Packer on Penal Substitution

Given the negative reviews of The Lost Message of Jesus by Steve Chalke, I don’t want to buy a copy for fear of someone or some organisation benefiting from error. (This seems to be an unfortunate by-product of the system we live in!) But I will read it if someone can lend me a copy…

However, if you have been swayed by the idea that penal substitution is a form of ‘cosmic child abuse’, read this by James Packer. It honestly addresses the difficulties that have been faced by those defending penal substitution. Packer puts this down to a flaw in the method of argument not in the absence of biblical data. It is a seminal work – a must read!

Packer on Penal Substitution

Context, Context, Context…

I still have not read Steve Chalke’s book, but here is an assessment from Andy Gemmill, pastor of Beeston Evangelical Free Church in Nottingam, when speaking at Bible Week in Derby 2004 (this is my own transcription of the tape):

Some of you may have come across a book by Steve Chalke called The Lost Message of Jesus. Not a very encouraging title, I have to say, for what turns out to be not a very encouraging book. It’s a very, very unhelpful book and in it he redefines most of the big, core Christian doctrines. He redefines his understanding of the character of God. He redefines the Bible’s understanding of human nature. He redefines the work of Jesus on the Cross.

And the method he uses in that is crucial for his being able to do those things. He very frequently quotes from the Gospels. In fact, the book is full of quotations from the Gospels. But, he fails to take into account that the Gospels contain in themselves quotes and ideas from the Old Testament. And again and again, when looking at the Gospels, he ignores the context of those Old Testament ideas, which means he has a Jesus who is kind of free-floating and lacking in definition. That is why he is able to reinterpret Jesus in the way that he does. It’s a dangerous book because it is well written, but it’s not Christian.

Apparently, quite a few people were upset about it afterwards. Steve Chalke is held in high esteem by many. But Andy reminds us of a very important principle: Scripture must be interpreted in ever-increasing circles of context. The OT is one of these circles. But, then, most of us are too lazy to read it very often.

Context, Context, Context…

Lapping Waves

Some time ago I posted an entry which made reference to Steve Chalke’s book The Lost Message of Jesus. Recently I have started getting hits on this site at a more frequent rate via Google from people who have searched on “Steve Chalke”, “atonement”, “penal substitution”, and the title of the book.

I feel rather like someone standing at the sea shore on a calm day, yet the waves are much bigger than usual. You know that far out to sea there is a storm kicking off.

Lapping Waves


What is one to do when, while discussing on the phone pastoral and evangelistic issues with a friend in all seriousness and earnestness 😦 , one becomes gradually aware of a ping-pongy noise in the background with a distinct electronic tone!? – yes, a computer game being played!!!

[Yes. You know who you are, don’t you? Don’t you?]

Oh, woe is me, what am I to do? all is lost…

BTW, is it any good?



Some Summer Reading

Here are some books I have read over the last few weeks:

Man & Woman in Biblical Perspective by James B Hurley

Stimulated to read this by discussion amongst current colleagues about the place of women in church prayer meetings. I have had this book on my shelf for years but just haven’t got round to it – until now!

What St Paul Really Said by Tom Wright

I need to get a grip on the issue of NPP. Seemed like this book was a good place to start. There is an internal consistency to his argument. However, I need to examine his exegesis more thoroughly.

The Great Exchange by Philip Eveson

This written before WSPRS but engages with Wright’s approach from the traditional evangelical point of view.

When I Tread the Verge of Jordan by Dennis Applebee

This book was given to me by a friend in church (much older than me) who loves Applebee’s preaching. However, it is of the Holiness/Keswick school of thought. But I promised I would read it so I did. Unhappy with almost all of it.

Resurrection and Redemption by Richard B. Gaffin.

I bought this following hearing his Oakhill lectures back in May. This is a highly technical treatment which shows the relationship between the resurrection and the accomplishment of redemption. Reflection on this accomplishment has usually centred around Christ’s death only. (I’ll take his word for it!) However, reading this has reminded me of the time an Australian aunt who was visiting us on part of a European tour. One day she said that on such-and-such a day she would “do Ireland”. What she meant was that she would take a train from Belfast to Dublin and observe through the window. Likewise, I have raced through Resurrection and Redemption and need to go back and take it more slowly.

Isaac Newton: The Last Sorcerer by Michael White.

Given me by a mathematical friend and I haven’t finished it yet. The interesting slant on this is the emphasis on Newton’s interest in alchemy which doesn’t come out in modern education.

Some Summer Reading

Observations on Visiting

In my visiting on one of the rougher Derby housing estates I have been called a “Joe-boe”. To the uninitiated this means a Jehovah’s Witness. It has taken a lot of work to correct people and explain the destinction.

Other people, when asked what they think Christianity is, reel off a list of JW practices.

I have met lots of people who have been JWs, know JWs, or are related to JWs. They have clearly had an impact. Though we hate the JW doctrines, we Christians are shamed by their zeal.

But I have been surprised how friendly and open people are to discuss eternal issues. So I am encouraged.

Observations on Visiting