." [Chalke - The Lost Message of Jesus, pgs. 15-16]
Here Chalke asserts that Jesus' teaching can be summed up under one major theme just like that of other great teachers like Marx, Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., and Freud. Yes, Chalke not only does he place Marx and Gandhi within the same class of great teachers, he places Jesus there as well. I wonder what Mr. Chalke means by use of the adjective, "great." Chalke continues with another incredible assertion:
"My aim in the chapters that follow is to demonstrate that the core of Jesus' life-transforming, though often deeply misunderstood, message is this: The Kingdom, the in-breaking shalom of God, is now available through me." [Chalke - The Lost Message of Jesus, pg. 16]
Now let me add this one warning so that people don't run out and purchase this book: anytime an author uses the word "lost," or "hidden, secret message" in the title of their book, it should be seen as a "red flag" which means that what is inside is worth less than the cost of the paper required to pen the message in the first place. Notice that Chalke has now provided us with a summary or theme of what he thinks Jesus' message was and is. The many messages of Jesus can be summed up in this core theme, according to Chalke. But then Chalke adds one more assertion:
"To assume that we have got Jesus "pinned down" or "summed up" is not simply arrogant but stupid, and in the end inhibits our ability to communicate his unchanging message to an ever-changing world." [Chalke - The Lost Message of Jesus, pg. 19]
This is not an apparent contradicition. Rather, it is a violent contradiction of the worse sort. In fact, I am not sure anyone could succcessfully pull off a more violent contradiction than this one. In one breath, Chalke asserts a summation of Jesus' core message and then in the next one, only three pages later, asserts that anyone who does what he has just done is not only arrogant, but stupid. There, pithy enough?

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