Not to be confused with the popular BBC programme, Steve Chalke’s Apprentice calls us ‘into a deep experience of learning and relationship with Christ’. The goal is certainly commendable. Indeed, the testimonials on the first page appear to rank Apprentice amongst the best Christian literature of the day. However, after reading just a few pages into the book the discerning believer will be disappointed.
Apprentice consists of ten chapters which are easy to read and contain much illustration. The book is littered with quotations, most of which are from secular sources. Comments from Roman Catholic writers are cited with approval. Scripture references are relatively sparse.
The book begins by highlighting the quest for meaning in our lives. Chalke emphasises that if Genesis 1:1 is true, then life has meaning and we have purpose. In order to discover that meaning and purpose we need first to become apprentices of Jesus.
However, the need for guilty sinners to be reconciled to a just and righteous God is conspicuously absent. It appears that anyone who wants to become an apprentice of Jesus can do so, just as one might take up a hobby or choose to pursue a particular way of life.
Where is Christ set forth as the one who came into this world to save his people? Where is the eternal Son of God who fulfilled every aspect of God’s law for them? Where is the Lamb of God who bled and died for our sins, bearing the full weight of God’s wrath in our place? Nowhere! Christ’s death and resurrection are presented as merely delivering the ‘decisive victory in the struggle between good and evil’.
Another fatal flaw is that the book fails to make any reference to the inerrancy and authority of Holy Scripture or to our need of the Holy Spirit’s illumination in order to understand it. Chalke appears to set little store by labouring to study the Word of God or hearing it preached, but concedes that Bible study ‘has its place’.
Apprentice is not recommended reading — it presents a weak God and a heavily diluted gospel. One reviewer describes the book on its inside cover as ‘candy to the soul’. It certainly is neither spiritual meat nor even milk. To the seeker this book is dangerous; to the young Christian it is misleading; and to the seasoned saint, it is way off line.