Sunday, April 4, 2010

The Lost Message of Jesus - Steve Chalke

As I read more and more of Chalke's book, it seems clearer that he has an agenda that is clearly based on philosophical presuppostions from the start. At the core of Chalke's point seems to be the idea that Jesus came with a radical message that offended the established religious power of His day. It seems as if Chalke desires to compare Jesus' relationship to the religious powers of His time with the EC and the established church of our day. He seems to want to operate on the premise that it is good to radically depart from the established church simply for the sake of departing. One senses the method of Descartes and his orphan in Chalke's idea. Mind you that Chalke so far hasn't made a single attempt to make his case with Scripture. He simply points to Jesus' handling of situations, in particular His offenses of the established religious leaders and leaves one to believe that he thinks he has made his case. What Chakle fails to do is establish a valid connection between what the EC is attempting to do and what Jesus actually did. Moreover, Chalke fails to demonstrate just exactly how conservative evangelicalism is the modern parallel of the ancient legalism propogated by the Pharisees of Jesus' day. He simply wishes for us to take him at his word. For all we know, the EC could be the Gnostics of John's day and the established church could be the parallel of the apostolic church of John's day. After all, what is good for Chalke's subjective approach is equally good for my own subjective approach, is it not?

Commenting about Jonathan Edwards' sermons, Chalke says,
Commenting on Edwards' sermon, the academic Ola Winslow reflects, Two centuries and more later, this is still a grim sermon on the printed page and delivered to a packed auditory under the strain of 1741, it would have been almost unbearable.Preaching like Edwards' has been all too resentative of the portrayal of the gospel by the Church over the last few hundred years, and, by implication, of any popular understanding of the message of Jesus. [Chalke - The Lost Message of Jesus, pg. 56]
Chalke then proceeds to assert that love is "the very quality by which the New Testament defines him" [God]. No one who has ever read the Bible honestly and read Jonathan Edwards' sermon, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" in light of the Scriptures, would ever condemn the sermon as a false portrayal of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Contrary to being unloving, it is one of the most profoundly loving sermons ever delivered to the church in modern times.

It seems quite clear that Chalke desires to substitute the image of God found in Scripture and preserved in the Christian tradition for thousands of years now for one that he and his partners find acceptable. And what "kind of god" is it that Chalke desires? Chalke discusses why Moses had to be hid in the cleft of the rock while God passed by. Typically it has been accepted that the reason was because no human could ever see God and live because of the aweome holiness and power of all that God is. But Chalke has a different take on this notion. He says,
"In Exodus 33, God is not hiding from Moses, but he is hiding the immeasurable suffering caused by that love. No-one could bear to see a face wrung with such infinite pain and live."
The idea is that God is so hurt and injured by man's rejection and man's own self-inflicted pain that God did not want Moses to see the pain in his own face because Moses would not be able to handle it. And so God hid Moses in order to spare Moses the awful experience of seeing all this pain in the face of God. Chalke wants a god who is more human than he is god. He wants a god who is more concerned with social causes and the liberation of the socially oppressed than He is with the truth or with the salvation of sinners from an eternal hell.  This theme continues to emerge as I make my way through the book. While I was hoping for a cogent, scholarly treatment of why the church has completely missed the point of Jesus' message, all I am seeing at this point is another preacher who rejects the biblical image of a sovereign, holy, God who judges sin and saves undeserving sinners for one who is the great social divine in the heavenlies who desires that we establish a socialist state here on earth, stamping out poverty and taring down the establishment of the privileged and the wealthy. At the end of the day, this seems to be the same old cloak we call "autonomy" with the latest fashion design attached to it.

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