Steve Chalke’s latest book is well-written and engaging, full of quotes from Scripture, theologians, creeds, and church history. And that’s what makes it so dangerous for evangelicals.
He argues that mainstream Protestant Christianity has seriously misread the Apostle Paul. What Paul was actually saying (Chalke says) is that there is no original sin, God isn’t angry at sin, no-one is justified by their faith, justification is not a courtroom term, there will be no final judgement, and in the end everyone will be saved. That list could have been much longer: pretty much every key New Testament term gets a makeover using quotes from liberal scholars.
The author says he wants to ‘start a conversation’ (p.1), but there isn’t much new here. It’s clear that he has drunk deeply from the well of liberal theology, but is portraying it as something fresh and full of new insights.
The biggest weakness of the book is that Chalke doesn’t engage with his critics. His material isn’t breaking any new ground and the arguments he presents have been well critiqued — but you wouldn’t know it from reading the book. Instead he knocks down straw men. For example, he presents the Protestant view of faith as ‘the ability to hold to an intellectual set of propositions’ (p.79), and ‘something you are born with…or not’ (p.84) — which is neither the Protestant nor the Bible’s definition of faith!
These are not minor differences between fellow evangelicals. Steve Chalke is openly presenting a God, a Paul, and a gospel that have been remoulded to suit twenty-first century liberal thinking. Nothing less than the gospel is at stake.
Nelson, South Wales